Do You Really Need To Detox?

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Do You Really Need To Detox?

|By Anita Kus-Roberts|

I recently joined a new gym. The salesman offered his standard rant about the benefits of personal training and their brand of selectorized weight equipment and why I should buy into their training packages. Tuning out his sales pitch, my glazed over and wandered to a box of pills on his desk that claimed to be the “ultimate detox system.” Upon closer inspection, the packaging boasted magical claims:

  • Lose weight rapidly!
  • Improve your digestion!
  • Have healthier hair, skin and nails!
  • Eliminate cellulite!
  • Increase your energy!

While these claims are too good to be true, they got me wondering: what do people really think detox means, and does it belong in the serious athlete’s tool kit?

Detox programs are everywhere, and the term can mean virtually anything. They can last anywhere between one and 30 days, and they can take the shape of pills, diets, elimination programs and lifestyle makeovers — all designed to remove toxins from the body.

As schlocky as many of the programs may seem, athletes and competitors can certainly benefit from detox. When in serious competition mode, or in a caloric deficit over a long period of time, the body can accumulate chemical by-products in the liver and kidneys. These toxins will make the competitor feel weak, nauseated, or irritable and prone to sickness. Furthermore, the healthy foods that are consumed are no longer absorbed at maximum capacity. This can interfere with fat burning or quickly absorbing those BCAAs after a workout.

Fat ScaleFurthermore, just about everything we consume can have trace amounts of toxins that will end up stored in the body.   Strength and conditioning coach Jason Ferruggia recommends detoxing the liver to avoid excess estrogenic compounds building up in your body. To spell this out in layman’s terms, if you are a man, and you don’t want man-boobs or a spare tire, learn to detoxify your system. If you are a woman who accumulates a lot of weight around your hips, legs and buttocks, learn to detox.

So how do you properly detox your system? It’s a tricky question, especially with so many different products on the market claiming to do it for you.

I’m not a fan of the aforementioned boxes of pills that promise unbelievable results. A lot of these pills have another name: laxatives. You’ll have some cramping, lose some water weight, and have a great poop. That’s it — no weight loss or real detox will occur. And remember, these effects are short-lived.

So instead of buying a product and adding something to your system to do the work of detoxing, your best bet is to support the work of your body’s built-in detoxification organs — your liver and kidneys. The liver evolved to eliminate environmental toxins and pathogens and process the excess nitrogen that’s left behind during protein digestion, while the kidneys filter out urea and other waste from your blood. And thanks to millions of years of evolutionary tweaking, they do a better job of it than any pill or potion you’ll buy in a box.

Lemon & WaterSo how can you hone that detoxification process? Start by avoiding omega-6 oils, refined sugars, and especially alcohol. And consume plenty of choline, found in egg yolks and liver, which is essential for the liver to properly break down fats. You should also avoid environmental toxins by consuming organic foods. Stop buying things that come out of bags, boxes or windows. Drink hot water with lemon, and use fresh spices like turmeric and oregano. Keep your diet simple and fresh.

You need to clean out your system and let your organs rejuvenate, grow stronger and do what they’re supposed to do in the first place! After all, shouldn’t we let our bodies work at getting rid of the stuff we put into them rather than adding more? When did our bodies get so lazy in this regard? And who is convincing us that they need the crutch of external products to do this work for us?

If you are a competitive athlete, work with your trainer on a detox plan that complements your sport and your current eating and training cycle. You’ll benefit from a cleaner, all-natural diet that supports your natural processes. Take the time to let your body recuperate and grow using the tools it came with; your organs were designed to do this for you.

As for that gym membership, I did sign up, but only after turning down the unnecessary personal training by a teenager and the bottle of detox pills that somehow crept into the sign-up process. It seems to me that this beautiful new gym needs to detoxify its sales pitch.


Anita Kus-RobertsAnita Kus-Roberts

Anita Kus-Roberts is a trainer, figure competitor and fitness model who uses her extensive competition experience to transform the physiques and lives of her clients. As a performance nutrition expert, she brings to the table an equally extensive knowledge of nutrients, ingredients and their effects on various body types.

After 15 years studying ballet and contemporary dance and competing in track and field, Anita entered her first figure competition and fell in love with the sport. Since winning her first trophy, she’s gone on to compete in several national- and international-level competitions, and she’s appeared in numerous magazine spreads for publications like Oxygen and Inside Fitness.

Anita is driven by a dedication to expand her knowledge by keeping up to date with the latest research on training techniques and nutrition. Her unique approach to training involves understanding the specific needs and goals of each individual and finding the most effective path to reach them.


By |November 4th, 2012|Archives, Features|

About the Author:
Strong Athlete was founded in 2011 by Strength & Conditioning Experts PK Mills and Gaétan Boutin. With over 40+ years of combined experience in sports nutrition, athletics, and fitness, the Strong Athlete team is dedicated to helping athletes achieve their maximum potential through a holistic approach to training, nutrition, and mindset.

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