Welcome back! Our first installment profiles the Lemonade diet. Like so many other fad diets, the origin of these crazy ideas is unknown and frankly who would want to admit they concocted this plan. I pick this one first because it highlights the most dramatic point I try to make when talking to a group of personal trainers. That point is that weight loss is relatively easy to achieve; just don’t eat. However, this is not recommended for a number of reasons that all relate to negative health outcomes associated with not eating. Thus, the devil is always in the details and again, weight loss should not necessarily be your goal. Fat loss should always be the goal and if you just so happen to lose weight, then fantastic. Alternatively, remember that if you do manage to lose weight and replace it all with muscle you won’t lose weight, but I can promise you’ll be skinnier, your clothes will fit better and frankly you’ll look better.
Fat loss folks, not weight loss.
Why the tirade on fat loss vs. weight loss, because the Lemonade diet requires to drink lemonade, but not just any lemonade, it is special lemonade. It has only 2 ounces (a large shot of your favorite alcohol) of freshly squeezed lemon juice, maple syrup (the good stuff, of course, no messing around with cheap syrup when following this diet), cayenne pepper (not a mistake) and 2 cups of water (personally, I’m stunned the required water doesn’t have to be harvested yourself from a natural spring). Good news is drink it whenever you want. Everyone say, “Yum”. The diet recommends upwards of 160 ounces of the stuff each day (10 half-liter bottles of water). You are also expected to complete a salt water flush in the morning (2 teaspoons of iodized salt and 1 quart of water…hold your nose and go). At night, you are advised to consume herbal laxative tea.
If one of my friends was doing this, I might smack them. Maybe not, but I would absolutely make fun of them until, well forever. What do you think folks, you think you will lose weight? Absolutely, you will lose weight. Some of it will be fat, but the majority will be water weight along with the loss of some fat-free mass. I can’t imagine the gorging of food that takes place after the wedding, pictures or trip has passed that likely led to someone thinking, I need to follow this diet so I can lose some weight.
Speaking scientifically, no research exists on the diet. So, yes, there is a possibility I am wrong (because it hasn’t been formally studied), but other studies involving significant reductions in caloric intake have been completed and they tell us how the body responds. Lastly, I will leave you with another mention to a study I briefly highlighted last week. A group of researchers examined the body composition changes that occur after a period of weight cycling (Beavers et al. 2011). In this study, they examined the composition of weight that was gained after completing a weight loss study. They found that over half of the lean tissue or fat-free mass (aka, muscle) that was lost during the weight loss phase was not regained and instead was gained back as fat.
The problem with the cycle of losing weight and regaining weight comes in when this happens once maybe two times each year and then repeat for several years. Over time, you end up with much less fat-free mass which ultimately makes it much harder to sustain weight loss and burn calories. For me this is where a sound commitment to an exercise program is critically important as exercise provides a powerful stimulus to hold on to your muscle. From the diet side, caloric restriction is needed, but modest reductions with a progressive increase in the ratio of protein in your diet will also be helpful.
This post was written by Chad Kerksick, an Assistant Professor of Exercise Science at Lindenwood University in St. Charles, MO. Dr. Kerksick is a nerd for exercise physiology and particularly enjoys discussing strategies to lose fat and enhance performance through diet, supplementation and exercise.
Beavers, K. M., M. F. Lyles, C. C. Davis, X. Wang, D. P. Beavers, and B. J. Nicklas. 2011. “Is lost lean mass from intentional weight loss recovered during weight regain in postmenopausal women?” The American journal of clinical nutrition 94 (3):767-74. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.110.004895.