‘I tried a three-day juice cleanse and this is what happened’

Lockdown 3.0 provided the perfect opportunity for Lydia Swinscoe to explore the realities of a juice cleanse

green juice next to cucumber, orange and lemon on white background
(Image credit: Getty Images)

The thought of a juice cleanse had always fascinated me, but I’d never felt as though I’d actually be able to see one through to the end. 

For one thing, I love food. I fall asleep each night looking forward to a delicious healthy breakfast, by midday I'm checking out the best vegan cookbooks and as soon as I finish work I'm pondering what to cook myself for dinner.

But a few weeks into January and deep into the UK’s third lockdown, I found myself boredom-eating more processed junk foods than ever before, so it seemed like the perfect time to try a juice cleanse.

And so I decided to embark on three days of surviving solely on the juice of fruits and vegetables.

What the experts say about juice cleanses

It’s always a good idea to consult an expert before drastically changing your diet, and the ones I consulted were skeptical. 

According to registered nutrition consultant, Jenna Hope, juice cleanses are not required to remove unwanted substances from the body. “We have mechanisms which are working round the clock to remove waste products,” she told me. 

“More specifically, our kidneys play a key role in filtering the blood and removing waste from toxic chemicals, food and medications and the liver plays an important role in removing unwanted chemicals too.” 

Jenna doesn’t recommend juice cleanses as she believes they can promote an unhealthy relationship with food. 

Rob Hobson, head of nutrition at Healthspan, also isn’t an advocate of juice cleanses. “The whole concept of purging the body is not at all based on science or basic biology,” he told me.

“You need to remember that your body simply works in nutrients regardless of where they come from. It’s amazing and is fully equipped to deal with anything you throw at it so you should support this rather than denying it of what it needs to function properly by starving yourself with juice diets.” 

He added that “cutting out processed foods rich in sugar” would be a better place to start.

What’s more, when I looked for research to support juice cleanses I couldn’t find many people who recommend them, and any claims that are made in favor of juicing don’t seem to be backed by medical science.

Nonetheless, I’d been intrigued for a while so I turned to goop. In my mind, Gwyneth Paltrow and juicing go hand in hand and I wanted to see what the queen of cleansing would recommend. 

Gwyneth revealed her love for the detox a few years back telling The Telegraph cleanses are “a great place to start before a diet.” Her doctor, Alejandro Junger, also recommends a detox once a year to “rid organs of processed food and environmental toxins.” 

She does, however, go on to talk about the time she tried a 10-day Master Cleanse and ended up hallucinating, so maybe steer clear of that plan if hallucination doesn’t sound too appealing! 

My juicing approach

I considered buying a juicer to make my own juices each day - that would have been the non-lazy girl way to go - but seeing as I wouldn’t be eating for three whole days, that in itself seemed hard enough so I opted for pre-mixed juices. 

One of the brands recommended by Gwyneth’s team at goop was UK-based company Plenish, makers of 100-percent organic juice. So I put my best blender to the back of the cupboard, ordered a three-day supply (18 x 500ml bottles) and hid any temptations (i.e. anything solid) from sight.

Plenish offers seven programs ranging from immunity to pro cleanses, but since I was new to the juicing game I went for the simple beginner’s cleanse. 

The six 500ml bottles of juice I’d drink each day would provide me with 1050 calories in total, each a different blend of vitamins and protein-packed goodness. I didn’t weigh myself before the cleanse, because I wasn’t partaking to lose weight - although plans with that goal in mind do exist.

six bottles of plenish juices in a line

(Image credit: Lydia Swinscoe )

What happened on my juice cleanse

  • I enjoyed the morning routine

It’s recommended you start each morning with hot water and lemon juice, which apparently helps to wake up your digestive system and promote clear skin. 

I followed the rules and did just that, before I turned to my first juice - a deep green drink - around 10am. A blend of mostly vegetables, 75 percent in fact, the first juice included spinach, kale, romaine, cucumber and pear with some added parsley, lemon and ginger, and actually tasted pretty nice. 

I followed my juice with a glass of water, as recommended in the handy (if slightly cringe) booklet that came with the juices, before moving on to juice number two at midday. Second up was apple, carrot, lemon and ginger, which was delicious, because who doesn’t like a fiery ginger kick? 

  • I got hungry quickly

The first morning I had no feelings of hunger, but my mind did wander onto what I’d make for dinner that evening, before I quickly released I wouldn’t be eating anything at all. I found solace in the fact that no cooking meant no washing up - small wins, at least.

At 12:22pm and two juices in, I had my first hunger pang. I also felt slightly sick, which could have been down to the amount of natural sugar I’d been drinking (a whopping 105g per day). 

Just an hour later my stomach started to rumble and I began daydreaming about eating a piece of toast covered in butter. Instead, I opened up juice number three, a vegetable-based drink with broccoli, basil and lime juice. It tasted even sweeter than I expected, but had a pleasant peppery finish which I presume came from the basil.

  • My teeth felt fuzzy

At the end of my first juice day I noticed a weird coating across my teeth, which continued every day. I presumed it was something to do with the amount of sugar I was drinking so started brushing my teeth after each drink.  

By day three I also noticed that my mouth was aching a little inside, which I found bizarre seeing as I wasn’t chewing a thing.

  • I got a headache

After some fresh air on the first night I was absolutely exhausted by 9.30pm and had an insane headache - possibly a result of going cold-turkey on my usual coffee hit. 

I went to bed not long after and had a restless night’s sleep, but by the next day my headache had shifted and it didn’t return.

  • But then my energy actually increased

On regular days after work, I’d usually go for a 15-minute run. But while juicing I expected to feel lightheaded and faint, so I decided to take it easy and have a daily walk instead. 

However, once my initial headache passed I found that I felt surprisingly full, calm, alert and energized on day two.

By the final day I was still feeling really good and was almost a little disappointed I hadn’t opted for the five day cleanse. I’d found it way easier than I’d anticipated and I hadn’t even had to turn to the cucumber I’d bought as a healthy emergency snack. 

That evening I was very relaxed and calm and maybe it’s in my head, but my eyes looked brighter and bluer.

  • My skin improved (apparently)

On a WhatsApp video call on the last day of juicing, my friend - unprompted and unknowing of my juice cleanse - commented on how good my skin looked, which no-one has ever said to me over a video call before. Coincidence? 

Final thoughts on my three-day juice cleanse

Waking up the next day after three full days of only drinking juice I was happy to have completed the cleanse but also very surprised at how much I’d enjoyed it and how easy it had been. I’m seriously considering buying my own juicer now, as in the long-term buying pre-made juices is a pretty expensive game. However, with Jenna and Rob’s words ringing in my ears, I’ll be incorporating juicing as part of a balanced diet, rather than continuing with a juice-only cleanse.