And just like that, it’s January all over again! We arrive at this point every year full of assessment, mince pies and optimism, typically reciting the same mantra ‘this is the year that I’m going to get really fit’. Gym induction booked, remaining liquor thrown away and the sweet cupboard at home cleared out. The transformation begins.
As your regular day to day conversations start to unusually centre more around healthy eating, you might find the conscious or unconscious nutritional choices of many people that you know being labelled as a ‘detox’. A concept that is often associated with many glamorised case studies and testimonials. However, despite the endorsements the actual scientific research which supports this area of nutrition for optimum weight loss and health is still very inconclusive.
The following short article will review ‘detoxing’ in more depth by looking at the science which underpins it, so that both sides of the debate on this diet trend can be presented in an unbiased way to empower you to make your own decisions.
To detox in a nutrition sense means to ‘rid your body of all toxins and poisons that accumulate from food, drink, modern lifestyles choices and even through illness. As we know with the non-stop nature of the modern lifestyle it can be difficult to always 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 in toxins from food, other contaminants can come from sources such as alcohol, unfiltered water, chemicals in the atmosphere, mould, clothing and even food wrapping. It sounds like the biggest game of dodgeball you’ll ever play, doesn’t it?
In a healthy person with a good diet and physical activity level (exercising 2-3 times a week), toxins will be effectively removed from the body as waste matter, urine, sweat and even through ventilation (the breath). In contrast, toxin removal for others who adhere to a low activity level and consume a mostly processed diet is not quite as simple. For these individuals their ingested toxins usually get stored internally and often block the lymphatic (waste disposal) circulatory system. If you don’t know, your lymphatic system affects every cell and organ in your body and can be compared to a motorway, when congested, nothing moves. Blocking the 600+ lymph nodes (collection sites) contained within the lymphatic system subsequently hinders the immune system, which can lead to many illnesses, even cancer and usually results in the body retaining more ingested fats.
To learn whether your lymphatic system is working efficiently look through the list of outcomes below to see how many of them apply to you.
– You often suffer with minor illnesses such as colds, flus and viruses.
– Feeling fatigued and bloated with some swelling around the arms and legs can be common.
– You seem to store cellulite in many hard to shift areas.
– Perspiring excessively at night when sleeping is a regular occurrence.
Enter the pro detox advocate who at this juncture will look to combat the 4 outcomes above by promoting a low calorie natural fasting diet based on high quantities of water, fruit, vegetables or their own food replacement supplements.
In contrast, the non-detox prescribing nutritionist might instead support an increase in physical activity and a tailored calorie reduction, with a balanced food plate consisting of organic unrefined carbohydrates, pure proteins, fruit, vegetables, and unsaturated fats.
So, who is correct?
In the short-term most detox followers will of course see some health improvements and initial weight loss because the low-calorie intake from their food choices is being surpassed by the calories burnt off through day-to-day activity. However, any body composition changes are likely to come from a loss in water and some body fat due to their detox diet being very low in energy (calories). One other factor to consider with detox diets is that most nutritionists only recommend following them for a short period of time, typically between 7 days and a month.
It is important not to detox for long periods because adhering to a low-calorie detox diet can leave your body starved of energy and dangerously malnourished if you continue to exercise at a medium to high intensity. Typically, because of a detox plan short life span when most followers return to their normal eating routine, the weight that has been lost previously is often regained. The reasoning for this is linked to our metabolism slowing down whilst detoxing or fasting, which in turn means it takes longer to burn off ingested calories and fat in the future.
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 is no bad thing. As these recommendations should form the backbone of any eating plan for any goal.
Should I detox?
At this point in the article, you may have been steered quite predictably to thinking that detox plans should be completely avoided. In most cases this might be true, however you would be surprised to read that in my own opinion I don’t always believe this and, as an experienced health professional I have recommended a form of detoxing to some clients that I have worked with. In my view, for individuals who tick most of the 4 lymphatic system outcome boxes above, following many of the described detox principles will serve a lot of good. This is because their new healthier diet will help to initially break down any stored lymph which is causing gut blockages, as it encourages the lymphatic system to discharge many unwanted fats.
Despite my approval I would only recommend following the true detoxing principles that most experts recommend as a 7-to-14-day trial, this 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, a 500 – 1,000 calorie deficit each day eating every 2-3 hours should still be sufficient to lose weight in a healthy way. Following on from any detox intervention, organic wheat, dairy and red meat can start to be re-introduced, providing your body handles these foods well.
Supporting your fitness and nutrition goals
As you have hopefully learnt, your detox debates this year should be a well thought out decision which stems from an exploratory look within. For more personalised guidance on achieving your exercise training and nutrition goals please do not hesitate to book in a free consultation by sending an email to the address below, the team and I would love to hear from you.
Sean Burgess (MSc, BSc (Hons), ASCC, MGBT)
SB Fitness Founder
Email: [email protected]
Phone: 01202 282726