August 5th, 2014

The Green Smoothie Diet and Juice Fasting Craze! Healthy or Hype?

Vegetable juice fasting and green smoothie diets have exploded in popularity in the past few years. Everyone from authors to supplement companies to juicer machine companies to personal trainers (who want something else to sell) are cashing in on this hot nutrition craze. But does it live up to the hype? And is it really healthy? In today’s post, Tom Venuto answers these – and many other questions about “the green smoothie diet” and the juice fasting craze…

??????????????????Q: Dear Tom,  I was browsing through NetFlix looking for inspirational weight loss stories, and I ran across a documentary called “Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead,” which apparently has been out a few years, but is still very popular. I admit, I got totally sucked in. But I also heard the movie was heavily advertised and promoted on TV, and that made me skeptical as well (we all know about nutrition fads and talk shows lately). So I spent a lot of time surfing for an honest review about whether this “juice fasting diet” was really healthy. 

The show’s star and host, Joe Cross, mentions that fasting has been used throughout history as a method for body healing and claims that the cessation of digesting solid food saves the body energy which it can then use to heal and repair the body.

One problem, it seems, is a lack of protein. I also have issues with the fiber being removed from the fruits and veggies. And I didn’t see Joe hitting the weights or performing any sort of cardio until after his juice fasting journey, so it didn’t seem to be about fitness at all, just dieting. I know the importance of training from Burn the Fat, Feed the Muscle (BFFM). In fact, I thought his body composition looked a bit “soft” after his 60-day diet was all said and done.

Despite those reservations, I’ll be honest and direct here: I haven’t been successful yet in my efforts to get healthier and leaner and the idea of having a “program” which is that simple – just drink juiced greens and vegetables four times a day – even though extreme, is appealing to me.

I haven’t seen anything really negative about this documentary or about green juice fasting, and like you’ve always told us to do, I did my due diligence searching for evidence and criticism on credible websites before deciding. Maybe I didn’t dig deep enough, but anyway, I went ahead and bought a juicer and a juice recipe book. I thought I would try it for 10 days, as Joe isn’t recommending everyone do what he did, but to try it for 10 days, which he calls a “reboot.” Do you have experience with this? What do you think Tom?”

A: Let me give you my short answer, in two parts first, then read on if you want my complete explanation:

1. JUICING, as a way of eating more vegetables and fruits – green and all other colors? Absolutely! I’m all for eating more fruits and vegetables, whether you eat them whole or you juice them with a juicer or turn them into a smoothie with a blender (particularly if you keep some pulp and fiber). If you like the taste of juiced vegetables and you find drinking them easier than eating them as whole foods, then go for it! Personally I don’t care for veggie shakes, but I do drink protein shakes with fruits like bananas and strawberries.

2. JUICE FASTING, where you eat (drink) nothing but juice for a week to 10 days (or god forbid 60 days?) I don’t recommend it. It’s an extreme crash diet, disguised under the halo of “healthy eating.” In some incarnations, juicing comes with all kinds of bogus health claims, ranging from curing disease to (more typically) cleansing and detoxification – both meaningless words, without scientific basis.

I watched the documentary when it first came out, but I haven’t read Joe’s books, or anyone else’s juicing or green drink books. Therefore, beyond what was discussed in that one film, I can’t comment or critique specifically without knowing exactly what is being recommended (especially calorie level, macronutrients, duration of the plan or whether drinks are simply incorporated as a part of your existing meal plan or they are consumed instead of whole food).

However, I do want to take this opportunity to discuss both the juice fasting that Joe talked about in the documentary as well as the whole green drink craze that’s going on right now in general.

Beyond the juice fast alone, green drinks (aka green smoothies) have exploded in popularity for both health and weight loss. Green smoothie spokespeople are all over the talk show circuit now (TV shows LOVE demonstration and nothing “demonstrates” on screen better than a huge pile of vegetables and a nice noisy juicer machine, ending with the host taking a sip, smacking her lips and saying, “Hmmmm.. not bad!” The best seller charts are full of green drink diet books and cookbooks. Everyone from authors to supplement companies to juicing machine companies to trainers (who want something else to sell) are cashing in on what is right now the hottest nutrition trend.

