Master Cleanse Diet Review—My Experience and Results

A review of the Master Cleanse Diet, based off of my personal experience.
A review of the Master Cleanse Diet, based off of my personal experience.

What Is the Master Cleanse Diet?

The Master Cleanse Diet was invented by Stanley Burroughs, a natural diet health guru, in the 1940s. The diet is essentially a juice fast. The diet was invented not for weight loss but for detoxifying your body; fortunately, great weight-loss benefits come hand-in-hand with a cleansed digestive system.

Here is how I explain the idea that the Master Cleanse Diet is not for weight loss, which puzzled me a lot when I wanted to start this diet in January 2013.

I originally thought, well, if it's not for weight loss, what I am using it for, as I don't particularly have any interest in detoxification? I read every article and watched every single Youtube video to find out about this Master Cleanse Diet, aka Lemonade Diet, and how to use it to lose weight.

Eventually I was convinced that this diet would cleanse my body and help me eliminate toxins and, with them, excess fat. With plenty of fat and toxins to lose for a holiday cruise at the end of the month (I had plenty of new dresses for the occasion), I embarked on the Lemonade Diet.

In this article, I want to answer all the questions I spent hours researching about the Master Cleanse Diet and review the diet based on my experience. If any of your questions are not answered in this article, feel free to leave a comment.

Please also note I am not an expert on the Master Cleanse. I heavily researched this diet and tried it for myself, so all my knowledge shared here is based on those two factors.

What Is the Master Cleanse Recipe?

The recipe for Master Cleanse Lemonade requires four ingredients: a high-quality maple syrup, lemons, cayenne pepper, and purified water.
The recipe for Master Cleanse Lemonade requires four ingredients: a high-quality maple syrup, lemons, cayenne pepper, and purified water.

As promised, I'm going to lay out the answers to the questions I had when I started this diet in January 2013. Here is the first question I had after I read so much about the Master Cleanse: What the heck is this diet? In other words, what is the recipe? What do I eat and what do I drink?

The answer is simple: not much! Here is the Master Cleanse Lemonade Recipe:


  • Purified water (I used bottled)
  • Grade B organic maple syrup (the diet is very clear on the fact that you should not use artificial syrup)
  • Lemons
  • Cayenne pepper
  • Sea salt (unrefined) or epsom salt

For this diet, you will also need a healthy laxative, peppermint tea, and salt.

How to Make the Master Cleanse Lemonade:

1. Squeeze two tablespoons of lemon juice into a large glass.

The first step for creating Master Cleanse Lemonade is to squeeze fresh lemons—store-bought lemon juice will taste much more acidic.
The first step for creating Master Cleanse Lemonade is to squeeze fresh lemons—store-bought lemon juice will taste much more acidic.

2. Add two tablespoons of the maple syrup.

Then add the Grade B maple syrup. You can also use a higher grade of syrup—the general rule is the darker, the better, as it will have more minerals.
Then add the Grade B maple syrup. You can also use a higher grade of syrup—the general rule is the darker, the better, as it will have more minerals.

3. Add a pinch of cayenne pepper (1/10 of a teaspoon) and eight ounces of water (around half a pint or 230 ml). Makes one glass.

The last step is to add the cayenne pepper and water. I recommend drinking the lemonade fresh—it will taste more acidic after refrigerating.
The last step is to add the cayenne pepper and water. I recommend drinking the lemonade fresh—it will taste more acidic after refrigerating.

That's it! Mix it and drink between six and 12 glasses a day.

What's the Regimen for the Diet?

For the Master Cleanse Diet, there are three parts: the ease-in, the lemonade cleanse, and the ease-out.

The Ease-In

For the ease-in, allow yourself four days, as outlined in the table below.

Ease-In Schedule for the Master Cleanse

Live foods
You can eat all foods, including grains and breads, except for meat, dairy, and processed foods (e.g. Wheat Thins, factory-made bread).
Fruits and Vegetables
You can eat any fruits or vegetables, though you should aim for over half of your food this day to be vegetables.
Get that juicer out! You can juice both fruits and vegetables—vegetable soup is also a good option. There is still no meat, dairy, or processed food.
Orange Juice
If you feel like you need more calories, you may add maple syrup.

