When it comes to weight loss, lemon water may help a bit, but it's not a magic potion for melting away extra pounds. In fact, it may be the water more than the lemon that helps you lose the weight. If you're struggling to drop unwanted pounds, consult your doctor or make an appointment with a registered dietitian for help and guidance.
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Lemons and Weight Loss
While lemons may not hold the key to unlocking your thin self, substances in lemons helped rodents lose weight in one study. The polyphenols, which are plant compounds that also act as antioxidants, in lemon peel -- some of which are also found in the juice -- may help stimulate the liver to burn fat, according to a 2008 study published in Journal of Clinical Biochemistry and Nutrition. This study found that supplementing rats on a high-fat diet with lemon polyphenols helped prevent weight gain and the accumulation of body fat better than rats simply fed a high-fat diet. While this research shows a that a link between lemons and weight loss may be possible, not all animal studies translate to humans, and clinical trials need to be conducted in people before any claims can be made.
If you're working out, the vitamin C in the lemon juice may help your body burn more fat, according to a 2005 article published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition. The authors report that getting an adequate intake of vitamin C helps the body burn 30 percent more fat during exercise. Most importantly, people who carry more body weight tend to have lower levels of vitamin C. Juice from one lemon has 18 milligrams of vitamin C, and you need 75 to 90 milligrams a day.
Benefits of Drinking More Water
When you're trying to lose weight, adding more water to your diet may be beneficial. Drinking 2 cups of water before each meal helped a group of overweight and obese adults following a weight-loss diet lose more weight -- 4 more pounds over 12 weeks -- than those simply following the diet, according to a 2010 study published in Obesity. The researchers concluded that the water helped the group fill up faster so they ate even less. While water may help you feel more full, however, there's also some evidence it may give your body a calorie- and fat-burning boost, according to the authors of a 2008 study published in the journal Obesity. If you don't drink water because it doesn't have any flavor, adding lemon may encourage you to drink more and get the weight-loss benefits of the calorie-free beverage.
Making Lemon Water for Weight Loss
Calories from all sources count when you're trying to lose weight. To keep calories in check with your lemon water, it's best to keep it simple, making your refreshing drink with only water and lemons. The juice of one lemon has 11 calories. Squeeze half a lemon in 2 cups of water to make a 5.5-calorie drink -- which makes it essentially calorie-free. For each whole lemon you squeeze into your water, you get 20 to 25 percent of your daily vitamin C needs. If you prefer, add the cut and peeled fruit to your drink and muddle it, then remove any large pieces, for a natural beverage that includes the pulp.
You may be tempted to add sweetener to turn your lemon water into a type of lemonade, but adding 1 tablespoon of sugar bumps the number of calories in your drink up to 45. And honey isn't any better, adding 64 calories per tablespoon.
You may want to drink your lemon water with a straw to prevent the acidity in the lemon juice from affecting your tooth enamel.
Diet and Exercise Too
Your lemon water may help a little bit with your weight-loss efforts, but the only way to lose successfully is to make a concerted effort to eat better and be more active. Weight loss is about creating a negative calorie balance so your body burns more than you feed it. Filling your diet with low-calorie, nutrient-rich foods, such as fruits, veggies, whole grains, lean proteins and low-fat dairy, may help you limit calories to create that deficit. Finding ways to add activity to your day helps you burn more calories to widen the deficit. That extra activity can include both planned exercise, such as a daily run, and moving more doing everyday things, such as taking the stairs instead of the elevator.