How To Work Out On A Cleanse

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How To Work Out On A Cleanse
image: Outdoor Voices & Lil Miquela

Because training on an empty stomach can be a real headache. 

The hardest part of cleansing (aside from being a drag at dinner parties) is how it can sap your energy. You’re psyched at the kickoff, imagining your GI tract pristine and healthy, but once you’re in the thick of it, it can drag you couch-ward.

“A cleanse itself requires energy, so your body is already working harder to detox, and that can lead to tiredness. Plus, cleanses are calorie restricting and low in carbohydrates. They generally don’t provide enough protein and carbs to repair and replenish tissues after exercise, so if you work out too intensely, you can really get sapped,” says registered dietician and Tier 4 trainer Maria Pagano.  

That said, light exercise, or the right kind paired with the right program, can actually enhance a cleanse. Your goal while cleansing is to allow your body to do what it needs to do to: Detox. And movement can facilitate the process. “When you work out, you’re naturally working with your detox channels—deep breathing helps expel toxins through the lungs, you sweat out toxins through your skin, you’re stimulating the colon, and you’re activating toxin release through your lymphatic system,” Pagano says.

The key is to pick the right workout/cleanse pairing. “If you’re into endurance workouts like running, you’re going to need extra protein and calories, so a pure juice cleanse isn’t enough nutrition. In most cases, I advise adding some protein. But with light yoga or walking you could get away with just juicing,” Pagano explains.

Part of the cleanse experience is introspection, so see how your body responds. If your energy just isn’t up to par, she suggests cutting your workout from an hour to 30 minutes. “You don’t want to lose muscle mass or get injured by overdoing it; it’s important to tune in to your body."

Running/Cycling + A Raw Food Cleanse

For endurance workouts, you need solid food to sustain energy. “Green juices are good because they’re high in potassium, which helps with muscle contraction and prevents cramps, but make sure you get plenty of raw solids too—like avocados, nut butters, nut milks, whole fruits, and vegetables. Shoot for a minimum of 1200 calories a day,” suggests Pagano.

Strength-Training/Conditioning Classes + Plant-protein 

A higher level of protein from multiple pea-protein shakes and key foods will ensure you repair and rebuild muscle while detoxing. “It supports the mitochondria and stimulate the release of energy by helping you digest excess fat,” says nutritionist Haylie Pomroy.

Low-Intensity Cardio (Yoga/Pilates Walking/Cycling) + Juice Cleanse

Even low-intensity cardio requires the necessary get up and go, so if 6 daily juices isn’t enough, bump it up to 8. Go as deep as you can with an all-green juice plan that also includes metabolism-heating spices like jalapeno, potassium-rich coconut water, and system purifiers like cilantro and chlorophyll. Coconut water will help keep your electrolytes from getting low and boost hydration for added energy, says Pagano. “For intense or hot yoga, consider adding on a protein-rich drink to aid in recovery,” she adds.