The Endurance Dietitian: Juicing 411

By Kim McDevitt, MPH RD on June 26, 2015, categorized in Plant-based Nutrition

The Endurance Dietitian: Juicing 411

Welcome to The Endurance Dietitian! If you’re like me, and define a large portion of your life with training plans, run clubs, “long-run-Sundays,” and chasing PRs, you’re in the right place. It seems daily we’re reading about the next best ingredient or trend we should be including into our running lifestyle. I’m here to share my passion for sports nutrition by breaking down the technical jargon of the current trends, weeding through the research and explaining what you need to know. Think of this as our runner girl talk (don’t worry—boys can still eavesdrop).

From a fresh-pressed juice bar (or multiple) in nearly every city and town, to the increased convenience in bottled fresh juices at local grocers, it’s no secret that juicing fresh fruits and vegetables has risen in popularity. You’ve likely noticed and probably enjoyed a few juices in the recent months. Perhaps you’ve tried a one-day or three-day juice cleanse to see what all the hype was about. Or, found you feel so much more energized when drinking fresh juice that you went ahead and splurged on your very own juicer and now make juices each morning to kickstart your day. Regardless of how or if you’re drinking fresh juice, there’s been plenty of general conversation around juicing, juice diets, and cleanses and various recommendations around a healthy way to incorporate them into your daily diet.

So, Why Juice?

There are some great benefits of juicing. Because it lacks fiber, protein or fat (which all take longer to break down in your digestive system), your body will quickly absorb and assimilate the nutrients into your blood, giving you an instant boost of energy. It provides your body a lot of vitamins and minerals and antioxidants, while giving the digestive system a slight rest. Because you are drinking a concentrated amount of fruits and vegetables in fresh-pressed juice, you’re delivering nutrients to your body that help to promote general wellness, boost your immune system, attack free radicals, guard against cellular damage, and reduce inflammation1. Yes, you can get all the same nutrients from eating whole fruits and vegetables, but juice can be a convenient (and delicious) way to get extra amounts of these phytonutrients. You may want to add fresh-pressed juice for these benefits:

  • Quick energy, from natural sugars extracted from fruit and vegetables
  • High influx of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants to the body
  • Electrolytes for cellular balance and hydration

When juicing, choose juices that are either freshly pressed (made to order) or bottled using HPP processing, which protects against bacterial growth without destroying nutrient quality.

Before You Start Juicing Everything, Know There are Some Downsides

When we juice, we extract all the sweet sugars and nutrients and are left with the fruit or vegetable “pulp.” This pulp is where the fiber and nutrient dense skin of the food lives. Fiber that you get from the fruit is most beneficial for its ability to slow down digestion in the body, stabilize blood sugar and improve cholesterol levels. An alternative to juicing is fresh fruit and vegetables, as well as smoothies.  Because you’re not omitting the fiber, when you drink a smoothie you’re going to stay fuller longer and not be as inclined to quickly reach for additional foods. Consider this when choosing juice over smoothies or whole foods:

  • Fiber is removed
  • Faster digestion
  • Quicker spike in energy / blood sugar
  • Shorter satiety–likely will need to incorporate a high-protein and fiber meal soon after

To Cleanse or Not To Cleanse, That is the Question

One of the biggest trends that has come alongside juicing is a short-term diet that involves drinking juice exclusively for a series of days. Known most commonly as a cleanse or a detox, many people love them thanks to their ability to rid the body of bloat and water weight. Juice cleanses, however, are not a long-term sustainable diet due to lacking essential nutrients and limited calories. Juices are low (nearly void) of protein, fat and fiber, all of which are required for various processes and functions in the body. And, juice cleanses are typically much lower in calorie than your normal daily food intake. The dangers of eating such low calorie for a set amount of days is triggering the body to think it needs to go into “survival” mode, therefore protecting any calories you do give it and having your body breakdown things like essential muscle for fuel.

Juice Blends

When choosing your juice remember that color matters (just like when eating your fruits and vegetables). Different vegetables and fruits will deliver different nutrients and different levels of sugar. When juicing (or choosing a juice) I like to make sure it has:

  • Green vegetable as a base
  • High-water fruit or vegetable for hydration
  • Fruit (for sweetness)
  • Kick (for flavor)

These are my favorite ingredients to include: Base: kale, spinach, collard green, celery High-Water: Cucumber, watermelon, grapefruit Fruit: Apple, Carrot, Beet, pineapple, Kick: ginger, cayenne, arugula, lemon Try incorporating juice into your healthy eating plan. Start your day with a simple green juice blend such as kale, cucumber, apple, lemon and ginger, to give you a boost of hydration and help neutralize the pH in the body. Follow your juice with a satiating breakfast a while later such as overnight oats or a protein smoothie. Aim to incorporate another 1 or 2 juices through the remainder of the day such as a mid-afternoon pick-me-up paired alongside nutrient-rich whole food meals.

Do you juice? What’s your favorite combination?

References

1. Prior, Ronald L. (2003) Fruits and vegetables in the prevention of cellular oxidative damage. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 78 (3): 570S-578S Accessed on 5/19/2015 from http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/78/3/570S.short