New Year Cleanses and Detoxes Are a Hoax! Instead, Try a Racing Weight “DQS Clean Streak”.
by Matt Fitzgerald
You don’t need to be a rabid fan of The Dr. Oz Show to know that diet “detox” and “cleanse” programs are all the rage. Examples include Dr. Junger’s 5-Day Gut Flush Cleanse and the Martha’s Vineyard Diet Detox™. By far and away the most popular day of the year on which to start such a program is January 1, a holiday that has become deeply associated with hitting the reset button on one’s health habits.
The only problem with dietary cleansing and detoxing is that it is a make-believe phenomenon. There are no foods that detoxify the body in any meaningful sense. The body detoxifies itself. I won’t waste any more time here debunking the notion of dietary cleansing and detoxing. It’s already been done very well in articles such as this one (The Guardian) and this one (Lifehacker).
If you’re an endurance athlete, you have a second reason not to engage in this bogus practice, which is that it doesn’t mix very well with training. Consider the Nature’s Secret 5-Day Fast and Cleanse™. How much exercise do you think you’ll feel up to on your fifth day of surviving on Colon Clear™ tablets and Super Nutrition™ mini-tablets?
I don’t mean to be a total party pooper. I recognize the importance of symbolism, renewal, and cleansing the body and soul for a new start each year. I have no quarrel with the general practice of starting off the New Year with some sort of dietary reset. But cleanses and detoxes might hurt you and probably won’t help. As an athlete, you should be sure to choose a program that actually supports your training.
So here’s what I propose as an alternative to the phony detoxes and cleanses:
The 7-Day DQS Clean Streak
“DQS” stands for “Diet Quality Score,” it’s a simple, practical method of rating the overall quality of one’s diet from day to day that is detailed in my book Racing Weight and overviewed in Racing Weight Cookbook.
Put simply, the DQS is a simple way to track how well you’re eating:
- High-quality food types such as vegetables and whole grains earn positive points.
- Low-quality food types such as processed meats and fried foods subtract points.
You keep a running tally throughout the day, and after your last meal or snack of the evening you are left with a total that represents your DQS for that day.
At certain times, though, it is sensible to aim a little higher. One of these times is during what I call a Racing Weight Quick Start, which is a 4- to 8-week period immediately preceding the formal beginning of a race-focused training cycle, when you want to shed excess body fat more quickly than it is possible to do when you are eating to support intensive training.
Another of these times is when you want to get back on track after a period of slacking off—like New Year’s Day.
Executing the 7-Day DQS Clean Streak is simple: All it requires is that you go 7 days without consuming anything that subtracts points from your daily Diet Quality Score. Specifically, that means no refined grains, sweets, fatty or processed meats, fried foods, low-quality beverages (e.g. high-calorie coffee drinks), or alcohol beyond the first drink of the day.
It’s not a big ask, but it will do your body good, it will feel good, and oh-by-the-way it will also allow you to train normally, unlike a “cleanse” or “detox”.
For full details on how to track your DQS, check out my free online DQS Calculator. There’s also a smart phone version available for iOS and Android devices for $0.99. Just search “DQS” in your app store.
Healthy New Year!
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Racing Weight is a proven weight-management program designed specifically for endurance athletes. Revealing the latest research and drawing from the best practices of elite athletes, coach and nutritionist Matt Fitzgerald lays out six easy steps to help cyclists, triathletes, and runners lose weight without harming their training.