Beyoncé's Lemonade Diet: The Dark Side of the Master Cleanse

Bey approved, but is it actually healthy?

By Diana Nguyen Feb 10, 2017 3:34 PMTags
ESC: BeyonceBuda Mendes/Getty Images

Beyoncé is queen for a reason.

No matter what she's doing—even if it's the most mundane, basic thing—she can do little wrong. Bey can wear mismatched lingerie, workout in the rain and power through intense diets. She does it all with such ease that it makes mere mortals feel like we can do it, too.

It doesn't mean we should, though.

Take, for instance, the Master Cleanse Diet (a.k.a. the Lemonade Diet—coincidence, much?) that Bey underwent in 2006 to shed weight for her role in Dreamgirls. It's been talked about ad nauseum, with nutritionists criticizing its health benefits.

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"I have a huge problem with any cleanse that doesn't allow you to have food. People want to eat food," celebrity fitness expert Latreal Mitchell told me. "I do get where they're coming from—lemon is an antioxidant and maple syrup is a natural sweetener, but at the end of the day, all you're giving yourself is lemon and sugar. It's not going to sustain you."

Still, I had to try it. If not for the sake of Beyoncé Week, then to fully understand what exactly the singer went through.

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The Prep

The recipe includes: 2 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice (not the pre-squeezed stuff, which contains preservatives), 2 tablespoons of grade B maple syrup, 1/10 teaspoon cayenne pepper and 10 ounces of pure water—for one single serving.

If you're like me, you have no time to make a diet cocktail eight times a day. Also, talk about an awkward lunch-room conversation: "What are you eating today? Umm, syrup. So, I prepped a few days' worth at one time. Note: Not only will have you have jug of diet lemonade at the ready, but you'll have sore, stiff hands, too. I guess the juice is worth the squeeze. But those lucky enough should use a juicer to avoid arthritis.  

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The Diet

Day 1: I was weirdly excited to get started because, well, I was seven days away from being as Dreamgirls-slim as I was ever going to get. I walked into work with "Crazy in Love" confidence. Instead of wearing a white tank and denim short-shorts, I was strutting into a newsroom in a shift dress and water bottles of Master Cleanse. Slay!

The first day was relatively easy. I normally eat a light breakfast anyway so I wasn't that hungry. Honestly, I probably drank half the servings I should have—the lemon and maple concoction kept me relatively full.

Day 2: Now if you have a voracious appetite, you'll be starving by now. When I woke, I was hungry, but already, I noticed the size difference in my tummy—it was slightly flatter. That is, until I drank two 8-ounce glasses of juice in five minutes. Then, it was bloat central. The thing about juicing that no one ever tells you is that you'll constantly need to go to the bathroom, which is especially annoying for an equally busy and lazy girl like me.

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Day 3: By the third day, I developed a superpower...or maybe it was my kryptonite: My sense of smell was extremely heightened. I'd be content one minute and then the next, the fine aroma of toasted bread wafting from the office kitchen had me dazed then ravenous. I could smell food from the corner office situated on the entire opposite side or the floor. While my co-workers couldn't smell a thing, I had to stop breathing through my nose. Even just a small whiff of tuna, tomato soup or other lunchtime marvels had me desperately wanting food, only to be met with unsatisfying diet juice. I began resenting everything and everyone: myself, lemons, even Beyoncé for giving me this crazy idea.

Day 4: Let's just say no one dared to talk to me.

Day 5: Not going to lie, I felt a little fragile. I felt like I was exerting more energy just to keep my body up. I went to sleep earlier and woke up much later than usual. I wouldn't recommend anyone exercising while on this cleanse. I kept a protein bar in my bag just in case. I never needed it; but, it was reassuring to have sustenance nearby just in case.

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Day 6: Let's go through the list so far: Hunger? Check. Irritable? Check. Full bladder? Check. Bloat? Check. Low energy? Check. Stiff hands? Check. Oh, did I mention my teeth started feeling extra sensitive? Maybe it was the acidity of the lemons, but I felt like they, too, were taking a beating.

Day 7: Victory! I'm going to be honest—I didn't wait until the day was over to eat. I did start slow, however, with the recommended soups and light fare, as to not overwhelm my digestive system. I noticed a small change in appearance—I even felt a little lighter. But friends and family who hadn't seen me for the week instantly noticed a difference. Apparently, my cheeks were smaller, my collarbones were more distinct and, indeed, my waist looked slimmer. It worked! I never doubted you, Bey.

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In total, I must've lost eight or nine pounds in a week—I'm 113 (I mean 115), for reference. However, once I got back into the swing of my regular diet (salads for lunch, whatever I want for dinner), I basically gained the weight back in a few weeks' time.

"You might lose weight temporarily, but you're going to gain it right back once you start to eat again," warned Latreal—and she was right.

If you're looking for long-term results, you're better off hitting the gym. I will say if you're looking for fast weight loss, to prep for a wedding, or in Beyoncé's case, a movie, Master Cleanse might work for you. Just beware: Some gain more weight than when they started off.

"The most common thing that happens is you wind up binge-eating because you just want to eat so bad," the expert added.

And there you have it.

PS: I love eating too much, so you won't find me doing that again.