The Master Cleanse, also known as the lemonade diet, is an extreme dietary cleanse, which has you consume a concoction of lemon juice, cayenne pepper, maple syrup and water for at least 10 days. You also conduct a nightly saltwater flush and take a laxative tea. Beyonce, Jared Leto, Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher have all reportedly followed this plan to remove supposed toxins from their body and lose weight. The Master Cleanse is a type of fast; it includes no solid food. Although you may be allured by the quick weight-loss and alleged feelings of well-being, the cleanse has no basis in science and is contrary to long-term weight-loss and health goals.
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The Master Cleanse Regimen
First published by alternative medicine practitioner, Stanely Burroughs in the 1940s, the Master Cleanse reemerged as a vogue trend in the late 1970s. The original intention of the 10-day fast wasn't to create weight loss, but to clean out the colon and remove environmental toxins from your body. For a minimum of 10 days, you're instructed to consume only six to 12 glasses of a special "lemonade." Each glass contains 2 tablespoons each of lemon juice and maple syrup, 1/10 teaspoon of cayenne pepper and water.
Every morning involves chugging 4 cups of salty water; each evening you consume a cup of herbal tea that contains a potent laxative. Absolutely no solid food is consumed.
Side Effects of Master Cleanse
Each day's consumption of "lemonade" amounts to about 650 calories total. You shouldn't consume fewer than 1,200 calories per day to lose weight and generally need between 1,600 and 2,400 calories per day to support your body's function and energy. The Master Cleanse represents a severe and potentially debilitating calorie deficit. You'll lose weight because of this calorie deficit, but a lot of it will be muscle and water rather than fat.
Without adequate calories, you may feel dizzy, nauseous and weak. The laxative and the diuretic effects of the saltwater and lemon juice can lead to dehydration. If you have kidney or heart conditions, the diet could be dangerous.
No Food is Allowed on the Master Cleanse
One of the primary intentions of the program is to abstain from food so the body doesn't waste energy on digestion, but focuses on "purging toxins." You'll find it hard to attend dinners out or family meals. If you decide to eat even a small amount, you might suffer serious digestive distress as a result of the laxatives.
As a result of shunning solid food, the plan contains almost no nutrients. Exercise is also discouraged while doing the Master Cleanse because you won't have enough energy. The denial of food for 10 days makes it almost impossible for you not to binge when you return to eating solid food. You'll likely gain back most or all of the weight you lost relatively quickly.
A Better Way to Lose Weight
The allure of quick weight loss is appealing, but it's likely too good to be true. You don't learn positive dietary habits that will serve you for a lifetime of weight management. Even if your intention is to use the cleanse to kick start a healthier eating regimen, you may find it unsustainable and uncomfortable and quit before the 10 days are up.
Cutting processed foods out of your diet can make you feel better, which explains some of the Master Cleanse's purported benefits. Instead of starving yourself though, adopt a diet rich in lean proteins, fresh vegetables and whole grains. Keep your portions moderate if you want to lose weight. Stay away from refined grains, such as white flour as well as sugar, soda, alcohol and saturated fats. This whole-foods approach will also give you enough nutrition and calories to exercise and burn fat, which is a healthier way to lose weight while maintaining muscle.
- The New York Times: I Heard It Through the Diet Grapevine
- U.S. News and World Report: Master Cleanse
- New York Daily News: Creator of Master Cleanse, the ‘Lemonade Diet’ Celebs Love, Pens Second Book, ‘The Master Cleanse Coach’
- National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases: Weight-loss and Nutrition Myths
- Los Angeles Times: With Master Cleanse, Clarity Gained -- With a Twist
- Health: I Survived the Master Cleanse—Then Gained All the Weight Back