Should Cleanses Be a Part of a Runner's Diet?

The 21-day cleanses that Gillespie prescribes cut out gluten, dairy, sugar, alcohol and caffeine, but still allow you to eat at least one normal, healthy meal each day. "The type of cleanses I recommend are safe for everyone and not calorie restrictive," she says. "It is all focused on consuming good, whole foods."

Gillespie cautions runners to make sure they consume enough protein during a cleanse to prevent them from losing muscle mass. She suggests a daily protein meal replacement shake during the detox. One of the main reasons protein is so important is because of the associated amino acids. "Amino acids help fuel the detoxification pathways," explains Gillespie. "A lot of the nasty toxins, like mercury, have a high affinity for fat and hide out in fat tissue, so during a cleanse, a lot of those are dumped from fat cells."

More: How Runners Can Lose Fat and Improve Body Composition

To make sure you're consuming enough carbohydrates to fuel your workouts, you can simply add fruit to the protein shakes.

In addition to protein shakes, Gillespie urges runners to eat one balanced daily meal that include chicken or wild fish with a robust serving of vegetables. Runners might also want to include some extra carbohydrates, like sweet potatoes.

Just because you're on a cleanse doesn't mean you can't munch throughout the day either. "For runners I usually have them carry around whole-food snacks like a pear, almonds, or veggies and hummus because they burn more calories, and need to take in more to keep them running," Gillespie adds.

More: 10 Healthy High-Protein Snacks

Is a Cleanse Worth It?

A whole-foods cleanse brings you back to a healthy baseline without severely restricting calories and leaving you feeling entirely depleted. By adding foods back in one at a time post-cleanse, you will better understand which foods may have been giving you trouble before the cleanse. Indeed, many people have sensitivities to milk and gluten, but have no idea what is causing GI distress or sluggishness.

"It makes you more aware of what types of foods your body loves and the types that are taking a toll," explains Gillespie. Not only might this help improve your overall well-being, but it can also have a positive impact on performance. "If you're eating a food that your immune system doesn't like, it can slow you down in a number of ways, especially if it's contributing to inflammation."

More: 3 Post-Workout Meals That Lower Inflammation

From increased energy and mental alertness to sounder sleep and weight loss, many athletes discover a whole host of benefits that come along with cleansing. If you're considering jumping on the bandwagon and detoxing your diet this winter, consult a nutrition expert who can individualize the plan in order to keep you up and running throughout.

More: Will I Run Faster If I Lose Weight?

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