Juice fasting is a simple, convenient way to give your digestive system a break and boost your antioxidant intake. Breaking a juice fast, on the other hand, can be confusing.
If you eat too much — or eat the wrong foods — you may experience digestive discomfort, nausea, fatigue and tummy aches. Eat too little, and you'll feel hungry, weak and fatigued.
Breaking a juice fast comes with its own set of challenges. If you do it wrong, you might end up feeling weak, nauseated, lethargic and sick. How you break your juice fast may depend on the length of your fast and your general health to start.
The key is to gradually introduce new foods into your diet. Protein shakes, smoothies, meal replacement drinks and soft foods are your best allies in the first few days. Keep your portions small and spread your meals throughout the day.
Breaking a Juice Fast
Fruit and vegetable juices pack a hefty nutritional punch. Depending on the ingredients used, these beverages may reduce inflammation, boost cognitive function, improve cardiovascular health or strengthen your immune system. For example, a December 2014 research paper published in Nutrition Reviews linked fruit, vegetable and juice consumption to enhanced memory and cognitive performance in older adults.
These beverages also keep your heart healthy and may protect against cardiovascular problems. According to a March 2017 review featured in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences, fruit and vegetable juices may lower blood pressure, inhibit platelet aggregation and reduce inflammation, leading to improved cardiovascular function. Furthermore, they may prevent obesity and help you maintain a normal weight.
Considering these facts, it's no wonder that juice fasting enjoys so much popularity. Breaking a juice fast, though, comes with its challenges. The longer the fast, the more attention is needed when you return to normal eating. A 10-day juice cleanse, for example, requires a different approach than a three-day juice fast.
Plan Things Ahead
Plan your post-cleanse diet in advance. Introduce solid foods into your diet gradually and avoid large meals to start and add foods and increase portions as tolerated. Fresh juices provide essential nutrients that keep you healthy and energized, so keep drinking them on a daily basis. There's no break-the-juice fast diet plan and it really comes down to you and your tolerance.
A March 2016 research paper published in Comprehensive Physiology describes the changes that happen in the body during long fasting episodes. As its authors note, the biggest challenge of fasting for longer periods of time is to maintain homeostasis — a stable internal environment that keeps your body in balance and allows it to function properly.
Under normal conditions, your body uses the nutrients from food to maintain this state of balance. During fasting, it has to use its internal resources to survive. As a result, your metabolism slows down and you start to burn stored fat for fuel. Muscle loss is inevitable during prolonged periods of food deprivation.
According to the above review, fasting interferes with your hormones (including those that support digestion), immune function, gut microflora and muscle metabolism. Basically, it triggers a chain reaction without which survival would not be possible.
What this means is that if you've been fasting for a longer time, your metabolism and digestive function, among other physiological processes, are slightly altered. Therefore, it's important that you slowly transition to normal eating. Your body needs time to restore its functions and adapt to a regular eating pattern.
Most dieters are able to eat only small quantities of food for several days after breaking a fast — and that's perfectly fine. Eating too much may cause diarrhea, constipation, heartburn, bloating, nausea and other digestive symptoms. It can also drain your energy, leaving you feeling sluggish and fatigue. These side effects are even more pronounced right after a fast.
Start With Soft Foods
Transitioning to normal eating may take time. That's why you need to slowly ease back into solid foods, such as meat, fish and raw veggies, and pay attention to how your body reacts. Some people may be able to resume their regular diet within a day or two of breaking their fast, but for others it may take a bit longer.
A small study published in Scientific Reports in May 2017 illustrates the effects of juice fasting. The study participants consumed only six bottles of fruit and vegetables juices per day for three days and resumed their normal eating habits immediately after the fast.
Their gut bacteria was significantly changed on the fourth day and only partially reversed on the 17th day. The number of beneficial bacteria associated with weight loss increased during the fast. These findings confirm that fasting affects the gut microflora aka the gut microbes that regulate digestion.
To limit potential digestive symptoms, start with soft, easy-to-digest foods that your stomach can handle. Greek yogurt, fruit puree, mashed potatoes and soups are just a few examples. Steer clear of high-fiber and high-fat foods, including those with a soft consistency.
You may find fresh vegetables, nuts, mushrooms, shrimps, lobster, crab and corn are hard to digest and irritate your gut, and you may want to avoid them initially. Don't fret, though. You can re-introduce them into your diet later on.
