The Lemonade Diet, also called the Master Cleanse, is a liquid-only diet consisting of three things: a lemonade-like beverage, salt-water drink, and herbal laxative tea.
The claim is simple: Give it 10 days (or more) and you’ll drop pounds, "detox" your digestive system, and feel energetic, vital, happy, and healthy. You’ll also curb cravings for unhealthy food.
It all started with Stanley Burroughs’s book, The Master Cleanser. There are many variations, and Peter Glickman continues Burroughs’s legacy with his own book, Lose Weight, Have More Energy and Be Happier in 10 Days, and web site.
Does It Work?
Because you're getting so few calories, you'll probably lose weight. You’ll also be losing muscle, bone, and water. And you're likely to gain the weight right back.
There's no proof that detoxifying leads to long-term weight loss. Plus, you don't need to detox your body -- your liver takes care of that.
For lasting change, you're better off eating a healthy diet of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy, and lean proteins like fish, skinless chicken or turkey, and healthy fats like olive oil.
What You Can Eat and What You Can't
You're only allowed a salt-water drink, a "lemonade," and an herbal laxative tea for the first 10 days. You can't have any solid food, and you can’t drink alcohol.
After 10 days, you can gradually add back foods, but only a few at first, starting with juice and soup, and leading to raw fruits and vegetables. After this, the plan calls for eating very little meat and no dairy.
Level of Effort: High
Limitations: According to the web site, you must follow the diet exactly or it won’t work and can leave you feeling tired, sick, achy, and with cravings.
Cooking and shopping: You need very few ingredients, and prep work is quick. You can make the drink ahead of time and stash it in the fridge.
Packaged foods or meals: No.
In-person meetings: No.
Exercise: Not required.
Does It Allow for Dietary Restrictions or Preferences?
Vegetarians and vegans: Yes.
Low-fat diet: Yes.
Low-salt diet: You can swap out the salt-water flush for a cup of herbal laxative tea.
Gluten-free: There is no gluten in the three drinks you're allowed to have on the first 10 days of this diet.
What Else You Should Know
Support: Online support in the form of a website and email support is available for a one-time fee of $8.95.
Cost: No costs other than buying the ingredients, unless you sign up for the optional online support.
What Dr. Hansa Bhargava says:
Does It Work?
If weight loss is your goal, it may work temporarily. Anytime you limit your food intake, especially that drastically, you will lose some weight.
The problem is, you will lose muscle mass. This diet puts you at risk for nutritional deficiencies, too. Also, you will likely gain the weight back really quickly once you start eating normally.
Is It Good for Certain Conditions?
No. It's an unhealthy way to temporarily lose weight.
The Final Word
This is not a diet I would do myself or recommend to my friends. If weight loss is the goal, it is better to lose weight gradually with a balanced diet that makes sure you get the nutrients you need. Cross this one off your list.