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Liquid Diets and Weight Loss: It Works But Can Ruin Your Health

By Rob Poulos...

For the morbidly obese, sometimes it’s their only option–a glass of protein-enriched lunch, sometimes vanilla or chocolate flavored.  It’s a tasteless reality, but as part of a VLCD, or a very low calorie diet, sipping only liquid protein does a body good, at least when weight loss is concerned.

But the morbidly obese aren’t the only ones on this bandwagon.  In the early 90s, Oprah Winfrey shed nearly 70lbs drinking nothing but liquids; over a decade later Beyonce also dropped a stone by following The Master Cleanse diet, a liquid diet comprised of maple syrup, lemon juice, and cayenne pepper.

As far as dietitians know, the weight loss is guaranteed: People can expect to drop 10 pounds during their first week of liquid fasting.  But are liquid diets really the right solution?

Liquid Diets and Weight Loss: The Basics

Imagine replacing breakfast or lunch with a shake–creamy, rich, and sometimes strawberry-flavored.  Or perhaps you’ll go the entire 9 yards, sipping a low-calorie beverage for days or weeks on end.

For most people, the idea of liquid dieting seems easy.  Partial liquid diets, such as Slim Fast, only require you to replace two meals with a low-calorie Slim Fast shake.  The result: You create a natural calorie deficit without having to follow a complicated diet plan.

Full liquid diet plans take out even more guesswork.  Diets such as the Master Cleanse require you to create a special low-calorie beverage using a few simple ingredients; other diets will provide you with the prepared beverage.  Usually, this is the only beverage you can consume on the diet, although some diets may allow the consumption of water or low-calorie juices.

Calorie-wise, full liquid diets will help you lose weight more quickly than with partial liquid diets.  Partial liquid diet beverages, such as Slimfast, contain 200 to 300 calories, whereas beverages such as the Master Cleanse beverage contain less than 30 calories per serving.  Count on consuming less than 800 calories per day when you go with a dedicated, full-term liquid diet plan–about 400 calories less than the minimum dietary recommendations set by national health organizations.

Do Liquid Diets Work?

Because liquid diets often put you in a severe calorie deficit, they always work–as in you’ll lose a lot of weight.  Unfortunately, it’s not the good kind of weight; most dieters drop more muscle than those who diet healthfully because these diet plans are deficient in protein, which you need to sustain muscle during a diet.  When you lose muscle, you lose weight, but also decrease your metabolism in the process, since muscle mass sustains your metabolism.  That means when you stop dieting, you will have to maintain your weight on fewer calories.

Are Liquid Diets Safe?

Although dropping 4 or 5 pounds in a week can be enticing, it’s not necessarily safe–multiple researchers have found that liquid dieters often exhibit signs correlated with disordered eating or an eating disorder.  For instance, many dieters may feel fatigued, irritable, or constantly cold, symptoms that anorexics also experience.  Over time, it may even increase your risk of depression and reproductive problems, since liquid diets also limit your ability to eat enough fat.

Verdict: Use liquid dieting as a last resort, and only under medical supervision.

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3 Comments Add yours

  1. jaimey

    i tried this diet with a friend of mine and it actually works!!! i lost 60 pounds within 2 1/2 months!!! this diet is fast effective and amazing and i definitely recommend this diet for those who just cant seem to lose the pounds no matter what they try!

    • dani

      i just had third son and cant loose weight ;/ can you tell me the exact diet you did?

  2. Sarah

    What about juicing? That’s a liquid diet, and I keep hearing rave reviews on it, both for losing weight and for getting healthy nutrients naturally. I have started juicing once a day just because it’s one way for me to get some veggies in my diet (otherwise, about the only way I’ll eat them is cooked to death). But I’m sure you’ve heard of the “juice fasts” and “rebooting” that are currently popular for weight loss, and I’ve heard tons of positive testimonials for that as well (although I doubt I could do it for 100 or even 30 days myself… I need to lose 40-50 pounds, but I’m looking into more sustainable lifestyle changes rather than a quick fix).

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