With winter on its way out and glorious spring days in sight, it's natural to want your body to feel as fresh as the weather. A detox can seem like a logical choice—but it's important to understand how they can affect your body. " 'Detox' has become a buzzword," says Peggy Swistak, MS, RDN, CD, of Pacific Northwest Ballet. "They promise to eliminate any 'toxins', but we have organs like the kidneys and liver to do that for us. However, some detoxes won't cause real harm if done in a controlled way over a short span of time."
"Juice cleanses are a popular form of detoxing," Swistak says. The duration of a juice cleanse can range anywhere from a day to a week. However, Swistak warns that more than three days is an extreme approach. "One day isn't bad, but if you're only drinking juice for three or more days while dancing regularly, you're depleting your muscles of glycogen—a key factor in maintaining energy."
It's no secret that crankiness is a symptom of hunger. Depriving your body of solid foods during a juice cleanse will make you prone to snapping. "Dancers might experience headaches, irritability and shakiness—none of which is helpful to their dancing," Swistak says.
The Master Cleanse
The master cleanse is among the most extreme variations of detoxing. It consists of water with lemon juice, maple syrup, cayenne pepper and a nightly laxative, with no solid foods at all. "Dancers need to understand that while a day of the master cleanse might make them feel lighter, it comes at a cost," Swistak says. "On the master cleanse, you'll be losing energy and muscle, which is a recipe for disaster."
While many people choose to follow a raw-food diet as a lifestyle, it's also a common short-term detox option. But sticking to it even for a few days can be difficult. "You can't really eat anything at restaurants, so everything you consume must be prepared in advance," Swistak says. Another factor to consider is the need for daily nutrients. "By its nature, this cleanse is very low in calcium and vitamins D and B12. You'd need to eat a huge amount of fruits, nuts and seeds to meet your daily requirements and sustain the energy you need for dancing."
Swistak also cautions dancers against this cleanse because of its health risks. "Everything is unpasteurized and raw, which drastically increases the chances of contracting listeria, salmonella and other food-borne illnesses," she says. "At some point you have to ask yourself if it's really worth it."