The lemonade diet, also known as the Master cleanse, is a modified juice fast popular with celebrities who want to cleanse their bodies and lose weight fast. Dropping pounds can be attractive to some, but experts support healthier methods for maintaining weight loss.
Do you still have questions about the Master cleanse? There is a breakdown of what it is, how to follow it, and what you need to know about the risks.
What is the Master Cleanse?
Stanley Burroughs wrote a book called The Master Cleanser back in the 1940s. The revised version of the book was released in 1976, and it became mainstream. The cleanse captured the attention with questionable claims of quick weight loss and its ability to treat any health ailment.
The Master cleanse lemonade is made with water, fresh lemon juice, cayenne pepper, and pure, organic maple syrup. This drink can be consumed six to 12 times a day for a period of 10 days. You can sip on a saltwater flush in the morning and a senna leaf tea before bed, both of which can help with excess water.
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How does it help you lose weight?
Cleansing your body is one of the health claims, but it is not really necessary. Our bodies have a natural process of ridding themselves of toxins and doing a healthy cleanse is about supporting that process and reducing external stressors.
It’s based on fasting principles.
The Master cleanse is a diet that does not allow for the consumption of food. Some temporary weight loss can be caused by a program that eliminates food. The weight loss is the result of consuming very few calories over several days, since the Master cleanse is a modified fast. This rapid change in weight is not sustainable as all the weight lost is water weight.
There are some reported benefits to fast. A study was published in January of this year that looked at a Buchinger periodic fast program with a diet of only fruit and vegetable juices, as well as tea and mineral water, and a fast period of between four and 21 days. The diet is a little different from the Master cleanse, but both programs allow you to reach a fasted state. The study found that after a year of observing, periodic fasting led to weight loss and improvements in several cardiovascular risk factors.
Lemons have been shown to improve weight loss due to their vitamins C and E content. A study published in the Journal of Ayurveda and Integrative Medicine states that low levels of vitamins C and E are associated with increased body mass index and central fat distribution. The good cholesterol is associated with higher HDL levels, which are associated with increased vitamin C intake. The study found that drinking a beverage of lemon water and honey during a four-day fast led to an average weight loss of almost five pounds.
There are no studies that support the claims made by the Master cleanse that it can remove harmful toxins from the body or that it can improve overall health.
What are the health risks?
While you may lose a few pounds and feel less bloated after 10 days on the Master cleanse, there are some health risks you should know about before you take the plunge.
It can cause undesirable side effects.
Low calories can cause or exacerbate dizziness, shakiness, lightheadedness, fatigue, and lack of mental clarity, according to dietitian Gabrielle McGrath, M.S., R.D., LDN. Not to mention, you may experience extreme hunger from the lack of sufficient calories.
It could be dangerous for people with certain health conditions.
People with blood sugar regulation issues need to be especially careful with fast-mimicking diet. People with serious medical conditions need to be very careful when considering a cleanse with low calories. The Master cleanse should not be used by pregnant women or women who are breastfeeding.
The cleanse can cause dehydration, due to the intense calories restriction, as well as if you’re “purging” toxins without balancing them back.
It may trigger disordered eating patterns.
A history of eating disorders should prevent anyone from following this diet, since it increases the risk of re-offending.
It can cause muscle loss.
Losing weight is only part of the equation for many people. Gaining or preserving lean muscle mass and feeling fit are equally important. A program like the Master cleanse, which requires very few calories and causes rapid weight loss, has the potential to work against that goal and cause a loss in muscle mass.
It’s not very sustainable.
Philadelphia-based weight loss expert Charlie Seltzer, M.D., points out that essentially, all weight lost is water weight. “With severe calorie and carbohydrate restriction, sugar that is stored in the muscle is used for energy, and every molecule of stored sugar binds to three molecules of water, so the scale can drop dramatically in a short period, but that doesn’t indicate fat loss,” he says.
As soon as the cleanse is over, the weight has a chance to come back on if you don’t eat again.
How to follow the Master Cleanse.
Proponents of the diet follow a protocol despite the lack of evidence and potential risks. Discuss your plans with your doctor before you start the Master cleanse diet.
Here is how it was done.
A special drink is consumed for 10 days and contains freshly squeezed lemon juice, cayenne pepper, pure maple syrup, and water. There is no food or other calories-laden beverages allowed.
A saltwater flush and several glasses of lemonade are consumed each morning, followed by several glasses of lemonade throughout the day. It is up to the individual to decide when to drink the lemonade, as long as they drink at least six to 12 glasses a day. The day ends with a cup of senna-based herbal tea.
To prepare the body for 10 days of a liquid-only diet, it’s recommended to ease into the program by eliminating processed food and sugar, alcohol, caffeine, dairy, and meat, for three days. During this time, pureed soups, broths, and fresh fruit and vegetable juices are allowed. After the 10 days are done, it’s best to ease out of the cleanse slowly by periodically adding in solid foods.
Master Cleanse drink recipes.
Here are the recipes for drinks that are part of the diet. The saltwater flush is consumed in the morning, followed by as many glasses of lemonade as necessary. You simply mix the ingredients in a glass.
- The fresh lemon juice was not lemonade or concentrate.
- Pure organic maple syrup has a grade B.
- A dash of cayenne pepper is about a tenth of a cup.
- There are 8 to 10 ounces of spring water.
- A quart of warm water.
- There are 2 ounces of non-iodized salt.
What do the experts say?
So, do the experts recommend the Master Cleanse? While many professionals have their own opinions, the verdict from McGrath and Seltzer is clear: It’s best to proceed with caution.
The benefits are not worth the risks, according to McGrath. It can cause muscle loss, it is not an enjoyable way of eating, and it is not sustainable.
She says that the body’s kidneys and liver are natural detoxificationifiers, meaning that structured detoxes are not necessary. She recommends drinking more water and eating more fruits and vegetables to maximize your vitamins and minerals. All of the essential vitamins and minerals play a role in your body’s natural detoxification process.
More specifically, McGrath recommends cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts, along with allium veggies like garlic and onions, which contain certain sulfur-based compounds that help activate detoxification enzymes and promote other detox-related functions.
Seltzer doesn’t like this plan because of the weight loss benefits. If you want to lose weight, you should avoid cleanse. This plan doesn’t address the issues that get people into trouble in the first place, so they will still be there when the cleanse is over. If you are going to do it anyway, make sure you talk to your doctor first to make sure it isn’t dangerous for you.
Seltzer says the best way to lose weight is to eat healthy foods and move more. He says that it depends on your lifestyle, food preferences, activity level, and other unique factors. Some people do well with intermittent fasts, while others need to eat breakfast to maintain a calories deficit. The bottom line is that you should experiment with what works best for your body. You might lose water weight, but it usually comes back on once you start eating regularly.
The bottom line.
The Master cleanse is a radical change from a standard diet without clinical proof or evidence that it works. The first thing you need to do is talk with your doctor or registered dietitian about the cleanse. They can help you determine if the benefits of a restrictive diet outweigh the risks.
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