When I posted about my juice fast on Instagram this week, your questions came pouring in. You all wanted to know how I did it, what juices I drank, whether I was at a retreat, etc etc. I’ve written up this huge post for you all, which will detail everything you want to know, and more.
I’ve actually done a juice fast before.
It was when I first bought my juicer, a few years ago. I did a three day juice cleanse, and did a few more over the years, but never managed to get past 3-4 days.
This time I decided I’d finally push it harder.
My travels for the year finished around December 22, and I wanted to start immediately, but I decided to wait until after Christmas dinner with my family. Then I figured I’d help finish the leftovers on Boxing Day too. Then part of me wanted to wait until after New Years Eve, but I realised I was just being bitchy. Never leave to tomorrow what can be started today!
So December 27th I started my ten day juice fast. Before I tell you how it went, let me talk about what a juice fast is, and why you might want to do it.
Why do a juice fast?
1. It “reboots” your digestive system
Did you know up to 30%-50% of your daily energy can be spent digesting food? That’s why your body shuts down after you eat a huge meal. It’s using all its energy to break everything down and send things to the right places. Your stomach, intestines, kidneys, liver, brain – it all needs to start working. If you’re constantly eating (and therefore, digesting) food, that leaves little energy for anything else, including healing, recovery, cleansing, brain function etc.
Stopping food intake allows your digestive system to switch off for an extended period of time, meaning your body can distribute it’s energy elsewhere. Most people report large increases in energy after the initial “torture” days of the fast, and even healing of old injuries.
2. It still gives you all your nutrients
When you juice vegetables, you extract the nutrients from the vegetable fibre. That means your body needs to digest almost nothing, but you still get (most) of the nutrients of the vegetable. On average days I juiced about 20 servings of fruits and vegetables – far more than what a regular human eats. Even if juicing only gives you half or a quarter of that, it’s still better than the diet of 90% of the people I know. Contrary to what most people think, juice fasting isn’t starving and does not leave you malnourished.
There are even people who go on permanent or long term juice diets (generally for weight loss reasons), up to six months, and are still fine and healthy. The juice diet is actually considered one of the best ways to elevate nutrition levels while cutting calories to lose weight.
3. It flushes your system
If you go on Youtube and see what a dirty colon looks like, it will make you wonder exactly what’s inside yours, too. The modern diet contains a lot of things we shouldn’t be eating/drinking. This results in mucus/faeces/plaque forming in our digestive organs. Some studies estimate you can have up to 2-3kg of old faeces stuck in your digestive tract, which can be from years ago. Fasting can help you flush this old matter out, either naturally or with the help of enemas/colonic irrigation. This is why a juice fast is often referred to as a juice cleanse, as one of the main benefits is the cleansing of your digestive tract.
4. It’s healthy!
I don’t need to tell you that a large intake of fruits and vegetables is healthy. A break from eating will also help you rethink how much food you need to eat, how often you eat it, and exactly what you should and shouldn’t be eating. One thing I’ve learned from travel is you only need very small experiences to fuel large changes in perspective – this fast was certainly another example of that.
5. It’s a challenge!
Let’s face it – life is easy. 99% of us have never been to war, never lived through a plague, never had to walk into a coal mine and drill into the darkness, waiting for a cave to collapse on top of us just to support our families. We’re already 99% wimp, so sometimes we need small challenges just to make sure we don’t turn 130% wimp. Most people who attempt a juice fast give up, even though on paper it’s not actually that difficult. Challenges are good for us.
So, what are the rules? It’s pretty simple:
- Only freshly made juice is allowed – no store bought or long-life juices. You need to make them yourself with fresh produce and a juicer, or buy it from somewhere that does. Remember you want juice, not smoothies. Smoothies are just blended up solids, which aren’t allowed.
- Avoid fruit juices due to the high sugar content. General rule is 80% vegetables to 20% juice.
- No food (obviously), but if you are seriously about to die you can eat one or two grapes or berries.
- Herbal tea is allowed (no milk, sugar, honey, or any additives).
