Weight Loss

A few extra pounds around the middle? Juicing has helped me not only lose weight, but also keep it off.

Juicing to help you lose weight

NOTE: This article describes a juicing plan to help you lose weight.  This plan is for information only and if you decide to follow the plan, you must ask your doctor first, and give her/him the full details of the plan.


Juicing offers dieters a simple way to calm their appetites and keep up their energy as they lose weight by eating less. Not every kind of juice is appropriate for weight loss plans, and it is still necessary at some point to eat less to lose weight. But thousands of people have lost weight and kept it off with simple and nutritious juices in their daily diets.

There is not anything magical about juice for weight loss. There are no “fat burning” juices and there actually is no such thing as a “negative calorie” fruit or vegetable. What juicing does for dieters is to enable them to avoid eating long enough for the net flow of fatty acids to be out of fat cells rather than in.

Losing weight is not about eating or drinking more. It is really about eating and drinking right. The problem for most dieters embarking on their weight loss programs is that we have all been to some extent brainwashed to believe that we need to eat less to weigh less. That is not how the process really works!  Before we look at how juicing can help your weight loss, let’s first look at weight loss itself.

The Mysterious Mathematics of Weight Loss

Most doctors espouse the old idea that calories in has to equal calories burned or you will gain weight. Most weight loss gurus try to introduce some kind of new math that has you losing weight even when you eat more calories if you just follow some kind of magic ratio in your macronutrients, such as the 30% carbohydrate, 40% protein, 30% fat rule of the 1990’s weight loss guru Barry Sears or the 90% protein and fat, 10% carbohydrate rule of Atkins. In reality, the human body needs certain minimums of all the protein-fat-carbohydrate macronutrients and can usually work with the rest.

  • Fat. The previously mentioned Dr. Sears popularized the idea that “to lose fat, you have to eat fat.” That is actually true. Small amounts of omega-3 and omega-6 essential fatty acids have to be obtained from the diet. The body uses these fats to make a variety of hormones, including the hormones that regulate inflammation. Up to 1/3 of the fat mass around your waist or on your hips and thighs is a mixture of trapped fluids and inflammation-activated white blood cells, and these fats help you lose it. But you don’t get them by eating cheeseburgers or by putting butter and cheese on your baked potato. Just a few grams a day will do. Your body can manufacture the other fats it needs from excess carbohydrates.
  • Protein. Protein from food provides us with the amino acids our bodies use to make our own proteins. Protein has to be digested into its constituent amino acids to be useful. The body can’t just plug in a protein from a high-protein food. Certain amino acids are “essential.” The body can’t make them out of other amino acids. They have to be obtained from food. But we don’t have to eat them constantly, for the simple reason that our saliva and gastric secretions are also complete protein. We recycle 100 grams of complete protein from our own mouths and stomachs every day. With some buffering mechanisms in the body itself, we only need “complete” protein every 72 hours or so, not every three hours as another diet guru insisted. As little as 20 grams of amino acids a day may be enough.
  • Carbohydrates. The body uses carbohydrates to make energy. It breaks down carbs into glucose, which can be used by every cell in the human body, and fructose, which is primarily used to create stored energy in the liver. However, the body can also use excesses of amino acids to make glucose. The process creates urea, the source of the “acidity” that the kidneys remove from the bloodstream, but it can supply almost all glucose the body needs. The brain needs about 40 grams (a little under 200 calories) of glucose from non-protein sources every day to change the chemistry of the blood brain barrier so it can absorb certain amino acids.

fat-woman-pinching-her-fat-tummy-xsWe don’t really need percentages of fat, protein, and carbohydrates. We need minimums of fat, protein, and carbohydrates. We have to get about 5 grams of essential fatty acids on a more or less daily basis. We have to get 20 to 100 grams of complete protein on a more or less daily basis. We also have to get at least 40 grams of carbohydrate (which can be slow or fast) on a more or less daily basis. Our bodies have mechanisms for making do with anything we feed it above the minimums.

What makes us fat is eating more than our bodies need. Sumo wrestlers, for example, dine on fresh vegetables, brown rice, chicken, fish, and miso. They have a perfectly balanced diet. But if you don’t want to emulate a sumo wrestler’s physique and usually extremely limited lifespan, eat less, not more.

