Is a juice cleanse a good way to lose weight - and how much can you lose?

Fancy a cleanse? Detox your system and lose weight on a diet of fresh fruit and vegetable juice packed with vitamins and minerals...

Juice cleanse

It's a popular option for a ‘quick fix’ but is a juice cleanse a good way to lose weight - and how much can you lose?

Many celebrities swear by a juice cleanse as a good way to lose weight and feel more healthy. It is one of the diets that work fast so is especially popular as a ‘quick fix’ option to shed a few pounds before a special event.

A juice cleanse works by replacing solid food with liquid juiced from fruit and vegetables. This allows you to get the nutrients and antioxidants from the produce, while consuming very few calories.

Studies have shown that fruit and vegetable juices can help to lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of heart disease.

However, like the 7 day detox plan, a juice cleanse should only be used short-term in order to lose weight before a big event or to kick-start a more sustainable healthy eating regime. 

Nutritional Therapist Anna Mapson explains why: "Some people will lose around 2-3 lbs in a few days on a juice cleanse. But this is often water loss rather than fat loss."

So in order to maintain weight loss after a juice cleanse, it is worth adopting a more long-term healthy eating plan, such as the Mediterranean diet.

Is a juice cleanse a good way to lose weight?

If you need to drop a few pounds quickly, a juice cleanse is a good way to lose weight. However, this should always be seen as a short-term option, rather than a long-term plan. People who lose weight through a juice cleanse often then move on to something like the Fast 800 diet or the 16:8 diet in order to continue their weight-loss journey.

Many studies have shown the importance of a good amount of fruit and vegetables in your diet to reduce the risk of diseases and for weight management. But there is less research into the benefits of juice cleanses alone and most support for the plans is anecdotal.  

Some research has also highlighted the potential risks of juice cleanses. These include short-term side-effects such as nausea, dehydration and light-headedness. But also more long-term risks such as kidney issues. This report found a patient experienced kidney failure after carrying out a six-week juice cleanse.

Sophie Medlin, consultant dietitian and director of CityDietitians, warns that it could put your body under extra stress. 

She explains: “Firstly, a juice cleanse doesn’t provide your body with any protein so you will lose lean body mass (muscle) and the energy source is almost entirely sugar so you can easily still lay down fat. The only weight you’re likely to lose will be lean mass and water weight. Secondly, a juice cleanse puts you at risk of complications such as kidney stones and all the fructose can cause you liver problems.”

So any cleanse that is undertaken should not really last for longer than three or four days and never more than seven.

Juice cleanse

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How much weight can you lose with a juice cleanse?

How much weight you can lose with a juice cleanse depends on a number of factors, including your current weight. Like the sugar-free diet plan, participants often find that they lose weight fast, with some shedding a 1lb or more a day.

In this study participants took part in a three-day juice cleanse and lost an average of 3.75lb, which they maintained two weeks later. The researchers also found an increase in some healthy gut bacteria.  

However, while a juice cleanse allows you to get the nutrients and antioxidants from the produce, it omits the fibre, which is good for your gut health

Anna, who runs Goodness Me Nutrition, explains: “When you drink only juice you will be drinking high levels of sugar, because juicing removes fibre from the fruit and vegetables. Removing fibre and protein from our diet isn't a sustainable approach to weight loss.”

As much of the weight lost will be water, there is also the risk that the weight can be regained once you start eating food properly again.

How can a juice cleanse help you detox?

Many fans of juice cleanses say that they can help you detox and they are often a popular choice for people trying to stop drinking alcohol. However, our bodies naturally get rid of toxins through our liver and kidneys. So a juice cleanse is not really necessary for that.

Sophie explains: “Your liver and kidneys are constantly detoxing your body for you, removing waste matter from your bloodstream and any by-products of metabolism. 

“A juice cleanse will actually make your liver and kidneys work harder and can potentially cause them harm, making them unable to effectively carry out their work of detoxifying your blood.” 

Nevertheless, if you find it difficult to eat a good amount of fruit and vegetables and say no to processed food, a juice cleanse may be a good way to reset your eating habits. This study found that encouraging the daily consumption of fruit juice in public health policy could help people to achieve the 5-a-day recommendation for fruit and vegetable intake.

How long should you do a juice cleanse?

A juice cleanse should be seen as a short-term option of no more than a few days. While it is low calorie and will result in weight loss, it is not something which can be maintained for a long time. Due to the fact that it cuts out some major food groups, it could result in a lack of energy. 

Anna says: “Going for more than around a day or two without protein can leave you feeling low energy. Juice cleanses are similar to a fast, which can give people a feeling of euphoria, through lack of energy. But this isn't necessarily a healthy thing.”

Can you maintain weight loss after a juice cleanse?

The best way to maintain weight loss after a juice cleanse would be to switch over to a diet plan such as the 5:2 diet. Alternatively, you could opt for a healthy meal delivery service, like the Jane Plan Diet. Otherwise it is easy to put the weight back on again.

Anna explains why: “When you drastically cut calories you will start to use your glycogen stores, which are attached to water. Quick weight loss or weight gain is normally water loss, rather than fat.”

This means that if your eating habits return to normal you could easily put the weight back on.

Anna says: “A healthy diet with plenty of fibre and protein, and including lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, will support healthy weight loss. Healthy weight loss should include some healthy fats such as olive oil, avocados and nuts and seeds. Many people will 'rebound' after a period of restriction with a big meal including all the foods you've been dreaming of, which can definitely lead to weight gain.”

It may also be helpful to incorporate some workouts to improve your strength, fitness and balance into your daily routine. 

Juice cleanse

Credit: Alamy

Can you drink coffee on a juice cleanse?

The question of whether you can drink coffee on a juice cleanse varies between different programmes. While some diet plans allow a small amount, others omit it completely. If you are planning to cut out coffee, Anna recommends cutting back on the amount you drink slowly.

She said: “If you do cut out coffee then reduce your intake over a couple of days to avoid any withdrawal reactions such as headaches.”

Emily-Ann Elliott
Health and family writer

Emily-Ann Elliott is an experienced online and print journalist, with a focus on health, travel, and parenting. After beginning her career as a health journalist at The Basingstoke Gazette, she worked at a number of regional newspapers before moving to BBC News online. She later worked as a journalist for Comic Relief, covering stories about health and international development, as well as The Independent, The i, The Guardian, and The Telegraph. Following the birth of her son with neonatal meningitis, Emily-Ann has a particular interest in neonatal health and parental support. Emily-Ann has a degree in English literature from the University of Newcastle and has NCTJ and NCE qualifications in newspaper journalism.