What Is The Master Cleanse — And The Truth About Whether It Really Sheds Toxins & Pounds

Want to get your “summer body” fast? The Lemonade Diet may be the way to do it, but is it heathy?

What Is The Master Cleanse Diet Lemonade Cleanse Lemonade Diet?

Almost everyone wants to feel skinny and “detoxified” — the idea of ridding your body of built up toxins is the cornerstone of most fad diets and “skinny teas”. But, what is the “master cleanse” (or “lemonade diet”)? Believe it or not, even though many of us may have just recently read about it, it’s been around for decades.

We're all late to the “cleansing party” I guess.


Personally, I’ve never struggled with my weight (go ahead - boo. I get it.). But I HAVE looked into some of these “detox” drinks before for detoxing and, well, constipation (I bet you’re less envious of the way my body works now, huh?).  

With summer sneaking up on all of us, it can be tempting to want to rapidly lose those pesky few pounds you haven’t lost from winter in order to look your best in that new bikini.

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Or maybe you’re just feeling sluggish and tired, and you're curious about the diet that Beyoncé made famous. Either way, anytime we want to change something about our bodies, whether it’s the way we feel or look, we generally look to our diet for the answers.


When you get a pimple you think, “I must be eating too much sugar” or “I’m not drinking enough water” or “I just ate too much greasy food this week”. I do it too — it’s really probably just a stress zit from overthinking the zit in the first place, am I right?!

So it’s no wonder that when we’re not happy with the way our bodies look and feel that we automatically blame our diet (seems reasonable).

Diet is important, but that doesn’t make every fad diet and cleanse healthy and/or safe for you. Some can actually be quite dangerous.


Always consult with a doctor before doing anything too drastic to your diet.

So, let’s look into this “lemonade diet” and see if it’s effective (or even safe).

What is the Master Cleanse Diet?

The “Master Cleanse” (also called “the lemonade diet”) is basically just a juice fast (or "cleanse" as the fitness industry likes to coin it), that is known for helping you lose weight and “wash out” toxins from your body (more specifically, from your intestines and colon).


It’s called a “lemonade diet” simply because the cleansing water, or juice, that you're drinking can taste like lemonade — it's a simple recipe of lemon juice, all natural pure maple syrup, and cayenne pepper. Okay... spicy lemonade.

How does the Master Cleanse work?

The Master Cleanse works by fasting for 10 days and “cleansing” your body with only liquids. To detoxify your body during these 10 days, you drink a lemonade that is made with two tablespoons of fresh lemon juice (you actually have to buy lemons — no processed anything), two tablespoons fresh, pure maple syrup, and 1/10 teaspoon of cayenne pepper added to eight ounces of “pure” water (aka filtered or spring water).


You drink this water whenever you feel hungry (a minimum of 6-12 glasses a day), along with a laxative tea before bed (they recommend a senna leaf tea) and then you drink salt water flush (yuck) in the morning before starting the lemon water again.

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Does Lemonade Diet reduce toxins?



According to The Master Cleanse website, this diet removes so many toxins that it “[proves] that no one needs to live with their diseases”.

However, in an article posted at the height of this diet’s popularity in 2006 entitled Master Cleanse = Master Scam, Dr. Ed Zimney, a board-certified physicianwith more than 30 years of experience, says that while it’s true that the body absorbs toxins from the environment (that are generally already taken care of by the bodies’ filters (i.e. liver, kidneys, GI tract, lungs)), he says that “drinking this peppered lemonade could not in any possible way eliminate any of these toxins.”

He goes on to emphasize that much of what we hear about toxins (and how to get rid of them) is just simply untrue, and that the reason people feel lighter (AKA skinner) and detoxified after 10 days on the cleanse is because "the Master Cleanse program is basically a way to starve yourself, with just enough sugar to keep you going for a few days."

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Is the Master Cleanse diet healthy?

This is debatable. Some say it’s great for detoxing and teaching your body to need less food. The health benefits many claim to receive after the Lemonade Diet are most likely a person by person case, considering everyone is different and has different health needs.

For example, if you’re dangerously over weight then this could benefit you by teaching your body to eat less, eat better, and start living a healthier lifestyle (if used properly).


However, if you’re already living a relatively healthy lifestyle and are a healthy weight, then the risks (such as headache, fatigue, irritability, aches, pains, white tongue, blood sugar regulation problems, etc.) probably aren’t worth losing those few holiday pounds you can’t seem to shake.

It would be safer to discuss ways to lose a few pounds through a safer version of healthy diet and exercise without cutting out all food with your doctor. 

Dr. Zimney’s article on the Master Cleanse states that

“This entire diet is basically similar to some laxatives, and taking a laxative tea is also recommended along with the lemonade. Laxative abuse is, unfortunately, an all too common form of misguided dieting.”

And according to the organization for National Eating Disorder’s website, laxative abuse can cause: dehydration and electrolyte imbalances (extreme cases can result in damaged organs or even death), dependency on laxatives to produce a bowel movement, and damage to the colon (increased risk for colon cancer and IBS, potential for developing “lazy colon”, and even liver damage).


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Will the Master Cleanse make you lose weight? Will you gain it all back?

The simple answer is yes, the Lemonade Diet will, without a doubt, help you lose weight. You are practically guaranteed to shed pounds because you are basically starving yourself for 10 days. But a lot of the weight you'd be losing probably isn't fat — much of it is water and muscle mass (because you aren't supposed to exercise while doing the cleanse). 


However, the potential for you to gain the weight back is very high, because at some point you'll have to start eating solid food again. Generally, people get back to their pre-cleanse weight within a few weeks.

But there's an upside: if you use this cleanse as a way to jump start your healthier eating habits (or if you try doing a shorter version of this cleanse, and not the full 10 days), you may see some positive weight loss benefits. For some, it seems that this method that forces you to drink and survive on significantly less calories can create habits later on that help you stick to smaller meals after the completion of the cleanse.

A great way to “hit the restart button” on your eating habits, if you will. 



Just like anything else in life, a juice cleanse isn’t for everyone.

Whether or not you decide to do The Master Cleanse depends on your weight loss goals, your health, and your overall nutritional needs. Always be sure to consult a doctor before making any drastic changes in your diet.

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Nicole Bradley-Bernard is a writer who needs coffee more than she needs anyone’s approval. She enjoys putting bright colors in her curly brown hair, spending time outside on cool days and being with her partner in life, Eric, who she considers a continuing source of inspiration.