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What does a coffee cleanse do?

A coffee cleanse is a type of detox or cleanse diet that involves drinking coffee and avoiding all solid foods for a set period of time. The premise is that the caffeine in coffee will boost metabolism and fat burning while the lack of solid food will give the digestive system a break. Coffee cleanses tend to last anywhere from 1-5 days. They have become trendy in recent years as a quick fix weight loss strategy. But do coffee cleanses really work and are they safe?

How a Coffee Cleanse Works

A typical coffee cleanse involves replacing meals with black coffee, coffee with a small amount of milk or cream, and water for a few days. Some versions allow for the addition of a small amount of sweetener like honey or stevia. The rules of coffee cleanses can vary, but they typically involve:

  • Drinking 3-5 cups of black coffee per day
  • Drinking herbal tea or water in between coffee
  • No solid foods at all
  • Lasting anywhere from 1-5 days

The caffeine in coffee acts as a stimulant that can accelerate metabolism and increase fat burning. Going without solid food allows the digestive system to rest and supposedly eliminates toxins. Some people also use laxatives, enemas or colonics during the cleanse to clear out the digestive tract. The promise is that a short term coffee cleanse can jumpstart weight loss, boost energy, clear skin and “reset” your system.

Claimed Benefits of a Coffee Cleanse

Here are some of the touted health benefits of following a coffee cleanse:

Weight loss

Coffee increases metabolism and fat burning, so in theory replacing meals with coffee means the body will burn fat for fuel and weight loss will occur. However, any weight lost is likely to be temporary as it’s mainly water weight and not sustainable fat loss.

Reduced inflammation

Going without solid food gives the digestive system a rest which may reduce inflammation. This may provide temporary relief for those with inflammatory bowel diseases like Crohn’s and colitis.

Elimination of toxins

Proponents claim going without solid foods allows the body to eliminate built up wastes and toxins. However, there is no scientific evidence that short term fasting clears toxins.

Increased energy

The caffeine in coffee provides an energizing effect that can temporarily increase alertness and focus.

Clearer skin

Anecdotal reports suggest coffee cleanses can clear up skin. This may be due to a short term anti-inflammatory effect and eliminating inflammatory foods. However, these effects likely don’t last.

Is a Coffee Cleanse Safe?

Despite the hype around coffee cleanses, they come with several risks and downsides:

Extremely low calories

Coffee cleanses provide almost zero calories, far too low to support basic bodily functions. Consuming so few calories signals starvation to the body which can slow metabolism.

Cleanse Duration Average Calories Per Day
1 day 100-200 calories
3 days 100-200 calories
5 days 100-200 calories

Caffeine overdose risks

Drinking large amount of caffeinated coffee can lead to jitteriness, anxiety, heart palpitations, gastrointestinal distress and inability to sleep. Caffeine intoxication occurs at around 1,000 mg per day.

Coffee Type Caffeine Per 8 oz Cup
Regular drip coffee 95-200 mg
Espresso 240-720 mg
Instant coffee 27-173 mg

Consuming 3-5 cups of coffee a day while cleansing can easily exceed safe caffeine limits.

Electrolyte imbalance

Not consuming any solid foods can disrupt electrolyte levels, especially sodium and potassium. This can lead to fatigue, headaches, cramping, irregular heartbeat and muscle spasms.

Blood sugar crashes

Going extended time without eating solid food leads to low blood sugar levels. This causes hypoglycemia which can result in shakiness, anxiety, confusion, sweating and fainting.

Nutrient deficiencies

A coffee cleanse provides almost zero macronutrients (fat, protein, carbs) and micronutrients (vitamins, minerals). Just a few days without these can impact health.

Gallbladder issues

Rapid weight loss and consuming high fat coffee with cream or butter may exacerbate gallbladder problems. It can cause gallstones and gallbladder attacks.

Digestive problems

Black coffee has a laxative effect for some people. Additionally, the lack of solid food for extended periods may disrupt bowel function and gut bacteria balance.

Heartburn and acid reflux

Coffee is acidic and consuming it black without food can aggravate heartburn, acid reflux and GERD.

Bad breath

Coffee’s aroma and sticking to a liquid diet can contribute to halitosis during a cleanse.


Caffeine withdrawal between cups of coffee may trigger headaches. Dehydration from excessive caffeine intake can also cause headaches.

Better Alternatives for Health

Rather than a drastic coffee cleanse, try these safer, more sustainable options to boost health:

Regular exercise

Aim for 30-60 minutes of exercise like jogging, biking, strength training or yoga at least 3-5 days per week. This provides enormous health benefits.

Balanced, nutritious diet

Eat a diet full of lean proteins, healthy fats, complex carbs and unlimited fruits and vegetables. Avoid processed foods.

Adequate sleep

Get 7-9 hours of quality sleep per night to allow the body to fully rest and repair.

Stress management

Make time for relaxing activities like massage, meditation, reading or taking epsom salt baths to lower stress.

Water & electrolytes

Stay well hydrated by sipping water with fresh lemon or lime throughout the day. Consume electrolytes through coconut water or electrolyte supplements.


A coffee cleanse is unlikely to provide meaningful or long-lasting health benefits. At best, it may stimulate temporary weight loss, energy and clearer skin for a few days. But the risks outweigh any benefits. Extremely low calorie intake, caffeine overdose, nutrient deprivation and disrupted digestion pose health dangers with coffee cleansing. You’re better off focusing on sustainable, balanced nutrition, exercise, sleep and stress management instead of short term cleanses. A coffee cleanse can potentially do more harm than good.