December 9, 2018/Weight Loss

What You Need To Know About Juicing for Weight Loss

Juice cleanses don’t target fat loss — and you’ll lose important nutrients in the process

juice and smoothies

You’ve seen the bottles in your local health food store. Gotten the ads in your feed. Heard influencers rave about shedding 10 pounds in a week.


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And it’s gotten in your head: Maybe I should try one of those juice cleanses. Maybe that’s the ticket to losing weight.

The reality? Juicing isn’t the best avenue for weight loss. Because even though juices may come with a good amount of vitamins and minerals that do good things for your body, juice cleanses for weight loss are riddled with troubles.

We talked with registered dietitian Amber Sommer, RD, LD, about the problems with juicing for weight loss.

Do juice cleanses work for weight loss?

You may lose some weight initially when you try out a juice cleanse. But it’s not in the way that your body wants or needs.

Here’s why:

Juice cleanses typically involve weaning yourself from solid food and consuming only liquids made from fresh-pressed fruit and vegetables. Some people will encourage a juicing diet for anywhere from a few days to several weeks. The theory goes that juicing can help “detoxify” your body and jumpstart weight loss.

But the idea of a juice cleanse is full of red flags.

“When you’re swapping out food for juice, you end up not consuming adequate nutrition,” Sommer shares. “You’re not getting enough calories, protein or fiber. That can actually slow down your metabolism, which won’t help you lose weight. And it can have other negative effects, like brain fog, reduced energy levels and more. It’s not a safe way to approach weight loss.”

Sommer shares the downsides to juicing for weight loss.

You’re not targeting fat loss

Your body needs energy to keep you going. The goal of healthy weight loss should be to convince your body to get its energy by burning fat cells.

But a juicing diet will make your body more likely to pull from your water and muscle reserves to get energy. Not fat.

“When you’re doing a juice cleanse, that initial weight loss is very likely to be from water weight,” Sommer shares. “And over the long term, you’re likely to start losing muscle.”

Why is that?

When your body is looking for energy, it first gobbles up carbs that are in your system. Excess carbs are stored in your cells as glycogen. Think of glycogen as your body’s storage locker.

When you’re drinking juice instead of eating real food, your body runs out of carbs pretty early on. So it pulls glycogen out of storage.

And when you release glycogen, you also release water.


So the weight that you lose quickly and easily during those first few days of a juice cleanse? Typically it’s excess water leaving your system.

As time goes on, your glycogen stores become more and more depleted. That’s when your body will be more likely to zero in on stealing energy from muscle mass. (Again, not fat.)

“To lose fat, you need protein. You need fiber. You need good, healthy carbs. None of which you get when you’re doing a juice cleanse,” Sommer emphasizes. “So your body starts pulling energy from wherever it can.”

Sure, the number on the scale might go down. But at the expense of your muscle tone and overall well-being. Not worth it.

Too much sugar

If you’ve ever made your own juice at home, you’ve seen just how much goes into a single cup.

Take orange juice, for example. Depending on the size of your oranges and the power of your juicer, it could take between three to five oranges just to make 8 ounces of juice.

Great, you may be thinking, all the benefits of all those oranges in just one drink! Juice for the win!

Not quite.

Most of us wouldn’t eat that many oranges in one sitting. We naturally limit our consumption. And that’s a good thing.

Because, while oranges may be an excellent source of vitamin C, they also contain a lot of sugar. About 12 grams of sugar per orange.

Now, when you eat a whole orange, not all that natural sugar is absorbed by your bloodstream. That’s because oranges contain fiber. The trouble is, when you juice those oranges, you lose the fiber.

And that makes a big difference.

“Without fiber, sugar is more rapidly absorbed by your body,” Sommer explains. “Fiber helps to slow your digestion and absorption of sugar. In turn, this helps keep blood sugar and hunger in check. When you eat fruit, your blood sugar doesn’t spike so much. When you drink fruit juice, it does. And that’s because you’re not getting the benefit of fiber to slow things down.”

So now in just one 8 oz. cup of OJ, you’ve taken in the sugar content of three to five oranges. And none of the fiber.

Sugar is the enemy of weight loss. It doesn’t provide sustainable energy and it leaves your system quickly.

So all that fiber-free sugar you get from juicing can leave you with a sugar crash, no energy for exercise and a hungry belly. Far from the ideal set of circumstances for weight loss.


Calorie restriction

At its core, weight loss is a matter of expending more energy than you take in. That's called a calorie deficit. But juice cleanses for weight loss encourage you to take in far too little energy.

Juice can be a good source of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that your body needs. So, in some cases, a homemade juice can be a healthy addition to your diet if you’re worried you’re not getting the full nutrients your body needs.

But drinking juice at the expense of getting the calories your body needs? Not a healthy route.

Any diet that encourages you to severely restrict your calorie intake is a sign that the promoters don’t have your health in mind.

What’s more, you can’t live in an extreme calorie deficit for the long-haul. So any weight you lose when you juice is likely to come back as soon as you go back to a more natural eating pattern.

How to lose weight in a healthy way

Like other fad diets that encourage you to skip meals, cut out food groups or cut way back on calories, drinking juice instead of eating a well-rounded diet isn’t a healthy approach.

Healthy weight loss means meeting your nutritional needs.

“The best eating approach to lose weight is to have a balanced diet centered on eating natural, whole foods,” Sommer shares. “You need adequate calories, protein, healthy fats and fiber.”

And it’s not just what you eat (and don’t eat). Set yourself up for weight loss success by also:

If you’re still itching to give that juicer a whirl, though, know that there are healthy ways to make juice a part of your diet. (Keyword: part of your diet. Not your entire diet.)

Sommer advises making your own juice at home, rather than store bought, so you can be in control of what goes into your cup.

Aim for juice that has more veggies and less fruit, to cut down on the sugar content. Or opt for a smoothie with protein powder to keep it filling.

Fruits and vegetables are naturally packed with nutrients that your body needs. But grinding them up and drinking them down only serves to remove some of those natural health benefits. Don’t get caught up in the juice cleanse hype. The answers to sustainable weight loss that will do your body good don’t come in prepackaged bottles.

Learn more about our editorial process.

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