For people with SCI, juicing may be more dangerous than helpful
Juicing fasts exploded in the dieting world this year. Dieters looking to get a kick-start on a new diet plan spend three days trading in solid food for fruit and vegetable juices. The fast cleans out the body, drops pounds of water weight and reportedly gives the dieter a fresh start. However, for someone with a spinal-cord injury, this dieting route may be dangerous.
“It’s so extreme and it puts the body in a catabolic state, so it makes you lose weight but it causes muscle to break down too,” says SCI nutritionist and co-author of the Paralyzed Veterans of America-sponsored book Eat Well, Live Well With Spinal Cord Injury. “[People with SCI] need to preserve their lean muscle mass as much as possible.”
The juicing diet eliminates too many important nutrient groups such as fiber, protein and fat. People with SCI should be getting between 19–25 grams of fiber per day, so rather than just extracting the juice from fruits and vegetables, James suggests throwing them in a blender with some water to make a smoothie. This method is fiber-filled, which will not only make you feel fuller (making it easier to stick to your diet plan), it also helps regulate the bowels, balance blood sugar and prevent gas.
“I don’t recommend that people juice, what I recommend is put your fruit and vegetables in the blender, add some water and maybe a little bit of protein powder … and make a shake so at least you’ve consumed all of the fiber, and you’re getting that,” James says.
Adding protein powder helps prevent any loss in muscle mass, so you can drop pounds of fat instead of muscle. But to truly prevent this, doing a smoothie fast won’t work either. Instead replace one meal per day, such as breakfast, or a snack with a smoothie.
“You’re not getting the protein, so you’re getting the enzymes and the vitamins and minerals but it’s not a complete diet. You’re missing out on proteins and fats. It’s just not well balanced,” James says.