Lost 60lbs & Fixed insulin resistance with Atkins. Will juice fasting hurt my progress??
September 21, 2011 10:13 AM   Subscribe

I Lost 60 lbs and cured metabolic syndrome (insulin resistance) quickly on a modified Atkins diet. Can I start juice fasting without raising my sugar/insulin levels and "blowing up" again. I am down to about 5% bodyfat with normal blood sugar and LOVING it. How can I juice without upsetting my sugar/insulin balance again? Is it worth it?

I am 6" and was up to 240lbs after a back surgery. I found out that I was pre diabetic so I cut sugar and pretty much did a modified Atkins induction for a few months (mostly in ketosis). I Lost 60 lbs and cured metabolic syndrome (insulin resistance) quite quickly. My body has responded to this well however I am concerned that the high fat, super low carb diet may not be ideal for me long term.

I was about to go buy a masticating juicer and mix in juice fasts to give my body some periods where I get intense micro nutrients and low fat.
I am concerned about going from 20-40 grams of carb daily with GREAT results to drinking multiple glasses of fruit/vegetable juice per day. Could that sugar be a disaster?. Would a body benefit from varying between the two in any way? Would it be detrimental?

Would vegetable only juice suffice, or are they also too high in sugar?

My cholesterol is also a bit high but came down some after I started the Atkins diet. My doctor told me that sugar and carbs raise LDL and Trigs MORE than Baconburgers ultimately. Am I risking raising my cholesterol further by adding sugar from the juices?
I read that beets will lower bad cholesterol. They are quite sweet. If it raises sugar/carb than how can they lower cholesterol? What side wins?

I am at about 5% body fat with normal sugar and loving it. How can I juice without upsetting my sugar/insulin balance and "blowing up" again.

Should I just leave well enough alone or try going for a higher level of nutrition?

(PS: Yes, I am asking my doctor as well)

Thank You

posted by Studiogeek to Health & Fitness (21 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Juice fasts have no measurable benefits that you can't get from eating more vegetables. If you want to go low-fat for periods of time, then go low-fat for periods of time and replace the fat with whole fruits and nutrient-rich starchy vegetables like sweet potatoes.

If you want to fast, then fast. Look up Intermittent Fasting, it definitely has benefits to insulin sensitivity and doesn't have all of the "woo" of juice fasts.
posted by Anonymous at 10:18 AM on September 21, 2011

Would it be detrimental?

Self-directed, radical dietary changes in any direction are rarely a good idea. The thing about juice is that you lose much of the fruit or vegetablefiber bulk that would otherwise slow sugar digestion and absorption as well as providing the other benefits associated with fiber. Please get that advice from your physician (as you intend to) as (1)nobody on the internet is qualified to give you medical advice and (2)the internet is a magnet for people who wish to be "helpful" despite no foundation in medicine or nutrition.

A referral to a registered dietician could set you up with someone qualified to work with you longer-term to arrive at an enjoyable diet that provides you with the nutrition you require.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 10:19 AM on September 21, 2011 [4 favorites]

I'd leave well enough alone. Depending on the fruit and the fiber contained therein, eating the whole fruit is probably better than juice (glycemic index, etc.)
posted by Ideefixe at 10:19 AM on September 21, 2011

I wondered this myself. Easy answer for you, if you're considering a juice fast, do a water fast instead. I did ten days and afterwards only wanted to eat healthy, unprocessed stuff that my body actually wanted.

Someone else will say but I think fruit sugars aren't terrible.
posted by fraac at 10:19 AM on September 21, 2011

Fruit sugars aren't terrible, but juicing probably is -- it's easy to consume more sugar than you'd like without realizing since you can down a lot more fruits in juice form than whole. Vegetables will get you all the vitamins and "micro-nutrients" you need without the sugar overload. Maybe eat more green leafy vegetables? If you'd prefer you can juice them with a fruit or two.
posted by peacheater at 10:22 AM on September 21, 2011

Also, if you read the original Atkins books, Atkins never advocated staying at induction-level carbs long-term. As you've found out, it is a good way to jolt your body out of a metabolic rut, but you're definitely supposed to experiment with carb levels, adding new foods, until you find a sustainable level. Start adding more nuts, whole fruits (especially berries and melons), fresh cheeses, beans and maybe a bit of rice, in that order, not all at once. Try to figure out what your body does well on. A sudden infusion of fruit juice is probably not a good idea.
posted by peacheater at 10:25 AM on September 21, 2011

