Can you lose weight with Master Cleanse?

The Master Cleanse, also known as the lemonade diet, is a liquid fast that has been around since the 1940s. It involves drinking 6-12 glasses per day of a lemonade-like concoction of lemon juice, maple syrup, cayenne pepper and water for a period of 10 days to 2 weeks. Proponents claim that the Master Cleanse can help you lose weight quickly while also removing toxins from your body.

What is the Master Cleanse?

The Master Cleanse was created by Stanley Burroughs in the 1940s. It was initially marketed as a cure for ulcers and other stomach issues, but later gained popularity as a quick weight loss method. Here is a summary of the basic Master Cleanse instructions:

  • Drink 6-12 glasses per day of lemonade made from lemon juice, maple syrup, cayenne pepper and water. No other foods or beverages can be consumed except for this lemonade drink.
  • Take a laxative tea at night and a saltwater flush in the morning to eliminate waste and toxins.
  • Continue drinking the lemonade for 10-14 days straight. After finishing the cleanse, you should slowly reintroduce solid foods.

The lemonade consists of the following ingredients:

  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp organic maple syrup
  • 1/10 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 8 oz water

This drink is intended to provide all the calories and nutrients needed during the Master Cleanse fast. The maple syrup provides a small amount of vitamins and minerals, while the cayenne pepper is thought to boost metabolism and help with weight loss.

Does the Master Cleanse Work for Weight Loss?

The Master Cleanse is essentially a juice fast, since no solid food is allowed. Like other fasting and liquid diets, it will lead to weight loss – but most of this initial weight loss is water weight, not fat.

However, proponents claim that if done for 10-14 days, the Master Cleanse can help:

  • Lose significant weight, with claims of 10-40 lbs lost
  • Reset your appetite so you eat less after the cleanse
  • Break bad eating habits and cravings
  • Eliminate toxins from your body

So in theory, doing the Master Cleanse for an extended period may lead to some fat loss in addition to water weight – but the rapid weight loss is unlikely to be sustained.

Weight Loss Results from Studies

There aren’t many scientific studies on the Master Cleanse itself. But there is research on other liquid diets that can give us an idea of how much weight loss the Master Cleanse can produce:

  • In one study of obese patients on a supervised liquid diet, participants lost around 2.6 lbs per week over 12 weeks. They lost an average of 31 lbs total. (1)
  • In another trial of liquid meal replacements over 16 weeks, subjects lost around 127 lbs on average. However, these liquid diets provided 900-1000 calories per day rather than the minimal calories of the Master Cleanse. (2)

Based on this, doing the Master Cleanse for 2 weeks may result in around 5-10 lbs of weight loss on average. Some people will lose more weight if they have a lot of water weight to shed initially.

Is the Weight Loss Permanent?

While the Master Cleanse can produce quick weight loss of 5-15 pounds in 2 weeks, the majority of this weight loss is likely to be regained once you stop the cleanse and resume normal eating.

Liquid diets like the Master Cleanse are considered a “crash diet.” They are extremely low in calories, which will bring fast results – but are difficult to sustain permanently. You may lose weight rapidly at first, but end up regaining much of that weight later on.

For lasting weight loss, most experts recommend losing 1-2 lbs per week on a balanced, nutrition eating plan that you can maintain long-term. Extreme diets like the Master Cleanse tend to backfire once you go off the diet and return to normal food.

Tips to Keep the Weight Off

Here are some tips to make weight loss from the Master Cleanse more permanent:

  • Transition slowly off the cleanse – Don’t immediately go back to your usual diet. Slowly reintroduce healthy solid foods like fruits, vegetables and lean proteins over several days.
  • Stick to healthy, low calorie foods – Focus on fresh, whole foods like fruits, veggies, lean meats, fish and legumes after the cleanse.
  • Exercise regularly – Add in cardio and strength training to help maintain a calorie deficit and fat loss.
  • Drink water – Stay well hydrated to prevent regaining water weight.