The Power of Fasting

Any diet will help you lose weight if you consistently, over a period of days, weeks, months, and years, eat less. You still have to get your daily minimums of fat, protein, and carbohydrate. But you don’t have to buy special foods—not even juice—and you don’t have to follow any specialized diet program. You just need not to eat.

We have all been conditioned to think that somehow we will starve if we don’t eat meals and snacks. And we have been conditioned to think that our brains and muscles will somehow deteriorate if we fast. That is just not how it works.

The most important power dieters find in fasting is self-control. When you lose weight by fasting, it is not some food combination or diet guru’s recommendations or weight loss supplement that is getting the job done. It’s you. Simply knowing that you are in charge of your appetite can work wonders.

Almost as important as the earned boost to self-esteem is the regeneration of the brain that occurs during short-term fasting, going without food for up to 24 hours. For over 20 years, a medical researcher at Columbia University in New York City named Dr. Jose A. Luchsinger has been researching short-fat-sandwich-xsterm fasting as a potential preventive method for Alzheimer’s disease.

By short-term, Dr. Luchsinger and his associates mean 12 to 18 hours, the equivalent of skipping dinner or breakfast and not eating any additional snacks. It is well known that when cells use glucose and oxygen to make energy, free radicals tend to escape the mitochondria of the cells where the energy is being made. These free radicals damage DNA. Sometimes antioxidants can repair the DNA damage, but sometimes they cannot. Luchsinger identified 980 people who had a gene that usually “causes” Alzheimer’s but had not developed Alzheimer’s yet to participate in a study to determine whether 12 to 18 hour fasts might protect the brain.

The bottom line of Dr. Luchsinger’s study was that people who have the genes for Alzheimer’s but who reduce their eating are less likely to get the dreaded disease, but that’s not all he discovered.

  • People who do short term fasts don’t gain weight, even if they “catch up” after their fasts.
  • People who do short-term fasts lose fat even if they don’t lose weight.
  • People who do short-term fasts on a regular basis lose weight and keep it off they can avoid “catching up” after they fast.
  • Short-term fasting lowers insulin levels. Insulin stores fat 300 times more effectively than it stores glucose. Lowering insulin levels does not mean you can eat anything you want and not gain weight, but at least your fat cells will not be primed and waiting to store every stray calorie that comes along.
  • Short-term fasting lowers pulse rate and blood pressure. In some cases, short-term fasting made blood pressure medication unnecessary.

The benefits of short-term fasting have not just been studied in older people who are at risk of Alzheimer’s disease. They have also been studied in elite athletes.

Canadian physiologist and bodybuilder Brad Pilon worked in the nutritional supplements industry after graduating from university. His job was to review diets and weight loss supplements from his employer’s competitors. At first, Pilon says, he thought that high-protein diets and eating plans with “cheat meals” made a kind of sense, but he just could not find any scientific evidence for them.

As Brad looked at the evidence more closely, he found that most diet plans had a kernel of truth to which marketers added layers upon layers of marketing hype. High-protein diets, for instance, made sense in that they help control appetite, but losing weight on high-protein diets always involved overall reduction in calories. The “eat fat to lose fat” diets made sense in that some omega-3 fat is always needed to fight inflammation, but that fat is closer to 1 or 2% of the diet rather than 30%. And the three-hour diets for weight loss did not make any sense at all.

Pilon developed his own diet program called Eat-Stop-Eat. No special foods were required. You can eat what you want, in moderation, every day. You just need an extended period in which you don’t eat in order to get fat flowing out of your fat cells instead of into them.

How does that work?

Whether fat gets stored in cells or is released from cells into the bloodstream to be burned as fuel by the muscles depends on the action of two different and antagonistic hormones, lipoprotein lipase, also known as LPL, and hormone sensitive lipase, or HSL for short. LPL sends fatty acids into cells where they can be strung into larger molecules known as triglycerides. The triglycerides are too bulky to pass out of a fat cell without being disassembled back into their constituent fatty acids. This is accomplished with the help of HSL. LPL sends fat into fat cells, HSL takes it out.