- Vegetable broth is allowed (not vegetable soup, big difference)
Side note: Do you need to go organic? Of course an organic juice cleanse is better than a non-organic one, but it’s not essential. Non-organic produce is still nutritious – just make sure you wash it thoroughly, and you can peel you produce too if you wish.
My 10 Day Juice Fast Diary
To give you an idea of what it’s like, here’s a brief diary of my ten day fast:
I’ve bought two litres of fresh juice from a juice bar (I’m still travelling). One is a red juice (carrots, beets, lime, ginger) and one is a green juice (kale, spinach, celery, apple). I finish both within a few hours, then just drink water. I’m hungry at night so I cheat and eat a small slice of papaya. Maybe better to ease myself in, I tell myself. So I’ve already cheated before the end of Day One. #fail
I buy a litre of juice at the airport (kale, spinach, celery, apple). It’s from the same shop I bought from yesterday (Top Juice, in Australia). I have a four hour flight today so should be interesting. Day 2 is typically a difficult day; I feel very tired, also because I’m still a bit jetlagged. I fall asleep on the plane, when I wake up there’s a snack box in front of me with cake, yogurt and a sandwich. Get it away from me! The girl next to me looks backpackerish, so I ask her if she wants it. She’s so happy (all backpackers love free food). Finally, I get off the plane – in New Zealand now! I make around a litre of my standard green juice with my juicer at home (celery, cucumber, lemon, ginger, capsicum, apple).
No bowel movement today.
HUNGRY. Drink three litres of juice today, two green, one red. Massive headache. I spend most of the day in bed. Still no bowel movement.
Headache isn’t as bad as yesterday, but still quite light headed. I get out of bed and trip over my backpack, and I’m so dizzy that I stumble around like I’m drunk for a few seconds and collapse into my shelf. Am I dying? I make a red juice and my stomach sings when it hits. Yum. I drink some activated charcoal in the morning too, to try and encourage a bowel movement.
I also start making some vegetable broth (onions, celery, carrots, garlic, then pressure cook for a few hours). Of course you need to strain it and discard all the vegetables, you can only drink the broth, no solids allowed. The taste is mild, but after adding some sea salt it does wonders to satisfy the cravings for hot, cooked food. I freeze a few cups of it for the rest of the fast.
By the end of the day I finally have a bowel movement, thank god. It’s mostly solid.
I do 20 pushups just to make sure the body still works.
Slept terribly. Weighed in at 56kg! (probably started around 61kg).
Have 2-3 liquid bowel movements over the day. Charcoal seems to be doing the trick. Most people say their bowel movements reek due to the heavy detox, but mine seem pretty healthy. Energy feeling a little higher now. Took a long afternoon nap.
I “eat” a mandarin after waking up. By that I mean I put the pieces in my mouth, chew them and get the juice, then spit out the solid. It’s a good trick to satisfy you mentally, and technically isn’t cheating.
It’s New Year’s Eve today, so I go to a barbecue with a litre of juice with me. I go late to avoid all the food. I do eat two blueberries though late at night (second cheat!).
However, I’m going home on New Years Eve healthy, not drunk, and mid-fast. What a good feeling.
New Years Day. Weighed in at 55kg.
Almost no hunger pangs. I only get them two or three times during the day, where my stomach rumbles for one or two minutes. Other than that I don’t feel hungry at all. Body seems to be embracing the fast now. Had a solid bowel movement, no different to a regular one (haven’t eaten anything in 6 days and still passing solids? Where’s it coming from?)
Do 20 pushups and a few kettlebell swings just to keep the muscles working.
Drank about three litres of juice today – two green, one red.
Brain felt good, worked the whole day. Had a cup of vegetable broth at night.
Today was the best day so far.
Woke up feeling good, not hungry at all. The last couple of mornings have been like this – haven’t felt the need to make any juice until at least 4-5 hours after waking. I just get out of bed and start working. Water keeps me happy until the late afternoon. Of course whenever I see food I want to eat, but it’s easy enough to just walk away.
By mid afternoon I still hadn’t had a juice, and felt enough energy to workout. I did a little yoga, planked, and did fifty pushups.