The Lemonade Cleanse

After the ease-in, the Master Cleanse should feel much easier. On top of that, the ease-in effectively extends the diet, a benefit for those who are pursuing weight loss.

For 10 days, you should only consume the Master Cleanse Lemonade—between six and 12 glasses each day. You should also drink lots of filtered or bottled water.

What about the Laxative and the Salt Water Flush?

For the salt water flush, be sure to use non-iodized salt.
For the salt water flush, be sure to use non-iodized salt.

As you can imagine drinking liquids for 10 days may be a bit challenging for your digestion. Actually from my research, I understand this is where the detox comes into place—you free your body from toxins you ingest with food and also eliminate any toxins stored in your digestive track.

I have researched this heavily and some advocates of the Master Cleanse say it honestly improves your health, detoxifies your body, and just makes you feel and look better. Some say your skin will glow, you will have more energy and sexual appetite, and you will be able to think more clearly.

Some other people (including doctors) say that this is nonsense, that the body self-cleanses through the liver and that this cleanse is pure starvation—the perceived benefits only come from weight loss and high water intake. I am not an expert, so I really can't comment. As you will be able to see from my weight-loss table, I only lasted three days.

Okay, so what about the laxatives and salt water flush? For each of the 10 days, starting with the night before the diet, you take a herbal laxative tea in the evenings, and the following morning you do a salt wash flush.

Now I was terrified about this because people said the salt water flush is terrible. I had never used laxative teas nor a salt water flush prior to that.

The tea was easy—you steep it like any other tea. It was fine; you just drink it and go to sleep.

As I said, the salt water flushes in the mornings were the scary part. As you wake up, you are meant to mix one to two teaspoons of the sea salt or Epson salt (it's apparently important that the salt is not iodized) with one quart of warm water (that's about 1.1 L).

The salt water flush for the Master Cleanse Diet is simple to make—mix the salt into a glass of water.
The salt water flush for the Master Cleanse Diet is simple to make—mix the salt into a glass of water.

You have to down that in pretty much one gulp (I say "pretty much"—it takes a few gulps as you do need to breathe). There are so many Youtube videos about people doing this salt water flush and throwing up or hating it. After you drink it, you just lay on one side, and, after a bit of time, you should be going to the toilet, eliminating all the water and anything else in your digestive track.

I personally loved the salt water flush. I know it's weird, but I really enjoyed the salty warm water as opposed to the spicy lemonade. Well, I loved it on the first and second day but hated it a little on the third, as I felt a bit sickly by then.

One thing—I never went to the toilet the first day and was honestly panicking about it, but I just took an extra laxative, and by the second day, I was fine.

The Ease-Out

Like the ease-in, the ease-out takes four days. You also eat the same foods as the ease-in, only in reverse order. For the first day of the ease-out, drink orange juice with the option of maple syrup; on the second day, progress to any juice or broth, and on the third day, progress to solid fruits and vegetables. On the last day before returning to a normal diet, you can eat any live food—see the table above for an explanation.

Do I Need to Buy the Master Cleanse Book?

Stanley Burroughs developed this recipe in the 1940s and eventually published a short about the diet and his theory on toxins in 1967 titled The Master Cleanser.

When I started researching the diet, many people and resources told me that if I was serious about doing the cleanse right, I should buy the book.

Did I buy the book?

No I didn't, and I actually wish I did, simply because it's not that expensive. I ended up spending so many hours searching the web and getting mixed information about how to do the diet that I wished I bought the book.

In spite of my heavy research, I still did so many things wrong. These mistakes had a major impact on my progress, so I advise people who have researched the Master Cleanse and really want to go forward with the diet to buy the book.

The Master Cleanser
The Master Cleanser

Do your homework and make sure you understand why each part of this diet is important.


So What Mistakes Did I Make Without the Book?

As I mentioned at the beginning of this article, I wanted to go on the Master Cleanse to lose weight. I understood, the detoxification benefits, though I took them with a grain of salt, but what I really wanted was a healthy, effective, and fast way to lose weight.

