When You're On A Liquid-Only Diet, This Is What Happens To Your Body

According to Colorado State University, liquid dieting can be traced back well over a century, but in the 1900s the fad really took off when a businessman by the name of Horace Fletcher shed some unwanted weight with his "Chewing Diet," essentially chewing his solid food until it broke down to liquid, in order to prevent overeating. The weight loss phenomenon, at that time deemed "Fletcherism," was not a particularly attractive diet, but did have some substance behind it (via PubMed).

In 1941, health enthusiast Stanley Burroughs created the lemonade diet, more commonly known as the Master Cleanse, which is a liquid detox diet consisting of a blend of lemon or lime juice, maple syrup, water, and cayenne pepper that is to be drank six times a day for up to 14 days. In 2006, Beyoncé claimed she dropped 20 pounds in two weeks while following the Master Cleanse, which reignited the diet's popularity. (If you're curious, here's what really happens when you drink cayenne pepper.)

More recently, Grammy winner and pop star Lizzo touted the health benefits of a 10-day smoothie and beauty water cleanse she followed at the end of 2020 (via Etalk). 

There are many types of liquid-only diets to choose from, and whether juicing your solids or replacing meals with smoothies interest you, before you begin blending there are some health effects that you should be aware of.

A liquid diet can induce weight loss

You may wonder, will I lose weight on a completely liquid diet? The short answer is, yes, you will drop your stored water weight and even a bit more as you will be consuming a significantly reduced number of calories daily (via Healthline).

When following a low-calorie liquid diet, your body will enter starvation mode, which forces it to use up your stored energy. You will use all the glycogen first, which is a glucose stored in the liver and the muscles. Dr. Michael Crupain, board-certified preventive medicine physician and coauthor of What to Eat When, tells BuzzFeed that, initially, you'll lose weight on a liquid diet because, "As you burn through glycogen you lose the water attached ... and you store somewhere between five to ten pounds of water weight."

Depending on how low your calorie intake is, you may find yourself with more than just a quick dip on the scale. Healthline reports that people who adhere to very low calorie diets, 500 or less calories per day, are at risk for developing gallstones. Furthermore, if your lack of solid food is too low in fiber, you may find yourself with a bad bout of constipation.

The risks outweigh the rewards of a liquid diet

While weight loss might be an intriguing incentive to go liquid, Rachele Pojednic, Ph.D., M.Ed., assistant professor of nutrition at Simmons College reports that the benefits are minimal compared to the risks. Dr. Pojednic tells EatingWell, "You may lose a little weight in the short term due to water loss, and perhaps a couple of pounds in the longer term due to a massive calorie deficit. But achieving these results is not typical because the diet is so challenging and makes you feel pretty terrible."

Aside from getting hangry on a solely liquid diet, you may find you aren't ingesting a sufficient amount of essential nutrients like fiber, fat, or protein. Long-term, this can lead to fatigue, dizziness, hair loss, muscle loss, and even heart damage (per WebMD). Dr. Pojednic shares that a liquid diet can also cause an array of uncomfortable symptoms, including "debilitating headaches, overwhelming hunger and diarrhea."

Katherine Zeratsky, a Mayo Clinic registered dietitian, tells TODAY that she would not advise a long-term, completely liquid diet without medical supervision, specifically because they don't provide you with all the essential nutrients your body needs to perform optimally.