The Detox Myth

Please, stop it

“Detox”… every time I hear this word my scientific soul dies a little bit. Because I can not believe that we still follow such hocus-pocus. Well, there are people out there telling you that vaccins cause autism or the earth is flat or whatever esoteric crap is the newest sh*t.  Ok, sorry for the rant but it drives me crazy when people use other people’s lack of knowledge, as in the case of all this “cleanse” and “detoxes” popping up every year either during Lent season or as summer is approaching. They promise you to clear the body from harmful “toxins”, that prevent you from losing fat or making you feel sleepy or whatsoever. Usually, a restrictive diet in liquid form (juices anyone?) and/or an expensive supplement is prescribed, promising loss of weight and other miracles.  Is there any truth behind this stuff?

Heavy metals, pollutants, pesticides, endocrine disrupting chemicals, drugs and other substances are indeed harmful if exposure is in high enough amounts and for sufficient time. Fact is, that our body can get rid of them very well by transforming these substances in compounds that can be excreted easily by our body. The main player here is the liver, where most of the “transforming enzymes” are located, as well as the kidneys, lungs and skin. In order to execute both proccesses, transformation and excretion, our body needs all the bricks to perform well: enough protein , some fiber and all the essential micronutrients, like vitamins (especially from the B-family), major elements (like magnesium) and trace elements (for example zinc, iron).

What to do?

How do you get those bricks? If you eat enough protein from different sources (at least 1,5g/kg bodyweight) and a big variety of colorful veggies and fruits, you should be fine. Throw in some fermented foods if you want to be super-healthy and love the umami rich taste 😉 . If you are vegan, you may want to supplement vitamin B12 and probably iron and zinc, but ask your doctor because especially iron can be toxic in higher doses. Also, a lot of ambitious strength trainees may profit from some magnesium and zinc supplementation but do not overdo it with supplements and check Stefan‘s guide as well as asking your physician when in doubt.

Doing more harm than good

Often all this detox stuff is exactly the opposite of that: it has extremly low if barely any protein, the fruits and veggies are juiced losing all the fibre as well as a big part of the micronutrients and the supplements are some shady substances with no serious scientific evidence of supporting the body’s functions.

Of course you may lose weight if you drink and eat nothing but some juices: because you are probably in a heavy caloric deficit! The probability is also very high that you will lose muscle mass because you neither consume protein nor do some serious strength training as I’ve never seen a detox programm recomending heavy squats and chicken breast. That would be a good detox program! Oh wait, it already exists and is called strength training, but it is not sexy enough to make profit with it easily.

That’s exactly how the dreaded jo-jo effect happens: you eat for a short period in a non-sustainable way, do nothing to build muscles, fail to establish healthy habits and after that you restart your crappy diet again. Only now you have lost muscle, making weight gain even easier. Welcome to the viscious circle!

Let it be

To sum it up: juice cleanses and detoxes do nothing for you. They empty your wallet and/or cause even more harm than good by restricting the macro- and micronutrients you take in. Save your money for a nutrient rich, enjoyable and sustainable diet, maybe take a few reasonable supplements (only if really needed), move and enjoy life. Lastly embrace the wise words of Dan John:

Eat like an adult!

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