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So I did a Detox

Nicole Cowell Detox Nutrition


A few weeks ago I finished up my first ever Detox. Let's just say it was an interesting experience! But first let me go back to the beginning and why I decided to do it.

At this point I should also say that I am writing this blog solely about my personal experiences and learnings. Other people may have difference experiences but these are mine.


Why do a detox?


First off, I am what you might call a skeptic when it comes to Detoxes. For people who are otherwise healthy, and don't have specific health issues, my belief was that detoxes are not necessary as the body is perfectly capable of detoxing itself on a daily basis and we don't need to do anything special to facilitate this. For this reason I have never done any sort of detox before now.

About a month or so ago I came across an email about a detox program being run with my gym. You might say this email came at the right time, as I was coming out of a heavy training cycle into a week  or two of deload, and I felt like I was in a bit of a diet rut. I have been counting macros for a long time and I felt like my diet could do with a bit of a shake up and a bit of an experiment.

As far as I knew I did not have any food intolerances or allergies. However, I thought it might be interesting to complete the detox to see if I did in fact notice any difference. My skeptics position was that I wouldn't notice anything at all, but you never know until you try it for yourself. So I made the decision to try it and I did.


The Details of My Detox


The detox ran for 2 weeks and involved the following:

  • No Alcohol - not a big issues for me as I am not a big drinker and would only have a glass or two of wine once or twice a month.
  • No Caffeine - I would typically have 2 espresso coffees a day and maybe a can of Diet Coke so I knew this was going to affect me.
  • No Gluten - I eat products containing gluten daily. This was going to be a big change!
  • No Dairy - I typically have milk in my coffee and I would also eat greek yogurt daily as a low fat protein/carb source. Cutting this out would also be a big change. I also eat the off bit of cheese here and there.
  • No Eggs - although I don't normally eat eggs daily I would eat eggs or egg whites a few times a week so this was going to be another challenge
  • No Processed sugars - as the overall detox program was focused on improving digestion and internal health it made sense to try and limit the processed sugars I was eating. 
  • I kept my macros exactly the same during the detox so as not to interfere. I was eating 245C/60F/140P before, during and after the detox.


Week 1


The weekend before I officially started I cut my coffee intake down to 1 coffee per day just to try and minimize the caffeine withdrawals that I knew were coming. But it didn't help - the withdrawals still came!

Day 1 - all was normal and ok. My body hadn't yet had any time to process any major changes so I felt fairly normal at this point but this was not to last.

Day 2 - the headaches began!

I was fully expecting to have caffeine withdrawal headaches and I was not wrong. What is hard to say was if the headaches were only from caffeine or from something else as well. It wasn't until day 6 that I had my first headache free day. Normally I expect to have caffeine withdrawal headaches maybe for 3 days but this was a bit unusual for them to extend to 6 days. I think the headaches must have been partly caused by something else - exactly what I am not sure!

For the first few days the headaches were my main symptom but I just generally felt terrible for that whole first week. Lethargic, lazy, unmotivated and sad. All of this was not unexpected and are fairly common detox side effects but it was not fun! 


Week 2


It wasn't until Day 8 that I actually started to feel normal again.  When I say normal I  mean normal, not any better than normal. I didn’t find any new magical energy. I didn't feel like I was sleeping any better than I normally do. I didn’t notice any improvement in my training, it was all just the same.

I did however notice that my recovery from training was worse. Even though I was doing deload training days my body was not recovering from training as well as it normally would and i felt a lot more sore than I normally do. Now I understand that it is hard to say exactly why this was the case as no training week is ever the same. However, I think one of the main reasons was that I had cut out the casein protein I used to have every night before bed. As casein is dairy I had cut it out and replaced it with a pea/rice protein powder and for me it was not the same. My body recovers better when I use casein.


The Challenges


One of the biggest challenges I found was the lack of variety in what I ate with the restrictions that I was on. I didn’t go and buy gluten free bread and other replacement products, as part of my intention was to keep my diet to whole foods. So if this was an ongoing lifestyle then I would investigate other product options but during this experiment I found it restrictive and not enjoyable for that reason. My husband will agree as he was on the receiving end of my daily complaints about food and was very happy when it came to an end.

I also found it harder to hit my macros. Part of this was lack of preparation and having to relearn what will and will not fit within the limits of what I could eat.

Eating on the run was also a bigger challenge. A lot of my carb sources are  either grab and go or very quick to prepare and quick to eat - this is very important when you have young kids and you run around all day going to school and sporting events etc. Under this detox I found it very hard to find quick food options that I could eat or grab in a pinch. This could probably be fixed with better planning and preparation but I found it challenging.


Post Detox and Reintroducing “Normal” Food


After the detox was over I was supposed to start adding back foods one at a time and reintroduce them slowly. For various reasons this didn't happen for me and I just introduced everything back all at once. In doing this had absolutely ZERO side effects. This essentially confirmed what I already knew,  that I don’t have any food intolerances and my body is capable of digesting gluten, dairy and eggs with no negative side effects (not noticeable side effects anyway).


The Good Things


Stopping caffeine has been a good thing. It has been exactly 3 weeks since the detox ended and I have had a total of 3 coffees in that time. I still enjoy a coffee but I like that I don’t ever feel like I “need” a coffee now and will only have one when I feel like it. Not to mention the money that I can save not having 2 coffees a day!

Just doing this diet experiment has been a good thing as it confirms what I thought I knew about my body. I went into it eating a relatively healthy and clean macro monitored diet. 95% of what I eat is prepared by me so I know exactly what I am eating and how much. I am no means perfect but I do eat a balanced diet that includes fruit, vegetables, meat, nuts, bread, pasta, milk, yogurt, peanuts, eggs and all those things in addition to treats (ice-cream several times a week for example). For me, there was no noticeable improvement in how I felt removing these things from my diet so I am very happy to be able to keep eating them again.

For anyone wondering whether I lost weight the answer is a little -  1 pound or 0.5kg. I wasn’t really expecting to lose weight as my macros are fairly close to maintenance numbers and I shouldn’t lose significant amounts of weight on those numbers, regardless of what food I eat to hit those numbers. In the end I think I lost a little because I was 100% strict and stuck to those numbers (or sometimes a little less) for 2 weeks).


My conclusions


I can now say I have tried a detox and whilst it was a good experiment, I didn't experience any significant changes that made me want to make any ongoing changes to my diet and overall I am very happy to go back to eating my healthy “normal” diet.  





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