I am not a cleanse girl. I have never done any crazy juice fasts, nor have I drank lemon water and cayenne pepper in the hopes of losing weight. My background as an athlete has impressed upon me the need to properly fuel your body and my study of Paleo and Whole 30 lifestyles reinforced this. Plus, not eating real food just seems plain miserable.
One of the products Beachbody sells is a healthy cleanse system they call the 3-Day Refresh. It is marketed as a healthy alternative to the ultra restrictive cleanses that are out there and are for people who:
- want a clean break from unhealthy eating
- want to jump start new habits and begin clean eating
- have fallen off the wagon of healthy eating and need to get back on
- want to lose tummy bloat before a big event or vacation
- want their clothes to fit better
You can catch their promo video here.
While I wasn’t seeking this product out, it recently became available in Canada so was on my radar. I was curious as to how it would work and would probably fit into the third bullet above. I haven’t exactly fallen off the clean eating wagon, but we have recently been incorporating too many indulgent treats into our daily consumption. Our habit of extra bread on weekends and chocolate treats at night were slowing my progress and sending me down a slippery slope – the more bread and chocolate I eat the more I crave them. So when my friend Liz mentioned she was curious about trying the Refresh to get beach ready for a trip to Cuba, I decided to run a test group and see what it was like. I can’t very well advise customers as to what it is like if I haven’t tried it myself.
We decided that the three days after the Victoria Day weekend (where many treats were had) and just before Liz’s vacation would be the best time to hold our test group.
The Refresh kit came with 3 packets of Shakeology, 3 Fiber Sweeps, and 6 packets of Vanilla Fresh ( a vegan, nurtient-dense, high-protein meal replacement). It also came with an instruction book that was very detailed as to the timing of the drinks and what other foods were allowed. Each day you drink a serving of Shakeology for breakfast with one serving of fruit (on its own or in the shake). Mid-morning you have a tea break followed by one of the fiber sweeps. Lunch is a Vanilla Fresh shake with one serving of fruit, one serving of veggies, and one serving of healthy fat. In the afternoon there is another tea break and a snack of one vegetable serving and one healthy fat. For dinner, you have a final Vanilla Fresh shake and a vegetarian meal from the recipe book. They recommend you consume at least 2 L of water and encourage you to drink it throughout the day.
Depending on the fruit and veggie options you choose, the guidebook estimates that you will be eating 900 calories a day. I was not on board with this idea. I have read that it can be unhealthy to dip below 1200 calories a day and dieting below that number can cause your body to start breaking down muscle for fuel. Additionally, I am still breastfeeding and although my son mostly eats solids, I was not planning on weaning at this time. So I adjusted the plan slightly to include more calories (roughly an extra 500), while still staying within the allowable foods. I did like that it was getting me back to basics and I knew that as long as I was eating healthy fats, protein, and carbs from fruit and vegetable sources I would be meeting my energy needs. Although you are not eating dairy, meat, and grains I would still be eating all the required nutrients for three days.
I always meal plan on Sunday. My husband was out of town from Tuesday to Friday which was actually great timing — I didn’t have to worry about making him a meal while I was doing my own thing with the Refresh. My meal plan looked like this:
The items in the brackets are extra servings that are not in the original plan. Plus I doubled all the dinner recipes.
Since there is not a lot of cooking in this system, planning and prepping was minimal. I did go to the grocery store to buy the required veggies and fruit, but all the meals were super easy and quick to prepare.
How it Went
On day one, I got up and did my scheduled workout (Insanity Max 30 Tabata Power) and had my Shakeology as usual. I found that I did get hungry before the scheduled fiber sweep. I would normally have a mid-morning snack of an apple and almond butter, but on the refresh I could only have tea at this time and it definitely left me hungrier than usual. The fiber sweep was not as bad as I feared based on some of the reviews I had read. You mix it with one cup of cold water and drink it promptly. It reminded me of lemonade. After the fiber sweep you need to wait at least one hour before eating lunch, and I started to watch the clock with about ten minutes to go. Stomach was a grumbling! I had a spinach salad with raspberries and blended my Vanilla shake with a banana. It was sweet tasting, more than the Vanilla Shakeology. After lunch and my afternoon snack of hummus and baby carrots (which I probably quadrupled in serving size), I was a little hungry for dinner but not as bad as before lunch. Dinner was filling (veggie stir fry and another vanilla shake blended with banana) and I found I didn’t crave any treats in the evening and wasn’t starving the next morning.
On day two, I experienced the same mid-morning hunger and lunch couldn’t come quickly enough. I repeated the same lunch and afternoon snack (just adding in extra servings of fruit and vegetables). We had a busy afternoon and had a too-late dinner (coconut steamed veggies) so I was starving, but again I didn’t crave any other food once dinner was over.
