When someone utters the word ‘cleanse,’ a few things might come to mind—hunger and suffering among them. Thankfully, expert advice (and horror stories) has shown us that putting ourselves through the misery of week-long liquid diets doesn’t do our bodies any good long-term. In fact, these intense cleanses often deprive us of the calories we need to function properly and leave us lacking in important nutrients like protein, essential fatty acids, fiber, and electrolytes, according to Harvard Medical School.
So, no, you don’t need to go hardcore to press the ‘reset’ button, but that doesn’t mean you can’t jump-start a healthier routine after slacking. To help you do it in a healthful, balanced way, we asked top health and fitness pros to share what they do when they’re in need of a clean slate.
In the Kitchen
Wake up with water. Every expert we talked to had the same top tip: drink more water. Why? “Your kidneys are your body’s natural cleansing organ, and they need water to make sure you’re flushing your system out so that you feel your best,” says Abbey Sharp, R.D., founder of Abbey’s Kitchen. It doesn’t matter so much how you drink it—whether it’s plain water, sparkling water, or lemon water—just that you do.
To make sure you’re getting enough, pay attention to your pee. “If you’re seeing bright yellow, it’s usually a sign that you’re not getting enough water,” explains Sharp. The goal is for it to be a pale-yellow hue—any darker and you need to grab a glass of H20, stat. “If you feel thirsty, you’re probably already really dehydrated,” she adds.
Add apple cider vinegar. If you want to level up your morning hydration routine, Molly Kimball, R.D., nutrition manager at the Ochsner Fitness Center in New Orleans, suggests spiking your glass with apple cider vinegar, which supports healthy blood sugar, and contains B vitamins, calcium, potassium, and antioxidants. She likes to add two to three tablespoons of ACV to warm water, green tea, or sparkling water every A.M. to start the day on a healthy note.
Focus on fiber. If there’s one nutrient you should hone in on when hitting the reset button, it’s fiber. “It’s important for promoting a healthy gut, and also keeps us feeling full longer so we don’t get blood sugar spikes,” says Sharp. A few of Sharp’s fibrous go-to’s include: split peas (16.3 grams per cooked cup), broccoli (5.1 grams per cup), raspberries (eight grams per cup), pears (5.5 grams per medium fruit), and bran cereal (seven to eight grams per cup). Women should aim for 25 grams each day, while men should shoot for 38 grams.
Juice your veggies. Though we’re definitely not suggesting you consume nothing but juice for days at a time, there are some upsides to keeping it in your daily routine. For instance, Kimball likes to drink cold-pressed veggie juice in the afternoon—typically a blend of greens (like spinach or kale), beets, turmeric, ginger, black pepper, and cilantro—to help her get in an extra serving of vegetables and feel energized for the rest of the work day.
Pro tip: If you don’t have a juicer or a quality juice shop nearby, Kimball recommends adding powdered greens (Amazing Grass is her favorite brand) to water or smoothies. Just peek at the label to make sure your powdered greens contain a variety of different-colored vegetables and no added sugar, she says.
Add collagen to your coffee. “Instead of adding sugar or drinking it black, I make my coffee pull double-duty as breakfast or a snack by adding a scoop of Vital Proteins collagen to it,” says Kimball. This protein is important for strong, healthy nails, hair, skin, and joints—and can make your usual cup of Joe more satiating.
Switch up your shopping. When Carrie Underwood’s trainer, Eve Overland, C.P.T., needs to revamp her healthy-eating routine, she heads to the farmers market or grocery store with three missions: Buy a vegetable you like but rarely cook with, one that you’ve eaten before but have never cooked with, and one you’ve never tried or seen before. Once you’ve picked your produce, “find some yummy recipes and go to town,” she suggests. “Doing this with friends can also be fun and motivating.”
Watch your language. Don’t worry, potty mouths—we’re not saying you can’t drop an F-bomb when necessary, but a crucial part of giving your health that fresh slate is getting rid of the ‘good food’/‘bad food’ language we often use, says Sharp. “When we label foods as ‘bad,’ we tend to feel so deprived that we want them even more and end up bingeing,” she explains. The best way to approach a healthy cleanse is to concentrate on choosing the foods that make you feel the best and celebrating those awesome choices. Focus on the following: fiber- and nutrient-rich green veggies (like spinach, kale, and Swiss chard), eggs (for satiating protein and a range of nutrients), nuts (for unsaturated fats, fiber, and protein), and Greek yogurt (for calcium, vitamin D, and protein).
In the Gym
Prevent procrastination. It’s easy to stay in bed, scrolling through social media until—boom—all of a sudden a half-hour has flown by and you don’t have time to exercise. That’s why fitness coach Tiffany Rothe uses the “1,2,3 Go” trick. “The first thing I do when I wake up is count ‘1, 2, 3,’ then I jump out of bed, brush my teeth, and work out for at least 10 minutes,” she says. “I’ll even sleep in my workout clothes if I have to.” Why? Working out in the A.M. means there’s no ‘I need to exercise’ cloud hanging over your head later in the day—and Rothe says it encourages healthy decisions and productivity all day long.
Do a fasted workout. After going off the healthy diet and fitness rails, Joey Thurman, C.P.T., co-host of Home Sweat Home, often schedules fasted cardio first thing in the morning when his body is primed to utilize fat for energy, rather than carbs. Exercising before breakfast can significantly increase fat-burning throughout the day, according to a small study published in PLoS One.
Thurman recommends intervals: “I do eight rounds of 30-second sprints, followed by one-minute breathers.” He follows up his morning sweat with some greens, fruit, and a protein source to fuel muscle recovery.
Step in the sauna. “I am a big fan of infrared saunas,” says Overland. “Nothing says ‘cleanse’ to me more than a good sweat.” Many people leave the sauna feeling renewed—likely from sweating out so much water—and Overland finds the heat can also soothe sore muscles and rejuvenate the skin. Research suggests saunas work their magic by increasing circulation, and that regular sessions can support heart health long-term. Overland hops in the sauna for 30 minutes at a time, and follows it up with a cool shower. Just make sure you’re well-hydrated, and listen to your body when you’ve had enough.
Sign up for class. “If you’re used to doing the same old workout routine, it may be more of a challenge to get motivated to go back into doing it,” says Overland. That’s why she suggests signing up for a group exercise class. “You know you have to show up at a certain time, there is a clear beginning, middle, and end, and you won’t be tempted leave early,” she explains. “The energy is high, the music supports you, and you don’t have to think. Just do.”
If group classes aren’t your thing, consider hiring a trainer or online coach. “It doesn’t have to be for forever or a huge financial commitment,” says Overland. “Just enough time to change up your protocol.” You’ll get a fresh perspective that supports your goals and a workout that’s designed just for you.