LPL and HSL are both active all the time, but usually one enzyme will be more active than the other, and for most of it is the fat storage enzyme LPL that predominates. The reason exercise does not help us lose fat very efficiently is that while LPD is mildly active on muscles cells to provide them with fatty acids to burn during exercise, it is super-active on fat cells after exercise to make sure they get refilled. A big meal after a workout cancels out the fat-burning benefits of the exercise routine.

LPL is also the reason that eating sugar makes us fat. When the pancreas senses increasing levels of sugar in the bloodstream, it releases insulin. This insulin activates LPL, which takes fatty acids back out of the bloodstream and parks them back in fat. When we eat something sugary, insulin stores sugar but LPL stores fat.

HSL is the anti-LPL. HSL helps break down triglycerides into the fatty acids that can pass out of the cell and into the bloodstream for circulation to other cells that can burn them. Insulin, however, deactivates HSL even while it activates LSL. Anything that increases insulin production makes us fatter.

What does all this have to do with fasting? During the 16th to 17th hour of a 24-hour fast, insulin levels fall about 75%. This makes it possible for HSL to break up triglycerides through the process called lipolysis. It sends fatty acids in the bloodstream to circulate the organs and tissues that can burn them as fuel. The fat-loss effect of fasting, however, does not kick in unless you have skipped at least one meal and gone overnight without eating. Even if you work out hard and burn a lot of calories, overeating fat-bacon-xsafter your workout will put fat right back on. Giving your body a break from food is essential for fat loss.

Don’t Worry About Losing Muscle

Pilon’s plan also makes it possible to lose weight without losing muscle—and that requires a little explanation. Another interesting thing Brad Pilon learned in reading thousands of articles about weight loss is that growth hormone protects and even grows muscles during fasting but not during “dieting.”

Our bodies release growth hormone in one big spurt every night if we get at least six hours uninterrupted sleep. Growth hormone is extremely important for maintaining good health. This hormone:

  • Encourages the release of fat from fat cells.
  • Stimulates the growth of cartilage in the tendons and ligaments.
  • Reduces the uptake of glucose by the liver. The liver uses a combination of glucose and water to make the storage fuel glycogen, which is the source of one kind of “water weight.” Growth hormone prevents this kind of water weight.
  • Promotes the release of stored glycogen from the liver. In this process, each molecule of glycogen releases one molecule of glucose and four molecules of water. Growth hormone reduces existing water weight.
  • Stimulates the immune system.
  • Reduces the amount on insulin in the bloodstream, especially during the 17th through 24th hours of fasting.
  • Protects the insulin-making beta cells of the pancreas by encouraging them to make insulin-like growth factor, which helps muscles receive amino acids in the bloodstream. This in turn
  • Increases muscle growth.

The amazing thing about fasting for 24 hours is that the secretion of growth hormone is greatly increased during the initial 24 hours of a fast. The brain may make up to 7 times as much growth hormone during a fast as it does during sleep. During a short-term fast, growth hormone encourages the release of fat from fat cells, and there are no new fatty acids to fill fat cells up as soon as they are emptied.

The most common aches and pain are healed as cartilage grows. The liver uses some of its “fat” (actually glycogen) to provide energy and to protect amino acids that otherwise might be converted into glucose for fuel. The pancreas starts making an insulin-like hormone that helps grow muscles instead of fat.

Now if you extend your 18- to 24-hour fast to 72 hours or more, growth hormone cannot continue to protect body functions. In the very short term, however, going without any food at all makes very positive changes in the body. It is important to understand that this kind of fast involves going without food, not going without fluid. It is still necessary to get water to avoid dehydration.

And it is also important to understand that the changes at the scale are obvious only after a period of several weeks. You may lose 3% of your body weight (depending on bowel movement) after a short-term fast. About 2-1/2% of it may come back after your next meal. But over the course of a month of fasting two twenty-four periods per week, about 3 or 4% of your body weight will be gone for good.

The twenty-four hours chosen for a fast do not have coincide with a calendar day. Usually it is best just to skip the last one or two meals of one day and the first one or two meals of the next day. Eat every day, just not every meal. And no snacks!

Brad Pilon’s view of fasting is that it should be absolute. Nothing that has any calories at all should be consumed during a fast. He is opposed even to adding cream to coffee or taking little nibbles of food of any kind. Many people who are very serious about weight loss, however, find that taking limited amounts of vegetable juice during a short-term fast helps them keep up their energy without interfering with weight loss.

