Sunday, June 19, 2011

Juice Feasting: The Basics

Before you start a juice feast, you're going to want to know the ground rules. These may change person to person, and while there is a consensus in the Raw Foods community, it's not a hard and fast 'diet' per se, and you'll hear lots of conflicting advise.

In addition, it's become relatively tricky to locate good, clear, concise knowledge of what you'll need and how to go about starting the feast, so I thought a primer might be in order.

First, determine what your goals are.
Pure detoxification? Weight loss? Curiousity? All of these will change your approach to the feast.

Determine your basic menu plans based on your goals.
For me, this feast is an opportunity to detox and lose weight. If your goal is to simply detox, the amount of juice you drink and the type will vary from mine. So how do you determine what to drink and how much?

Here are a few basic hints:
  • You're going to need about a gallon of juice a day, with at least 50% of your juices by volume needing to be what is commonly called 'green' juices, made from green leafy vegetables -  kale, spinach, lettuce, parsley - and some non leafy greens like celery, cucumber, etc.  The basic rule of thumb is that you'll need around 2 pounds of total green veg a day to get this amount of green juice. This will vary based on your weight, height, gender, and goals. You'll also need to make up another 2 quarts or so in 'colored' juices - carrots, beets, and assorted fruits and veg. Once again, total volume will vary on height, weight, age, gender, goals... etc.
  • Use an app or other site to determine how your goals fit your menus - I highly recommend for helping you set goals and match up your goals with your juices. For instance, I have a goal to lose 2 lb per week. I enter my height, weight, age etc and Livestrong calculates my nutrient needs. I can easily type juices into their food finder or make my own 'recipe' and it will spit out my nutrients for those juices, track what I've eaten, and compare my intake to my goals. This is very, very helpful and takes pretty much ALL of the work out of doing this 'right' - this will automatically help you refine the juice goal both in terms of percentages (green juices are low in calories and high in protein and colored juices are high in calories and beneficial carbs) and in terms of volume - you may need less than a gallon of juice a day. You may need more.
  • You will need a few supplements to meet nutritional requirements - I am NOT a fan of supplements in general - in college I learned in my nutrition courses that people excrete almost 80 percent of the vitamins they take in (yes, even the expensive ones!) in their fecal material (yum) and urine. However to meet your fat and protein requirements, you WILL need the following additions to your juice feast: coconut or hemp seed oil or avocados for fat, and bee pollen, spirulina, or pea protein for protein. While many juice feasting sites and people will tell you that it's impossible to not get enough protein on a juice feast, I've simply not found that to be true if unassisted - we're not talking the .8 to 1 g per pound that most meat eating Americans expect, either - the FDA recommends (for vegans) somewhere around .4 g of protein per pound of body weight. Livestrong recommended even less than that - around .2 for my particular level of activity - and I've historically found that without supplementation I fall far short of the protein requirements. Without sufficient protein, on an extended feast, you'll lose muscle and ultimately sabotage your health goals. As for fats - they help with skin and hair, and provide a satiation feature you won't get otherwise. I take my fats with my colored juices to help buffer the insulin response to the sugar hit of the carbs.
  • Feel free to add hot tea, coffee, sparkling mineral water etc to your plan. Some raw foodists would gasp at that statement, but the truth is even without enzymes these foods provide beneficial micronutrients and, let's face it, sometimes you need something 'hot' to drink.

    Obtain a juicer or a blender/white towel
    You'll hear all about the Green Star and Champion juicers - and if you make your first short juice feast successfully and decide that this will be a regular part of your life this would be a great investment (I just scored a Champion for $60 last week) - but I'll be honest, I think it's a waste of money if you're not totally committed - these babies can range upwards of $400!  I find that a good blender with a little additional water added, and a hard squeeze of the pulp through a white table napkin (no detergent scents, please, or colors!) will get you where you need to go just fine to start.

    For myself, I used this method for my first 30 day feast. This time, having scored that juicer for cheap, I'm using the juicer for the colored juices and my blender for the green juices (I didn't buy the greens attachement for my Champion, though they have one).

    Shop for produce a few days at a time, and in season, locally if possible
    I'm lucky in that I have the world's most productive gardens in the backyard - I think I picked about 3 pounds of spinach yesterday in the middle of June! - but if you're not where you can go and pick a peck you'll need to realize that you'll use roughly 3 or more pounds of produce a day. Some sites claim 10 pounds a day, but honestly I don't know what they're smoking or how much they're drinking. Meh - maybe their juicers aren't extremely efficient. All I know is that you'll go through a lot of produce, and you will probably need to buy it twice a week to store it properly. Once again YMMV depending on your kitchen and fridge and the amount of produce you'll need.

    You'll note I said In Season, Locally if possible - The benefit to this is that you'll get the freshest produce (especially if you're buying from a farmer's market) with the most nutrients. If my juice recipes don't necessarily match your season, feel free to go off on your own riffs or take ideas from other blogs- I myself use Courtney Pool's blog as daily inspiration when juice feasting. I usually only juice feast or eat strictly raw in the 'growing and harvesting months' - in my area April 20 through about October 20, since I'm trying to keep my food as local as possible.

    Be realistic about your lifestyle
    There is a term floating about - orthorexia - fear of eating incorrectly or obsession with eating 'properly' - this mentally dis-ordered thinking is particularly strong in my beloved Raw Foods and Vegan communities (sad but true) and is not only a 'gateway' to eating disorders, but can lead to a 'religious' approach to food that will ultimately cause you un-needed stress, fear, and dysfunction in your extended relationships. It's important during this journey that you look honestly at your lifestyle, your schedule, and your family and friends important events (weddings, funerals, births, etc) and gauge how to handle these 'roadblocks' - while it may sound all good and well to be orthodox about your approach you also need to understand how to make your juice feast fit into your life... not the other way around.

    For instance, my job requires me to taste foods for publication/recipe contests/site content. I'm not going to get out of that unless I also want to be unemployed. In my particular cultural milieu  receive invitations to meals on occasion where avoiding the meal or choosing not to eat 'something' will cause real, true and lasting damage to key relationships... no feast, diet, or lifestyle is going to be worth losing those relationships. Occasionally I'm on the road and need to drink a bottled juice (like Naked brand) instead of fresh, raw juice.

    So I have to learn to be flexible, and to allow for occasional 'imperfection' in my daily journey and for non juiced, non raw, even non vegan foods to occasionally cross my mouth during my feasts. Perhaps your life allows you to be completely raw juice - for 180 days! - that's great. But if it doesn't you can still juice feast.  Don't let your life be an excuse for eating whenever and whatever - that would defeat the whole 'juice feast' idea.... but let yourself off the hook on the rare occasions when life demands flexibility, and aim to eat the minimum of solid foods at this time possible without causing the rest of your life to fall apart.

    Have a question?

    Feel free to ask!

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