The Master Cleanse, also known as the lemonade diet, is a liquid fast used for quick weight loss. It involves drinking 6-12 glasses of a lemonade mixture made with lemon juice, maple syrup, cayenne pepper and water daily for a period of 3-40 days. Determining how long to follow the Master Cleanse depends on your goals and tolerance level.
What is the Master Cleanse?
The Master Cleanse is a liquid diet created by Stanley Burroughs in the 1940s. It involves drinking 6-12 glasses per day of a lemonade mixture of:
- 2 tbsp lemon juice
- 2 tbsp maple syrup
- 1/10 tsp cayenne pepper
- 8 oz water
In addition to the lemonade drink, you can also have herbal laxative tea at night and salt water flushes in the morning. No other food, supplements or liquids are allowed on the cleanse.
The Master Cleanse is intended to:
- Help with rapid weight loss
- Detoxify the body and rid it of toxins
- Reduce food cravings
- Improve digestion and eliminate constipation
- Boost energy levels
- Improve skin, hair, and nail health
It essentially gives your digestive system a rest while providing vitamins and minerals through the maple syrup and lemon juice. However, it is a very low calorie and nutrient diet, so it should only be followed for short periods of time.
Recommended Length of the Master Cleanse
Most experts recommend doing the Master Cleanse for only 2-12 days at a time. Here are the general guidelines on how long you can safely follow the diet:
|3-5 days||Beginners or those wanting a short detox or cleanse|
|5-12 days||Average length for those with experience doing cleanses|
|Up to 40 days||Should only be attempted by those who have done the cleanse multiple times|
Going longer than 12 days on the Master Cleanse is not usually recommended, as it may lead to nutrient deficiencies and health complications. Here is a more detailed overview of how long you can safely stay on the Master Cleanse:
Doing the cleanse for 3-5 days is a good option for beginners or those who just want to do a short detox or quick weight loss program. This length is enough to start burning some fat stores and eliminating waste buildup in the colon. It also gives your digestive system a break.
However, you will likely feel tired, irritable and hungry during this time. It is not a sufficient period to experience the full claimed benefits of the Master Cleanse, such as elimination of food cravings or improved skin tone.
5-12 days on the Master Cleanse is considered safe for most healthy adults. It takes 2-3 days for your body to enter into ketosis and start burning fat stores for energy. After 5 days, hunger and fatigue diminish as your body adapts. So by 5-12 days you can experience more of the benefits like improved energy, reduced food cravings and weight loss.
However, you may start to feel weak or light-headed as your calorie intake is very low. You should take care to rest and not overexert yourself. Digestive issues like constipation may worsen after the first few days due to lack of fiber. Drinking laxative tea can help.
Up to 40 days
Fasting for longer than 12 days on the Master Cleanse is only recommended for people who have successfully completed multiple shorter cleanses in the past. This extended 40 day option was outlined by Stanley Burroughs and is intended to treat chronic health conditions and eliminate stubborn toxins.
However, going longer than 2 weeks without solid food carries major health risks including:
- Dangerous weight loss and malnourishment
- Severely low energy levels
- Electrolyte imbalances
- Loss of muscle mass
- Hair loss or thinning
- Irregular heartbeat
- Other organ damage
Attempting an extended Master Cleanse longer than 12 days can be dangerous and should only be done under medical supervision. Most health practitioners advise against the 40 day cleanse.
Factors that Determine How Long to Do the Master Cleanse
So how do you decide what Master Cleanse duration is right for you? Here are some factors to consider:
Your health status
If you have any chronic health conditions, diabetes, eating disorders, heart disease, etc, you should not do the Master Cleanse without first consulting your doctor. Otherwise, the Master Cleanse may be safe for most healthy adults to try for a short period under 10 days. Start slow with a 3-5 day cleanse if it is your first time.
Your experience with fasting
Have you done the Master Cleanse or other juice fasts before? Beginners will want to stick to 3-5 days. But if you have successfully completed the Master Cleanse several times before, you can feel more comfortable doing a longer 10-12 day round.