Decide whether or not you're ready to eat meat and fish. For example, you may eat cooked, minced meat and light flaked tuna in the first few days after breaking a juice fast. Start with small quantities to see how your body reacts. Your post-cleanse diet may also include soft foods like:
- Scrambled eggs
- Sugar-free pudding
- Smooth applesauce
- Low-fat yogurt
- Thin ricotta cheese
- Puréed cooked vegetables
- Puréed rice
- Blended oatmeal
- Flavored gelatin
- Strained cream soup
- Mashed avocado (in small amounts)
- Soft fruits like peach and mashed banana
- Sugar-free fruit compote
Smoothies and protein shakes may serve as your best allies after breaking a fast, and a good source of nutrition. With their thick consistency, they fill you up quickly and suppress appetite.
Ideally, choose a protein powder brand with no sugars and additives. If you have dairy allergies or lactose intolerance, opt for lactose-free protein shakes or plant-based alternatives like soy, hemp or pea protein powder.
Meal replacement shakes are a good choice too. As their name suggests, these products can replace one or more meals. They're easy to digest and provide your body with the nutrients needed to function optimally. Other options include almond milk, soy milk and coconut water.
Don't Skimp on Protein
Your body may be craving protein after a juice cleanse. Fruit and vegetable juices contain little or no protein, which may affect your health in the long run. Orange juice, for instance, has less than 1 gram of protein per serving (half a cup). The same amount of carrot juice contains only 1.1 grams of protein.
Make sure your post-cleanse diet provides enough protein. The experts at Harvard Health Publishing state that 15 to 30 percent of total daily calories should come from this nutrient. That's a lot more compared to the minimum daily recommended protein intake (0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight), but it makes sense. Every cell and tissue in your body needs protein to function normally.
Fill up on protein shakes and low-fat dairy after breaking a juice fast. One serving of soy protein isolate (one scoop) contains approximately 25 grams of protein, depending on the brand. Hemp protein powder provides about 15 grams of this nutrient per serving (one tablespoon). Each scoop of pea protein powder boasts around 21 grams of plant-based protein.
Keep Your Portions Small
Your stomach can stretch like a balloon to accommodate extra food. If you eat too much, it will push against your diaphragm, causing heartburn and difficulty breathing. Additionally, your stomach needs time to adjust to larger amounts of food after breaking a juice fast. Keep your portions small to feel your best and prevent digestive discomfort.
Eat nutrient-dense foods to stay full longer and curb hunger. A post-cleanse diet may include small amounts of almond butter, extra dark chocolate, blended oatmeal, plain nonfat yogurt and other soft or semi-solid foods with high nutritional value. White bread, cookies, pastries and chips, by contrast, are low in nutrients and contain mostly empty calories.
Try to spread your meals throughout the day to better control your portions. Sip on protein shakes between meals to get more nutrients in your diet. Most importantly, don't reward yourself with food. While it's true that one bad meal won't ruin your health or make you fat, it may cause digestive distress, especially after breaking a fast.
- Nutrition Reviews: "Fruits, Vegetables, 100% Juices, and Cognitive Function"
- MDPI: International Journal of Molecular Sciences: "Effects and Mechanisms of Fruit and Vegetable Juices on Cardiovascular Diseases"
- University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center: "What Happens When You Overeat?"
- Mayo Clinic: "Lactose Intolerance"
- USDA: "Orange Juice"
- USDA: "Carrot Juice"
- ACE Fitness: "9 Things to Know About How the Body Uses Protein to Repair Muscle Tissue"
- British Journal of Nutrition: "Dietary Protein – Its Role in Satiety, Energetics, Weight Loss and Health"
- Harvard Health Publishing: "How Much Protein Do You Need Every Day?"
- USDA: "Soy Protein Isolate"
- USDA: "Hemp Protein Powder"
- USDA: "Pea Protein Powder"
- University of Michigan: "4 Ways to Stop Digestive Discomfort After a Supersized Meal"
- ChooseMyPlate.gov: "Everything You Eat and Drink Matters – Focus on Variety, Amount and Nutrition"
- Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center: "Eating Guide for Puréed and Mechanical Soft Diets"
- NCBI: Journal of Obesity: "Effects of a Meal Replacement on Body Composition and Metabolic Parameters Among Subjects With Overweight or Obesity"
- Comprehensive Physiology: "Integrative Physiology of Fasting"
- NCBI: Advances in Physiology Education: "A Physiologist's View of Homeostasis"
- Scientific Reports: "Health Benefit of Vegetable/Fruit Juice-Based Diet: Role of Microbiome"