In the Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead movie, Australian Joe Cross says he has come to America, but he’s not going to eat any of our food (junk fast food). All he’s going to eat for two months as he road trips across the country is juiced vegetables and fruits. With little or no whole food, he calls it “juice fasting” (even though it’s not total fasting). On the road, he spreads his message with anyone who will listen.

Joe started tipping the scales at over 310 pounds, and his weight loss was a big part of the story. However, he talks (admirably) about the importance of eating for health as much, if not more so than eating for weight loss because he had some major health problems before he began his trek. When it was all over, Joe was healthy and had lost 80 pounds.

Some of the other “green smoothie diets” on the market are making weight loss claims to the tune of 15 pounds in 10 days. The big question is, 15 pounds of what? How much is muscle loss? How much is water weight that’s just coming back at the end of the 10 days? How much of the fat loss is sustainable fat loss?

Joe admits, in his own words (from his website), that the way he did it for 60 days was “extreme.” He recommends other people do it for a shorter period of time. Typical juice fasting programs run only 7 to 10 days. That’s 7 to 10 days of essentially starvation level calories. 10 days to drop a ton of body weight: It’s a classic quick fix diet.

I understand the premise of “kickstart programs” or what Joe calls a “reboot.” Usually, you freely acknowledge that you’re not going to do this forever; you’re simply going to initiate the diet with a bang, using some kind of extreme restriction to get you off and running fast. This is not a new idea, nor is it exclusive to the plant-based crowd. For example, in the Atkins diet, a low-carb, high-fat, animal-protein-based plan, there is an “induction” phase with carb restriction much more extreme than during the rest of the diet.

There might be a potential positive aspect of approaches like these: A large weight loss in the first week is motivating for a lot of people. Contrary to popular belief, there is some good research demonstrating that people who lose weight quickly at first are not always at greater risk for re-gaining it – it depends on the person. Unfortunately, the odds are not in your favor, and there are negatives to extreme first week approaches as well.

In the film, Joe comes across as likeable, believable, enthusiastic, and sincere. His message has clearly inspired a lot of people. The documentary was well done, well received, reviewed with high marks and had very few critics. I mean really, what could be wrong with eating more green veggies especially for the sake of health? Nothing. Unless that’s the only thing you eat, you don’t promote exercise at the same time, you fail to acknowledge weight loss versus fat loss and you don’t emphasize lifestyle change right from day one.

As nutrition research has advanced, it has become pretty clear that a partial day or single day of fasting – juice fasting or even total fasting – isn’t going to cause any harm to muscle or metabolism. But the further you go beyond a day or two without protein or adequate calories, the more muscle-wasting and metabolism-damaging it becomes. Combine low protein with low calories and no weight training and you have the perfect recipe for muscle loss. But even if you wanted to train, without adequate energy intake, physical capacity is diminished and most people couldn’t train hard if they tried.

The biggest problem, in my view, is when unsubstantiated health claims are made. Where many juice fasting or green drink diets start off with good intentions but deteriorate rapidly into pseudoscience is when they start talking about “detox” and “cleansing.” Any time I hear these claims, the author or promoter of the program instantly loses credibility and I write them off as a serious resource, or even file them in the quack category.

No thanks to celebrity endorsements and mainstream publicity for “detox” and “cleansing” diets, many who have eaten junk food their whole lives have been convinced that they are “toxic.” As a result, they think they need some super-food juice drink, esoteric supplement or bizarre ritual like flushing out their colon to cleanse themselves. This is one of the biggest lies in diet industry.

What these people really need to do is to cleanse their refrigerators of junk food – for good – instead of trying quick fixes for problems that resulted from many years of neglect. You have a liver, kidneys and immune system that takes care of the rest.

