Liquid diets for weight loss are hugely popular, with options like the Master Cleanse, the Protein Shake Diet, or the Juice Fast. These diets are great for increasing your fluid intake throughout the day, but are they really safe and effective for weight loss? Should you be going on a liquid-only diet in order to drop pounds, or should you avoid liquid diets?
Let’s take a look at a few of the benefits of liquid diets for weight loss:
- Increase of fluid intake. This is always a plus! The truth is that most of us are mildly dehydrated, because we eat a lot of solid food but don’t get anywhere near enough water in our daily lives. Unless you’re drinking 3-5 liters of water per day, you could always stand to get a bit more liquid in your life. A liquid diet will help you to increase your fluid intake to improve hydration.
- More veggies and fruits. For people who struggle to eat vegetables and fruits in their daily diet, a liquid diet can be a great way to increase raw food intake. After all, you’re mixing fruits and veggies into your daily smoothies and shakes, so you’re getting a lot more of the minerals, vitamins, fiber, and antioxidants than you would on a solid food diet.
- Quick weight loss. If you go on a liquid diet, there’s a very real chance that you’ll see quick weight loss. After all, you’re cutting back your calorie intake to fewer than 1,000 calories, which is the minimum you should be consuming to maintain a healthy weight. It’s all but guaranteed that you’ll start to see some weight loss within a few days. However, as you’ll see in the next section, that quick weight loss isn’t always a good thing.
Unfortunately, it’s not all good with liquid diets! There are some downsides:
- Less energy. Seeing as you’re consuming very few calories per day, your body has less energy available to use to power your muscles. You end up getting tired more easily, and you feel a bit more “blah” than usual because you’re not consuming the normal amount of calories.
- Weight loss isn't permanent or long lasting. When you initially go on the liquid diet for weight loss, you see a decrease of a few pounds within a week or two. This is because your body hasn’t had time to adapt to the very low calorie diet. However, your body is designed to adapt to its circumstances, so low calorie intake will lead to low calorie usage. Ultimately, you’ll feel the above-mentioned fatigue, but the weight loss will stop because your body has adapted to its new conditions. You’ll lose weight for maybe 2-4 weeks, then you won’t see any more weight loss no matter how much you cut back on calories.
- Digestive problems. Your body is very used to high-fat, high-carb, high-protein solid foods, so changing your diet to a liquid-heavy one is going to cause some changes to your digestive tract as well. Diarrhea is a guaranteed side effect of a liquids-only diet, as there is more water than your body is able to absorb and process. You may end up missing out on vital nutrients because the liquids are shooting through your intestines too quickly.
Things can get really bad if you’re not careful:
- Nutrient deficiencies. When you follow a liquid-only diet, you cut back on a lot of critical nutrients primarily in solid foods. Unless you are very careful to include plenty of proteins and fats in your diet, you may find yourself lacking in a lot of the macro-nutrients. And don’t even get us started on what happens to your micro-nutrient intake when you consume only liquids instead of solids! The risk of nutrient deficiency—which can lead to serious side effects, if you’re not careful—is very high on a liquid-only diet.
- Fatigue and crashes. Not only will you have less energy, but your body will have a harder time using what little energy you do consume. Low-calorie diets lead to fatigue, and you may find yourself crashing (falling asleep or feeling very sleepy) at random times throughout the day. This can be very dangerous if it occurs while you’re driving, and it can seriously impair your productivity.
- Long-term weight gain. That’s right: liquid diets can lead to weight gain in the long-term. You see, your body is designed to adapt to its circumstances, so it will acclimate to the low calorie intake. However, once you return to your normal diet (with more calories), your body will need time to adapt to the increased food intake. During this time, you’ll gain weight because your metabolism is struggling to speed up. The weight gain can persist enough that you’ll not only re-gain everything you lost, but you’ll end up far heavier than when you started.
The Secret to Liquid Diets for Weight Loss
If you want to try liquid diets for weight loss, there are two simple things to remember:
1. Increase liquid intake. More liquid is always good for you, so increasing your liquid intake will lead to better health. Drinking more water, tea, herbal tea, and veggie-heavy juices can lead to good weight loss. Just because liquids-only diets aren’t great, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t find ways to get more fluids in your daily life.
2. Replace one meal per day. Instead of replacing all of your meals, just replace a single meal every day with a protein shake, veggie juice, or smoothie. That way, you’re still cutting back on calories but you’re not decreasing your daily nutrient intake.
It’s vital that you understand that long-term low calorie liquid diets are NOT SAFE, and they will lead to serious health problems if you continue them for more than a few weeks at a time. Instead of going on a crash diet like this, use the two tips above to help you lose weight the safe, healthy, and effective way!