7 Days of Water, Green Vegetable Juice, and Urine Testing: Does It Get Any Better?

Call it post-race blues if you like.  It happened after qualifying for Boston, and now it’s happening after running my first 50-mile ultramarathon.

The story is the same: A planned week off of running turns into two (or three) weeks. And then I get into watching television shows, like the important Bachelorette. This all opens the door to some crummy eating.

iStock 000006306683XSmall 300x199More junk food, fewer salads.   More coffee, fewer smoothies. More beer, more beer.

Last time I broke that funk with a challenge: Run every single day for a month.  This time the challenge is nutrition-related, and a little bit weird.

Consume only fluids for seven days.

Why Would Anyone Want to Do This?

Because I like experimenting, and giving things a fair shake.  Because I’m obsessed with the idea of maximizing my energy, so that I can run better, sleep less and live more.  And because everywhere I turn for answers about how to have more energy, people are pointing me towards an alkaline diet (more on this below).

And an alkaline diet, it seems, starts with a cleanse.  Not a Super Colon Blow-type cleanse, but a way of giving your body a break from difficult digestion, to free it up to flush acids, yeasts, and toxins out of the bloodstream.

The Details of the Cleanse

The specifics of the cleanse are pretty simple: Drink at least four liters of fluid per day, mostly water with lemon or lime, plus six to twelve glasses of freshly-juiced green vegetables.  Raw, liquid soups made from pureed green vegetables plus a few tablespoons of oil are allowed too, as are occasional carrot and beet juice.  Depending on how much running I do over the next week, I may allow fruit juices in moderation as well.

The cleanse isn’t required to last for seven days; that’s an average.  If I decide I want to stop after three or four, I’ll stop.  And if I start losing a lot of weight—my biggest concern—I’ll curtail the cleanse at that point.

This isn’t supposed to kill me or be some religious test of mental strength.  It’s supposed to be a jump-start toward a cleaner diet and increased energy.  If there’s any sign that it’s doing the opposite, I’ll jump ship faster than that bad guy in Titanic who goes ahead of the women and children (i.e., fast).

Isn’t This Alkaline Diet Thing Just Pseudo-Science?

Maybe.  But I like to try things before I decide whether or not they work for me.

The alkaline diet is certainly “alternative,” and I don’t know that there’s a lot of evidence to support it (yet?).  I do know that several people whom I trust and who have incredible energy levels—Brendan Brazier, Stu Mittleman (the guy who ran 1000 miles in 11 days), and Tony Robbins (not an athlete, but one of the most energetic and passionate guys you’ll ever see)—all endorse paying attention to the acid/alkaline balance.

On the downside, Wikipedia tells me that the guy whose book I’ve been reading, Robert Young, has been under scrutiny by the National Council Against Health Fraud.  And as a commenter pointed out, his website sure feels kinda creepy.

But the way I see it, there’s not much risk in giving it a whirl.  If you look at a chart of the acid and alkaline foods, you’ll see that the alkaline foods and neutral foods are pretty much what we know to be good anyway—vegetables (the greener the better), certain seeds, nuts and grains, and some fruits.  And the bad stuff is what most vegetarians and vegans agree is unhealthy—meats, dairy, sugars.  (There does seem to be some variation across different charts, another red flag.)

As I do more research about the alkaline diet, I’ll write a post summarizing what I see as the major tenets, and that research along with my results will help me judge its validity. In the meantime, I’ll just be over here drinking a whole lot of water and vegetable juice, as the cleanse starts tomorrow.

I’m interested to hear what you, the NMA readers of the world, think of the alkaline diet—I know it’s a polarizing topic. What do you think, is there something to it?  Or is it just an ingenious ploy to get me to waste my money on greens powders and pH strips to test my urine?

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Comments

  1. Not sure on this one, Matt. Will be eagerly awaiting more info as you try it.

  2. I tried the Master Cleanse at the end of January, mostly in the spirit of inquiry, like you. Here’s what happened, in 10 days:

    1) I dropped 8 lbs, then gained every pound back within 6 weeks.
    2) I absolutely could not run, or work out at all. No chance. Even for the last half of it, when I was a little less groggy and sluggish, I was still…well, pretty damn groggy and sluggish.
    3) I was in a shitty mood almost the entire time.
    4) All I wanted to do, from the moment I dragged myself out of bed to the moment I plunked myself back down in it, was sleep. Some nights – weeknights, even – I slept 10 or 11 hours. This need for sleep did not lessen as time went on, it only became stronger.
    5) The physical hunger actually did go away after a couple days, as they purport. But that didn’t make me any less interested in food!
    6) You’re supposed to crave raw foods and fresh fruits and veggies after the cleanse. No way! All I wanted was spaghetti and cookies. Seriously, the idea of munching on some seeds didn’t interest me at all; I was just starving for high-cal food.
    7) I felt “cleaned out” for the last few days of it, and for a couple days afterward, but it didn’t last past that.