OK, so we have covered a lot of information relating to weight loss in general.  Let’s look at how juicing can help us lose weight.

Fruit and Vegetable Juices for Weight Loss

The purpose of drinking vegetable juices while fasting is getting your mind off food. Even if you just think about food, your pancreas starts secreting insulin. The insulin tells your fat cells to respond to the fat storage enzyme LPL and to ignore the fat burning enzyme HSL. It also takes sugar out of your bloodstream so you start feeling hungrier. If you give in to your hunger pangs, and most of us do, your fat cells are primed to soak up every last extra calorie and store them away as fat. In some ways, it is amazing anyone ever loses weight on a diet at all.

The quercetin in vegetable juice, however, counteracts the effects of LPL. It does not cause fatty acids to leave fat cells. HSL does that. But small amounts of juices made with vegetables that contain large amounts of quercetin offset the enzymes and hormones that keep fat inside fat cells. They counteract the effects of thinking about food by counteracting the effects of insulin on your fat cells.

Vegetable juices are also enough to prevent your blood sugar levels from crashing when you fast. It only takes a tiny amount of natural sugar to prevent hypoglycemia. The body of the average adult contains 5 liters of blood. A non-diabetic adult typically has a blood sugar concentration of about 70 mg/dl or 3.5 mmol/L. That corresponds to just 3 to 4 grams of sugar in circulation in the body at any given time. Just 15 to 20 calories in the form of slowly digested carbohydrate every few hours can prevent blood sugar levels from crashing in people who don’t take medications for diabetes or hypoglycemia.

This means that if you feel light headed, you don’t need a candy bar, a doughnut, or four roast turkeys plus five pumpkin pies. You just need a little bit of carbohydrate to keep your blood sugar levels up and a lot of quercetin to keep fatty acids flowing in the right direction.

Which Plant Juices Contain the Most Quercetin?

The plant foods for making juice with high quercetin content have interesting flavors. Powdered green green-tea“macha” tea is extraordinarily rich in quercetin. This is the kind of green tea that is mixed with hot water rather than brewed in the cup.

No fruit or vegetable has more quercetin than capers. You would never make “caper juice” as a beverage, but a few capers added to vegetable juice you make your self provide a lot of quercetin and an interesting flavor.

Another vegetable that is very high in quercetin is lovage. The leaves are typically used as an herb and the root is typically used as vegetable, but either can be used to make a quercetin-rich juice. Quercetin is abundant in apples juice with the peel, red onions (especially the outer rings), red grapes, grapefruit, tomatoes (organic tomatoes having about twice the quercetin content of conventionally grown tomatoes), spinach, kale, Swiss chard (silverbeet), fennel greens, lingonberries, elderberries, crowberries, prickly pear cactus fruit, pure cranberry juice, sea buckthorn berries, and Manuka honey. Bee pollen is also extraordinarily rich in quercetin.

The idea of doing a juice fast for weight loss is to provide your body with just what it needs to burn fat efficiently and nothing else. If you make your fasting time juice drink from a pint of red grape juice and a cup of Manuka honey, you will get lots of quercetin but the net effect of “fasting” will not be weight loss. You really need to limit your consumption of juices during your juice-only fast to 200 calories or less if you are fasting for a full 24 hours, and 100 calories of less if you are fasting only 18 hours. But this still leaves you with a great number of flavorful juice choices that help your body burn fat.

Juices for Weight Loss

One of the favorite juices for weight loss is homemade apple juice. Since you will need to press the peels along with the fruit to get the maximum amount of quercetin, it is best to buy organic apples. Wash apples thoroughly before juicing them. The best time to drink apple juice is an hour or two before you break your fast with solid food, since apple polyphenols will reduce absorption of sugars from that meal. A combination of apple and pear juice will help restore regularity.

You can use apples with almost any other quercetin-rich plant food to make a sweeter, more palatable juice. Only drink 1 cup (240 ml) of apple juice during any 24-hour period, however, to avoid excess calories and don’t bother with bottled juice that has been sitting on a shelf for weeks or months. To get the quercetin you need, you will have to make your own apple juice or buy it fresh-squeezed.

applesRome apples and Red Delicious apples are the highest in quercetin, while Empire apples are the lowest. The more the fruit was exposed to sunlight while it was growing, the greater its quercetin content. Apples grown in dry climates will contain more quercetin than apples grown in rainy climates.

