Fresh lemon juice, real maple syrup and cayenne pepper mixed in water. Is this the answer to the obesity epidemic and a cocktail for purity and wellness? The Master Cleanse was created in 1941 by Stanley Burroughs and had a resurgence in 1990 as a diet that would promote weight loss and detoxification. With supporters like Oprah and Beyoncé, cleansing diets appear to be an easy way to shed some pounds, but do they really work and, perhaps more importantly, are they safe?
The most common reason for using a cleansing diet is to allow one’s body to rid itself of toxins that have accumulated in the body’s cells and intestine. Specifically when looking at the digestive system, it is important to remember that the long waterslide of your intestine is constantly moving. Muscles and tiny little hairs move your food through the intestine much like a crowd surfer at a big concert. If those muscles or tiny hairs were somehow covered in a buildup of “sludge,” food would no longer move through your intestine resulting in severe pain and hospitalization.
It is true that our bodies can store toxins. Foods that are highly processed and contain large amounts of saturated or trans fats certainly need to be consumed in small amounts over one’s lifetime. Herbal products can absorb toxins, especially lead, cadmium or other metals, from the soil that they are grown in, therefore one needs to be vigilant in choosing supplements from reputable companies. A quick Google search will help to uncover any recalls or warnings that exist on products and companies.
The question remains, however—is a cleanse the best option for ridding the body of harmful toxins? The answer is no. Athletes require energy to perform their best. Carbohydrates are necessary for energy, protein for recovery and unsaturated fats for insulation, temperature control, shock absorption and energy. A variety of low-fat dairy products, vegetables and fruits are needed to provide all of the necessary vitamins and minerals to create efficient metabolism. Taking food groups out of your diet, even for a few days at a time, leads to over-training, fatigue and injury.
A more efficient way to detox would be to limit the offensive ingredients in your diet. Limiting prepackaged or fast food, avoiding alcohol and NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), and being careful to eat whole foods and vegetables will rid your body of toxins and have you full of energy for your training. Following a diet that is rich in lean meats, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, fruits and vegetables is a lasting solution to fatigue.
As a final thought, remember that our bodies are made to accomplish great things. The simple act of timing an approach and swing in a coordinated effort to hit a ball at speeds in excess of 50 mph over a net should tell you that the architecture and engineering of the human body is flawless. Trust therefore that the inner-workings of the masterpiece that is your body are just as remarkable. With an entire system—the lymphatic system—internally programmed to not only rid your body of toxins, but also to fight illness and combat injury, all we have to do is fuel the body properly to allow it to do its job. Handicapping your army of immunity by decreasing the energy and building blocks that are provided to your cells will slow your return to health rather than enhance it. Once again, there is no magic bullet to great health and fitness. Hard work, dedication and perseverance remain the fastest ways to success.
Practical Purity Solutions
Breakfast: Steel cut oatmeal, sliced banana and slivered almonds and plenty of water
A.M. Snack: Organic non fat yogurt and trail mix
Lunch: Burrito (black beans, organic white/brown rice, grilled chicken, grilled sliced green/red bell pepper and onion with pico de gallo), water to drink
P.M. Snack: Hummus and carrots, cucumber, celery and whole wheat pretzels or pita chips
Dinner: Salmon/Tuna steak with whole grain pasta topped with garlic and olive oil, grilled/steamed/wokked broccoli (see recipe above) and lots of water
Nighttime Snack : Organic low-fat popcorn or cut fresh fruit
Originally published in June 2011