We’ve all heard of the benefits of water-only fasting. You know, the weight loss, clear skin, the improved digestion, the elimination of toxins, etc. And we all want these results for ourselves.
What we don’t want is the, well…the fast!
We don’t want to feel fatigue. We don’t want to feel uncomfortable. And we definitely don’t want to feel hungry.
But apparently there’s a way we can have our cake and eat it too. It’s a little thing called “juice fasting”.
So what exactly is juice fasting and can it really compare to fasting on nothing but water?
What’s the difference?
A water fast, also called a “water-only fast”, is just as it sounds. You consume nothing but water for a period of time. A typical long-term water fast lasts for about 21 days.
On the other hand, a juice fast consists of consuming nothing but raw fruit and vegetable juices. A typical juice fast lasts for about 30 days, although they can last for much much longer since you are still taking in fuel.
Fasting is Resting
Fasting is more than just not eating or only drinking juices. Fasting is really about RESTING.
And I don’t just mean resting the digestive system either. I mean resting the entire body. This means taking a break from life’s daily routine (i.e. getting up, going to work, taking care of the kids, going shopping, etc.) and sleeping as much as possible.
And when you aren’t sleeping, you should be lying down (or at the very least, sitting down) for the vast majority of the day.
So now that we know a bit about water and juice fasting, is juice fasting really just as good as water fasting?
Juicing is Not Fasting
Consuming anything other than water, even if it is in liquid form, is not a real fast. As Dr. Joel Fuhrman states in his book Fasting and Eating for Health:
“Juice fasting” is not truly fasting; biochemically the body does not enter the “protein-sparing” fasting state. In this state the body conserves its muscle reserves and fat is preferentially broken down. This does not occur with juice fasting.
Juice fasting also does not have the powerful anti-inflammatory properties of the pure water fast that are essential for recovery in autoimmune illnesses.
During a water fast, your body goes into a state called ketosis. Ketosis occurs when the body runs out of glucose for fuel and has to turn to stored fat instead. This shift usually starts on the second day of fasting and is finished by the third day, but the rate of fat that is broken down will continue to increase for the next few days.
Not only does ketosis mean that your hunger will greatly diminish (even disappear) by day 3, but it also means that you will get rid of a lot of excess weight.
On a juice fast, ketosis never happens because you are still eating. Since you are still taking in glucose from food, your body does not have to turn to its own fat reserves for fuel.
Sure, your body may use some degree of stored fat if you are undereating on calories, but never to the extent that it will on a water fast. You can accomplish the same goal simply by dieting.
And if you are undereating, which many people tend to do while juice fasting, you will still be hungry. Remember, hunger only disappears on a water fast because you are no longer taking in any fuel.
And remember, fasting equates to resting. Juice fasting cannot compete with water fasting in this regard because your body still has to work to digest the juices you consume.
Juicing is Still Eating
Many people prefer juice fasting over water fasting because they equate not eating for a period of time with starvation. They are afraid that if they consume nothing but water for more than a couple of days that their body will start to consume its own healthy muscles, tissues, and organs.
This could not be further from the truth. Again from Fasting and Eating for Health:
When no calories are consumed, the body is living off its nutritional stores, primarily its fat reserves. The innate wisdom of the body is such that while fasting, it will consume for its sustenance superfluous tissues, carefully conserving vital tissues and organs.
Human beings have evolved to fast when we are in poor health. You will notice that other animals do this as well; they lose their appetite and refuse to eat until their health is restored.
This would not make sense if once we stopped eating, our body immediately started catabolizing all of our healthy organs. Instead, the body uses up everything that is unnecessary or harmful, such as excess fat and diseased tissue.
And your body even has a signal to let you know when this process is over…HUNGER! You know when it’s time to eat again once your hunger returns.
On a juice fast, you will never be able to experience the deep healing that occurs on water-only. Your body has to deal with the digestion of the juices you consume first and foremost rather than the elimination and repair of diseased and damaged cells.
NOTE: While water-only fasting is clearly an evolutionary survival mechanism, that’s not to say that it isn’t risky. People tend to be in very poor health, much more so than they often realize, and complications can and do occur during a long-term fast.
This is why it’s always recommended for anyone planning to fast for more than a few days to seek qualified professional supervision.
Is There Any Reason to Juice Fast?
Not really. Remember, juiced foods are refined foods. Juiced foods have had their fiber removed and can no longer be considered a whole food.
And while people like to consume juices for cleansing and detox purposes, this is completely unnecessary on a simple whole foods diet. As long as you are eating a healthy raw vegan diet of fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds, then you have no reason to juice fast.
If you do feel the need to cleanse for whatever reason (i.e you spent the week munching on veggie burgers and vegan burritos, perhaps), take a trip to Banana Island (nothing but bananas and water) instead of juice fasting. Eating this simply for a few days or so will help you get back on track without sacrificing your need for calories and satiation.
And if you can take the time to rest, don’t be afraid to opt for a short 1-3 day water fast.
Go raw and be fit,