Your tolerance for hunger and low energy
Some people feel fine on very low calorie diets, while others feel weak, dizzy and are easily irritated. Pay attention to how your mind and body respond as you begin the detox. If you feel good, you may be able to go longer than someone who feels depleted after just a few days.
Amount of weight you want to lose
Weight loss will be more rapid the longer you stay on the cleanse. Doing the full 10-40 day cleanse can lead to losing 10-40 lbs. But most of this is water weight that will come back when you resume normal eating. If you only want to lose a few pounds then a 3-5 day cleanse may be sufficient.
Why you are doing the cleanse
If your only goal is quick weight loss, a shorter 1-5 day cleanse makes sense. If you want to improve energy, skin, digestion and reduce food cravings, you may choose a longer 10-12 day cleanse to get the full benefits. Are you doing it for general health or to treat a specific condition? Talk to your doctor about what duration they recommend to meet your needs.
Tips for Completing the Full Master Cleanse
Here are some tips if you plan to attempt a longer 10-40 day Master Cleanse:
- Ease into it – Gradually reduce calories and cut out solid foods in the 1-2 days before starting the cleanse
- Stay busy – Boredom leads to thinking about food. Stay occupied with work, hobbies, reading etc.
- Drink plenty of non-lemonade fluids – Have herbal tea, water with lemon and dandelion root tea which acts as a diuretic
- Get plenty of rest – Your calorie intake will be low so conserve energy by resting as needed
- Use broths – If you feel faint or dizzy, drinking vegetable or bone broths provides electrolytes
- Plan to ease off slowly – Don’t go right back to eating pizza. Introduce fruits, vegetables and soups before resuming normal diet
It is also important to plan for potential side effects like headaches, fatigue, insomnia, nausea, dizziness, irritability and constipation. Keep your doctor informed if any symptoms cause concern.
Breaking the Master Cleanse with Food
Once you complete the number of days on the Master Cleanse you planned, you need to slowly ease yourself off the lemonade and back to solid foods. Here is a suggested timeline from registered dietician Katherine Zeratsky:
|Day 1||Drink orange juice. Eat raw fruits and vegetables.|
|Day 2||Eat cooked vegetables, salads and broth-based soups.|
|Day 3||Begin introducing denser proteins, starchy carbs and dairy products.|
|Day 4 and beyond||If you feel good, resume normal diet but aim to keep it healthy and well-balanced.|
Rushing back to normal eating or heavy junk foods can overwhelm your system and cause diarrhea, headaches and fatigue. Ease back in gradually.
Should I do the Master Cleanse? Expert Opinions
While the Master Cleanse has many devoted followers who return to it several times a year, most health experts have an unfavorable opinion of this extended fast:
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics advises against long-term fasting and colon cleanses. They say there is no evidence the Master Cleanse removes toxins and that it is not a cure-all. They recommend getting nutrients from a balanced diet rather than extreme starvation diets, which can be harmful.
The Master Cleanse is essentially self-starvation, so doctors do not recommend it beyond short 1-5 day periods. Prolonged fasting can result in vitamin and mineral deficiencies, organ damage, electrolyte imbalances and more. Dr. Michael Picco advises cleanses are unnecessary for healthy people and can be dangerous.
An evidence-based review in Scientific Reports found no difference between Master Cleanse lemonade and a placebo, casting doubt on any special detoxification properties. It concluded there is no quality research to substantiate the health claims made about the Master Cleanse.
The Bottom Line
The Master Cleanse is a radical fast intended to detoxify, spur quick weight loss and cure a wide range of ailments. However, most experts advise against following this very low calorie liquid diet for more than 2 weeks maximum.
Here are some final tips on how long you should do the Master Cleanse:
- 3-5 days is appropriate for beginners doing their first cleanse
- 5-12 days will provide more health benefits but may be challenging
- Extended cleanses up to 40 days are not scientifically backed and carry major health risks
- Listen to your body, go slowly and consult a doctor if considering Master Cleanse longer than 12 days
Ultimately there is no magic duration that is right for everyone. Start conservatively with the Master Cleanse to avoid potential harm. Be prepared for side effects like fatigue, dizziness, headaches and constipation. And resume a healthy, balanced diet slowly after finishing the Master Cleanse.