Eating vegetables and juicing vegetables is healthy. Juice fasting, for all the health claims that are made, may not be as healthy (physically or psychologically) as it appears, nor does it support an athletic lifestyle. Fruits and vegetables are fiber-rich and micro-nutrient dense, but by themselves, they don’t provide all the nutrition or energy your body requires. If you ate only vegetables or even only vegetables plus fruits, your calories would likely fall too low to provide optimal amounts of macronutrients or micronutrients (500 to 800 calories a day is not uncommon).

Joe recommended rotating drinks made from different vegetables, which is a smart way to improve the variety of micronutrition, but what about the macronutrition? What about the protein (essential amino acids) and fat (essential fatty acids)? You could buy the pea and rice protein powder he’s selling, but on a juice fast, you’re going to fall short on quality protein.

I read one critical review that said Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead was “The most cleverly disguised infomercial of all time.” Surely there were underlying promotional motives. But let’s assume Joe and his film’s producers had noble intentions and they weren’t consciously pushing any kind of gimmick or scam. I think that’s fair to say, and that’s commendable. Joe is likeable guy (add the Aussie accent and he comes across as downright charming). But nice guy or not, it still doesn’t make a prolonged juice fast anything more than an extreme crash diet. It’s also just one man’s testimonial.

Like The Biggest Loser and other dramatized stories, one person’s success can be inspiring. If you can pull some inspiration from “extreme” stories like these, I think that’s a check mark in the plus column, but it doesn’t mean you should adopt their methods. Maybe borrow an idea or two, but mainly use it as a catalyst to be more inspired to get healthy and follow your own plan (hopefully one that involves a lifestyle including exercise, fitness and muscle).

Long term weight control takes sustainable lifestyle change and new habits, not drastic measures like starving, fasting or drinking juice shakes all day long. Everyone loses weight on starvation diets in the beginning. The problem is, quick fix diets -by definition – are unsustainable, they don’t emphasize body composition, and they don’t teach you lifestyle or real, lasting health habits. Many of them are downright miserable to follow because of the food restrictions imposed and the hunger they produce.

Ironically, liquids are usually far less satiating (filling) than whole foods, especially if the pulp and fiber is removed. Should one wish to add juice drinks into a balanced diet including whole foods with adequate calories, macro and micro nutrition, there’s nothing wrong with that. But to promote nothing but juice drinks or a disproportionate amount of drinks compared to whole foods is unwise.

A vegan / all-plant diet can be pulled off successfully in a healthy way by people who have that preference. However, it’s less likely to provide optimal nutrition if it’s so restrictive that you drop all natural starches, whole grains and legumes (where much of the plant protein comes from), or nuts and seeds (where essential fats come from).

Here’s my advice: Yes! Absolutely eat more fruits and vegetables! That’s one rule of good nutrition you almost never go wrong with, and yet it’s the one place where most people still fall short. Eat your fruits and veggies whole, and if you want to, use a blender or juicer and drink some of them, if you enjoy it. If you don’t like the taste or texture of juiced vegetable drinks, then don’t drink them – just eat your veggies whole.

Green drinks have never appealed to me. I think a lot of them are actually kind of gross (tastes like grass!), so I prefer to eat food. In a scene from Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead, Joe has recruited a lady with health problems to follow along with him. She juices up some green foods, takes her first sip, cringes and says, “Oh that’s nasty.” I bet if you got a good cookbook, you could find some drinks you really like, especially if they have fruit because then you have some natural sweetness. But my guess is that a lot of people drink these not because they enjoy the taste, but because it’s “Hollywood trendy” and being seen drinking a green drink makes you feel virtuous.

Personally, I like big salads, I love healthy stir-fry’s, I load healthy veggies into my omelets in the morning and I do have a good-sized list of favorite vegetables I eat alongside my lean proteins every day. I get plenty of veggies from whole food every day and so can you, if you choose.

"To my friend Tom, you're great. Keep up your workouts everyday. Peace and Happiness, Jack LaLanne"

“To my friend Tom. You’re great. Keep up your workouts everyday. Peace and Happiness always, -Jack LaLanne”

One last thing. Juice fasting and all kinds of smoothie drinks are one of the biggest diet crazes right now. But juicing fruits and veggies isn’t a new idea.

