In the last few years, “detox” diets— both long-term and short-term— have become all the rage among fad dieters. In fact, they’ve become so popular that some people in the fitness industry have even started to embrace them— people who are generally in the know when it comes to proper nutrition. But are all these diets, drinks, pills and powders all they’re cracked up to be?
Overall, my opinion is that any specific, rigid detox diet is probably a bunch of nonsense. I’m talking about diets that require you to only eat one food group for days on end, or that demand you replace your meals with some gross concoction that’s supposed to clear your body of “toxins”— whatever those are.
However, I do think it can be good to give your body a good cleanse from time to time. This isn’t a crash diet, fad diet or quick fix for fat loss— it’s a temporary change from an already good diet that can help you to feel better and more energetic, particularly if you’re stressing your body with hard training, day in and day out. Here are a few of my top tips for an effective “detox”— no starvation or special supplements required.
Foods to Avoid
I don’t usually like to tell my clients that any food is completely off limits, as long as it fits within their nutritional requirements. During a detox, however, you will want to strictly steer clear of pretty much any processed or pre-packaged foods, even if you normally fit them into your daily macros. You may be able to lose fat and gain muscle with a few treats here and there, but it will benefit your health and energy to remove them completely for a couple of weeks.
Food to Consume
On the other hand, there are plenty of foods that you should consume in abundance while you’re detoxing— fruits and vegetables in particular. Eat most of them raw or lightly cooked, and avoid high-calorie condiments and sauces— those things are already on your “avoid” list anyway!
Other than plenty of produce, you may also want to change up your protein and fat sources for a couple of weeks. Red meat, chicken and even fatty cuts of pork can be OK depending on your normal nutritional requirements, but you may feel a little better by sticking with fish, whey and egg whites for a short time. These foods are easy to digest, and they typically contain less fat than most meats.
As for fat, the fat from meats is also fine for most of the year, but stick to quality plant sources during your detox. This doesn’t mean generic vegetable oil! Use mainly olive oil, coconut oil and nut oils, as well as nuts themselves.
Green Drinks – All They’re Cracked Up to Be?
Green juices and smoothies get a lot of hype, and while I don’t think there’s anything magical about them, they are a fantastic way to consume large amounts of raw veggies— more than you’d probably want to eat if they were whole. Kale, spinach, broccoli and other green vegetables are chock-full of vitamins, minerals and other micronutrients you need for optimal health, which is why so many people feel so good when they consume greens smoothies.
So, avoid overpriced detox drinks and just make your own shakes with whatever produce you have on hand. You can also add lemon and cranberry juice, as both are natural diuretics and liver cleansers. And, if your taste buds can take it, load up on potent spices like garlic, turmeric and chili peppers— either in your shakes or on your food. Different herbs, spices and aromatic vegetables have too many benefits to count, but the more you eat, the better. They’ll help to make you feel “cleaned out,” even if you’re sweating while eating them!
Consistent, Clean Eating
Finally, the best way to keep feeling healthy and energetic is to actually eat clean most of the time! I know there are plenty of people claiming that you can eat whatever you want so long as if fits your macros— your protein, carb and fat needs— but some foods just aren’t going to do your body good. Have your treats here and there, but stick to whole, unprocessed foods, and you’ll rarely feel the need for a full-scale detox.