    All in all, I’m not sorry I tried it. At least now I have a solid perspective on it. I think your cleanse will work better, since you’re including juices. If you don’t expect TOO much out of it, I don’t think you’ll be sorry you tried it either. Good luck!

    • Amber, I think it’s cool that you’re not sorry you tried it, even with all those negative results. You have the same mindset as I do. And half a day into it, I’m still enjoying it!

  3. I too am interested in how it goes for you. I’m a very recent no-meat-athlete convert, and I can’t believe how awesome I feel! I’m thankful for all your shared experiences and look forward to this one.
    Thanks!
    Elizabeth

  4. Oh Matt, not that I’m completely dogging this concept but a cleanse? Really? Your body can cleanse itself! Why put yourself through the torture of a liquid diet if you don’t absolutely have to (aka majoy jaw surgery, etc). If you want to maximize energy, it’s not just about the “toxins that are building up”…it’s everything in life! Get 7-8 hours of sleep at night, limit refined flours, sugars, eat organically, and most importantly BE HAPPY in life!! Happiness = ultimate energy! God didn’t want it to be that hard. WHy do you have to follow a list of foods to consume? Just give yourself foods the way nature intended (might be a little more costly…but worth it!)

    • Erin, it’s ok for you to be completely dogging the concept! Our bodies can cleanse themselves, for sure, but I’m not sure they were built to cleanse the amount of unnatural stuff that we eat today, even those of us with good ‘clean’ diets. And I don’t want to get 7-8 hours of sleep a night, that’s part of the point! I want more energy so that I can sleep 5 or 6 and feel great!

      For the long term, I agree that following lists of foods you can eat sucks. My hope is that by trying this, even if I don’t stick with it, I at least learn some of the principles and can apply them to my more standard vegetarian diet.

      • Hi Matt,

        I am a big fan of yours and included your link in my blog. If you want to do with 5-6 hours of sleep and get on with life – have you tried meditation ? 20 mins of meditation = 4 hrs of restful sleep.. I have been meditating everyday for the last 10 years – and being able to do with less sleep is just one of the benefits. it makes you blossom in every walk of life.. check out http://www.artofliving.org for “Sudarshan Kriya” – a simple yet profound breathing technique that helps you meditate.

  5. elaine! says:

    I’m not sure about pH balance in the body, but eating more greens certainly can’t hurt. I always laugh a little when people want to “give their digestion a rest” — our digestive tracts are built for digestion, it’s not like it tires it out. :) Though I suppose we’re built to withstand famines, so it’s not like it’s bad for you, either.

    I’m looking forward to hearing how this affects your workouts.

    • I might argue though our digestion system was never built for what we sometimes put through it ;)

      I’m always leery of diets such as this, even for a limited time… but in the interest satisfying your curiosity, why not? I’ll stay tuned for the results….

    • Elaine, I agree. If this diet were telling me that eating only Twinkies for a year is the key to boundless energy, there’d be a problem because that’s potentially dangerous. There’s nothing like that here, even in the cleanse. Some might consider 7 days without solid food extreme, but I think it’s hard to argue that it’s dangerous.

  6. Not sure about this particular diet but I have gone 7 days with only freshly extracted juices, made from fruit and vegetables.

    Here is what happened:
    http://www.letmetellyouaboutsweden.com/benefits-of-juicing/

    In a nutshell, I was bounding with energy lost a good amount of weight and only put a little on when I reverted to solids.

    I do 3 day juicing only days (some call them fasts but I dont agree its a fast) each month and feel its a great way of balancing my body and getting in some extra shots of apple, spinach, lime, wheatgrass, spiruline, pineapple, cucumber, celery etc etc

    • Shane, it’s a feast, not a fast, right? That’s what I’ve gathered so far! I like the idea of eating “normally” most of the time and doing a 1-3 day cleanse/fast/feast every month or so. I’m hoping to learn those same things about alcohol and coffee that you did on yours.

  7. I’m not necessarily interested in a cleanse myself, but would love any of the recipies for green soups and different juices!

  8. Wow. I don’t think that website could more strongly radiate “Giant Scam” if it tried. Feels like a sleazy infomercial.

