From nutritionists and personal trainers to Hollywood divas, everyone is talking about lemon water for weight loss. This beverage is promoted as a cure-all. Not to mention the dozens of recipes available, each with its unique benefits. Contrary to what you may have heard, lemon water won't melt away excess fat or take years off your face, but it has its place in a balanced diet.
Lemon water is really simple to prepare. Pour the juice of one lemon into a jug filled with warm or cold water. Add cinnamon, cayenne pepper, ginger and other ingredients to enhance its flavor and fat-burning effects. Swap sugar for stevia. Enjoy this refreshing beverage in the morning or anytime throughout the day.
Separating Fact From Fiction
This refreshing beverage is all the rage on social media. Health bloggers swear by it for a lean body, pain relief, improved immune function, enhanced fitness and more. Some say it's an instant cure for everything from premature aging to sluggish digestion and hormonal disorders. Unfortunately, these claims are overhyped.
As its name suggests, lemon water contains two main ingredients: lemon and water. Neither has magic properties when it comes to weight loss or general health. Also, no lemon water detox recipe or lemon water diet plan will help your body flush toxins.
The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health makes it clear that detox diets and cleanses have no health benefits. They might help you lose weight, but that's because they're very low in calories. Additionally, the results won't last.
Your body processes and eliminates chemicals, toxins and metabolic waste through several major organs, including the skin, liver and kidneys. Basically, it has its own detox mechanisms, so it doesn't make sense to drink lemon water for detox or live off juices to get rid of toxins. Certain foods, though, can improve your body's ability to eliminate waste. Berries, leeks, garlic, cruciferous veggies and green tea are just a few examples.
Read more: How to Detox in 3 Days Without Juicing
You can drink lemon water for weight loss, but you won't get results unless you eat clean. Lemon water can't offset the damage caused by bad eating. The key is to enjoy it as part of a healthy diet. For example, you can substitute soda, ice tea or cocktails for cold lemon water to cut sugar and calories.
Lemon Water for Weight Loss
This beverage doesn't torch fat, but it can make it a little easier to reach your weight loss goals. Plain water, with or without lemon, has been shown to reduce total food intake in a February 2016 study published in the Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics. The subjects who increased their water intake consumed less sodium, cholesterol, fat and sugar.
A June 2016 review published in Frontiers in Nutrition indicates a strong link between increased hydration and weight loss. Drinking more water helps expand cell volume, which in turn, can boost your metabolism. Furthermore, it stimulates lipolysis, the process by which your body breaks down fatty acids and glycerol to use them for fuel.
Read more: 12 Ways to Make Water Taste (Much) Better
Another theory is that increased hydration boosts thermogenesis, leading to greater energy expenditure. Mild but chronic dehydration has the opposite effect and may result in weight gain. Furthermore, proper hydration may lower the risk of Type 2 diabetes, according to the Frontiers in Nutrition review.
Lemon may help with weight loss, too. This fruit contains vitamin C and naringin, two antioxidants that aid in weight management. As a research paper published in the Journal of Nutritional Science and Vitaminology in May 2014 points out, antioxidants may play a role in the prevention of obesity complications. A diet rich in vitamin C may help protect against stroke, high blood pressure, plaque buildup in the arteries, obesity and gallbladder disease.
This water-soluble vitamin promotes weight loss in several ways. First of all, it modulates lipolysis. Secondly, it improves your body's ability to process glucose. It also has beneficial effects on blood sugar levels and may reduce inflammation, which is a major contributing factor to Type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome and other obesity-related disorders.
Citrus Flavonoids Fight Obesity
Naringin and other flavonoids in citrus fruits, including lemons, have been studied for their role in obesity treatment. According to a review published in the journal Food Chemistry in April 2016, these bioactive compounds may reduce fat accumulation and increase fat breakdown. Furthermore, they may attenuate obesity complications, such as elevated cholesterol and triglycerides, inflammation and high blood pressure.
Another review, which appeared in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences in April 2016, suggests that naringin, naringenin, hesperidin and other citrus flavonoids may improve insulin sensitivity, decrease glucose storage and reduce lipid accumulation. These findings are similar to those reported in the Food Chemistry review.