Then I took a salt bath to continue my sweat and get some toxins out. Filled the tub with Himalayan pink salt and tea tree oil and soaked for forty minutes – total sweat fest and felt amazing after. The idea of this is to open up your pores and absorb the minerals from the salt directly into the skin while sweating out the bad stuff. Bit of bro-science, but feels good.
As I’m typing this, it’s 11pm at night and I still haven’t had anything today except water and coconut water. Not hungry at all (I actually feel kind of full, stomach must be shrinking). Amazing.
Woke up this morning feeling great, tons of energy, not even hungry! Again, didn’t feel the need to drink a juice at all.
I finally drank one late afternoon, since I thought two days without juice might be unhealthy. I actually started to feel a small headache after. However, by the late evening I was feeling nice and fresh again. Brain was super clear, did lots of work and reading.
Also knocked out 50 pushups again just to keep things moving…
Things are getting easier and easier now. Days are flying by!
Things were feeling a little backed up, hadn’t passed a bowel movement in a couple of days, so I decided to finally bite the bullet and do a colonic treatment.
If you don’t know what this is, it’s when you flush water through your colon to clear out any faecal matter in your digestive passage. Here’s how it goes:
First, the guy sticks a nozzle a few inches up your bum (yes, it’s uncomfortable). It’s attached to a colonic machine, where one tube sends water in and another tube sucks it out. He turns on the flow to send water in – you tell him when your guts feel full, then he reverses the flow and sucks all the water out. Then he slowly increases the pressure and alternates between hot and cold water. For the first ten minutes the expelled water was clear, only a few small bits of debris. I figured because I was on a fast and I’m young and healthy, my colon was probably nice and clean. Woop!
Then after about 10 minutes I started feeling very light headed. I told the guy my stomach is cramping and I’m getting dizzy. He stopped the flow for a moment and told me to relax. Then I told him I’m really dizzy I think we should stop. Then a few seconds later, the expelling pipe filled with dark brown gritty water. “You see that, that’s a lot of toxins leaving your body. Your adrenaline is pumping, that’s why you’re dizzy.” He turned the flow back on and a large amount of dark toxic stuff came streaming out for about 30 seconds, then the water turned clear again. My head cleared and I came out of a huge cold sweat, feeling rejuvenated. It was pretty cool! That happened another two times during the session. Throughout there were also periods where I was flushing out lighter brown water and I could see all the mucus and old fecal matter getting flushed out. I guess this is the cleansing part of the juice cleanse!
After the session, you need to go sit on the toilet, because there is still quite a lot of water in you. As soon as my bum touched the seat it was a waterfall. Lots of solids came out. Imagine that – no food for 9 days and still had solids pouring out. They were different to normal bowel movements too – heavy, like little rocks.
Finally I headed downstairs for some water and a little debrief – he said I had a really good result and flushed a lot on my first session, not everyone does.
On the drive home I felt really light and free, and couldn’t stop laughing. Must have been a big endorphin release.
Rest of the day was business as usual – juice and rest. However I was expecting more bowel movements after doing the colonic, which didn’t happen. Maybe I’m totally emptied out? Hopefully.
I woke up feeling a little light headed. Weighed in at 53.5kg.
Didn’t feel hungry or the urge to make a juice so just drank some water until the evening. Finally made a big green juice – kiwifruit, celery, apple, lemon, ginger, capsicum, cucumber.
I also made another vegetable broth, this time with lots of tomatoes and drank a large cup of that.
Still no bowel movement today!
Woke up super early for my second colonic. I decided to do a another one as I was starting to feel heavy in the guts again.
This colonic was a lot less intense than the first one. We had a blockage halfway through, so we stopped and I went to the toilet and passed quite a lot of solids. Then I came back and we managed to clear quite a lot of green water and mucus, and by the end I was feeling really emptied out.
After we were done, I thought about whether to push the fast to 14 days. However because the colonic was mostly clean, I felt like the fast had run its course, and there wasn’t much more to gain from fasting any longer. My system was definitely empty, and it wasn’t even a challenge anymore to not eat – I wasn’t hungry during the days, and my energy was high.
