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Want to drop those extra pounds that have been sneaking up over the past few months? You may consider fasting as a quick way to shed the weight.
While methods like intermittent fasting are a bit less drastic, restricting the eating window to 8-12 hours a day or choosing just 2 days a week to restrict calorie intake, other forms of the diet trend are much more intense.
One of these fasting methods that has been popular among celebrities and gotten attention as a way for people to lose weight and detox their bodies is the Master Cleanse diet. (You may remember Beyoncé touting the diet as the secret to her weight loss for her role in “Dream Girls”.) But does it work? And more importantly, is it safe?
What is a liquid fast?
Many people fast for a day or so, as part of their religious and spiritual practices. Some fast to “cleanse” their bodies, and others fast as a way to lose weight quickly. Liquid fasts are a popular fasting method to lose weight, but they can be a hazard to your health. There are various types of fasts designed with this goal in mind. Here are a few:
- Water: This involves water, but no food. Many patients are instructed to do this, up to 24 hours prior to surgery, in order to keep their digestive tracts clear, so there won’t be complications when they’re under anesthesia.
- Fruit juice: These have been very popular. They usually focus on organic fruit juices. But people can also include vegetables — either raw or cooked in soups. Either way, they’re consuming few calories.
What is the Master Cleanse?
The Master Cleanse is an intense 10-day liquid fast that was originally penned by Stanley Burroughs in his book, “The Master Cleanse” in 2013, and has morphed into many iterations since. It is also called “The Lemonade Diet” because it basically entails water fast with a little bit of sugar (maple syrup) thrown in to give a slight energy boost. Dieters are supposed to adhere to this fast for a minimum of 10 days. Every day, they drink six to 12 cups of this sweetened concoction for total calories somewhere between 650 and 1,300 per day.
The ingredients of the Master Cleanse lemonade are:
- 2 tablespoons of lemon juice (8 calories)
- 2 tablespoons maple syrup (100 calories)
- pinch of cayenne pepper (0 cal)
- 1 cup water (0 cal)
Is the Master Cleanse healthy?
While fasting for several days (assuming your fluid intake is sufficient) is not harmful, there’s no evidence supporting its benefits. However, fasts lasting for more than a week, even with some minimal amount of calories, can damage your health. You need to consume enough protein for your body’s needs. If you don’t have to eat protein, your body starts to break down your muscle (which is protein) in order to get the necessary amino acids (the building blocks of protein). A long-lasting fast can damage your heart, which is a muscle, as well as your liver and kidneys, which can decrease in size if you don’t ingest enough protein. Insufficient protein will also impair their functions.
Does fasting cleanse the body?
There is no scientific evidence that fasting detoxes the body. Our bodies are already pretty self-sufficient. The liver is the body’s natural detox centre. Other organs, including the lungs, the kidneys and the skin, also remove impurities and toxins from the body. A fast may give the perception of “cleaning out” your body’s impurities, but that’s not what happens. While some people reportedly feel great after fasting, others feel sluggish, tired, achy and unfocused. That’s because they’re often not getting sufficient calories. (It’s important to note that these kinds of fasts involve drinking a lot of water and ingesting some salt in order to support the body’s normal salt and water balance.)
Often people who are trying to “cleanse” their bodies, will also use colonics or enemas. These can be risky to your health because they can alter your body’s overall salt and water balance. This is also true for herbal tea laxatives.
If you don’t eat and you drink a lot of water, you will urinate frequently. And if you eat a few carbohydrates, you’ll also further increase water loss. But this won’t help you lose weight. You’re only depleting your body of fluids, which may make it seem like you’re actually losing weight. Of course, if you eat few calories, you will lose weight quickly, but that doesn’t mean you will keep it off. As the saying goes: easy off; easy on.
The Bottom Line
The results of the Master Cleanse may be drastic, yes. Put simply: If you consume fewer calories, you will lose weight. But fasting for an extended period of time to lose weight quickly as done in the Master Cleanse can put metabolic stress on your body. After fasting for a few days, you risk damaging your body. Losing muscle mass is very unhealthy. Plus, any weight you lose quickly, you will put back on just as easily.