Juice cleanses: everybody's doing it. Including our very own Editor-in-Chief Susannah Taylor and GTG writer Kiran Branch, who both tested out the detox method to see what all the fuss is about...

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Between Gwyneth's affinity for cleansing detoxes and reports of Beyoncé surviving on water, lemon juice, maple syrup and cayenne pepper for days, the words ‘juice cleanse’ are being bandied around like the 5:2 diet. While some variations are cause for concern (Beyoncé, we’re looking at you) the alkaline, organic juice cleanse programmes created by expert nutritionists look like a more practical option.

These cleanses operate on the premise that too much processed food, sugar, caffeine, meat and alcohol will leave you with an acidic gut - the cause of inflammation, bloating, weight gain, susceptibility to illness, fatigue, headaches, insomnia and countless other undesirable symptoms. By stopping the consumption of acid-forming food/drinks and replacing them with nutrient packed raw fruit and vegetable juices, the body can return to an alkaline state, rid itself of toxins and allow the digestive system and liver to rest and recuperate. The benefits are meant to include feeling lighter, cleaner, energised and having a greater understanding of how the food you consume impacts on your body.

Enticed by bright-eyed and bushy-tailed testimonials of fellow juicers, Editor-in-Chief Susannah Taylor  and GTG staffer Kiran Branch each embarked on a three day cleanse, keeping diaries of their experiences....

Susannah Taylor: The Purity Cleanse from Plenish Cleanse

Everywhere I turn at the moment someone is doing a juice cleanse; all my healthiest friends (especially the ones who wear teeny weeny bikinis and have no cellulite) do them, and I hear various tales of how the whites of their eyes are whiter than ever, their skin looks more radiant, how it’s good to give your system a break blah blah blah. While I am fortunate enough not to need to lose weight (actually I don’t know about ‘fortunate’ - I work out about four times a week), and while I eat pretty healthily (I don’t follow any sort of diet, I just eat low sugar, as much freshness as I can cram in, don’t binge eat) I was intrigued by how it would make me look and feel. Plus of course Gwyneth does them - if a juice cleanse brings me half her mega-glow then I’m in.

I met with Kara Rosen, the owner of Plenish Cleanse , who explained to me the difference between cold pressed juices like Plenish and ones you buy off the shelf. Cold-pressed, she explained, are extracted using very expensive metal plates that, unlike your kitchen-top juicers, extract every tiny weeny element of goodness from fruit and veg until nothing but a dry crisp is left behind. They are so fresh, you need to drink them within two days. Right I thought, bring on the radiance...

Day 1

An enormous box of  juices (about two foot long) arrived in my office with two days’ worth of juice in them (six per day). They looked lovely in all their multi-coloured splendour - one was entitled ‘Sweet Sexy Green’ (cucumber, romaine, pear, celery, broccoli, spinach and kale), another, the ‘Spicy Lemonade’, was yellow (filtered water, lemon, lime, red chilli, agave nectar),  and another, the ‘Beet Box’, was dark crimson (beetroot, carrot, lemon and ginger). The packaging, I realised by the end of it is very important - when you’ve had nothing but liquid to eat for two/ three days, there still remains an inkling of excitement at opening another cute shiny bottle.

Back to the cleanse. First up was Sweet Sexy Green which tasted surprisingly good (although admittedly I am the sort of person who loves coconut water and actually like eating nuts for snacks) - this isn’t going to taste like a well-known not-so innocent smoothie brand you buy in Sainsburys because those are packed with sugar and are no good for you at all. Cold pressed juices taste of PURE HEALTH.

Next up, mid-morning was ‘Pineapple Squared’ containing pineapple, apple, mint and aloe vera - yum -  then the ‘Mind Body Green’ which with over 5lbs of organic greens in one bottle is meant to ‘balance your pH’ and ‘usher out your toxins.’ So far so good, until I got to ‘Spicey Lemonade’ which is basically lemon water with chilli in it. There’s no way of fancying it up - I literally had to force it down my throat, gagging on every sip, the words ‘this is good for me’ flashing before my eyes.

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Despite regularly going to the fridge, looking at its contents and shutting the door again, I was quite chuffed I was getting through this, and so I went on Twitter to let everyone know it - only to be shot down by a very well known and respected nutritionist who tweeted back asking why I was doing the cleanse, stating that ‘A juice cleanse does nothing for you apart from make you hungry.’ I have to say I did start to question my sanity when at 6pm I drank what felt like a crate of beetroot (Beet Box) which had a rather unpleasant gloopy texture to it.

Finally, I discovered my favourite of them all: ‘Cashew Milk’ (cashews, dates, vanilla and Himalayan salt) which was the equivalent I reckon to a bottle of milk to a baby. I liked it so much I drank half of the next day’s bottle as well.

Day 2

The second day I awoke with a ridiculously flat stomach (amazing) but this was when it got tough. I started the day with a cafe latte. I know, I know - wrong form of liquid, but the Nespresso machine was growling at me and I couldn’t help it. On top of that I had my ‘Sweet Sexy Green’ which didn’t taste quite so sexy now mixed up in my bowels with a shot of coffee and hot frothy milk. However, I persisted and went out to do a training session with my personal trainer who also questioned why I was doing this. “Girls say they do it to feel good but they are just trying to lose weight,’ he said. I’m sure he had a point, but this was honestly not my reason for doing it. Remarkably I managed to do a full training session - squats, lunges, press-ups and everything without vomiting (I think my trainer was going harder on me just to prove his point - he isn’t a fan of juice cleanses either).