On the last day I woke up feeling like a million bucks. I seriously felt like I could go out and run a marathon. I repeated my breakfast, lunch and snack from previous days and roasted asparagus for dinner. I wasn’t as hungry this day as I was spacing my meals more appropriately and I think the extra servings were satisfying me.
And just for the record, I didn’t experience any painful bloating, uncomfortableness, or excessive gas from the fiber sweeps or all the vegetables I was eating (there is a note about this in the booklet). If you are on top of your water, you should be able to keep things moving! I also didn’t experience any headaches, which some people may experience from cutting caffeine and sugar out of their diets cold turkey. And I didn’t feel super tired, drained, or lethargic.
Physically I wasn’t concerned with weight-loss. I rarely weigh myself and know that the scale is one of the worst ways to measure progress. But I did weigh myself just to chart the difference (and to claim my free prize from Beachbody for completing the program!) and I did lose 4 pounds, understanding that most of this is water weight from cutting out grains. You can see in the after photo to the right that my abs have more definition and my mid-section is smaller.
But I was more impressed with how I felt after the three days. My energy was high, I felt lighter, my waist was definitely slimmer, my jeans weren’t as tight, and overall I felt great. I went for a 5K run in the afternoon and had a pep in my step. Originally I hadn’t planned a workout thinking I would be too weak and tired, but that wasn’t the case at all.
Another benefit I experienced was no desire to eat sweet things or meat. I really could have done a 4th day on the Refresh – I truly had no cravings for bread or chocolate. That alone is very significant for me and I do think this works for breaking bad habits.
As for Liz’s results, she followed the program perfectly – no extra servings. She also lost 4 lbs and this is what she had to report:
Negatives: I was very tired and had a slight headache day 2. I don’t understand why the veggie amount is so limited (I had 10 snow peas yesterday!). I was hungry all three days in the late morning. The Vanilla Fresh gets repetitive after twice a day for 3 days (although your tip to include strawberries was very tasty).
Positives: I felt great day 3! Lots of energy, not gassy at all (even though they warned this may be an issue), the fiber sweep tasted good, the program instructions were easy to follow and I liked the layout of the booklet. It also helped me with spacing out food over time. Waiting at least an hour between meals and snacks makes sure I didn’t eat out of boredom or emotional reasons. I stopped craving bad food and am going to continue to eat clean until we leave for vacation on Sunday.
Rachel, a fellow coach on my team, also completed the refresh this week. Like Liz and myself, she also lost four pounds. Here is her report:
Pros: The drinks are tasty. I was expecting to have to choke down the fiber drink but LOVED the lemon flavor. The Vanilla Fresh is great too, sweeter and smoother than Vanilla Shakeology. I only felt hungry twice and that was when my schedule was off because we were away from home longer than expected.
Cons: Feeling stuck to a schedule was hard for me. I was so overwhelmed by the timeline initially and missed a snack one day and a vegetable serving another day when life and schedule changes happened.
What I Learned: I am much more aware of how much of what I consume is habitual eating rather than purposeful eating. I also gained some amazing vegetable dish recipes that can be served as whole meals or side dishes and I look forward to repeating them.
I would do this again in order to clean up my eating after a holiday or before an event (my brother-in-law is getting married in July and that might be a good reason to do it again!). I liked how I purged my palate of sweets and erased my cravings. Even though I don’t believe I lost much body fat (my weight-loss is likely water-weight), it made me feel slimmer and lighter and that can go a long way in boosting your confidence and motivating you to stay on the healthy track.
Following the program was simple, the booklet was clearly laid out, and the dinner options were tasty. I plan on using them in the future as side dishes. Meal prep was minimal which made this system very easy to follow and complete.
However, I would ONLY do this again with the modifications I mentioned I made to the serving sizes. I estimate I added around 500 extra calories in fruits and veggies. Next time I would add in additional vegetable and fruit servings to all three meals. Both Liz and I lost the same amount of weight and experienced many of the same benefits even though I ate double the recommended servings. I liked the requirement of pairing a veggie with a healthy fat (I didn’t like their suggestion to swap that veggie and fat with a fresh juice with no fat), but am skeptical of the total calories consumed in a day. I believe as long as I was eating within the guidelines, the extra servings of carbs gave me additional energy and nourishment and did not derail my progress.
My suggestion to Beachbody would be to come up with a program that takes into consideration the gender and weight of the customer using the product and to assign servings throughout the day, much like the 21 Day Fix. I would add a serving of greens, fruit, and healthy fat to my morning Shakeology as well as to my lunch and dinner. I think the program would still do its job and help people kickstart healthy habits.
Have you ever done a cleanse? What was your experience?
If you are interested in kickstarting some healthy habits going into summer, my team is running a month-long group for the 3-Day Refresh. You will have group support and a post-group meal plan to help you continue with clean eating once the Refresh is over. They will start a new group every Monday from June 1st to July 5th. Send me a message if you would like more details or to join this group!