I wonder how many people still remember Jack LaLanne? He was in his prime before I was born, but I’ve always been a fan of his lifetime of work.

LaLanne emphasized exercise and nutrition as a royal pair – like king and queen – including training for muscle and eating for muscle, the natural way. LaLanne was the “true original” and he left behind a legacy of health and strength that we shouldn’t forget. Fundamentals aren’t new – they’re old, and they’re timeless.

Jack promoted juicing since he was a teenager way back in the early part of the last century. But Jack’s way was quite different from today’s crop of quick fix weight loss or “detox” diets.

For Jack, it was a swap: Juicing was his way out of being a sugarholic when he was a kid, and he recommended juiced fruits and vegetables as a replacement for junk food and soda.

I own his books – the new ones and some of his old ones – and have watched many of his classic black and white TV show reruns on video.

I don’t recall reading anything about him promoting juicing as a rapid weight loss tool. He said he was passionate about eating more fruits and vegetables, including juicing them, for health. In his book, Live Young Forever, on page 216 he wrote: “This section contains some juicing tips, but make sure to EAT lots of fruits and vegetables too!

I do believe Jack stopped eating meat later in his life or reduced it greatly, so he did advocate getting a large portion of calories from plant sources. But he also recognized the importance of protein and said he kept eating fish and eggs.

In his last book, written not long before he passed away at a far-too-young-for-him age 96, he also suggested sugar free yogurts as a smoothie ingredient, so he was never anti-dairy or anti-animal protein. He also included yams, brown rice, oats and whole grains. LaLanne’s approach was a lot more balanced and a lot closer to what we recommend in our Burn the Fat health and fitness community than today’s juice-only crash diets.

In Burn the Fat, Feed the Muscle, a juiced drink would simply be an exchange for a whole fruit or vegetable (or as Jack did when he was younger – a swap for sugar and junk food – if you still have junk in your diet). So juicing or alternately, having protein smoothies, which may or may not also have fruits or veggies in them, easily fits into the Burn the Fat, Feed the Muscle philosophy.

On the other hand, prolonged fasting, or extremely low calorie diets of any kind, will never be tactics I recommend or implement into the Burn the Fat, Feed the Muscle program, not even as a first week kickstart. You DO NOT have to eat nothing but veggies (or on the flipside, nothing but protein) to get off to a great start. You DO NOT need any quick fix tactics.

If you want to get off to a fast start, simply take a little more aggressive calorie deficit while still eating adequate protein and a variety of whole foods, (including lots of vegetables), and of course, train hard!

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tomvenuto-blogAbout Tom Venuto

Tom Venuto is a natural bodybuilder, fat loss coach, fitness writer and author of Burn The Fat, Feed The Muscle. Tom’s articles are published on hundreds of websites worldwide and he has been featured in Muscle and Fitness, Men’s Fitness, Oprah magazine, The New York Daily News, The New York Times and the Wall Street Journal. He has appeared on dozens of podcasts and radio shows including Sirius XM, ESPN-1250, WCBS and Day  Break USA. Tom is also the founder and CEO of the premier fat loss support community, the Burn The Fat Inner Circle


 

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24 Responses to “The Green Smoothie Diet and Juice Fasting Craze! Healthy or Hype?”

  • ruthalicious

    You asked for this 🙂

    Fasting and My Familial Eating Disorder.

    A year and one day ago, I stood vigil as my father drew his last breath. He was 79 years old; he had terminal prostate cancer; the cancer did not kill him. He died rather of kidney failure, induced because he was in the grip of a long term restrictive eating disorder, and in the last few months of his life alternated between fasting and ‘reactive eating’. The sudden influx of high after such harsh restriction pushed his already fragile kidneys over the edge. This was his fifth bout in eight months, each preceded by episodes of fasting and reactive eating.

    He was no stranger to fasting. In 1970, a family friend had been diagnosed with a potentially fatal cancer, and he saw an alternative health practitioner, whose prescribed, among other things, fasting on vegetable juices, vegetarian eating, and ‘potassium broth’ – a watery vegetable soup high in potassium, and effective, so he believed, in fighting cancer.

