It all started with a documentary.
We were flipping through Netflix looking for a post-dinner movie when my fiancée Katie landed on Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead.
As tends to happen after a good documentary, I was immediately convinced. I knew everything about juicing and had to do it immediately or I might very well die. Before the credits rolled, we were looking up juicer options and trying to fit the purchase into our budget.
As if the Juicing Gods were smiling down on our household, the No Meat Athlete inbox received an email from the good people at Lifestyle Products Group asking if we wanted to test out their new product, the NutriPro Juicer.
Just like that, a challenge was born. Katie and I, who had never owned a juicer and rarely purchased fresh juice, would commit to a 48-hour juice cleanse, followed by 30 days of replacing at least one meal a day with juice.
Though we were excited, we were also a bit nervous. I was in the middle of training for my third ultramarathon, and Katie was practicing or teaching yoga every day. Would we notice any changes? Could we even sustain our lifestyle on juice?
Juicing vs. Smoothies
Both are incredibly easy ways to pack your diet with healthy foods, but there is one key difference:
Juicing extracts the nutrients out of the produce while dumping the fibers out the other end. Simply put, juice is basically a smoothie without the fibers.
By removing the fiber you are creating a super-powered, nutrient-rich beverage. Fiber takes up volume in a smoothie, which then takes up volume in your stomach. This limits how much you can take in and how quickly the body will process it. Juice packs all the vitamins and minerals into one concentrated serving, giving you a huge energy and health boost without making your body do all the work to digest it.
But don’t you need fiber? Absolutely. And I’m not saying you should rule out smoothies forever — healthy eating is all about whole foods, and smoothies are definitely closer to whole than juice is. But by mixing juice in with your regular diet or having a nice balance of juices and smoothies, you’ll get the fiber you need and the added benefit of the nutrient punch.
The Cleanse (And the Symphony of My Stomach)
Katie and I had a stark initiation into the Juice Club with a 48-hour cleanse, where we consumed nothing but juice and water.
Though the virtues of juice cleansing are hotly debated, it’s my opinion that cleanses can be very beneficial, giving your digestive system a much needed break and jump-starting your body by cleaning out all the toxins and pumping it full of the good stuff. However, cleanses can be dangerous and should be well planned and researched. Before beginning, we gathered lots of advice and planned out 4 to 5 large juices for each day.
Headaches, fatigue, and hunger set in by hour 12. I drank my breakfast and big lunch juices, but by 1:00 pm on the first day, the lack of coffee and substantial food was starting to take its toll. Katie, who doesn’t drink coffee, sent a desperate email around that time expressing similar side effects.
Thankfully, as the day went on, those symptoms started to subside. We woke up on the second day hungry but refreshed. With enough juice to consume one every few hours, it allowed us to take in food every time the stomach started growling.
And boy, would it start growling. Loudly, I might add.
But by bedtime on the second day, our energy levels were back to normal, if not higher than before, and the headaches had subsided. Katie and I both appreciated how clean our bodies felt, and how well we reacted to the raw food. We also realized how much we love to chew — we were both feeling very hungry and eager for solid food.
30 Days of Juice, 10 Pounds Lost, and 1 Really Pink Toilet Bowl
After the initial juice cleanse, Katie and I fell into a regular routine of drinking our juice as breakfast. With this new routine came immediate gains and consequences.
As if a switch had flipped, we noticed a difference in our energy levels in the morning. The surge of nutrients turned out to be an amazing away to wake up the body and mind.
As the days went on, I could feel my body craving that boost every morning. No longer was I filling myself with a starchy meal with little nutritional gain every morning, but instead waking up my body with what it really wanted. We also never really experienced the stuffed-sluggish feeling that comes with a big meal. A juice can fill you up, but never leaves you feeling like you chowed down on a heavy Thanksgiving dinner.
But there were downfalls, too. As in our juice cleanse, we still experienced some hunger pangs. By 10:30 most mornings, Katie was ready for her second meal. I had no trouble getting through the mid-morning hours, but was certainly ready for a hearty lunch by noon.
We both lost five pounds that month, but I can’t say for certain if it was because of the juicing. I was in the middle of ultramarathon training, and Katie was actively increasing her time on the yoga mat.
As a result of our 30 days of juicing, Katie and I both learned several lessons:
- Juicing ain’t cheap. It takes a lot of produce to squeeze out enough juice to make a meal, and buying the produce (especially during the winter months) can be very expensive.
- It takes a bit of time to prep the produce, juice, and clean. To sidestep this issue, we juiced every other day, making enough for two days. Add a little citrus to the juice and it will keep just fine for the next day.
- Just 1 glass of beet juice will make my pee pink for days. And I do mean bright pink.
- Adding an apple or pear can really sweeten up the bitterest of leafy greens without adding too much sugar.
- You can freeze the juice in an ice tray and make delicious and healthy popsicles.
- With the recent surge in popularity, juicing recipes and resources can be found everywhere. Our favorite recipe book was The Big Book of Juices and Smoothies.
Weapon of Choice: The NutriPro Juicer
As I mentioned before, Lifestyle Products Group sponsored this challenge by providing us with the NutriPro Juicer, so it’s only appropriate we take a minute to talk about why this machine is so sweet.
For starters, the NutriPro Juicer is what they call a cold press juicer. Before this challenge I had no idea what that meant, but now I understand how badass this is.
Basically, there are two types of juicers out on the market right now: the cold press juicer and a centrifugal juice extractor. A centrifugal juicer uses blades which produce heat, killing some of the enzymes and nutrients. Cold press juicers don’t use actual blades, but instead squeeze the bejeebers out of your fruits and veggies with enough force to extract everything except the pulp. If you’re in the market for a juicer, pick a cold press.
We really put this juicer through the wringer, and I have to admit that it performed marvelously. Aside from an initial learning curve (note: cut your fruits and veggies into smaller chunks than you think you need to!) It is durable, fairly easy to clean, and comes with all the thoughtful additions, like a cleaning brush and airtight travel mug.
We both ended the 30 days totally loving juicing. It was easy, made us feel good, and didn’t get old like we both expected.
Following the challenge, we added juicing to our dinner prep at least once or twice a week. It has become our go-to healthy breakfast or snack and has already come in handy when trying to impress out-of-town guests.
My 3 Favorite Recipes
We made dozens of different juices over the 30 days, but here are three of our favorites.
A perfect blend of beet and smooth refreshing cucumber. Add a bit of lime to give it a nice kick at the finish. High in detox value and good for the digestion.
- 2 beets
- 1 cucumber
- lime, peeled, to taste
Makes about 24 ounces of juice.
Fields of Green
The bitterness of the kale is mellowed out by the delicious sweetness of the apple, pear, and orange. This dark green juice is a great detoxer, and a nice boost for your immunity.
- 1 cucumber
- 3 sticks of celery
- 1 green apple
- 1 green pear
- 3 stalks of kale
- 1 orange, peeled
Makes about 24 ounces of juice.
Orange You Glad I Didn’t Say Banana
Need a natural energy boost in the morning? Try this neon orange juice with sweet melon and hearty carrots. Add a bit of ginger root to mellow out the flavor.
- 1 cantaloupe, peeled
- 3 carrots
- 1 inch ginger root
Makes about 30 ounces of juice.