Master Cleanse Diet


In 1941, alternative medicine performer Stanley Burroughs introduced the world to the Master Cleanse Diet.  While erroneously referred to as a diet, the program is actually a body and mind detoxification program, which gained popularity in the 1990s when Peter Glickman mentioned the program in his book, Lose Weight, Have More Energy & Be Happier in 10 Days.  

Today, detox dieting is a multi-million dollar international industry that puts forth a variety of claims about its products, including their ability to cleanse the body of years of toxic build-up, boost energy, help with weight loss, improve mental clarity, and even return that glow to your dull skin.  

Several variations and offshoots of the Master Cleanse program are marketed today including the Lemonade Diet, the Maple Syrup Diet, and the 21 Pounds in 21 Days diet.    However, the Master Cleanse remains the most widely recognized.


The Master Cleanse Diet claims to aid in the removal of harmful toxins trapped in the body, promote weight loss, and cure a variety of other disorders through fasting, and the consumption of lemon-based drinks and laxatives.


Toxins from pollution, cigarette smoke, alcohol, caffeine, and processed foods build up in our systems and cause a host of health problems including weight gain, energy loss, and dull skin.  You can “cleanse” your body of these toxins and return to good health by fasting and drinking a specific drink combination of fresh lemons, maple syrup, cayenne pepper, and pure water.  

Program Overview

Participants do not eat any solid food during the main cleansing phase.  Supporters recommend that participants remain on the detox plan for at least 10 days; however, some advocate an even longer period of fasting.

There are three stages to the Master Cleanse/Lemonade Diet:

1.      Ease-In (also known as the pre-diet routine) – a three-day preparatory period where you gradually wean yourself off solid foods in preparation for the fasting portion of the program.

2.    Lemonade Diet – during the main phase, participants drink a minimum of 6 to 12 glasses (about 60 ounces) of the lemon concoction, and chase it down with a couple of laxatives a day.  No solid foods are allowed at all.  Participants are instructed to drink the mixture anytime they feel hungry.   At a minimum, 10 days on this phase is suggested, but some people have gone longer (up to a month or more).  

    According to participants, you know it’s time to come off this phase is when the white film that appears on your tongue during detox disappears and it turns pink and healthy again.  This supposedly is a signal that all the toxins have been removed from your body.

    Master Cleanse drink recipe:  2 tablespoons Grade A maple syrup, juice of half a lemon,     1/10th tsp of cayenne pepper, and one quart of spring water.

3.     Ease-Out – once the detoxification is complete, participants are encouraged to spend three days gradually returning to a healthier, more natural diet.  Over the course of those three days, participants start by drinking orange juice (Day 1), then juice blends,  soups, and broths (Day 2), and then healthier foods (Day 3).

Plan Strengths

Detox programs such as the Master Cleanse Diet are effective if restricted to just 2 or 3 days.  This abbreviated approach works well in riding the body of toxins, while also providing a psychological boost to any long-term weight loss regimen.  These types of programs are also good at getting people to really think about what they are putting into their bodies, and how they can potentially improve their eating habits.

Plan Weaknesses

The primary criticisms of the Master Cleanse Diet are that it is deficient in providing the necessary proteins, vitamins, and minerals needed. Additionally, vital electrolytes are lost.  Side effects and symptoms experienced, whether a result of the program or ridding the body of toxins is often severe.  Headaches, fatigue, vomiting, and nausea are commonly cited occurrences.  

Furthermore, there is no empirical or scientific evidence that supports this approach as an effective weight loss program.  Temporary weight loss is definitely assured, given the severe restriction in caloric intake, but over the long term, weight loss cannot be sustained.  Many people report regaining any weight loss.  


The Master Cleanse is not recommended solely as a way to lose weight and keep it off over the long term. In fact, there are much safer ways to lose weight without potentially incurring any long-term health risks.  However, a short-term detoxification program can be effective in cleansing the body of toxins, and setting yourself up to move forward toward embracing a healthier lifestyle.  

The information provided here is for educational or informational purposes only.  Dave DePew does not endorse any of the programs/services reviewed here. Before starting a new exercise regime or weight loss plan, talk with your doctor.

Additional Resources

Master Cleanse Diet,

The Lemonade Diet,

Modified Detox Diets Can Help With Weight Loss, CBS4com,

Detoxing: In pursuit of a body that’s pure, by Hilary MacGregor