The Juice on Juicing

7:30 am: workout. 10 am: marketing strategy meeting. 3 pm: tumbling class. 5 pm: all-star practice. 8 pm: perfectly balanced, high-nutrition meal you lovingly prepared at home. If you found yourself nodding until that very last part, you’re not alone—amidst all the demands of a typical day at the gym, finding time to eat ideal meals is often a tall task. So how do celebrities and star athletes stay energized and fit on their jam-packed schedules? The whispered word on the street is “juicing.”

No, we’re not talking illegal drugs. This juice is the grandma-approved kind: fruits and vegetables, liquefied through a juicer (or blender, if you prefer to retain more fiber). What makes juicing so special is that devotees say the right combos can help them lose weight, power up even more than from caffeine and even improve their looks and body function.

“Juicing has lowered my cholesterol about 90 points, and along with working out, it helped me lose about 18 to 20 pounds,” says Carlos Onofre, co-owner of Chatsworth, CA-based West Coast Rush, who favors green juices like wheatgrass. “I usually have it in the morning at least three times a week; I use it as a meal replacement.” Though Onofre admits that cleaning out the juicer can be “a pain,” he thinks the results are well worth it.

Wondering if juicing is worth your time and effort? Get a sense of what it’s all about:

Small sips, big impact: For those who think juicing can’t replace a big salad, think again. “In a fairly small glass of pressed juice, you’re capturing much of the nutrition found in several handfuls of produce,” says Cynthia Sass, MPH, RD, sports nutritionist to the New York Rangers and Tampa Bay Rays and author of S.A.S.S! Yourself Slim: Conquer Cravings, Drop Pounds and Lose Inches. Vouches Onofre, “It’s incredibly energizing; you instantly feel it.”

Careful about calories: Keep in mind that juicing sugary fruits can be a quick way to swallow more calories than you would if you were chewing. To keep sugars in check, “make sure to include green veggies and that no more than one-half to one-third of the ingredients come from fruit,” recommends Jared Koch, nutritional consultant and founder of the healthy eating site “Spinach or kale are great options, and adding lemon is also a [lean] way to enhance the flavor.”

Not so fast: An increasingly popular trend is the extreme “juice fast,” in which participants replace all their meals with juices for a set number of days. Some say the challenging ritual eliminates toxins and facilitates quick weight loss, but experts say it’s actually smarter to add juice to a healthy diet. “Without protein, you lack the building blocks needed to maintain or heal the muscle mass you have, or build new muscle tissue,” cautions Sass. “Also, if you aren’t taking in enough fuel, your metabolism may slow down in an attempt to become more fuel efficient.”

As far as the energized feeling that some claim they get from fasting, that could be your body going into starvation mode. “I’ve seen many people rebound-overeat after ending a juice cleanse because they felt so starved and deprived during it,” says Sass. “That yo-yo pattern can result in losing muscle during the cleanse and gaining body fat afterward.”

You get what you pay for: Kiwis and mangos and beets, oh my! Though it may be tempting to buy non-organic produce in order to save money, Koch is an advocate of playing it safe. “To avoid pesticides, choose organic—especially for fruits that go into the juicer with their skin on,” he recommends.

The type of juicer you choose matters, too. Traditional centrifugal juicers grind produce against a round, spinning blade and tend to be cheaper than “cold press” juicers. However, cold press juicers compress instead of grinding fruits and veggies, yield more juice and do a better job of juicing greens. Also, because cold press juicers don’t heat up, the juices tend to be more nutrient-rich.

An adventure for your taste buds: And the final reason to try juicing? The taste. “Today, I had celery, spinach, orange, carrots and a piece of pineapple,” says Onofre. “It might sound kind of disgusting, but I’ve actually let the kids try it, and they love it. It’s shockingly good.”

Visit the CheerProfessional blog for some awesome juicing recipes from our experts!

-Jamie Kiffel-Alcheh