So I called the fast on the 11th day. Time to eat!
This is me at 53kg, about 7-8kg lighter than I was on Day One:
View this post on Instagram
Now, you’re supposed to ease yourself back into eating, so the plan was to be vegetarian/vegan for a few days, as fresh vegetables are the easiest thing for your body to digest.
First things I ate were some sauerkraut and coconut yogurt to introduce some probiotics. Then I had a big bowl of salad (courgettes, mushrooms, cucumber, tomatoes, garlic, parsley, olive oil) and a coconut. Later at night I ate some cooked veges and some fancy bread, also snuck a few bites of chicken (cheat #3!).
Here’s the interesting thing: I felt terrible after eating! After the yogurt and kraut I was fine, but after eating my salad I started to get sore guts and felt really tired. I had to go take a nap, and knocked out for about three hours. After that I felt a little better but still sluggish. Over the rest of the evening I came right, but it was the opposite of what I was expecting (I’ll explain why this happened in more detail below).
As I write this it’s now 2 a.m., my energy levels are okay, guts still a little sore, but I think I should be firing tomorrow.
Today is my second day of eating. I fasted for the morning and started eating around 4pm. It’s past midnight now and I’ve had a juice with basically everything in it (green and red ingredients combined). I also had some coconut yogurt and paleo cereal, a coconut, some silverbeet, eggplant stew, lentil pasta, a piece of corn, plus some stir fried beans and carrots. Also I had a smoothie with blueberries, cacao, maca, pea protein and almond milk.
Tomorrow I think my stomach will have readjusted back to normal and I’ll start eating big calories. The goal now is to put my weight back on, with only the healthiest food.
Overall I’m feeling good, back to normal!
How To Do Your Own Juice Fast
So, now for the details. How do you actually do a juice fast? Below I’ve written up the protocol I followed, which I really just made up myself. It will be good to tailor it to your own lifestyle, everyone is different! As long as you follow the basic rules from the beginning, you should be fine.
A disclaimer – I am not a doctor or nutritionist or any kind of medical professional. Everything I know about juices and fasting is based on my own personal research from books, blogs, documentaries etc. I’ve been juicing regularly for around 4 years; all my evidence is anecdotal and from personal experimentation. Do your own research, please!
What Juicer To Use
I highly recommend making your own juice. Juices oxidise quickly, and pre-packaged juices will be nowhere near as nutritious or pure as juice made in your own kitchen.
The juicer I use is a masticating Froothie juicer, which is amazing but it’s pricey and I don’t recommend starting with that. I only invested in that after I’d been juicing consistently for a few years. If you’re a newbie, I’d recommend one of these two:
This is actually the first juicer I ever owned – I still have it and it works great. It doesn’t work very well with leafy vegetables, but it works really well with fibrous ones like carrots, celery, beets, apples etc. This is a centrifugal juicer and waste is slightly higher with these types, but they’re still really good. If you’re buying your first juicer, this one’s perfect. Awesome value too at under $100.
I like masticating juicers because they put out less waste and you can juice more things with them. I’ve never used this Aicok juicer personally but the machine looks good, plus it has pretty good reviews and is a good price. If you’re set on a masticating juicer this looks like your best option for under $100.
What Juices To Drink
Lots of you asked about this, so I’ll share my top secret recipes with you.
Keep in mind these recipes have been carefully formulated over a number of years using ancient kung fu principles. Please respect their power.
The Red Juice
I usually stick to two juices – one red and one green. I suppose since I invented these juices I had better name them. I will call this juice The Red Dragon, named after that dodgy Vegas casino in Rush Hour 2.
- 4 carrots
- 1 large beet
- 1 red apple
- 1 lemon
- 1 thumb of ginger
What this juice does:
Carrots are the base of this juice and really nutrient rich (vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin K and vitamin B8, potassium, copper, iron and manganese). They also contain beta-carotene, a strong antioxidant.
Beets contain betanin, a powerful antioxidant. They are also packed with minerals and are full of nitrates, which improve blood flow throughout the body. Weightlifters often drink beet juice for the nitric oxide, which opens up the blood vessels and gives them a greater pump. This is one of nature’s steroids!