    That said I have nothing but respect for you experiment. Individual results are what matter and running the experiment is a good way to get them. I look forward to hearing how it goes!

    • Thanks Jason. That’s cool that you respect the experimentation mentality even though you’re pretty skeptical of what’s being tested. Experiments are great.

  9. Interesting, I have mixed feelings about a juice-only cleanse and have not tried one yet. I do believe in an alkaline diet and have experienced a huge energy boost just from following a high raw vegan diet. But there were energy sags and “crashes” while converting over, re-adjusting my calorie intake and making sure I was getting enough protein that I’m worried I’ll relive trying to live on juices alone for x amount of time. I think following a raw plant-based diet while skipping animal products and processed foods is cleansing and energizing enough.

    • Christine, you’re probably right to some extent. A plant-based diet, especially a raw one, is probably good enough. But I don’t eat raw much and I’m not totally vegan, so perhaps for someone like me, it might be beneficial. And if the results are good, that’d go a long way toward helping me eat more vegan and more raw.

  10. Clare Mitchell says:

    3 years ago I did a cleanse that was based strongly on Robert Young’s pH Miracle Diet book. It lasted almost 2 weeks, with a gradual phasing out of meat(I was not vegetarian at the time),grains and dairy and ending in a 7 day liquid only diet. I did not do the supplements though. It was really hard and i was so hungry, especially at night. I immediately lost weight, but was grouchy, headachy and just felt “weird”. However, so many people told me they’d never seen me look better, that my eyes were clear and that i “glowed”, so I kept up with it. Eventually I had renewed energy and felt wonderful. It kick started a very clean and conscious almost vegan lifestyle I have never looked back on. Go for it Matt! Can’t wait to hear how it goes for you.

    • Clare, thanks for sharing your experience on a very similar cleanse to the one I’m doing (I’m kind of doing a hybrid of Young’s and what Tony Robbins recommends.) That’s especially encouraging to hear that it gets better, and that the initial discomfort isn’t a sign that you need to quit.

  11. You can put anything you want in your body as far as I’m concerned. Just tell me you DIDN’T watch the Bachelerette

  12. Ooo I love this!! Everything I’ve read about the basis of an alkaline diet, in theory, sounds great. But then all the questions & contradictions creep in and you have to wonder. We’ve been talking about it in one of my nutrition grad classes- such an interesting subject! Can’t wait to hear what your personal experience is like- definitely the best way to figure out whether something works for you or not. :)

  13. While I think it’s absolutely bonkers, I’m really interested in seeing how you do. I trust you’ll be honest with us and tell us what it actually does for you. The only cleanse articles I’ve really read are about how girls use them as a coverup for an eating disorder, so I am probably (ok, totally) biased. Good luck and thanks for being a guinea pig!

  14. Looking forward to seeing the outcome, since clearly I don’t have the will to try it myself!

  15. I was totally convinced on this whole alkalizing thing until someone pointed out to me that everything we know about metabolism in the human body indicates that it has incredible mechanisms to maintain homeostasis. As someone with a background in biological chemistry, I know this to be very true. I could not come up with a good response as what chemical basis there could be behind alkalizing diets that explains how food intake could suddenly have such drastic affects over pH levels throughout the body.. This just doesn’t seem very possible to me… But I will admit that I am very uninformed on alkalizing diets…

    I will say, however, that since become vegan I have noticed a drastic improvement in my skin. Before I gave up animal products people told me that they can cause inflammatory responses in the body and I really didn’t believe it. But here I am 2 months later, and my skin has never looked so good. So I figure if the inflammation point was right, maybe there is something to this alkalizing thing?

    Just please be cautious because this plan does sound a little radical. Remember to listen to your body! :)

    • Jo, thanks for your concern. :) I’ll be careful. As for the pH thing, it’s pretty clear from doing testing that the body’s alkalinity (or at least, the urine’s alkalinity) changes drastically throughout the day, seemingingly very dependent on what you eat. Maybe our body was adept at maintaining homeostasis when all we ate was plants and the occasional antelope, but our bodies were certainly not designed for the way we eat now.

      So while I think it’s pretty clear that pH levels fluctuate a lot, the controversy begins over the issue of whether or not this really matters for our health.

  16. What I don’t get is why eliminating bad stuff and eating a more alkaline diet needs to be “kick started” with an extreme plunge. Would you begin a 5K program with a 50-mile run? Makes no sense. I can’t point to studies, but I tend to think the body does better when it moves gradually and steadily toward what is right for it. Reckon that’s not as attention-getting for these gurus selling books and supplements, though.