Don’t use sugar-sweetened or Splenda-sweetened cranberry juice. Instead, juice equal amounts of frozen cranberries and Rome, Red Delicious, or Granny Smith apples to make a cranberry-apple cocktail—but don’t drink more than 2 cups (500 ml) during your fast. Lemon and/or ginger add flavor to the apple and cranberry combination.

Fennel greens go well with green apple, well-washed carrots, spinach, cucumber, and ginger. Fennel also goes well with a combination of apple and mint. Some people find that fennel gives them in a feel-good mood that makes it easier to finish the juice fast.

Grapefruit juice by itself is a good source of quercetin, but don’t drink more than 1 cup (240 ml) in 4 hours, to avoid excess calories. If you don’t have a citrus juicer, buy fresh-squeezed.

Kale is a great source of quercetin. Use equal parts of kale and a combination of peeled cucumbers, sliced celery (for ease of juicing), and lemon or lime for a refreshing, low-calorie drink. Or combine kale with apple, parsley, celery, lemon, and/or peeled ginger root. The ginger will wake up your taste buds without making your hungry.kale

Both hot and Bell peppers are a good source of quercetin. Juice peppers with well-washed carrots or parsnips, cucumber, and lemon. Or make a cold gazpacho soup from 2 tomatoes, 5 or 6 well-washed carrots, 1 lemon, 2 tablespoons (30 grams) chopped cilantro, 1/2 a jalapeno pepper to a whole jalapeno pepper according to tastes, 2 or 3 small well-washed radishes, and cumin and sea salt as desired. To make a cold gazpacho, dice the tomatoes and freeze them before making the juice. Don’t add salt and cumin until after you have made the soup.

Swiss chard (silverbeet) greens mix with carrots, parsley, kale, Romaine lettuce, apple, and lemon.

Tomatoes go well with lettuce (Romaine is best), radishes (including daikon), parsley, and lemon or lime. Or make a tomato Florentine from tomato, basil, and spinach with the juice of half a lemon. Fresh tomato juice made with organic tomatoes is ideal.

tomatoesIt is OK to drink up to 4 cups of green juices or tomato juice during your juice fast. Don’t drink more than 2 cups of fruit juice during your fast. Vegetable juices are always more helpful than fruit juices for losing weight.

Frequently Asked Questions About Juicing for Weight Loss

Q. How can I be sure I get all the protein, fat, and carbohydrate I need on this plan?

A. It’s simple. Eat. Your body will not be depleted during the 24 hours you are not eating—just be sure you eat at least one or possibly two meals on every calendar day you fast, doing part of your fast while you are asleep.

Q. Is OK to exercise when I’m not eating?

A. If you don’t take insulin or medication for diabetes and you don’t have hypoglycemia or a glycogen storage disorder, yes. But you should do resistance exercise for muscle building on days you eat so your muscles will have the amino acids, glucose, and water they need to bulk out.

Q. Can I do this diet plan if I have diabetes?

A. Check with your doctor first, making sure to explain that the juices you would be taking are low in calories, carbohydrates, and sugar. If you are controlling your blood sugar levels with diet and exercise alone, this plan will probably help. If you use insulin, you will need to adjust your insulin injections to the level you would use if you could not eat for a day. Usually that means you take your basal insulin but little or no “fast” insulin. In any case, test your insulin levels frequently and make sure you have juice before you go to bed to avoid overnight hypoglycemia. Be sure to take your blood sugar levels before you go to bed, first thing in the morning, and at some time during the day—as you should even when you are not dieting.

Q. When do I quit this diet?

A. You don’t have to ever quit intermittent fasting. There are strong indications that eating less by eating periodically will help you lose weight throughout your adult life.

Q. Can I do a high-protein weight loss diet the other five days of the week?

A. Yes. This kind of juice fasting will not interfere with high-protein, low-carb diets. However, it is important to limit yourself to 2 glasses of vegetable juice and 1 glass of fruit juice the days you are on this plan—no more.