So I thoroughly researched the diet and then went on to buy my expensive maple syrup and other ingredients as well as a healthy laxative (which you need to take every evening) and peppermint tea.

I started the Master Cleanse on the second of January. If you are like me and are embarking on this diet as part of a New Year's resolution, learn from my mistakes and avoid doing these two things:

#1 Mistake: Not Easing Into The Diet

Both the book and online research advise you to ease into the diet. In the days leading up to the diet, you should eat less meat and less food until you're down to only orange juice—then you start the diet. I was stubborn, and although I knew I was not supposed to, I started with the cleanse cold turkey on January 2, after indulging in Christmas food and a lot of good coffee throughout the holidays. Bad idea!

The abrupt change from coffee and five or more meals of Christmas food a day to nothing but lemonade was a shock to my body. What was the result? I was hit with migraines and serious fatigue! But I was determined, so none of it stopped me.

I really want to advise all of you looking to try this method—if you are a regular coffee drinker, the coffee withdrawal systems are likely to be very serious. I personally had the worst migraines in my life.

#2 Mistake: Incorrect Dosage for the Lemonade

Do not skimp on the maple syrup by using teaspoons instead of tablespoons.
Do not skimp on the maple syrup by using teaspoons instead of tablespoons. | Source

As I said, I was in this for the weight loss, and I had a point to prove to myself—I wanted to show that I had the will power to go through with it. From my extensive research the few chapters of the book that could be found online for free, I figured that if I used less maple syrup, I could lose more weight.

So what did I do? Instead of using two tablespoons of maple syrup for each drink, I used one to two teaspoons of the maple syrup. What's more, I only had six lemonades a day instead of the 12 you are allowed.

Day one with the reduced amount amount of maple syrup went fine (because of my migraines, I slept for most of it). On day two, I drank a lot of peppermint tea to keep full. By day three, I wasn't feeling hunger anymore, but I was about to experience the consequences of my mistakes!

Any Positives? What about Weight Loss?

Day of the Master Cleanse
Weight Loss
Day one
2 kg
Day two
0 kg
Day three
1 kg

What Didn't I Enjoy about the Master Cleanse?

If you do not use fresh lemons or the right amounts of each ingredient, the lemonade will taste a lot less pleasant.
If you do not use fresh lemons or the right amounts of each ingredient, the lemonade will taste a lot less pleasant.

My problems with the Master Cleanse were the following:

#1: The Lemonade Was Too Spicy and Acidic

As I mentioned, I didn't buy the book, and, in spite of research, I got the amounts of some of the ingredients wrong. I didn't always prepare my lemonade fresh, which at times made it too acidic. I often added too much lemon, which gave my mouth a burning sensation, and I added too much cayenne, which, again, I hated.

After I came off the cleanse, I seemed to find the right proportions, and when I prepared the lemonade with the right amount of lemon and maple syrup (which is what I wrote in the recipe for you) and drank it fresh (instead of storing it in the fridge and drinking it late), it was much better.

#2: I Used Too Little Maple Syrup

I reinforce this as probably the main reason I couldn't hold it. In my desire to lose more weight, I used so little maple syrup that I basically starved myself and didn't last. It's a mistake I honestly don't advise anyone making.

#3: I Had Serious Migraines

The migraines I experienced on this diet were the worst of my life. However, the migraines could have been caused by a combination of coffee withdrawal and jumping into an all-liquid diet after days of Christmas food—bad idea! If you are to do this, take it easy and prepare yourself. Apparently all of this is explained in the book, which, again, I never bought.

#4: I Had Heart Palpitations and Chest and Jaw Pain

This is why I gave up after the third day. I experienced serious heart palpitations, much worse than expected, and felt tremendous chest and jaw pain. Apparently these symptoms are associated with starvation; I must say, that night I didn't sleep at all because the pain. By the morning, I knew I just had to stop.

I have read about people giving up for the same reason. I have also read that once you get through the third day it gets a lot better. I simply didn't feel it was worth the risk.

Did I See the Detoxifying Signs?