    And so, our family began to fast also. I was nine years old. I was tall, lanky, and lean, with no predisposition to overweight. My father was a mesomorph, tall, solid, naturally muscular and naturally lean. My mother was tall slim and long legged. My older sister, shorter than me, was averagely sized. Until we began to fast en famille – no one had a weight problem. That soon changed.

    That simple fast, on carrot and beetroot juice, precipitated my father, and the rest of us, into a world of disordered eating, leading to at times – and eventually – near or actual fatal consequences. It plunged our little family into a world of dysfunction that is hard to describe, and that centred around food, dieting, excessive exercise, and incessant self-loathing.

    By the time I was 13 I was severely bulimic. I alternated between bouts of pure anorexia nervosa and bulimia, cycling rapidly from complete starvation to bouts of eating enormous amounts of food. I considered myself ‘cured’ from the age of 19, because my anorexia and bulimia had disappeared, leaving me as a woman who ‘watched her weight’ and who ‘lived healthy and exercised religiously’, and who knew that all she had to do was to stop eating for a day or two and any excess weight would simply ‘fall off’. Dad was the one who had disordered eating, eating no one in the family properly understood, fluctuating just as I did between the two extremes, only his extremes involved a far longer pendulum than did mine.

    I had managed to confine mine to a pattern of diet and exercise that most women my age would see as familiar. I lifted weights, I taught vigorous dance classes, and I ate ’clean and healthy’ food. I restricted my calories in order to maintain my weight. And I believed, without a doubt, that I was pursuing a healthy path by doing all of this.

    A few weeks before Dad died, I was sent a link to a blog post on an Eating Disorder Recovery site, and what I read there encouraged me to read and research further, and I was subsequently diagnosed with a long term restrictive eating disorder, and I have been in recovery ever since, a recovery that has brought to light considerable physical damage my restrictive behavior has done to my body, a painful and frightening discovery.

    Restriction is the primary trigger for the form of neurobiological, genetic, eating disorder that my father I had in common. When someone restricts calories, the body releases neuropeptide-Y – which in a non ED brain signals the body to seek food. But in the ED brain, the presence of this neuropeptide causes a different response, a response that in turn drives further – often deadly – restriction. It is well known that many young women are affected by such eating disorders, and in some westernized countries it is the leading cause of death among this cohort. But their reach extends far beyond the highly visible, skeletal waifs that are often depicted by sensationalist journalism. Eating disorders can occur at any size and BMI, normalized – just as mine was – as people ‘watching their weight’ and ‘staying slim.’

    There is an acute problem with disordered eating and exercise within the ‘health and fitness world’, a world in which I have been firmly entrenched for many years. And the most insidious aspect of this is that we are continually seeing vastly different ‘new’ discoveries and regimes to help people get their ‘weight under control’, with the need for such regimes being predicated on one single concept – the need to harshly restrict ones calorie intake while increasing their level of activity. Pop this pill, chug the liquid in this bright yellow plastic phial (hello – BRIGHT YELLOW PLASTIC ????) , don’t eat this, eat that, avoid this, only eat that, this is poison, this is magic (oh, and that will be $500, thank you).

    These include, but are not limited to the Paleo, Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig, Isagenix, South Beach, Liver Cleansing Diet, Raw Food, Atkins, Ketogenic, Cabbage Soup, Low Carb, High Protein, Clean Eating, 5:2 ‘diets’. And all have one thing in common, they radically lower the calorie intake, which, when done in conjunction with raising the level of physical activity, will see a persons weight and body size – in most cases – drop.

    The Green Smoothie Diet and Juice Fasting craze is a rose by another name. Although touted as a ‘health program’, it is also another highly restrictive, low calorie eating plan, with all the inherent ED related risks of any other ‘less healthy’ plan.