Q. Can I have my favorite dessert at the end of my fast?

A. The best thing to do at the end of your juice fast is to pretend that nothing special happened. Don’t overeat at your next meal (even though research has shown that this will not necessarily cause you to gain weight).

Q. How can I be sure I won’t lose muscle while juicing for weight loss?

A. Do resistance training on the days you eat normally. Growth hormone will help preserve muscle the days you don’t. Also, do not do juice fasts more often than twice a week.

Q. I am an emotional eater. I don’t think I can go 24 hours on just juice, water, coffee, and tea.

A. Note how you feel and what you are experiencing when you feel extremely hungry. By the time you have done 24-hour juice fasts two or three times you will have greater understanding of your emotional connections with food.

Q. Is it OK to take nutritional supplements when I do my juice fasts?

A. Yes. Nutritional supplements will not have any effect on your weight. Taking up to 5,000 mg of fish oil or pine nut oil may even help you lose weight, despite the 45 to 50 calories in the supplement.

Q. Are there any muscle-building supplements I can take while I am juice fasting?

A. Creatine builds muscle by combining with water. It does not interfere with fat breakdown or fat storage enzymes or insulin. It is OK to take creatine at any time whether you are eating or not.

Q. Can children and teenagers do this weight loss plan?

A. No. All the research has been conducted on adults. Scientists do not know how fasting affects children and teens because it is considered unethical to include them in clinical experiments.

Q. Can I do this plan while I am pregnant?

A. No, you do not want to deprive your baby of the essential fatty acids or calories required for his or her rapid growth.

Q. Does this plan interfere with women’s menstrual cycles?

A. Clinical trials have found no effects of fasting up to 72 hours on menstrual cycles. If you have PCOS (polycystic ovarian disease), this plan may increase frequency of menstruation and likelihood of pregnancy.

Q. Is OK just to do 12 hours on my juice fast?

A. Your body doesn’t start burning fat at a higher rate until you have fasted (except for up to 3 cups of juice) for 18 hours. You get 90% of your weight loss during the last 6 hours of your 24-hour juice fast.

Q. Is it OK to drink diet sodas during my juice fast?

A. No. Aspartame (Nutrasweet) usually stimulates appetite, making it harder to stay on your juice fast.

Q. Is it OK to drink coffee or tea during my juice fast?

A. Both beverages are acceptable during fast as long as you don’t add sugar, artificial sweeteners, or cream.

Q. Won’t the fructose in fruit juice make me gain weight?

A. Small amounts of fructose—up to about 15 grams (60 calories) a day—have little or no effect on weight. The liver can use this small amount of fructose to make energy without upsetting the way the body uses insulin. Most of the problems caused by high-fructose corn syrup, which you should avoid at all times, are actually caused by its other component, glucose.

Q. How much honey can I use to sweeten juice?

A. Up to one teaspoon per cup of juice, but only once per fast.

Q. Wouldn’t it be just as good to eat the fruits and vegetables whole rather than making them into juice?

A. No. The reason is that raw fruits and vegetables press against the lining of the stomach and the small intestine. When the small intestine and stomach are extended, the brain sends a signal to the pancreas to release insulin—which is exactly what you are trying to avoid by juicing.

Q. What special foods do I need to ask the rest of the time?

A. None. As long as you don’t eat more than usual (and maybe even if you do) when you are not on your juice fast, you will lose weight. However, it is a good idea to eat green vegetables and a serving of salad every day, along with a serving of berries or a single piece of citrus fruit daily, for the quercetin to help your adipose cells release fat.

Q. How fast can I lose weight on this program?

A. Assuming that you do two fasting sessions per week, and you don’t add other foods to the program, you should lose about 3% of your total body weight per month. Your weight will go down while you do the juice fast and come right back up when you eat normal meals again, but your lowest weights will get lower as you go along.

Q. Are there any supplements that will help me lose weight?

A. Yes. Read more about them in our article – Nutritional Supplements with Juicing for Weight Loss.

Functional Foods and Nutritional Supplements to help you lose weight 1

When juicing for weight loss, it is often a good idea to take some supplements to make sure that you can stick with your program and get the nutrients you need for your body to function. In addition, some nutrients help turn your fat cell around, so that instead of usually taking fat into them, they release fat to be used for energy and other metabolic processes.