This article has been Fact-Checked by Kendall Kennedy MS, RD, RYT
One of the things people do to try to lose weight is adding lemon to their water. Does this really help with weight loss or is it one of those myths?
A lot of people believe that lemon water has special properties that make it outstanding for your health. Even so, it’s not because something is popular that it’s right. Let’s see if this drink is actually good for weight loss.
How to make lemon water for weight loss
The way to make lemon water is straightforward. You just add some lemon juice (fresh or bottled) or lemon slices to water.
Lemon slices will contain a small amount of fiber and bottled lemon juice will contain preservatives and sometimes sweeteners. This means the most healthy lemon water will be lemon slices and water.
Most people will go for the pure juice anyway so for this article the pure juice version will be discussed. A common lemon juice to water ratio is 1 squeezed lemon, about 47 ml, for 2 l of water. In the end, you can change the quantity to your liking.
Does the small amount of lemon do anything?
Lemon is a great weight loss fruit (and food). It’s low in calories and it provides you some extra amounts of vitamins, minerals and fiber.
Nonetheless there also some myths about what lemons can do for weight loss, certainly in the small amounts it is present in lemon water. It’s important to know what is the truth before you put in the extra effort that is maybe better spent on other habits.
Sugar sweetened beverages are one of the main sources of added sugars in the American diet (1). Drinks like sodas and juices contain a lot of calories.
What if you replace just one glass of these drinks with a glass of lemon water which contains a maximum of 10 calories?
You would consume at least 80 calories less each day. Possibly even more. Some people struggle with drinking more water because of the lack of taste. The extra taste from the lemon juice can help people reach their daily water goals.
If you’re looking for other ways to make it easier for yourself to drink more water check out these 12 tips.
Small amount of nutrients
The lemon slices or lemon juice you add contain some nutrients. The amount might not be that much but it probably won’t hurt either.
Some extra vitamins, minerals and fiber are more than welcome for a lot of people. Even if it’s only such a tiny amount.
Detox is a myth
Some people also claim there is a “detox” effect from the lemon. The evidence that lemon water has a significant detox effect that helps weight loss is pretty much non-existent.
It’s true that there are certain nutrients help you remove certain damaging substances from your body. Even so, it’s not entirely clear how much this would benefit weight loss.
It’s most likely better to stay away from anyone claiming you get a magical weight loss effect from consuming a little more lemon with your water.
The extra water you drink can help your kidneys remove built-up waste but lemon has not much to do with that.
Benefits of drinking more water
Most of the benefits of lemon water will be because of drinking more water. Increasing your fluid intake with healthy drinks can have multiple benefits on your weight loss.
Can reduce hunger
Drinking water can help you lose weight by reducing your appetite. This will make you eat less other foods with calories.
In one study people who consumed water before breakfast consumed about 13% less calories (4).
Another similar study found the same but only for middle-aged individuals. The effect for healthy non-obese younger people was not statistically significant (5).
The effect of water on appetite is not that surprising. Your stomach communicates with your brain. When it’s full it send satiety signals.
By filling up your stomach with water you can reduce your appetite. So, you basically have a more comfortable weight loss life or you automatically consume less calories.
Hunger and cravings are a big reason why people fail to stick to their weight loss journey so avoiding them can be very helpful.
Burning more calories
It might just be an extra 100 calories a day from drinking 2 liters but small amounts do add up. If you make drinking water part of your daily routine it can add up to an extra 700 calories burned a week.
It helps you stay hydrated
Drinking enough fluid is essential for your health. Your body uses water in all its cells, organs, and tissues to help regulate its temperature and maintain other bodily functions.
Staying hydrated could even help with breaking down fat (8). Drinking enough water will not only improve your health but also help you get closer to your physical goals.
Does the lemon help that much with weight loss?
Most of the physical benefits of lemon water come from the main ingredient: water. You get most of the same benefits from drinking the same quantity in regular water.
The potential benefits of the lemon are so small that they are not really suited to use as an argument for lemon water being especially good for weight loss.
If the lemon helps you drink your daily amount of water and avoid unhealthy drinks it’s great for you. If not, it’s most likely not worth putting any time and effort in.
You can make your water even healthier by filtering it.
Final tips for drinking lemon water
Drinking lemon water is rather straightforward but there are a few tips that can help you get more out of this drink.
Should you drink lemon water hot or cold for weight loss?
Some people claim you have to drink you lemon water warm. Other say drinking it cold is the way to go for weight loss.
Warm water supposedly helps digestion but there is not a lot of evidence for that. On the other hand, cold water may help you burn more calories. Your body uses energy to keep your temperature at normal levels.
For now it’s not entirely clear if drinking your water cold or warm is better for weight loss. Even if it makes a difference it will likely not be very big. That means you can choose the temperature you enjoy most.
Watch your salt intake
When people start eating less processed foods they sometimes forget to consume enough salt. You need enough salt to stay healthy. Drinking more fluid can make your body lose more salt than usual.
For that reason you want to keep an eye on your salt intake, especially if you decide to drink more lemon water. If you think this might be a problem for you, you can easily add some salt to the water you drink.
You don’t have to use lemon
If you don’t like the taste of lemon you can also add other healthy ingredients to your water. Some other examples of good additions to water recipes are cucumber, mint, watermelon, lime, ginger, cinnamon, celery, and cayenne pepper.
Avoid ingredients that contain a lot of calories, even if they are “natural”. A great example of an ingredient to avoid is honey.
Drinking through a straw might benefit you
This means that one of the possible side effects of drinking too much lemon water is damaged teeth. It’s true that you’re not drinking that much lemon juice but lemons are relatively high in citric acid.
By drinking lemon water through a straw you can reduce the amount of contact of the drink with your teeth. Even if you drink it this way you want to avoid brushing your teeth right after consuming lemon water.
When should you drink lemon water to lose weight?
You can drink the lemon water pretty much any time you want.
The only exceptions are before brushing your teeth and when you want to give your digestion some rest.
Due to the low calorie contents lemon water normally shouldn’t break your fast or mess with hormones like insulin.
How much lemon water should you drink a day?
Since lemon water is about the same as regular water the same recommendations most likely apply.
The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine recommend:
- About 11.5 cups (2.7 liters) a day for women
- About 15.5 cups (3.7 liters) a day for men
These recommendations include fluids from water, other beverages and food. For most people around 20 percent of their daily fluid intake comes from food, the rest from drinks like water.
Of course this amount varies from individual to individual because of height, weight,….
If you live in a warm climate and sweat a lot you will most likely need more water. Being physically active can also increase the amount of water you need.
If have trouble hitting your daily water goals, you might benefit from a motivational water bottle.
Should you focus on lemon water to lose weight?
The extra weight loss benefits from the lemon in lemon water is negligible. Drinking regular water will benefit you about as much as lemon water.
If you have trouble with consuming enough water because of the bland taste you might benefit from the extra flavor. If adding lemon to your water helps you drink less unhealthy drinks and more water it will help you lose weight.