    Most of these plans have people taking in calories at levels lower than those the World Health organization defines as starvation – 1800 and below for women, and 2100 and below for men. None of them educate their clients on Set Point theory, and they all make the mistake of automatically correlating higher body fat levels with poor health outcomes, and they use the outdated and inaccurate BMI system. People who have no health problems are being encouraged to change their bodies for what boils down in many cases to popular asthetics, and no actual health benefits. How many people have tried in vain to shrink bodies that were not in themselves unhealthy, but were merely larger, or fatter than what is currently popular. And how much self loathing and distress has this generated unnecessarily?

    What is the cost to a human body of consistently undereating and overexercising? And is there a connection between a long-term pattern of restriction and increasing levels of body fat, especially visceral fat – a known health risk?

    Perhaps that is a topic for another day. I will one day write an open letter to coaches the world over, to create a greater awareness of the cost of their actions in encouraging someone like me, with a history of restrictive eating, to restrict further and to exercise so vigorously while so doing. At the very least people need to be screened as to their past history and treated individually.

    What we do know is that after a period of restriction, leptin and ghrelin levels are affected, and these have an impact on perceived hunger and appetite. We also know that someone restricting harshly can cause metabolic devastation, devastation that may take months, or years to repair – if at all. Adding exercise enhances the damage.

    What might the impact be on someone who has restricted their calorie intake for many years, on and off, while exercising vigorously, embarking on such an eating, or should I say starvation, program?

    Not long before my father’s death he showed me, with delight, how much weight he had lost; 30 kg in total, within a very short time, induced by fasting for days on end. He lifted his tee shirt to show me his sunken belly and loose, sagging skin, thin fragile thighs, and non existent butt. He had two tubes protruding from the skin of his lower back, catheters leading from his kidneys to two urine bags strapped to his thighs, and he had a third, standard catheter as well. He looked tired, old, tiny. Yet he was beaming, delighted with his weight loss. He dropped into a front double bicep and grinned with all his might. He was truly happy to have finally lost every bit of the weight he had hated carrying for all of his adult life.

    And with that weight loss, and the fasting, he had signed his own death warrant.

    So to answer your question Tom – I wouldn’t even call it hype. I would call it the irresponsible and uneducated promotion of a potentially deadly form of restriction that joins the ranks of so many others that offer unrealistic outcomes; outcomes that are unsustainable long term; outcomes that may well cost someone their health, if not their actual life.

  • Ragnar Bruno

    Great, sensible article; thanks.
    What about all the dried veggie and fruit powders?
    My doctor says they are not worth anything, and his fellow doctors believe they are a fraud. Point is, many of those on the market are sold my doctors.
    Whaddaya think?

    Ragnar

    • Tom Venuto

      Ragnar, I would look at the dried veggie / greens powders more or less in the same light as what I discussed described in this blog post. though at first blush, one would think FRESH fruits and vegetables (juiced or whole) should actually rate even higher

  • Tom

    Tom,

    Once again you are able to temper extreme trends with your common sense. I appreciate the fact that you focus on facts and old fashioned effort to make healthy improvements as opposed to hype and extreme ideas unlike so many other fitness professionals. Thanks for always bringing a reasonable approach to the table.

  • Great article, though lengthy, very well stated. I like the part where you mention “toxic” and “detox” like the body hasn’t been doing its job, but I don’t agree whole heartedly because as a fitness professional, I have seen some people (lots lately) who I would say are like walking time bombs from all the junk they feed themselves. sometimes a good flushing with water & veggies is exactly what they need, although I agree that juicing does not teach the ultimate lesson- get the junk out of the kitchen and the house and it needs to get out of your life and body. Or else you will be slowly killing yourself. Thanks for the review on the documentary I do not need to see now 🙂

    • Tom Venuto

      Yes indeed – “a good flushing with water and veggies is what they need” – but in my view, not in the form of a crash diet or “detox” or “cleanse” for 7 or 10 days (again mostly meaningless, pseudoscientific terms), but for the rest of their life as one part of a complete fitness lifestyle.

  • Joseph Arvizzigno

    The Godfather of Fitness…. Back in the day…Gyms were for boxers and Body Builders….Now there is one on every street corner.