Apples are one of the most nutrition-dense fruits we have. Rich in vitamins and polyphenols and packed with antioxidants. Red apples have slightly more sugar than green ones, but both are good. I use red apples for red juice and green apples for green juice, just to keep it simple.
Lemons are packed with vitamin C, beta carotene, vitamin A, folate, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus and potassium, not to mention one of the most alkalizing fruits we know of. I use a lemon in every juice I make, including the skin.
Ginger is another ingredient in all my juices. All around the world you will find people treating ailments with fresh ginger, whether it’s digestion, blood pressure, inflammation, nausea, or just common colds and flus. There is too much good stuff for me to write about it here, but it’s one of the most super superfoods we have.
Tips: Go easy on the ginger at the start; it’s strong if you’re not used to it. Use apples to control the sweetness – use less apple if it’s too sweet, add another apple if not sweet enough. Unpeeled lemons are best, but peeling them is fine if you can’t handle the flavour.
The Green Juice
What shall we call this juice? I think I’ll call it The Ninja Turtle, named after the best cartoon series in history.
This juice should be your main juice. As a general rule I like to stick to one red juice per day, and everything else I drink is green juice. Getting your greens is super important on the fast, so drink as much of this juice as you can.
- 3 sticks of celery
- 1 small cucumber (or half a big one)
- 1 green bell pepper
- 1 green apple
- 1 lemon
- 1 kiwifruit
- 1 thumb of ginger
- Any leafy greens you want
What this juice does:
Celery is amazing. It’s packed with high amounts of vitamin K, vitamin A, vitamin C, folate, and potassium, plus many other micronutrients. Make sure you juice the leaves as well!
Cucumber is a favourite for skin fanatics, packed with vitamin A and C, plus a good supply of B vitamins and is highly alkalizing. Also has a high water content so is a great base for juicing. The great thing about cucumber is the mild flavour; it mixes well with anything – you can even add it to your red juice.
Green bell peppers are high in vitamin A, C and E and a large range of B vitamins. Also one of the best sources of carotenoids you can find (phytonutrients that prevent cancer and other diseases). One of the most nutrient-dense vegetables you can get.
Green apples have a slightly richer micronutrient profile than red apples and contain less sugar.
Kiwifruit contains more vitamin C than almost any other fruit, plus is a good source of vitamin K, vitamin E, potassium, folate and manganese. Juice it with the skin on!
Leafy greens are possibly the healthiest food on the planet. You can include any leafy greens you want, although try use cheaper ones, as you don’t get that much juice out of them. Save the expensive ones for when you can start eating again after your fast. Leafy greens should be a big part of your diet when you start eating solid food again.
Remember, these recipes are just guidelines and you can add all sorts of other things to your juice. Some good things to experiment with are grapefruits, oranges, rhubarb, chard, wheatgrass, limes, tomatoes, even pineapple and pears. Just stick to that 80/20 vegetable/fruit ratio to keep the sugar level down.
The vegetable broth
During the fast, you’re probably going to get some cravings for savoury, cooked food. This was a lifesaver for me around Day 4-5 when I was dying to drink something other than juice.
- 1 onion
- 4 garlic cloves
- 1 celery stalk
- 1 carrot
- 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
- sea salt and pepper to taste
Cover and boil for 1-2 hours, use a pressure cooker if you have one. Then strain the broth and drink! Remember – don’t eat the vegetables. This is nothing more than drinking vegetable flavoured water, it should be clear and light. It’s the perfect thing to drink before you go to sleep.
What To Expect
You’re probably going to feel really hungry by the end of Day 1. This is normal since your body is used to eating 3-4 meals per day. Load up on juice and rest. Your body will adjust soon.
This is the torture period and your body is going to start feeling as shitty as possible to try and get you to eat. During this period it’s common to experience a “die-off” or “Herxheimer reaction”. This is when a lot of toxins and yeast in the body start to die rapidly. Sounds good, right? Not really – when they die, they release all the noxious substances they contain, and if they die rapidly they usually release toxins in your body faster than your liver can expel them. That leads to you feeling really sick; headaches, nausea, brain fog, fatigue. Drink a lot of water and green juice and get a lot of sleep.
