Should You Cleanse or Detox?

Do you need to “cleanse” or “detox”

We’re reaching that time of year where you’re getting closer to your first summer vacation and you’re realizing you haven’t been as good as you should’ve been on your diet the past two months, so you’re behind schedule. 

Enter the “desperate diet attempt to lose 15lbs phase”

Or 5, 10, or whatever goal you have.   

This means an online search of “fast ways to lose X amount of weight,” and usually it turns out to be some cleanse thing this time of year. 

There is something remarkable about the separation between the science community and the fitness industry.

Scientific studies are hard to generalize, and what I mean by that is that the studies are often hard to apply to people, settings, or treatments. And multiple studies are needed to get a solid answer on whether or not something is effective.

The fitness industry ignores this and goes right to “this ingredient does X and here is [insert single study] to prove it!”

If you’re not one to read scientific research (which most of you probably don’t do for fun), it’s pretty easy for companies to convince you that their “scientific formula” will help you burn fat, build muscle, get healthier, or whatever the goal of the supplement is. 

I mean, it’s science, right? Shouldn’t it be right? 

Wrong. You can’t draw conclusions from single studies.

You need to do what are called “systematic reviews” and “meta analysis”

before you can draw conclusions. Some meta analysis can look at hundreds of studies to analyze their data. You can only get a small piece of the larger puzzle from single studies. 

So, what are some of the worst offenders in the fitness industry? Cleanses and detox supplements and diets.

In short, they don’t work

If that’s all the info you need, great! Don’t waste your time or money and you can stop reading.

Those of you who need more info, keep reading. 

While some chemicals, like curcumin found in turmeric, show some promise when dosed and administered correctly. Most of the “detox” supplements out there have nothing to back them up.

For example, milk thistle is advertised as an amazing liver detox supplement.

But there are no human studies that can back up this claim

. In fact, the only thing we know it does is help with acne, everything else is hypothetical right now. Doesn’t mean it doesn’t work, we just don’t know IF it works as a liver detox supplement. 

So what do we know? Well it appears that “detox diets” do detox you, but not in the way you thought. Juice cleanses, supplement based diets (ones that use a meal replacement supplements to replace meals), and any of the other crazy Calorie restriction causes your body to “detox” or “cleanse.”

Not a special supplement or juice-diet protocol, just plain old calorie restriction gives you the benefit.



Since most of those detox diet protocols are low calories, guess what, you get the detox benefits. But you could also get the same benefits and still have a steak and potato every night (as long as you account for the calories in your diet). 

What about intermittent fasting? 

What we know right now is that intermittent fasting’s benefits come mostly from calorie restriction. Other than that, it doesn’t appear that intermittent fasting is superior to any other diet protocol. 

Now, I do really like intermittent fasting for fat loss. A lot of people don’t like eating first thing in the morning, and cutting out that first meal is an easy way to cut out calories to set you up for a calorie deficit while keeping normal size lunches and dinners. 

It’s just that, as of right now, it doesn’t appear that intermittent fasting is all that it’s cracked up to be in terms of health benefits. But if you like it, keep doing it! I personally like doing intermittent fasting on the weekends. 

To wrap up, no detox or cleanse diet/supplement will help you lose weight faster than a regular diet when calories and protein are the same. So before going to the extreme of a multi day water fast or buying $300 in supplements, you can get the same results by cutting back on the extras in your life like: going out to eat, alcohol, snacking, desserts, and anything else that adds calories to your diet. 

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