    Despite that we are the fattest nation on the planet….What they lifting in those Gyms….Donuts??

    You Cant Out Train a Bad Diet!

  • Liz

    Tom, I think this was the best article, IMHO, that you have ever written. I’ve been a visitor/follower for MANY years but have never commented on anything until now. What I so love and appreciate about you is how objective, SENSIBLE and level-headed you are about every topic that comes your way. Your open mindedness and nondogmatic approach are SO refreshing, and I just wish EVERYONE in the healthcare/fitness industry could marry common sense and broad mindedness the way you do. You know what works for you and offer templates for your customers to follow but acknowledge, accept and encourage them to customize them to do what works for THEM. Am I gushing? (I don’t mean to. 🙂 ) I’m definitely getting off topic, though.

    I agree 100% with what you said, but, specifically regarding the asker’s question, I think it needs to be pointed out that Joe’s journey was a HEALING one. While the movie has come to be an advertisement for juice fasting and, in particular, juice fasting for weight loss, it’s often overlooked as to WHY he started the fast — to heal himself. Losing weight was a big part of that, but it wasn’t the only part. I don’t know how someone who isn’t “fat, sick and nearly dead” would think Joe’s routine would be suitable for themselves. As you mentioned, Joe himself admitted to the extreme nature of his routine, but, for him, it was necessary and it worked. However, a diet someone follows to help them survive, to bring them back to health, isn’t very often (if at all) intended to be adopted long-term or meant to be used as a sustainable regimen. Juicing and green smoothies can both be very beneficial, but they cannot stand on their own (or even together), no matter who the person is.

    I love your mention of Jack Lalanne. He was long before my time, but I’m slightly familiar with his work/accomplishments and one of the things I associate with him is juice fasting and how he really introduced it into the mainstream. His balanced approach of including juices as an ADDITION to a balanced diet as opposed to them serving AS a balanced diet is one to take to heart.

    You’re awesome, Tom. I hope you never stop sharing your views with the world. 😀

    • Tom Venuto

      Liz, thank you very much for the nice comment. Feedback like yours is what keeps me going after all these years. Cheers. Tom.

  • Deanne

    Thank you for writing this. A very helpful and insightful article. As always you hit another key point to keeping our bodies healthy and safe.
    I have a question about eating and how my body feels afterwards. Have you ever heard of people feeling sick after eating normally healthy foods? I sometimes feel sick for several days.

    • Henri

      Hi Tom,

      I consider myself a free thinker. I would never follow anyone blindly. However, the title of my review of your book on Amazon is “My Guru :)”
      This says it all and once again you hit the nail right on.
      It does not mean that I will not be tempted to try things out of the box, like juice fasting for instance.
      I have seen the documentary, been tempted to try it. Since then, I have experimented with juicing with various results.
      I have this problem that I tend to have no real limit when eating or drinking… I often gulp half a liter at once and I can eat in the same quantities… This makes calories control quite challenging for me.
      I did notice some benefits in juicing for a few days that it helps reduce the size of my stomach and my sensation of satiation.
      I have done 3 juice fast in the last 3 years. Twice for ten days and once for twenty.
      The 10 days fasts were surprisingly enjoyable. I mixed various kinds of fruits and veggies with variable success, taste wise. I lost about 10 lbs each time…
      Each time, I experienced a day of feeling worse than anything Usually around the third, fourth day… Even getting paranoid about the possibility to destroy my health with these stupid tries. But both times the next days I would wake up feeling like a million bucks, the feeling remaining good up to the tenth day.
      I did not stop working out the first time I did it with no noticeable drop of energy. The result looked positive.
      The second time, I had unfortunately stopped my workouts. My muscle/fat body ratio did not like it as I actually lost more muscle than fat.
      That time, it did not take that much time to regain the lost weight afterwards…
      So the third time, I decided to push to twenty days since it had been so easy the two first time. The result was good up to the 14th day and then it went downhill… I felt tired, I had no energy and I felt moody up to the point when I stopped at twenty days. That time, it took me a serious while to feel good again and by that time, I had regain all the lost weight and then some…
      Interestingly, I stopped losing weight around the tenth day and remained steady until I restarted eating normally.
      The conclusion of this long post is that you are indeed right.
      I will juice again but just for the taste (some mixes are really good) and also because I keep the pulp to make the most amazing veggie soups I ever tasted… I will also eat normally in the same time.

