The Lemonade Diet was originally known as the Master Cleanse Diet, created in the 1940s and updated in 1976, according to Audrey Young, MS, RD, LDN, a registered dietitian in Newton, Mass. Young says that although the diet was not originally intended to be a weight-loss diet, the high-profile celebrities who have lost weight doing the Master Cleanse Diet/Lemonade Diet are helping to make this diet one of the most popular weight loss fads.
How the Lemonade Diet Works
The Lemonade Diet was designed to flush toxins out of your body, which are presumably caused by an unhealthful diet, inadequate physical activity, and negative thinking. “The goal is to eliminate toxins and wastes, and cleanse your kidneys,” says Young.
The Lemonade Diet claims to clean out not just your kidneys, but also your digestive tract, glands, joints, muscles, and blood, helping you lose weight and get healthier in the process.
According to Young, when you are on the diet, each day you will drink six 10-ounce glasses of water mixed with organic maple syrup, freshly squeezed lemon juice, and cayenne pepper. “There is also a one-quart salt wash, or saline wash, in the morning where you put two tablespoons of salt in a quart of water [and drink it],” she says.
People go on the Lemonade Diet anywhere from a few days to up to 14 days.
Pros and Cons: What Health Professionals Have to Say
Young says that there is no evidence of any positive effects of going on the Lemonade Diet-Master Cleanse Diet, but there are numerous negative ones, including:
There’s no real need to detoxify. There is no scientific evidence that you need to help your body detoxify itself. Young says that your liver does an adequate job of cleansing your body of any toxic substances, so detoxification is not necessary.
You’ll have problems keeping off the weight. When you are on the diet, there is no doubt that you will shed some weight, but you will most likely quickly regain any weight you lose. “It is so extreme and people almost always gain their weight back,” says Katherine Tallmadge, MA, RD, national spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association and author of Diet Simple: 192 Mental Tricks, Substitutions, Habits and Inspirations. “The key has got to be that you transition to a healthier way of living.”
You’ll develop nutrient deficiencies. “It’s deficient in calories, vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients,” says Young. When you don’t supply your body with the nutrition it needs, you are at risk of becoming dangerously deficient in key areas.
Your metabolism will slow. “Because there is no protein in the Master Cleanse Diet, your body uses your muscles as a source of protein,” says Young. When you lose muscle, your metabolism slows, and you will have a harder time maintaining a healthy weight over the long term.
You may experience harmful health effects. “The diet can be dangerous if you have certain health conditions, especially diabetes,” Young says. Even in healthy people, Young adds, it can be unwise, since it does not teach you any good eating habits and can result in slowed metabolism.
If you are considering doing the Lemonade Diet, you may want to reconsider. While the diet may help you lose weight in the short term, the weight that you lose will primarily consist of water and muscle mass, resulting in slowed metabolism and potentially excess weight gain in the future.