If you do some research, you’ll find that one of the signs that you’re body is detoxing is that your tongue loses its yellow coloring after the third day. That happened to me, but to this day I have doubts about whether that was a sign of the detoxification or simply of a lemon-only diet.

If you do your research, you will see that opinions are split about this.

Do I Believe in the Detox Power of the Master Cleanse?

I honestly don't know yet. I know that people can fast for up to 40 days. With the Lemonade Diet, you drink water and get a fair amount of healthy minerals from that Organic Grade B Maple Syrup and lemons, so it should be okay, right?

Unfortunately, I can't tell you I believe or don't believe it in, because even after in-depth research and doing the cleanse for three days, I am still not sure. However, I can honestly tell you that I wouldn't do it again.

I know it worked for others. One YouTube user I saw did it for 40 days (see video below), and she said she felt great, had lost a lot of weight, experienced increased energy levels, etc. Notice that she made sure to consume at least 1,200 calories a day. However, it didn't work for me, and I felt it wasn't worth the risk of my heart palpitations and all the side effects. I would not do it again.

Finishing the Master Cleanse after 40 Days

What Did I Do After Quitting?

I eased myself into eating (lesson learnt from last time). I prepared the lemonade with the correct dosage and introduced one meal of boiled veggies a day, ate it slowly, and went from there. I didn't eat meat for a few days; I simply ate plain boiled vegetables and continued drinking the lemonade.

I lost one or two more kilos in the next two weeks, but after my cruise holiday at the end of January I put double the lost weight back on. But I did have nice food and drinks, so I couldn't exactly argue that it was the Master Cleanse's fault.

Again, this cleanse wasn't intended for weight loss; it is a juice fast meant to detoxify your body. Weight loss is simply one of the good side effects.

This was my journey, and I hope my mistakes will somehow help you. If you have any questions you are welcome to leave a comment, and I will answer it for you.

Any Recommendations?

This diet was made famous in the modern days by Beyoncé, as she used it to lose weight for Dreamgirls. Recently I read an article in which she says that, although she lost 20 pounds with the Master Cleanse, she would not do it again today because she is aware there are much healthier options.

Honestly, this is also my opinion—if your aim is weight loss, there are healthier options out there.

However, if you do want to have a go at it, I recommend reading the book at least one or two weeks before you start the diet. Ease yourself in, quit coffee, and do it right. Don't be greedy like me and minimize your maple syrup dosage: look out for your health instead. In terms of the health and heart palpitations, to this day I still think I did well to stop, regardless of whether the symptoms would have improved after that day.

More by this Author


Dave 2 years ago

I have been on the master cleanse for 4 days. I have currently lost 5 pounds as of the 3rd day( only weighing every other day). The first 3 days were difficult from a mental state, and body adjusting. Day 4 I have lots of energy, and no side effects. Have stayed to the plan, and plan on doing 7-10 days. I feel the key is to then try to continue with a healthy diet and exercise.

Jay 2 years ago

If you understand the science behind cell function and what is happening to your body as it goes through this detoxification period, you would know that it takes at least 4-5 days on the cleanse to even begin seeing the benefits. Most people quit around day 4 because that is when the major change begins happening. The physical changes lead to people having doubts and most are not mentally strong enough to get through all 10 days. I do not drink caffeine but everyone does say that you should have that out of your system well before you begin the diet. I am about to begin the master cleanse for the 14th time and know going into it that it won't be my last. Cleansing is a lifestyle and the choices you make between cleanses affect the outcome. Good luck to anyone who is interested in trying this. It cleanses the body, knocks off a few pounds, and gives most people a better understanding of digestive functions.

Leslie 2 years ago

I'm on day 6 and woke up with chest palpitations. I find this pretty odd and scary since I've been resting peacefully for 6 hours. I quickly started googling if this was one of the side affects or if I am having a heart attack in my 20s. If this doesn't stop I'm going to drink some orange juice and eat a banana.

pstraubie48 profile image

pstraubie48 19 months ago from sunny Florida

I have used this method and it was interesting to say the least. I have a friend who does it about every four months and she swears by it.

It is okay but I am not a huge fan.