      Thanks again for your amazing work over all these years. My guru! 🙂

      • Henri

        By the way, sorry for posting it as a reply but I could not leave a simple comment… I had a Javascript error…

      • Tom Venuto

        Hi Henri, thank you for the compliments and thank you for your sharing your experience on this topic.

  • Justin

    Hi Tom,

    Thanks for the informative article. I bought a blender a few weeks ago and has started doing a green shake (500ml each per day)for me and my lady. Typically the indredients will look like this:
    – Broccoli
    – Kale
    – Spinach
    – Swiss Chard
    – Celery
    – Cucumber
    – Asparagus
    – Organic Apple Juice and water.

    I do this, (And I guess that’s where you are going with this article) only in conjunction with a proper diet of lean protein, good fats and complex carbs. I do this rather than buying the green supplements that’s been advertised everywhere as well.

    Keep it up,

    Justin

    • Tom Venuto

      Hi Justin.

      Lots of vegetables (sometimes juiced) and some fruits, “in conjunction with lean protein good fats and complex carbs.” That certainly looks like the balanced and healthy approach I was describing in the article!

      (only If you start drinking nothing but wheat grass for 60 days at a time…, then I might need to send a squad to come get you and take you to safety! Keep up the good work).

      Thanks for your recipe. Thats a LOT of green! what does it taste like?

      • Justin

        Thanks for the encouragement & your “let’s set the record straight” type of articles. We certainly read it.

        I guess a lot of folks would misinterpret or abuse the greens shake idea and substitute it with meals.

        Re the taste: Twas something to get used to at first, but as time went on, I added the apple juice just for the taste. Lately I’ve added a scoop of amino acids if I know a tough day at the gym lies ahead.

        • Tom Venuto

          Amino acids in a veggie juice drink! I think you might have started a new movement… we shall give it the mind-bending oxymoronic name, “meathead juicing: 🙂 Cheers, T.V.

          • brian

            Meathead juicing!!! ROFL!! I love it!
            Great article! Thanks again Tom for taking the time to reign us in and keep us focused. It’s so easy to get sucked in to the clever and inspirational stories and campaigns these days. Some are brilliantly put together and they know exactly what buttons to push to get us wondering.

            Fortunately, I am not so easily enticed after reading and applying the BFFM book of yours and I am finally getting results in my weight loss and physique goals. You’ve given me that “suspect” awareness that should be there with all of us!!

            Again thanks for a great book and your continued involvement in our journeys and success. I always look forward to your articles as they keep me motivated and on track as well as remind me of the science and nutrition that works short term and long term.

  • Loved this. These were my thoughts exactly and then some when I first saw that movie. I need my food, I don’t think I’d be a happy camper if I only had liquids.

  • Green smoothies are an awesome “addition” to a well balanced meal plan. Juice diets, however, are an extreme and often unhealthy way to attempt to lose weight. Best recommendation I can give in respect to juicing and smoothies is to use a good mixer such as the Nutribullet, so you keep as many nutrients in the drink as possible. Also, limit the amount of fruits that you include as they are high in fructose (sugar). My favourite green smoothie recipe is handful baby spinach, handful kale, lebanese cucumber, two stalks celery and half a frozen banana. Blitz it in the Nutribullet or a blender and enjoy!

  • […] Burn The Fat Blog: Vegetable juice fasting and green smoothie diets have exploded in popularity in the past few years. Everyone from authors to supplement companies to juicer machine companies to personal trainers (who want something else to sell) are cashing in on this hot nutrition craze. But does it live up to the hype? And is it really healthy? In today’s post, Tom Venuto answers these – and many other questions about “the green smoothie diet” and the juice fasting craze… […]

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