Guest blogger, Christian Griffith, is an lifelong athlete, and functional fitness fanatic, who enjoys writing and sharing experiences as they relate to fitness and nutrition. Being the typical self-starter and Internet researcher, he is the perfect example of the kind of athlete our graduating personal trainers could encounter during their careers, and we invite responsible comment discussions from others on the various topics in which he writes.
The following post is the experience of the blogger, only. National Personal Training Institute, Colorado, does not advocate nor endorse any one program for diet and nutrition. Readers should be aware that there are many different formats for maintaining a healthy diet, and no one should experiment with significant nutritional changes without the guidance of a medical doctor.
It started with a documentary- Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead*.
You can watch the documentary, free at the link above, or on Netflix, but the main idea of the film is centered around giving the body a reboot. Perhaps, you have found yourself eating more processed food, and less real food, like fresh fruits, vegetables and nuts. Maybe you just feel slow, lethargic, and heavy.
Maybe, you are sick and tired, of being sick and tired.
Enter the Juice Fast
Juice fasting is basically drinking nothing but fresh fruit and vegetable juice, that you prepare yourself, for a set period of time, from a 3-day fast, to as long as 60-days or more. Juice fasting has been growing steadily in wellness circles for years, and like most fitness and nutrition topics, there are advocates and opponents.
Typically, the advocates believe that a juice fast will help ween us from some of our bad nutritional habits, and the effects of such habits. Expectations of increased energy, better skin tone, reduced cravings, and even the curing of diseases in the body, are all popular promises.
On the flip side, opponents, and there are many, have real concerns. These concerns can be very specific, and get very scientific, but for simplicity sake, let’s just say that most opponents typically are not fans of any nutritional format done to extreme. Some real concerns center around stripping all the ‘pulp’ from fruits and vegetables during juicing, thus removing much of the ‘good stuff.’ Opponents are also concerned that people who choose a juice fast to lose weight will only gain the weight back after the fast, and end up right back where they started. For those on this side of the fence, it should be about lifestyle change, not gimmicks.
A 10-Day Juice Fast
As a 43 year old athlete, I am constantly looking for ways to be healthier, stronger and faster, to excel at my chosen sports; and, as a masters athlete, I do not have the same resiliency and recovery that I once had in my twenties, so nutrition plays a large role in my athletic strategy.
I decided to try a middle-of-the-road reboot juice fast, for 10 days, as an experiment. I was interested in seeing if I could help ween myself off some processed foods, while seeing if the promises of increased energy, better sleep, and all the others were actually true. My goal was not weight loss, but I knew it would come as a side effect.
The first couple of days were actually pretty easy. Typically, you hear of people having the most trouble during this period, but I was loving it. I was having so much fun mixing all kinds of concoctions like carrots, kale, green apples, lemons, and ginger. Or, cucumbers, celery, fuji apples, and red grapes. The possibilities were endless, and while I did have difficulty feeling full for any significant period of time, I did experience an overwhelming feeling of goodness.
Until day 3. On the third day, I happened to run an 11.5 mile mountain trail training run in the Appalachian foothills of Georgia. The pace was significant, with a medium-to-hard effort the whole way, and afterwards, I was starving. Way more hungry than any juice on the planet was going to satisfy.
I broke, and had a real breakfast of eggs and sausage.
After that day 3 experience, I realized very quickly that I was going to have to modify my juice fast, or my athletic training was going to come to a screeching halt. I simply was not getting the necessary calories for pushing through strenuous workouts, and certainly wasn’t getting enough to allow for adequate recovery. A very bad combination for growth and performance.
I began adding two or three eggs to my juice fast recipes, and yes, I know, at this point I’m pretty much NOT juice fasting anymore, but again, this is a log of my experience so bear with me.
And while I began to feel the benefits of the increased fruits and vegetables in my diet, I still felt depleted. I wasn’t experiencing energy benefits, I was just suffering through workouts, and starving all the time.
Because I was seemingly continuing to fail at a true fast, I also started adding a full meal in the evening of 6-10 ounces of meat and a salad (or a lightly cooked vegetable like asparagus). For me, this was key. This straightened everything out very quickly. I had enough energy for workouts, was recovering adequately, and felt fantastic all day long.
This is plan I am still following, now 20 days later.
What did I learn?
While I know I hardly followed the fast to the letter, I enjoyed the process and learned a lot.
For one, I learned I prefer to high-power-blend my fruits and vegetables in something like a NutriBullet instead of juicing. I felt like the juicing was wasting so much of the other good, nutrient rich parts of the fresh food. Not only that, it got very, very expensive buying massive amounts of organic fruits and vegetables, only to throw out half of it when emptying the pulp-catcher of the juicer.
I learned that, while a juice fast might be a good kick-start for a more sedentary person, its not a sound strategy for athletic training and nutrition when the intensity tends to be high. I strongly believe my body needs meat, eggs, and dairy to recover at optimal speed and completeness. I realize not everyone believes this, and that’s ok. I am an experiment of one.
Lastly, and interestingly, I have almost completely kicked coffee, a side effect I did not expect, nor seek, but the juice fast required it at the beginning, and after a few days, I didn’t feel the need to go back. I’ve had two cups of coffee in 20 days, and I don’t expect to go back to that addiction.
I am very thankful for this experience for a number of other reasons, too:
- I’ve increased the fruit/vegetable load in my diet
- Experimentation taught me a bunch of new healthy concoctions to enjoy
- I feel noticeably better with the increase in nutrients
- My focus and clarity has improved
- I have a better understanding of my individual physical needs and requirements
Most importantly, I feel good about my eating style as it is today – Fruits, vegetables and egg smoothies throughout the day, with a solid meal in the evening. I rarely eat any starches of any kind. I drink water with every meal, and I don’t freak out if I do splurge on some starches, or sweets, infrequently.
All in all, it was a very positive experience. I didn’t do anything too crazy, didn’t get too extreme, and when I began to notice elements that I found to be unhealthy or counter-productive to my goals, I backed-off a bit and made adjustments. For me, it equated to some success. Perhaps not as widely radical as the subjects in Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead, but success nonetheless.
Questions and Discussion
Have you ever “juice fasted,” or fasted in any way? What were your experiences?
If you’re in the business of fitness and nutrition, would you participate, or recommend, such approach?