The problem however with training like that is really you need to refuel afterwards, and you get HUNGRY... and this is when I came a bit unstuck. Kiran (doing the Radiance cleanse below) was advised that if she got hungry or exercised then she should have some nuts. I didn’t get any advice like this so I stole hers, and polished off the lot. Then because I had it in my head that I couldn’t have chewable food as such, I decided that another latte would get me through. No wonder when I met with my PR friend Krishna at 4pm she said I was a bit ‘on the edge.’

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And then that night, it all went horribly wrong. I had to go to a charity event that one of my best friends was holding, which meant donning a tight black Matthew Williamson dress which I love. I went to the party feeling a million dollars (I think it’s the flatter stomach thing - does wonders for your confidence). Why I thought it would be a good idea to drink quite a lot of champagne, eat beef and dauphinoise potatoes is beyond me (apart from the fact that I could have eaten a horse of course). Looking back at the picture of me, I have to say I did look particularly glowy and bright eyed that night. I still can’t decide however whether the glow was the juice or the champagne; all I know is that the next day I felt so rough I had to go back to bed.

Kiran Branch: Active Cleanse Programme by Radiance Cleanse

In the interest of full disclosure, I’m going to be as honest as possible. I LOVE junk food. That, coupled with my sweet tooth and insatiable appetite, means that my diet is simply far too indulgent. Fortunately, I have a fast metabolism but developing a keen interest in health and nutrition of late has compelled me to clean up my act as, quite frankly, being skinny doesn’t necessarily equate to being healthy. Cue the great cleanse.

My main goals were to detox and kick-start a healthier, more balanced approach to eating. To get me there I chose the Active Cleanse Programme by Radiance Cleanse  - innovatively designed to restore the body via organic cold-pressed juices and light exercise. With two varieties of the cleanse to choose from I opted for the London-based programme (£595 ) which included five fruit and vegetable juices per day, one post-workout energy drink per day, nutritional supplements and three one-hour sessions with Dalton Wong – celebrity trainer to the likes of Jennifer Lawrence no less, and founder of Twenty Two Training.

N.B. The alternative Active Cleanse Programme (£295) is available nationwide and involves all of the above except the personal training sessions.

Day 1

Following a few months of gluttony and little exercise I came to day one of the cleanse ready and eager to curb my errant eating ways. That said, opening the delivery of eighteen juices was quite a shock to the system. Coming to terms with how little would pass my lips was however a lot easier to swallow after reading Radiance and Dalton’s cleanse manual. Explaining the benefits of each element of the programme, including advice and tips on snacking (if I felt I really needed to) plus illustrations and descriptions of exercises that would aid the detox, this literature became my holy grail for the next three days.

The menu/schedule for each day consisted of supplements along with juices every 2-3 hours between 8am and 7.30pm. My only apprehension pre-cleanse was that I would be absolutely ravenous - having a fast metabolism I’ve been known to faint if I go without food for more than three to four hours. What astounded me on the initial day was that I didn’t at any point have any pangs of hunger whatsoever. Possibly because each individual juice contains approximately 1kg of fruit and vegetables (about 2.2lbs), I always felt full and it was only from 3.30pm-4.30pm (between juices) that I felt a slump in energy levels.

The second revelation of day one was that the juices were delicious – I would go so far as to say that the green juices (the most alkaline) were delightful. My only dislike was the lunchtime cashew milk. As Radiance emailed me throughout the day with tips, reassurance and support I did find myself mentioning my aversion to the nut milk and within a few minutes I received a pleasant email with suggestions on how I could make the drink more palatable. It worked. I persevered and by day three I actually began to enjoy it.

As I left work, despite being in good spirits, I was slightly dreading having to exercise for an hour before heading home. Amazed that I had made it to 6pm without losing consciousness, I feared that any exercise may push me over the edge. Arriving at Twenty Two Training I was greeted by Dalton who within minutes made me feel comfortable enough that I could confess the ridiculous truth; I was scared to work-out. Before I knew it an hour had passed and not only had I learned rather a lot about the physiology of the body and how specific exercises could really speed up the detox, I also laughed more than in any training session I’ve ever done.

Day 2 & Day 3

On both days two and three I awoke half an hour before my alarm clock sounded, with seemingly boundless energy. A definite first for me; I’m accustomed to hitting the snooze button at least twice before dragging myself out of bed.

While I didn’t find it at all difficult to not eat I did avoid tormenting myself by steering clear of all temptation. This meant avoiding the office kitchen at lunchtime, cancelling dinner plans and missing out on sunny evenings lounging in the park with friends. Anti-social behaviour seemed to be the only way to abstain from cheating.

Post-cleanse, I had significantly more energy and surprisingly experienced all of the feelings of wellness and clarity that were promised. In fact I am even inclined to make it an annual occurrence. Undoubtedly, the support from Radiance and the Twenty Two team were integral to me successfully completing the programme – I simply wouldn’t have persevered or enjoyed it so much without their guidance. They even sent me a congratulatory email on completion along with tips on how to keep the momentum going along with recipes and a fantastic reading list.

Now that a few months have passed since the cleanse, I can't say that I’ve been entirely saintly in the eating department; however the cleanse has definitely helped me to maintain a much more balanced diet. So while you probably will still find me in Meat Liquor, Bubble Dogs and other eateries of that ilk, chances are I’ll have had a green smoothie for breakfast  and will be reading up on alkaline recipes on the tube home.