If you’re thinking of doing a detox to kick off the spring season, visions of endless glasses of lemon water and a rumbling, hungry tummy probably come to mind. After all, a cleanse has to involve clearing out, staying empty and starting fresh—right? Not exactly.
While some detox plans require liquid-only diets or drastically reduced calorie intakes for days or even weeks, these approaches aren’t always healthy. To achieve a successful re-set, your focus should be on cutting back on food intake for a short time, cleaning up your diet and replacing poor food choices with healthier ones in order to nourish your body instead of depriving or damaging it.
There are no strict rules on how long a detox should last, but three to five days is common for results – ranging from reduced bloating and weight loss to increased energy and feelings of well-being – to appear. Keep these tips in mind and do what feels right for you.
Stay hydrated. Drink one to two quarts of water per day, along with a cup or two of tea or coffee. Water will help flush out your colon, kidneys and liver, while also helping to cut cravings as you cut back on food intake. Start each day with a lemon detox tea, which is pleasant to drink and can help support your body’s normal detoxification processes.
Eat. Steer clear of detox plans that require you to starve yourself for hours or days on end. Instead, consume between 1,400 and 1,600 calories daily. This will keep your energy levels up while also promoting subtle weight loss. Eliminate processed foods and those that contain chemicals, preservatives, additives, caffeine, alcohol and sugar, and choose healthy foods that supply adequate amounts of vitamins and minerals.
Get your greens. For lunch and dinner, drink a true green smoothie. Try blending together spinach, cucumber, broccoli, parsley, ginger and carrots along with a little natural sugar (if desired), berries, apple or oranges. You could also add in some whey or plant powder, Greek yogurt and/or cottage cheese for an extra protein boost.
Include whole grains. Supplying fiber, protein, vitamins and minerals, whole-grain foods, such as cereal, quinoa, pasta or bread, are ideal for a detox diet.
Snack healthy. Think before you snack! To avoid unhealthy options or overdoing it, be prepared with healthy snack choices such as nuts, nut butters, seeds, fruit and whole-grain crackers. Divide single-serving portions into zipper-lock bags or containers, and take them with you wherever you go.
Exercise. While you may not feel energetic during a cleanse, it's important to stick with your exercise routine. This will help keep your blood circulating and toxins flushed from your system.
Stress. Besides making you feel frazzled and worn down, stress can interfere with proper nutrient absorption. Without certain nutrients, your body won't function -- or detoxify -- properly. During your cleanse, avoid stressful situations as much as possible, and manage stress with activities that help you to disconnect, such as yoga or taking a long walk.
Starve. Eating less than 1,200 calories per day can cause your metabolism to slow down. Instead of burning fat, your body will start to burn muscle. Plus, if you're not eating enough, you're also putting yourself at risk for slipping up and overeating, or abandoning your cleanse plans entirely.
Cave to cravings. High-fat, salty, refined sugar or white flour snacks should not be eaten while detoxing. Make sure to have your healthy snacks with you at all times so there aren't any temptations. Eating these foods may cause toxins to be redistributed back into your system, which is counterproductive to the detox.
Skip exercise. Now is not the time to overexert yourself with a rigorous, sweaty workout. But, sitting around all day also is not an option. Be sure to stay active, but keep the activity level at a mild to moderate level.
Skimp on sleep. It's crucial to get a good night's sleep during a detox, going to bed even earlier than usual if you can manage it. Sleeping earlier at night can help the body efficiently process toxins and repair and regenerate tissues.