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Jim Karas’ clarity on cleansing

Jim Karas | John Kim~Sun-Times

Jim Karas | John Kim~Sun-Times

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Updated: December 13, 2012 10:14AM

It’s all the rage these days: cleanses. Your bestie did one, so did two co-workers and your cousin in Cleveland. With most of these programs, you drink a potion for 7-28 days, generally are told to abstain from exercise and any solid food and presto, you look like a Brangelina love child all grown up.

“Oh,” you’re thinking, “Sign me up.”

Not so fast. Here are some compelling facts:

Your body naturally “cleanses” itself all the time through functions of your liver, kidneys, etc. There really is no reason to believe a liquid potion will do the job. But let’s be honest, you aren’t doing this to “get clean,” you’re doing this to lose weight fast. Right?

And I’m going to be honest, you will lose weight — that’s good — but what you are losing won’t just be fat, it will be a lot of muscle — that’s bad.

Most cleanses put your body in starvation mode. The human body is VERY smart and it says to itself, “I bet I’m stuck on a deserted island. I want to stay alive with limited resources,” so the body goes about slowing itself down by ridding you of your body’s most metabolically active tissue: muscle.

Remember this fact: Muscle Up = Metabolism Up. Muscle Down = Metabolism Down.

When you lose muscle you diminish your metabolism. On a cleanse, you lose about 60 to 70 percent fat and 30 to 40 percent muscle. That fact will all but guarantee that you gain all the weight back and then some.

We are ALL losing muscle with age if we don’t strength train. Take a look at this graph and yes, ladies, right around menopause, the rate at which you lose muscle doubles. Add a cleanse and you answer the question, “Why didn’t I keep the weight off on my cleanse?” The reason is simple — you destroyed your metabolism and accelerated the muscle loss. Not smart!

I know hundreds of people who insist on a cleanse prior to a big event and they refuse to strength train. Why? The cleanse company tells them that by eliminating strength training, they will lose muscle and therefore more weight. Post cleanse, their weight skyrockets back up and they gain all the weight they lost and then some. Remember Oprah’s ill-fated Optifast excursion? Same thing. Result? You end up like one of the seven dwarfs — Grumpy — and two of their distant, little-known cousins — Chubby and Flabby.

Three years ago, my firm created a metabolic detox. It’s 3-4 shakes a day and contains real food — protein, carbs, fat and fiber, each packed with vitamins. It’s a 21-day program and you MUST strength train to shed the fat. I was hesitant to do it, but wanted to provide a safe, smart alternative to a traditional cleanse. It also helps people with cravings and hunger, which is the enemy when it comes to weight loss.

Fact: Only 2 percent of all dieters succeed after 5 years and the other 98 percent fail. Loss of muscle is the simple reason why. Most cleanses make that success rate even lower. Surprised?

Jim Karas donated his fee for writing this column to Warm Blankets. For more information, go to .

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