    All that said, I’m glad you’re doing it, because I know you’ll give us some smart and interesting insights. Good luck, man!

    • Pete, that’s a good point. For me, the extreme plunge is a mental thing. I am not good at saying “I’m going to start drinking more green vegetable juice,” and then actually following through. It fizzles quickly, if I even start.

      With a shocking change though, it’s easy for me to quickly get used to the new regime and create lasting change. But great point about attention-getting; that’s certainly something to be concerned about with alternative diets.

  17. Best green juice recipe:
    Bunch of Rainbow Chard & Kale
    Head of Celery
    1/2 or Whole Cucumber
    1 or two carrots
    1 Whole Lemon (yep, the whole thing!)

    Add an apple if it’s too bitter, but your taste buds will adjust so you won’t need the apple after a few days.

  18. Well I haven’t heard of the alkaline diet…must go and read up on it! All sounds very interesting and I like the idea that you want to find out your opinion by trial rather than just having one based on books and hearsay. Imagine workingout on it will be tough…and that you will prob lose about ~7lbs…and that the first 4 days will be the hardest… Good luck!! x

  19. I guess the important thing here is Matt is to do what you feel is right and if it gets too much then bale out.

    When I did my 7 day juice only regime, I had started three times before I actually managed a full week.

    Mainly it was peer pressure, friends saying things like ‘oh juices all week thats dangerous’…its easy to be swayed especially when the initial headaches kick in.

    I remember very well, one day when I juiced and was feeling hungry. I tried to picture what I had put into my breakfast juice in a bowl and realised there was no way I could really be hungry..it was my mind playing tricks.

    My breakfast juice is always:
    Juice 4 apples,
    1/4 cucumber
    1 stalk of celery
    handful of spinach
    half a small pineapple
    thick slice of lime, no rind

    stick half an avocado and ice in the blender and enjoy…

  20. I’ve done two such cleanses before and they’ve really helped jumpstart me. One of them was when I made the choice that I would take my health into my own hands after having no luck with doctors. What followed changed my life. Doing a juice fast colon cleanse led me into a healthier lifestyle that brought me to where I am now.

    The second one was after I stopped a certain medication and wanted to detox it.

    I think they’re great if you have a reason to do one and aren’t just going to go back to eating what you did before. They’re certainly beneficial.

    I have for the past couple years stuck to a more alkaline diet and feel great. Don’t waste your money on gimmicks like green powder but eating more fresh food is the way to go!

    • Diana, I agree that there are a lot of gimmicks associated with this type of diet. But I’m interested to know why you consider greens powder a gimmick. Obviously, nothing can replace fresh, but from a cost perspective, the greens powder isn’t too much more expensive than juicing vegetables, and certainly more convenient. I do wonder just how lacking it is though.

  21. Sean K - in Tampa says:

    Matt,

    I am interested in reading how your fast/cleanse goes.

    I am not convinced on the benefits of a water ionizer, however I do agree with the posts above about incorporating more fresh/raw.

    What type of juicer are you using?

  22. Michelle says:

    Love your blog. I’m wondering why the public can’t access the comments, usually they add to reading a blog. I would really like to do this.
    Thank you!

  23. I fully support this choice of yours. I think it will be a very healthy way to get back on track, mainly because you are choosing VEGGIE juice, not fruit juice so your blood sugar should stay more in line. Looking forward to hearing more about it. I’ve been thinking of doing one that’s just green smoothies (don’t have a juicer) but haven’t taken that step yet. Maybe this will be the nudge I need.

    Shout out to Hillary O. if she’s reading – the person I bumped into running Sunday in the Denver area wearing the NMA shirt – Hillary, drop a line if you ever want to get together for a “runs on plants” run! :)

    • Shari, I don’t know enough about it to know if there’s an advantage to juice over green smoothies. Pureed soup is part of mine, and that seems pretty similar to a green smoothie. So maybe that’d be just fine.

  24. Everything I’ve read about the Alk diet makes sense but I too don’t get the need for a “cleanse”. Surely just stopping the junk would be cleanse enough? Honestly though I think as veg athletes we have pretty good diets anyway, so I wonder how much of a change it really would be for us? Looking forward to your full report!!!

  25. Michelle says:

    I can’t wait for you updates on this topic. I too have been reading about the alkaline foods and like you mentioned, being a vegetarian, I eat this way most of the time.

    It is an interesting topic and seems to have some value at least at frist glance.