The majority of people quit during this time, but prematurely ending the fast during this deep cleanse is very bad for the body. Once you’re in the torture zone, do your best to power through and allow your body to finish cleansing. If you’re really struggling, don’t break the fast completely; try and ease your way through by eating some fresh fibrous fruits that digest easily, like mango, papaya and banana, or maybe even some lightly steamed vegetables. Remember this isn’t about ego! If a healthy “cheat” like this will allow you to continue your cleanse, it’s a good idea.
If you do this over a couple of days and still feel really ill, you might need to consider breaking your fast. Prolonged die-off is bad for you. Start eating three small, healthy meals a day of fruits and vegetables, like the things I suggested above. Let your body recover, and you can try starting your fast again in a few days. A good summary of die-off and why it happens can be found here.
Your body will start to embrace the fast, your digestive system will switch off and your stomach will start to shrink. You should start feeling more and more energy each day. Hopefully you’ll have some healthy bowel movements around this time too. If you have diarrhea, don’t worry, your body is flushing out toxins. If it smells terrible, that’s also a good thing. Remember that stuff has been sitting in your body! And now it’s gone. Just stay hydrated and get a lot of rest. Make sure you’re getting 2-3 litres of fresh juice per day. By Day 6-7 you should start feeling pretty fresh.
Your body should be well adjusted and you shouldn’t feel hungry at all. Hopefully your energy levels are high and your juices are keeping your nutrient intake intact. You can even get back in the gym and start returning to full workouts. You can decide whether to push your fast for a long period or break it here. Your body will tell you when it’s ready. Either way, it should be reasonably smooth sailing from this point. Congrats, you made it!
When you start eating again
Whether you push your fast to 14 days, 21 days or even a month, eventually you’ll need to break the fast. When you do, you need start slow.
This was actually the big mistake I made. How you break your fast is almost as important as the fast itself! The first thing I tried to eat was that enormous bowl of salad in the photo above, which gave me a a lot of stomach pain and made me really nauseous.
Now I’ve learned that the correct way to break a fast is to drip feed very easily digestible foods into the body. The perfect thing to start with is very small servings of fruit. Maybe eat a small slice of watermelon, then an hour later have a few grapes, then an hour later eat a mango and so on. Slowly build yourself up to small salads and finally cooked food. Remember your digestive system is dormant after the fast. If you start eating steak and burgers and pasta straight away, your body won’t be digest it properly and it will just clog up your system.
You’ve spent so much effort fasting and resetting your body, make sure you restart it in the right way when it’s finally time to start feeding again.
Another thing to remember – your system is empty so this is a great time to rebuild the gut! Make sure you eat a lot of probiotic foods like kefir, sauerkraut, sugar-free yogurt (with live cultures), kombucha, and even a probiotic supplement. My favourite is the Renew Life 150 Billion, but you can use whichever you like.
Here’s a good article about the importance of a healthy gut, and how effective your gut flora can be at boosting your immune system and solving many serious health problems. It’s almost impossible to overdose on probiotics, so load them up, I’d recommend taking a probiotic supplement 3-4 times a day or even more while you re-introduce food back into your body.
As for food, get lots of leafy green vegetables and fresh fruits in, at least for the first few days.
It’s also been shown that vegetables move through the colon much easier than animal products, so it’s good to stay vegan/vegetarian for a few days as you get the digestive system working smoothly again.
Let this be an opportunity to make some permanent healthy lifestyle changes too; more fruits, more vegetables, more sleep, less junk food. Your body should be strong and healthy post-fast; keep it that way!
That’s it! That’s everything I can tell you. I really hope this was helpful and you all take some time to rebuild your health, whether by fasting or diet changes or anything else.
Remember, the above is all based on my own personal experience – your experience may be different so listen to your body and do what’s best for you. If you have any questions, just leave them in the comments, I’ll be here.