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The Truth About Detox Diets

January 21, 2016 | 0 Comments
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As summer, a wedding or an important date approaches the vast majority of individuals looking to kick start their weight loss, hand-out hundreds and thousands of dollars on ‘revolutionary’ detox diets and diet shakes; with the likes of Isagenix, Herbalife and Optislim promising to: kick start weight loss, reduce hunger, rid excess fat, reduce body weight and increase fat burning.

Unfortunately despite the growing awareness about the importance of a healthy whole food diet, the average adult seeking a ‘summer body’ continues to spend between 8%-15% of their income on Detox and Diet Shakes, choosing to live their lives through a 30 day cleanse, diet shake straw or ‘rubber-like’ very low calorie diet (VLCD) protein bars.

It is truly no surprise that the likes of Isagenix products, Herbalife shakes, Optislim meals and similar very low calorie diets work for weight loss… In the short term. Any individual can obtain fast fat loss results by ditching the carbs, fatty foods and snacks; sticking to a 900 calorie diet and replacing 80% of meals with liquid shake meal replacements.

Not only is the cost of such detox shakes and diet bars unsustainable financially for most; completely removing nutritious whole food for glorified protein powder supplements becomes boring, nutritionally and psychologically unhealthy and isolates individuals from the social aspect of eating. As soon as the cost of Isagenix shakes, Herbalife products or the Optislim diet is no longer feasible, individuals resort back to poor eating habits and pile on the weight, often more quickly than before.

We look into why the latest detox diet shakes can actually set people on a course for more weight gain in the long term and also analyse some of the not so ‘healthy’ ingredients found in weight loss shakes that are actually sabotaging your weight loss and body composition goals. 

Ineffective Ingredients

Detox weight loss programs and multi-level marketing corporations selling nutrition supplements, weight management products and very low calorie diet shakes, prey on the body image and health insecurities of the average consumer.

To the nutritionally unaware consumer, the most popular detox diet products market themselves as ‘balanced meal replacements’, ‘instant healthy meals’ and most concerning ‘after-school snacks’.Yes detox shake companies are beginning to promote their products to children!

The common theme with all detox diets is the over-reliance on detox protein shakes and meal-replacement bars, as a substitute for real whole food sources. At best individuals are conditioned to believe that in order to achieve effective weight loss they can eat no more than 2 meals per day of actual whole food; whilst the remainder of the day they must consume cheap, ineffective and often outright nutritionally incomplete meal replacement powders and bars.

Looking closer at some of the most popular detox shake products available, reveals some alarming facts regarding not only the poor caloric and macronutrient breakdown but the potentially harmful ingredients that are sabotaging health and fat loss for many.  

The first product labels itself as an ‘instant healthy meal nutritional shake mix’ and claims that it can help people to start everyday with balanced nutrition and essential nutrients for an active lifestyle.

Starting at the caloric breakdown, the product in question contains a total of 200 calories per 52g serving, of which is 20 grams of protein, 23 grams of carbohydrates with ‘only’ 3 grams of sugar (well get to this later), and 3 grams of total fat. At first glance the caloric breakdown looks reasonable, a moderate amount of carbohydrates for energy, low fat and some protein for satiety; albeit the protein quantity is a little on the low side for maximising protein synthesis and promoting leaner body composition, even for general populations.

 The ingredients panel is where things get interesting… Some background on food label standards; the ingredients listing is required by law to list all contained ingredients in descending order by prominence; meaning ingredient that weighs the most are listed first, and the ingredients that weigh the least are listed last.

The first listed ingredient Maltodextrin, is one of the least-understood but widely used additives in detox meal replacement protein shakes for two main reasons; it is as cheap as they come and offers a loophole in labelling regulations. 

Maltodextrin is a carbohydrate additive that is chemically defined as a long-chain polysaccharide comprised of multiple glucose chains; as such maltodextrin is not required by law to be labelled as sugar on nutrition panels even though it is digested and absorbed as easily as glucose. 

The nutritional panel is very deceiving for most people, labelling only 3 grams of sugar when in fact the additional 20 grams of carbohydrates is sourced from maltodextrin.  Essentially individuals using such detox meal-replacements are convinced they are making healthy low sugar food choices, when in fact they are rapidly spiking insulin and blood glucose levels quicker than white bread.    

Next is the supposed ‘ideal balance of protein’, providing 20 grams of protein sourced from soy protein isolate and pea protein isolate. Although soy protein has its own health benefits, research shows that whey protein is far superior for the purpose of muscle building, weight loss and improved body composition. 

The amino acid Leucine is the key driver in the process of muscle protein synthesis and not all proteins are created equally. Higher quality protein sources like whey protein require lower consumption of protein and calories per serve, to obtain all of the desired muscle health and weight maintenance effects. 

Research suggest that 2.5 grams of Leucine per meal is the threshold required to obtain all of the benefits that high quality protein sources offer. In comparing whey protein with soy protein, it takes only 23g of whey protein at 92 calories to achieve a threshold of 2.5 grams of Leucine; on the other hand it requires 31g of soy protein at 125 calories to reach the same 2.5 grams of Leucine.  

The product in question claims to personalize your daily protein intake to match the body’s needs; with only 20 grams of total protein from inferior sources of soy and pea protein it is unlikely consumers are getting anywhere need the required 2.5g threshold to see any potential benefits to improved muscle quality and weight maintenance.

With the cost of whey protein continuing to increase, detox meal-replacement products are turning to cheaper soy protein and plant based alternatives to cut costs and ‘play’ on the marketing of vegetarian and vegan friendly options.


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