Pros and Cons of the Master Cleanse

Here are some potential benefits and downsides to keep in mind with the Master Cleanse diet:

Potential Benefits

  • Significant short-term weight loss
  • Body detoxification from eliminating solid foods
  • Breaks bad eating habits or addictions to unhealthy foods
  • Inexpensive and simple to follow
  • No calorie counting required

Potential Drawbacks

  • Extremely restrictive and low in calories – high risk of nutritional deficits
  • Initial weight loss is mostly water weight, not fat
  • Likely to regain weight after the cleanse ends
  • May cause side effects like fatigue, nausea, dizziness, dehydration
  • Not a sustainable long-term eating plan

Is the Master Cleanse Safe?

The Master Cleanse is intended to be followed for a short period of 10-14 days. When done for this brief time, it is generally considered safe for most healthy adults.

However, there are some precautions to be aware of:

  • Not suitable for anyone under 18 years old, pregnant or breastfeeding
  • People with diabetes, cancer, liver or kidney disease should avoid it due to the extreme calorie restriction
  • May cause side effects like fatigue, dizziness, nausea, dehydration, constipation
  • Lack of protein can cause hair loss and loss of muscle mass if done long-term
  • Reintroduce solid foods slowly after finishing cleanse to avoid digestive issues

It’s a good idea to consult your doctor before trying the Master Cleanse, especially if you have any underlying medical conditions.

Healthier Alternatives for Weight Loss

While the Master Cleanse may produce quick weight loss, it is an extreme diet that is difficult to maintain. There are healthier and more sustainable ways to reach your weight loss goals.

Here are some alternatives to try instead:

  • Balanced calorie deficit – Aim for a 500-750 calorie deficit each day to lose 1-2 pounds weekly through diet and exercise.
  • Portion control – Use smaller plates, weigh and measure portions to eat less without feeling deprived.
  • High protein – Eat lean protein with meals to stay full longer.
  • Low carb – Limit added sugar and refined carbs like bread, pasta, sweets.
  • Intermittent fasting – Alternate between fasting and restricted eating windows throughout the week.
  • Meal replacements – Use shakes or bars for one or two meals per day.

Any of these alternatives can produce sustainable fat loss over time without the extreme calorie deprivation of the Master Cleanse.

Sample Meal Plan After Master Cleanse

When you are ready to add solid foods back into your diet after finishing the Master Cleanse, it’s important to reintroduce foods slowly to avoid digestive issues. Here is a sample 3 day plan to transition off the cleanse:

Day 1
  • Breakfast: 1/2 grapefruit + 1/2 cup Greek yogurt
  • Lunch: Green salad with lemon juice dressing + 3 oz grilled chicken
  • Dinner: 1 cup vegetable soup + 1/2 banana
Day 2
  • Breakfast: 1 scrambled egg + 1 slice toast
  • Lunch: Spinach salad with veggies + 2 tbsp hummus
  • Dinner: 3 oz salmon + 1/2 cup cooked brown rice + sauteed broccoli
Day 3
  • Breakfast: 1/2 cup oatmeal + 1 tbsp almond butter
  • Lunch: Turkey wrap with veggies + apple
  • Dinner: 3-4 oz lean pork tenderloin + roasted Brussels sprouts

Continue to add in more fruits, vegetables, lean protein, whole grains, healthy fats and low fat dairy over the following week as your body adjusts to regular meals again.


The Master Cleanse is a liquid diet that promises quick weight loss and body detoxification. However, most of the initial weight loss is water and likely to be regained. While the cleanse may have some benefits short term, it is a very restrictive fad diet that can be unhealthy and unsustainable long-term.

If you want to try the Master Cleanse, consult your doctor first and be mindful of any side effects. Focus on reintroducing solid foods slowly after the cleanse. For lasting weight loss, a balanced nutrition plan with exercise is a healthier approach.

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