The Next Wave of Juice Cleanses
The latest programs claim to improve your workouts, make your skin glow, and more—but do these bottles offer any real benefits?
Juice cleanses have long promised to help you shed pounds and rid your body of harmful toxins (statements on which some experts have cast doubt). But an increasing number of companies now go beyond these claims, offering special collections of juices and milks geared toward specific lifestyle goals: Whether you want to boost your athletic performance, look gorgeous, or undo the damage you incurred during your bestie's bachelorette party, there's a cleanse that claims to have your back.
Check out five of these specialty juice programs and whether you'll get any added benefits from the bottles.
The promises: Jump-start your quest to get your pre-baby body back, repair and restore damaged tissues, and obtain the vitamins and minerals you and your baby require.
The perks: New moms need plenty of nutrients, many of which some of these juices would provide, says Ian Smith, M.D., author of Super Shred: The Big Results Diet. For example, iron from spinach helps form new blood cells so you can replace any blood lost during delivery; vitamin C in watermelon assists in iron absorption and boosts your immune health so you can ward of minor illnesses; and B-complex vitamins from greens prevent post-partum depression.
The squeeze: You-and your baby-can't thrive on micronutrients alone. "Although these juices are dense in vitamins and minerals, they lack a significant amount of calories, fat, and protein that is critical for the production of breast milk," says San Diego nutritionist Tara Coleman. Breastfeeding moms need 500 additional calories a day or they may not produce enough milk, potentially slowing their baby's weight gain and development, explains Gayl Canfield, Ph.D., director of nutrition at the Pritikin Longevity Center. And whether you had a C-section or a natural birth, your body has just been through some major trauma; cleansing-especially in the initial stages-adds an additional element of stress that could slow healing, Coleman says.
The verdict: Check with your doctor, especially if you're breastfeeding, Smith recommends. In general it's best for new moms to eat a nutritious diet of whole foods. In addition to nutrients essential for healing your body and helping your baby grow, they'll provide more fiber to fill you up and potentially help with your weight-loss efforts, Canfield says.
The promises: Develop radiant, healthy skin from the inside out.
The perks: "Cleanses can make you glow and improve your complexion," says Carolyn Brown, R.D., of Foodtrainers in New York. Cutting out insta-agers like caffeine and alcohol can improve your appearance, Coleman explains, as can drinking more fluids (though juice alone won't supply all your hydration needs; Brown's rule of thumb is one glass of water or herbal tea per juice). Some of the juices also contain specific skin-boosting ingredients, Brown says, including cucumbers for hydration and carrots for vitamin A, which helps repair and rebuild skin cells.
The squeeze: Any improvements to your complexion will likely disappear the moment you return to your normal habits post-cleanse, Coleman says. Sugary juices may also make some people break out, Brown adds.
The verdict: If you try a skin cleanse, use it to kick off a long-term approach that offers lasting beauty benefits. Coleman recommends drinking half your body weight in ounces of water (so 70 ounces, or a little less than nine cups, if you weigh 140 pounds) each day. Also eat plenty of vitamin A-rich foods such as sweet potatoes and spinach, and add healthy fats from avocadoes, coconut oil, and fish. "This helps the body produce more supple, smooth skin," she says.
RELATED: Top 10 Get-Gorgeous Foods
The promises: Improve performance, recover faster, heighten your focus, and protect against fatigue, overtraining, and illness. (Designed for people steadily working out five days a week or more, or aiming for a non-weight-loss goal like running a faster 5K or lifting heavier weights.)
The perks: As a supplement to food, smoothies and juices can help ensure you're getting enough calories to fuel your training, Canfield says. And anti-inflammatory compounds found in some of these formulas, including turmeric and ginger, could help your muscles recover more quickly post-workout, Coleman says.
The squeeze: It's doubtful fluids alone could fulfill heavy exercisers' nutritional needs, especially during peak periods of training and competition. Athletes require more protein than the average person, according to a review in the Journal of Sport Sciences. Although nutrition facts aren't always given, based on the drink ingredients, these cleanses don't appear to provide enough protein, says Smith, who advises about a 20-percent increase in intake. Additionally, none of the ingredients have individually been shown to improve any aspect of athletic performance, he notes.
The verdict: "I don't think athletes and cleanses are a good combo," Brown says-you'll risk underfueling. You could, however, use the drinks as pre- or post-workout supplements to a nutritious diet since the carbs in them can help supply and replenish the glycogen your muscles use for energy, Coleman says. But if you're not doing intense exercise, the calories in some of these could cause you to pack on pounds instead of lose them, Canfield adds.
Hangover Cure Cleanse
The promises: Reduce the effects of last night's overindulgence, boost your liver's cleansing powers, improve energy and stamina, and replenish fluid stores.
The perks: Binge drinking usually leaves you majorly dehydrated the next day. Juice can help you restore fluids-and nutrients you may have missed by skipping (or losing) your dinner, Smith says.
The squeeze: None of the ingredients in these juices will change the speed at which your body clears alcohol metabolites, the harmful byproducts of boozing, Smith says.
The verdict: While it's best not to overdo it-women should limit themselves to seven drinks a week and no more than three on any one day, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism-if you have a few too many, juice could play a role in rehydrating your body and replenishing some nutrients, Canfield says. But a cleanse is no miracle cure, she adds. "It's not going to be carrots or ginger root that prevents or cures the hangover; it's time and fluids and rest." [Tweet this advice!]
The promises: Clear your mind and shed those last few pounds in the three days before your big day.
The perks: With their extremely low calorie count, these cleanses could conceivably help you bid adieu to that final stubborn bit of fat, Smith says. Spices such as cayenne may help control appetite, Brown notes, while the fennel, ginger, and dandelion in some of these juices act as mild diuretics, banishing water weight and belly bloat.
The squeeze: Instead of losing weight, some women may gain on a juice detox, Canfield says. The reduced fiber and water content of juiced foods leaves you less satisfied calorie for calorie, meaning you may be tempted to chew actual food-and likely not the healthiest kinds. Smith also doubts you'll feel less stressed, as no evidence has linked any ingredients in these juices to emotional benefits.
The verdict: Cleansing could conceivably fit into a bigger pre-wedding slim-down routine, Brown says. Start three to six months before you walk down the aisle by exercising more, adding more vegetables and fruits to your diet, and cutting back on sugar and alcohol. Do the three-day cleanse a week to five days before your wedding, keeping your exercise light since you won't be getting enough calories to fuel major workouts. Return to whole, healthy foods a few days before you say "I do" to make sure you have enough energy for the rehearsal and any other pre-wedding events, as well as the actual wedding, of course, Brown says.