I am currently trying to revise my eating habits; stress has been the reason for many unwanted pounds to creep on. And now I must get a handle on it...I do detox too

Thank you for sharing your thoughts and reactions.

Angels are on the way to you this evening ps

Voted up+++ and shared

MarleneB profile image

MarleneB 19 months ago from Northern California, USA

I'm just starting to read up on cleanses. I really appreciate your candid review of this diet and how it affected you.

healthyfitness profile image

healthyfitness 19 months ago

Will a cleanse make you feel better mentally? Thanks!

rebeccamealey profile image

rebeccamealey 19 months ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

I don't think this would be the diet for me. You did a great job writing the review.

Maeghanne 18 months ago

Can you take cayenne pepper pills instead of mixing it into the lemonade ? I'm kinda a wimp when It comes to spicy things

OanaWriter profile image

OanaWriter 16 months ago Author

I am not entirely sure. I seem to recall finding some research that said you can take them, but I think the cayenne pepper has some effect on the lemonade.

Jamster 8 months ago

Doing this cleanse right now (day 3). Didn't read books or ease myself in, straight onto 8-10 juices a day without a salt starter. Using Juice of half a lemon, 1 tsp of Syrup and 1/4 spoon Cayenne Pepper (I like hot food) with cold water and the results are amazing! So far lost 1/2 stone after 2 days, don't feel hungry at all, sleeping well, can concentrate at work/driving and my skin is looking much better

Abi 6 months ago

Really want to try this, found this really helpful! Thankyou

Verna 8 weeks ago

You said you did the research yet you never read the book? Comments I have read from you it just seems like you don't really understood the Cleanse. I have done this cleaning out many times over the years and each time something in my body has really changed. Irritable bowel syndrome, acid reflux, pain in my knees, little by little each one has gone away and it's never returned. I find the cleanse a great success

Erica 6 weeks ago

I am on day 9 and I have lost 14 pounds. I bought the 20 day detox premixed with raw cane juice from raw cane juice bar. So, far I have plenty of energy and I haven't been hungry. Day 3 was definetly the toughest because I can say that I felt very sleepy and groggy that day. Once you get past that it seems to be smooth sailing and everything becomes habit! Wish me luck on the rest of this journey

Rach 4 weeks ago

I'm on day 10 (going for 21 days) and i've gotta say i feel GREAT! this is my 4th stab at this diet and my only successful go. I have a juicer so i peel and juice my lemons in the morning and then make my bottles that will last me through the day. I went in cold turkey but i'm not a big meat eater (i stick with fish) and i'm more into teas than coffee. Day 1 hit me like a ton of bricks. I closer towards bed time then the laxative kicked in i think i passed out a couple times so i went straight to bed. But on the morning of Day 2 i woke up without my alarm at 6AM wide eyed and bushy tailed. I've been waking up before my alarm every day! (I haven't been able to do this for over 2 years after multiple surgeries and drugs that caused me to feel sluggish and gain weight). I feel like my old self again, I have more energy, i'm sleeping better and social outings arent awkward for me any more. I don't have cravings i make sure i have 8 16.9 fl oz of bottles and whenever i start feeling hungry i start sipping on a bottle. I'm happy i'm FINALLY doing this right and can definitely see myself making this a quarterly routine. Good luck to all those considering this journey. I failed 4 times before getting it right. The key (IMO) is not to skimp on the Maple syrup like she said. That's your protein source! I go a little overboard on the pepper because i love spicy food.

Dan 4 weeks ago

Re: heart palpitations. It's your electrolytes being off. If you take a 1/2 tsp of salt in water at bedtime it stops this issue.

Roz 2 weeks ago

I am on day two and I think I'm not drinking enough because yesterday on day one I only drank the mixture 4 times. I usually drank water like 30 minutes after drinking my mixture. I purchased the premixed packets from Vibrant Health. The packet is 60 calories so I would need to drink 20 bottles to get to 1,200 calories. I had a bad headache yesterday and today I have a mild headache but I'm going to press on. My goal is to get to 10 days. I didn't use the laxative tea yesterday but I will use it today up until day 10. I will write back hopefully on day 10 with my thoughts.

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