I'm feeling sassy this week so I decided to tackle what I'd consider to be a close contender in the WalkerStrength: most ludicrous fad in fitness challenge. Behind Herbalife of course.
"Detoxing" in the modern fitness industry seeks to remedy a problem that quite frankly is not there - the term makes people believe that they somehow have problems within them that cannot be solved with a solid, calorie controlled diet consisting predominately of whole food and regular exercise. That drastic measures must be taken to fix you before you can even consider not being a fat piece of shit - when really there isn't anything particularly wrong with you. Your thyroid doesn't need to be bathed in cayenne pepper and wheatgrass smoothies and you aren't fat because free radicals are destroying your metabolism. You need to stop searching for a quick fix, sit down, have a think and realise that if you want to maintain any sort of physique or physical aptitude then the training and diet component will be a lifetime commitment - do it sustainably or don't do it at all.
Despite being the completely wrong mindset to have for health and fitness success the "detoxing" fad is also incredibly stupid for a variety of biological reasons as well:
1) Massive calorie restriction has a negative effect on your metabolic rate
Most "detoxes" often involve a diet solely of fruit and vegetables, often in liquid form - not really very calorie dense and thus the majority of "detox" diets end up being around 500kcal on the daily. Now unless you're a 30kg professional sleeper that's a pretty big deficit - a deficit that will surely cause some sort of metabolic down regulation (our body's primal attempt at not wasting away and starving to death by slowing down metabolic processes to adapt to the lack of energy being consumed) even in the short term. What does this mean for you? See point two.
2) Rebounds from drastic periods of excessive calorie restriction are brutal
Let's say client A starts their "detox" with a TDEE (total daily energy expenditure: BMR + activity) of 2200kcal. Client A consumed only vegetable juice for 2 weeks with a daily calorie intake of 600kcal. Their metabolic rate adapted to the new calorie intake by slowing down somewhat - there is no credible data that I can find on the actual time taken for metabolic adaptations of this size to take place so let's give the juice drinkers the benefit of the doubt and say this person only took their TDEE down to 1800kcal through a two period of excessive calorie restriction. Client A now stops their "detox" and returns to the same diet they ate prior to the "detox" and instead of maintaining the weight that they were unhappy with previously they start to gain just under one pound a week (2200 -1800 = 400kcal daily surplus, 28000kcal weekly surplus, 3500kcal in a pound of tissue - 0.8lb weekly weight gain.)
This is an incredibly mild example - the majority of cases the client would suffer greater metabolic damage (IMO) and it's safe to say the majority of people go on a binge eating spree after periods of restrictive eating - consuming more calories than ever before and coupled with their newfound metabolic damage: gaining weight more rapidly than ever before.
3) Not consuming any protein for weeks on end is stupid
Due to fruit and vegetables making up the majority of "detox" plans they tend to have an incredibly low protein yield. Not good - a large calorie deficit coupled with a low protein intake is perfect recipe for muscle wastage. This ultimately slows down your metabolic rate as muscle is incredibly metabolically active. Muscle wastage also increases your chances of an even higher body fat percentage after your post "detox" rebound (a smaller percentage of your overall bodyweight will be lean muscle mass, thus the proportion of fat mass will be higher).
I've even heard that consuming protein as "high" as the normal 1g per pound of bodyweight is unhealthy and puts excessive stress on the kidneys - well Mr Dandelion Runningwater you can fuck right off back to WoodStock because every single nutritional sciences graduate in the entire world seems to disagree with you. Your kidneys are meant to process kilograms of three day old, fire cooked dear meat - getting 1g per pound of bodyweight from store bought chicken breast and whey protein is not going to shut then down.
4) All of the commercially available "detox" teas, patches, powders are snake oil
All of the products you see for sale by the armies of tits and teeth Instagram fitness celebrities are simply diuretics or laxatives meant to give you the idea of amazing initial weigh loss by keeping you on the toilet in one way or another. Also, it is important to point out that if you consume FitTea three times daily while sticking to a strict 500kcal diet it probably isn't the FitTea causing your weight loss - it's because your starving to death. The tea is simply there to ensure you're dehydrated and shitting yourself for the duration of your crash diet.
5) There isn't anything wrong with you
I touched on this thought previously but I feel its worth having a closer look at. People are constantly looking for the easy way out and when some charlatan coach or tea merchant on Instagram tells them anything other than the honest "eat properly and exercise" solution to their problems then they jump at the opportunity. Why? Well eating properly and exercising takes commitment and an element of hard work that few are willing stick to long term. We live in a society of "now" but unfortunately when you're dealing with human biology you're dealing with a pretty bullet proof system that's undergone hundreds of thousands of years of evolutionary trouble shooting - you don't get to dictate how the human body works. If you want to get into shape realise that you aren't a fragile mess in need of "detox" teas and juice binges - you need to eat meat, drink water, lift things, move and test yourself with something difficult on the daily in order to develop not only your body but your mind as well.
6) The liver and kidneys have done a fantastic job at detoxing homo sapiens sapiens throughout the history of our species
And they certainly aren't going to fail us now considering the relatively newfound cushy existence that some of us as species get to enjoy. Now I know some of the hippies are going to refute the fact that our modern existence puts less strain on our bodies than our more primal days because the food we eat is all GMO poison sent by emperor Trump and Monsato and thus regular "detoxes" are a neccesity. To those people I have the following preemptive retorts:
- During our twilight days as a species the average life expectancy of homo sapiens was around 25. All of the top 10 countries with the highest life expectancies in the world now maintain an average life expectancy greater than 82.
- Our modern diets put such little strain on our physiology that the human appendix has become completely obsolete as we no longer kill and eat rattle snakes with our bare hands.
If the human body is no longer in need of an organ responsible for processing infection and people are living up to 3.5 times as long in developed countries then I think it's safe to assume we aren't being tested as much as we used to - and that's the problem. So many years in our lives but no life in our years. How do you fix it?
1) Accept the fact that you have eaten too much and not used your body for it's true purpose over the last however many years.
2) Work our your energy expenditure and a rough outline of your desired macronutrient intake yourself or get a coach to do it for you.
3) Find a physical activity you like to do that challenges you and do it at least 3-4 times a week for a minimum of an hour per session. Lift, run, do bodyweight training, train boxing, train jiu jitsu, CrossFit, anything!
4) Gradually reduce calories each time you stop losing weight - jumps shouldn't be greater than 200kcal weekly provided you are not dangerously overweight.
5) Progressively reduce calories until you are eating around 1000kcal (for ladies) or 1500kcal (for gents) daily. This is about as low as I would normally go.
6) Reverse diet and continue to train and get better in your chosen discipline. Repeat. Forever.
This one's got the bro coaches sweating like a gypsy with a home loan.