    I like food too much for the cleanse, but I hope it goes well for you.

  26. I too can’t wait to see how you feel. I felt terrible on the third day- it was a strain to walk upstairs, my leg muscles felt so weak- and I also had a horrible headache the night of the second day which may have been related to not having caffeine. And my mind felt really confused. I only lasted to the end of the third day. Maybe that’s the way it feels when your body’s getting the toxins out. But then once I continued with the solid greens with other alkalizing foods on the fourth day forward I felt great! Sort of clean, clear and just plain healthy. I did lose 4 lbs in 3 days which may not be an intended goal for many.

    • Vickie (Mom), the soup I just ate was really filling. Just lots of pureed vegetables, but it included avocado and a drizzle of oil so there were certainly some calories there from the fats. And it was actually good, flavored with garlic, curry, and garam masala.

  27. I am interested to read about your findings. I recently started drinking green juice and eating more raw meals and veggies in general so I am curious to see if a cleanse is also something I should do to clean out the system.

  28. I’ve read about a lot of raw foodists who do juice cleanses regularly, and they all rave about them!
    I’ve only ever done 5 days myself, but I really did enjoy it. Made me feel really light and clean, and I did it like you, after a period of terrible eating, but the first 3 days are NOT FUN, especially if your system isn’t very clean. Just a warning :) After that is great though!
    The only issue is whenever you’re around people who don’t understand, they’ll definitely judge you. I had somebody actually sit me down to tell me she was really worried about my health, thinking I had an eating disorder. Deeefinately not true!

    Good luck! Can’t wait for updates!

    • Katie, yeah I’ve heard that the first few days can be really bad because you’re dumping stuff into your blood stream on its way out. Haha I can’t wait until I get sat down by someone who wants to talk about an eating disorder :)

  29. Good luck! I’ll be anxious to see how it goes for you!

  30. All I can say is Cancer. How big is this epidemic? Every other person you know has it or knows someone who does! Most every type of Cancer stems from the inability to eliminate toxins and most of us are walking around unknowingly with 5lbs+ of build up in our colons that is like a drain that backs up. It infects and mutates our cells creating massive disorder in our bodies. How do you know you are healthy? Most of us say we just feel healthy. But the next week a cancer diagnosis arrives. If we don’t do what we know will eliminate our risk for cancer which is leading a very low stress lifestyle and eliminating toxic build up on a regular basis by cleansing (toxins are everywhere) consuming a clean food diet free of animal products, sugars, processed foods, and bad carbs and oils and also being physically active we are perfect targets for cancer and all the other bad degenerative diseases. Healthy at 100 is an amazing book if it interests you to live that long with optimumal health. This is WHY I cleanse just as Matt is about to do:) Enjoy the feast, it’s the best gift you can give yourself Matt.
    ps Dr. Young is not a fraud, he is a brilliant scientist who is frowned upon. His theories that have also been proven by other scientists in the late 1800’s and they do not promote the sales of pharmaceuticals and make money for the powers that be. If we were all super healthy we wouldn’t support the corrupt world of pharmaceuticals that supports our politicians! I wouldn’t be surprised if most of the world’s leaders were alkaline-how does the queen stay so healthy at her age!

    • This is a gross oversimplification of the disease; I work at a cancer research lab and there are hundreds of thousands of possible causes for cancer, some of which are written into your genes. As your body ages, all kinds of mutations happen because there is no way to replicate a cell 100% error-free; mutations that promote excessive growth of cells are selected for, and can cause the cells to become malignant. Many factors contribute to increased mutation rates, both environmental and genetic; saying that eliminating toxins will prevent cancer is a huge leap of logic. I am sure that a cleanse makes you feel good and all that, but it will not cure cancer and this is complete pseudoscience: it is not based on any substantial research.

      That being said, I’ve heard a lot of support for cleanse diets, and I think that if it makes you feel energized and by doing so lowers your stress levels, i fully support it if it works for you.

  31. I really, really don’t like Robert Young (he’s got some wild ideas and I don’t believe in loads of supplements), but I think that the alkaline/acid balance is very important. All the best with your 7-day juice cleanse. I’m all for it!

  32. I’ve actually been considering doing something like this myself. I’ve sort of been off the wagon with the raw diet since a lot of recent life changes. Everything is out of whack and I can feel it too. I will be interested in reading how it goes for you. Maybe it will inspire me to take the step forward and go with it.

  33. Drink at least four liters of water per day it will help to lose your weight also. Drinking Alkaline water is best for your health.

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