Office parties complete, Christmas jumpers packed away and the New Year resolution list pinned to the fridge; it must be January all over again. Everyone gets to this month every year full of assessment, mince pies and optimism typically reciting the same mantra ‘this is the year that I’m really going to get fit and lose weight’. Gym induction booked, remaining liquor thrown away, sweet draw at work cleared out; the new lifestyle begins!
As the regular day to day conversations uncommonly draw more towards healthy eating, you might now start to find the conscious or unconscious nutritional choices of the many people around you being labelled as a ‘detox’. Get used to it this word will be trending in an office near you soon! But why do all the Christmas sinners utilise this dieting technique every January and, does the apparent change in nutritional behaviour actually produce the expected short and long term results that are so often guaranteed?
With this question in mind the following short article will review ‘detoxing’ in greater depth and present two sides of the debate on this highly-publicised inch loss strategy; which will allow you as the reader to draw your own evidence based conclusions.
To detox in a nutritional sense means to ‘rid your body of all the toxins and poisons that we accumulate from food, drink, modern lifestyles choices and even through illnesses. As we know with the non-stop nature of the modern lifestyle it is hard to avoid a food which doesn’t contain toxins in the form of pesticides, herbicides, false hormones, antibiotic residues, artificial additives and a host of other chemicals. To make things even harder we don’t just take toxins in from food; other contaminates include sources such as alcohol, unfiltered water, chemicals in the atmosphere, mould, clothing and even food wrapping. Sounds like the like biggest game of dodgeball you’ll ever play I know! It has even been proven that some medicines that we use to cure illness can actually be toxic as well if taken over long periods.
In a healthy person with a blueprint diet and good physical activity level (exercising a minimum of 2-3 times a week), toxins will be effectively removed from the body as waste matter, urine, sweat and even through the breath. In contrast toxin removal for an unhealthy person who is mainly sedentary and follows a processed diet is not quite as simple. In this demographic of people ingested toxins get internally stored within the body and often block the lymphatic (waste disposal) circulatory system. To put this in simpler terms your lymphatic system which affects every cell and organ in your body can be compared to a motorway, when congested, nothing moves.
The subsequent blockage of the 600+ lymph nodes (collection sites) contained within the lymphatic system will consequently hinder the immune system, which leads to many illnesses, even cancer and naturally means the body subsequently stores most ingested fats for a longer period of time. To ascertain whether your lymphatic system is working efficiently look at the following 4 conditions below to see if any of these complaints sound familiar.
– Suffer with minor ailments such as colds, flu’s and virus’
– Often feel fatigued and bloated with noticeable swelling around the arms and legs
– Store cellulite in those hard to shift areas
– Perspire excessively in the night when sleeping
If you’re now sitting there starting to panic with the alarm bells chiming at full blast, then don’t worry a solution might only be 1 search engine click away. After typing into your browser ‘detox diets for weight loss’ you can expect to find the pro detox advocate on the first visited page. When opened you will find that to combat the above 4 conditions they have advised you to start following a low calorie ‘fasting’ diet based typically on high quantities of water, fruit, vegetables or their own supplement and food replacement ranges. In contrast the non-detox prescribing nutritionist on the 2nd web page you visit is championing an increase in physical activity and a tailored calorie reduction with a food plate consisting of organic unrefined carbohydrates, pure proteins, fruit, vegetables, and unsaturated fats.
Who is correct in this detox debate then?
In the short-term most detox followers (web page 1) will see some health improvement and initial weight loss, because the extremely low calorie intake taken from their food is being far surpassed by the calories burnt off through day to day activity. However this is most likely to be a loss in water due to the detox diet being very low in energy (calories). Which is why most nutritionists only recommend following a ‘fasting’ based detox for a short period of time, 7 days or in some cases longer up-to a month.
Interestingly numerous researchers have shown that low calorie detox diets often leave your body starved of energy and dangerously malnourished if exercising at a high intensity. In addition as a consequence of the detox cycle’s short life span when low calorie disciples return to a more normal daily calorie intake, the weight that has been lost previously is often regained. The reasoning for this is centred around the body’s metabolism slowing down when eating less, subsequently meaning it now takes longer to burn off ingested calories.
Right now I’m painting a pretty gloomy picture I know, but on the other side of this debate there are a lot of positive features of detox diets as well. Encouraging more people to increase their hydration (water) levels, eat more fruit and vegetables, cut out refined carbohydrates, avoid excess stimulants (coffee, fizzy drinks) and lower their intake of saturated fats are all recommendations that should be the backbone to any eating plan.
At this point you have been steered quite predictably to thinking that detox plans should be completely avoided. However you might be surprised to read that in my own opinion I don’t believe this and, I actually recommend ‘detoxing’ to certain clients that I work with. In my view for individuals who tick any of the 4 lymphatic system condition boxes, following most of the detox principles outlined in the paragraphs above will serve a lot of good. This is because the new diet or ‘detox’ will help to initially break down any lymph node blockages and subsequently get the lymphatic system to discharge any unwanted body fat in the future.
Despite my endorsement here I would however only recommend following a true detox for 7-14 days which would also include an avoidance of red meat, wheat, dairy and high impact exercise. Personally I don’t advocate following a drastically reduced calorie consumption during this period either, just a 500 -1,000 calorie difference each day eating every 2-3 hours still which is the standardised weight loss recommendation for any person. I base this rationale on the evidence that your body’s metabolism will slow down when in a starvation mode from not eating every 2-3 hours (catabolism); which means that the burning of fats also slows as well especially if you are weight training at the same time. As research proves eating healthily and regularly throughout the day will prevent this hormonal outcome from happening.
Following 1-2 weeks of detoxing, organic wheat, dairy and red meat can start to be re-introduced providing your body handles these foods well. Quite simply I do this with clients because with literature support the latter is how we should eat all of the time.
As you can now see your nutritional decisions for weight loss this year go far beyond whether to lock the sweet cupboard or not, I hope the information and tips in this article serves you well over the coming weeks and months.
Sean Burgess (MSc, BSc (Hons), ASCC, MGBT)
SB Fitness Founder
Remember for further more personalised guidance on your exercise training and nutrition you can book a free 30-minute consultation with me or any of my experienced trainers.
Phone: 01202 282726.