I haven't tried what you propose exactly, but I have lost weight by switching back and forth between low-carb and low-fat diets when I got bored with one or the other. The major down-side is that I would get the "low-carb flu" for a few days after switching back to induction-level carbs. Apart from that, I was able to lose weight on either diet. I think you'd be fine doing a juice-fast if that's what you want to do (better would be a smoothie-fast where you're blending and getting the fiber and not just sugar) but I doubt it would have any real health benefits.
posted by hazyjane at 10:30 AM on September 21, 2011

Response by poster: Thank you all so far. Please keep the opinions coming. I want to pre-load my brain with ideas before seeing my doctor next week.
I have gotten information off the internet that has HELPED my doctors help me.
In addition to the quacks, there are many great health professionals who contribute to this community.
posted by Studiogeek at 10:40 AM on September 21, 2011

First question: What is your goal with juice fasting? You don't really state what you're looking for, and there's no benefits that I know of.

And yes, the high sugar contents of the fruits will mess up your insulin just as if you decided to start eating bread/rice/potatoes.

And going low/zero fat is not a good idea - fat is good for you!

You can stay low-carb for essentially forever w/o issues.

If you want to take this to the next level and go super-low-bodyfat, check out "carb cycling", it's what bodybuilders do to burn off that last bit of bodyfat. BUT going <5>
So..to restate, what is your actual goal? What are you looking for with juice fasting that you're not achieving now? You really need to focus on healthy goals, and *then* figure out how to get there. Don't be looking at random diets and asking what they'll do for you.

BTW, most every "cleansing" and "detox" diet is bunk - they only provide temporary changes, are usually detrimental, and the rebound leaves you worse than you started. As you've learned already, real changes come from slow, long-term lifestyle improvements.

There is no shortcut to health.
posted by jpeacock at 10:49 AM on September 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

I do obesity research for a living these days. Full disclosure: I do not do clinical work. But I am not basing this advice off of fad diets, quackery, or pseudoscience.

You're at your desired healthy weight and body fat now. Great. Losing weight is damn hard. You did it. Congrats. But juice fasting is a bad idea. Going on even a short-term diet consisting mostly of fruit sugars is going to mess with your insulin levels. Spike, recover, spike, recover, repeatedly. This is the kind of thing that will screw you up permanently. Your body's response to what you eat is based in many ways on what you ate previously. Exposure to some types of diets can predispose you to bad responses to other diets in the future (for example, high-fat-diet exposure can predispose you towards obesity through changes in your metabolic response to fat). If you expose yourself to repeated sugar-based insulin spikes you can be doing damage to your ability to respond to insulin in the future. That way lies diabetes, which is what you were trying to avoid in the first place.

Eat the food you should be eating, all the time. Balance between healthy, complex carbs and protein sources. Plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables. Healthy fats (think fish oil and nuts). Limit overprocessed stuff. If you want to change your level of fitness, add an exercise plan. Focus on being healthy, not on a specific measurement like body fat percentage, BMI (a poor measure to begin with!) or weight. If you have unhealthy levels of cholesterol, or insulin resistance, or get out of breath during what should be routine physical exertion, then add an exercise plan and / or make changes to your diet (moderate changes, not drastic ones) in consultation with a health professional.

Remember that we're omnivores. We are not built to handle a diet that consists of only one type of food.

Addendum: First rule in science is to always start by admitting you might be wrong. Anyone with more experience in the field than I is more than welcome to correct or amend what I stated above. I would prefer that person be your dietician rather than someone on Mefi (even if that Mefite is a dietician, he/she isn't YOUR dietician).
posted by caution live frogs at 11:19 AM on September 21, 2011 [10 favorites]

Response by poster: Great advice above. Thank You all.
Ok here is a bit more info. Part of the way I lost the weight was training in Muay Thai (kickboxing). I had gotten down to about 210 last year (Before herniated disk surgery) and was going to fight at 205 (There are BIG MONSTERS at 205) so i am excited to have dropped 2 weight classes (I can get down to 170 and back is healed).
I feel great but want to add LOADS of nutrition to my diet after a few months of Atkins metabolic shock. I have added nuts, doubled my avocado and added greek yogurt back so far with no ill effect. I'd love to drop some of the meat and cheese safely without falling on my face.
I now want to slowly find a diet that is WAY healthy, keeps me lean (170), lowers my elevated cholesterol, keeps my insulin in check and gives me energy for 4 Hour Muay Thai training/sparring days. So far I just commute to work via bicycle, and do 200 pushups, 200 crunches, 100 chins and shadow box daily. My current diet is OK for that workload if I eat in every morning. When I go back to Muay Thai (very soon), I am actually lost as to what I should be eating that respects my three other issues. After my next GP Doctor, I will see a dietician but I seek as much education as I can i can get before sitting down with them. I LOVE being the well informed patient.
posted by Studiogeek at 11:57 AM on September 21, 2011