As the researchers note, these antioxidants exhibit anti-obesity and anti-diabetes effects. Naringenin and hesperidin, for example, decrease cholesterol levels and other blood lipids, fight free radical damage and reduce plaque buildup. An antioxidant-rich diet can improve your health and reduce your risk of developing obesity-related disorders.
How to Make Lemon Water
This beverage contains only small amounts of lemon, so it's unlikely to produce dramatic results in terms of weight loss. However, it's a lot healthier than soft drinks and other sugar-sweetened beverages. You can add ginger, fresh mint, turmeric, cucumbers and other natural ingredients to enhance its flavor and therapeutic power.
Start with a basic lemon water recipe:
- 4 cups of water (warm or cold)
- 1 lemon
- Liquid stevia (optional)
- Squeeze the lemon in a jug filled with water. Another option is to slice the lemon, remove the seeds and place the slices in a mason jar. Add water and refrigerate overnight.
- Add ice cubes if desired.
- Pour a few drops of liquid stevia in for extra sweetness (optional).
Take this recipe to the next level by adding other healthy ingredients, like:
- A few sprigs of mint
- Fresh basil leaves
- Freshly squeezed grapefruit juice
- Cucumber slices
- Lime juice
- Cayenne pepper
Cayenne pepper, for example, contains capsaicin, a bioactive compound with thermogenic and appetite-suppressing properties. According to a December 2015 review published in the International Journal of Obesity, this nutrient may reduce hunger and decrease metabolic slowdown, decreased fat oxidation and other effects of caloric restriction. Its anti-obesity effects are backed up by multiple studies, according to Bioscience Reports.
If you drink lemon water for weight loss, add one teaspoon of freshly grated ginger to the mix. This spice may improve energy metabolism, suppress appetite and increase gastric motility, according to a May 2019 research paper published in Food Reviews International. However, more studies are needed to confirm its long-term effects.
Drink this beverage first thing in the morning or anytime throughout the day. If you have a sweet tooth, use liquid stevia to enhance its flavor. Raw honey will work too, but it's quite high in calories. One tablespoon has 64 calories, 17 grams of carbs and 16 grams of sugar.
You can still reap the benefits of honey, though. Mix it with lemon water and take a few sips after exercise.
When you're done working out, your body needs a quick source of fuel to replenish its glycogen stores and recover from training. Fast-digesting carbs, such as those in honey, are the best choice. On top of that, lemon water will keep you hydrated and maintain your electrolyte balance, due to its high potassium levels.
- NIH.gov: "Detoxes and Cleanses"
- The Association of UK Dieticians: "Detox Diets"
- Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: "What's the Deal With Detox Diets?"
- Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics: "Plain Water Consumption in Relation to Energy Intake and Diet Quality Among US Adults, 2005–2012"
- Frontiers in Nutrition: "Increased Hydration Can Be Associated With Weight Loss"
- Diapedia: "Lipolysis and Lipogenesis"
- Journal of Endocrinology: "Diet-Induced Thermogenesis: Fake Friend or Foe?"
- Journal of Nutritional Science and Vitaminology: "Vitamin C in the Treatment and/or Prevention of Obesity"
- NCBI: "Obesity and Inflammation: The Linking Mechanism and the Complications"
- Food Chemistry: "Biotransformation Effects on Anti Lipogenic Activity of Citrus Extracts"
- NCBI: "Molecular Mechanisms of the Anti-Obesity and Anti-Diabetic Properties of Flavonoids"
- International Journal of Obesity: "Capsaicinoids: A Spicy Solution to the Management of Obesity?"
- Bioscience Reports: "Dietary Capsaicin and Its Anti-Obesity Potency: From Mechanism to Clinical Implications"
- Food Reviews International: "Evaluation of Ginger (Zingiber Officinale Roscoe) on Energy Metabolism and Obesity: Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis"
- USDA: "Pure Raw Honey"
- NCBI: "High-Quality Carbohydrates and Physical Performance"
- FAO.org: "Nutritional and Health Benefits of Citrus Fruits"