Ambiguous Protein Shakes
The proteins, sweeteners and other obscure contents can make you gassy, bloated and in need of the nearest bathroom. Plus, the FDA doesn’t evaluate the safety and efficacy of dietary supplements like most powders and blends. But the real kicker is that one or two of these “magic drinks” higher in calories than what you might’ve eaten otherwise.
Most weight-loss teas include herbs, which are often fine (just check with your doc about potential drug interactions). The more concerning “tea-toxes” contain senna leaves, an active ingredient in laxatives. Besides potentially pooping your pants, you’ll lose electrolytes with any water weight you shed, causing (best case) muscle cramping and (worst case) cardiac arrest.
Although Beyonce’s done the Master Cleanse before, drinking only water, maple syrup, red pepper flakes and lemon juice won’t turn you into Bey. This virtually zero-calorie elixir will make you lose weight, but also deprive you of the energy to do absolutely anything except maybe vomit. Queen B may be a “Survivor,” but living life becomes extremely hard when your sole source of calories is a condiment.
Some studies have shown that intermittent fasting (and modified versions of it) may have health benefits, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a good (or safe!) idea for you. Not eating can make you not only cranky, but also nauseous and dehydrated. It can even cause weight gain in the long term, since periods of fasting can decrease your metabolism over time.
This popular high-fat, low-carb diet aims to initiate ketosis, when your body primarily burns fat for energy instead of carbs. Some versions budget less than 10% of your total calories for carbs and protein, which may be great if you like to eat bacon and butter for every single meal. But some food for thought: Ketogenic diets are used for some seizure disorders untreatable with many medications. My point? If an extreme diet can affect brain chemistry, it may be too extreme for you.
One Food Diets
The mushroom diet, the cookie diet, the grapefruit diet … even if you absolutely love the one thing they’re telling you to eat, the risks are real. Cutting out food groups can prime you for nutrient deficiencies, potentially leading to short- and long-term health complications.
This diet limits you to 1,000 calories per day, which only works if you’re 4’8″ tall or asleep 24/7. Menu offerings like saltines, toast and canned tuna already sound so plain, but eating so little of them can also backfire. It can slow down metabolism over time, pushing you to gain weight in the long run. More immediate dangers include hypoglycemia, dizziness and fainting.
Many so-called “physician-formulated” products can interact with other medications, without the research or FDA evaluation to back them up. Avoid medical professionals who tout cleansing or call themselves “nutritionists.” Legit MDs know the kind of education required to be a Registered Dietitian (RD/RDN) and can refer you appropriately.
Charcoal and Clay
People on social media love to hype clay and charcoal drinks for detoxing. And while hospitals do use charcoal to remove highly toxic substances in life-threatening situations, for the average healthy adult, it’s triage on your intestines. They’ll only make you constipated — an outcome not typically desired in a cleanse.
HCG stands for “human chorionic gonadotropin,” a hormone produced during pregnancy. This diet has you inject it into your body, and follow ridiculous restrictions like eating 800 calories per day, rationing a single vegetable per meal and avoiding exercise. These extreme measures only cause more harm than good. Potential side effects include gallstones, arrhythmia and neurological deficits.