Response by poster: PS: The juice fast idea was sparked by my desire to mix in something with the high fat diet I was on and get energy for heavy training.
As many of you can guess, I just streamed Fat, Sick and nearly dead on netflix. That should explain the hair on fire, knee jerk transition. I have since calmed and leveled off a bit. ;-)
posted by Studiogeek at 12:05 PM on September 21, 2011

Response by poster: Fruit juice is off the table for now. Only vegetables juices are now in question.
Please respond to low GI vegetable juicing only.
posted by Studiogeek at 12:09 PM on September 21, 2011

You've found something (low carb) that's worked really well for you. Why suddenly switch to another thing (juicing) that is pretty much the exact opposite?

If you need more carbs for exercise - which it really sounds like you do - try adding more healthy carbs slowly. You can add fruits and vegetables (whole, not juiced), legumes, whole grains. It will probably work better to make this change gradually rather than suddenly dumping a lot of sugar into your system.
posted by medusa at 12:12 PM on September 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

Just think about what is even vaguely 'natural' for humans:
- eating tons of refined carbs (no - as you found out)
- eating more protein and fewer carbs (yes - as you found out)
- starting to add in more vegetables, reduce the fat, keep protein high, and add in a few carefully chosen carbs (yes - that's what many people do post-atkins, and it lets them maintain their weight loss AND be interesting enough to be sustainable in the long-run)
- juicing fruits & vegetables instead of learning how to incorporate them into your overall diet and meals (not really a great approach to life-long nutritional habits)
posted by barnone at 12:39 PM on September 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

Nth-ing the advice to add whole vegetables to your diet rather than juice. It will add variety and nutrition without giving you a sugar spike. If you stick to non-starchy vegetables (ie. no potatoes or beans), then you'll still be pretty low-carb, enough to stay in ketosis if that's what you want. If you wanted to gradually ramp up the carbs, you could add sweet potatoes and fruit.

If you're looking for recipe suggestions for this style of eating, the Paleo community has lots of good resources, such as Everyday Paleo and Paleo Comfort Foods.
posted by blue grama at 1:53 PM on September 21, 2011

Eating high fat and low carb in the long term will noy hurt you. Read Good Calories, Bad Calories or Why We Get Fat (both by Gary Taubes) if you need convincing of this. No AskMeFi answer will be a fraction as informative or persuasive as either of those books, nor as well-cited.
posted by Nattie at 2:38 PM on September 21, 2011 [2 favorites]

Tim Ferriss covers exactly this sort of stuff in Four Hour Body. I'd suggest you get a hold of a copy if you haven't already.
posted by chrisfromthelc at 3:00 PM on September 21, 2011

You say you're doing a "modified Atkins." Are you using the newest Atkins book? Have you moved through all four phases? Have you found your ACE? The book actually lays out exactly what steps you should take to slowly and safely add more nutrients and carbs back into your diet until you reach your carb equilibrium and how to maintain it over the long haul.

If you are reading an older version of the book or are more or less making it up as you go along, I highly recommend that you pick up the new book and give it a read through. I think you'll find exactly what you're looking for already laid out there.
posted by platinum at 3:53 PM on September 21, 2011

You mentioned that you added additional avocados, nuts, and yogurt to the mix with no ill effects and no weight gain, what about just doing the same with vegetable juices? Add a kale/carrot/beet/whatever juice in the morning, eat how you normally do the rest of the day, and then see how you are feeling/weighing after a few days of this. Then, add something else - more juice, a piece of fruit, etc. and see how you feel and how your body responds. Maybe making one modification every week and giving it a week or so before modifying something else.

On preview - what platinum is saying as I too am familiar with the Atkins diet and finding your ACE.

I don't think it is smart to go from one "extreme" diet to another (not that I personally think atkins or a temporary juice fast is extreme but they are pretty different from one another).
posted by click at 4:40 PM on September 21, 2011

I would suggest looking into South Beach, since it addresses the downsides of Atkins which you seem to be looking to bypass (although to be fair, I never did much research into Atkins and most of what I know is from other people who have done it). South Beach has a similar premise, but specifically guides you towards eating a very healthy diet which is not super high in fats, and contains lots of vegetables.
posted by markblasco at 11:07 PM on September 21, 2011

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