The Master Cleanse promises to flush toxins from your body and help you drop significant pounds in just 10 days. You subsist on drinks containing lemon juice, water, maple syrup and cayenne pepper -- no whole food allowed. Stars including Jared Leto and Beyonce have used the cleanse to lose weight and allegedly remove toxins from the body. The drinks are easy to make at home, but the diet is not necessarily one that you should follow. It lacks nutritional value, causes serious side effects and doesn't promote long-term weight loss.
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Ingredients in the Lemon Water Drinks
The lemon, pepper and water diet originated with health guru Stanley Burroughs, who first presented it in the 1940s and republished it in 1976 -- promoting a resurgence. You drink 12 glasses of the beverage daily, which contains 2 tablespoons of lemon juice, one-tenth of a teaspoon of cayenne pepper and 2 tablespoons of maple syrup along with water.
Although lemon juice is a diuretic and cayenne pepper slightly stimulates your metabolism, the drink doesn't have magical weight-loss properties. It's what the diet doesn't include that makes you lose weight. You only take in about 650 calories per day, far below the average of about 2,000 most adults need. When you create this dramatic calorie deficit, weight loss is inevitable.
Lemon, Pepper and Water Not a Sound Weight-Loss Plan
Drinking nothing but lemon, cayenne pepper, water and maple syrup isn't a sound way to lose weight. Without whole food for 10 days, or longer, you miss out on essential nutrients, including protein that supports muscle maintenance. Much of the weight you lose on this extreme fast comes from valuable lean muscle. You also get no bone-supporting calcium, gut-enhancing fiber, brain-boosting fat, fracture-preventing vitamin D or energy-supporting vitamin B-12.
The extreme calorie deprivation slows down your metabolism, so when you go off the diet, you end up quickly regaining any weight you lost. Repetitive sessions of the diet plan set you up for nutritional deficiencies and a weaker immune system. Subsisting on just lemon water, maple syrup and cayenne can be dangerous for people with diabetes or heart and kidney conditions. If you follow the Master Cleanse and consume an herbal tea laxative in the evening along with the lemon drink, you could end up dehydrated and weak.
Negative Side Effects of Fasting
Going off whole food for at least 10 days and drinking just the water, lemon, maple syrup and cayenne drinks is said to cleanse your body of toxins. You have effective detoxifying organs, specifically the liver, kidneys and lymphatic system -- an unsound fast isn't necessary to make these organs work.
When only consuming the drink for 10 days, you may experience nausea, headaches, dizziness, cravings, fatigue, vomiting, hot bowel movements and irritability. Proponents of the diet claim that these are signs that the program is working; in reality, it's just the lack of nutrition, calories and food that's causing these side effects.
Healthier Ways to Lose Weight
The drinks are easy to make, but eating no whole food for 10 days is not easy, nor safe. It also doesn't teach you to exercise or navigate restaurants and a grocery store. If you want to keep weight off for life, these skills are essential.
If you're looking for an easy way to lose weight, try eating moderate portions of whole, unprocessed foods. When you fill your plate with lean proteins, whole grains and fresh vegetables, you avoid many of the "toxins" that the drink promises to help you shed, but you still get to chew. You also get a quality nutrient load with options, such as lean meats, tofu, fish, cruciferous vegetables, leafy greens, brown rice and quinoa. Moderate portion sizes help you eat less so you create a reasonable calorie deficit -- one of 500 to 1,000 calories per day to lose 1 to 2 pounds per week. You don't want to eat fewer than 1,200 calories per day, as this low of an amount slows your metabolism and promotes muscle loss.