For years, celebrities, wellness bloggers, and health coaches have touted the benefits of lemon water for weight loss. They claim it kickstarts your metabolism and triggers weight loss — especially if you sip a warm glass of it first thing in the morning.
But do the claims hold water, and what does lemon water do? Does a simple glass of water with a little squeezed citrus actually possess magic slimming properties? Or is it just a different way to enjoy regular old water?
We reached out to Amy Gorin, M.S., R.D.N. about this lemon water hype and asked her give us it to us straight. “Lemon water on its own is not a quick fix that magically boosts your metabolism or helps you lose weight,” she says. “But it does make water more palatable, and some preliminary research suggests that drinking water before a meal may help with weight loss.”
What Does Lemon Water Do?
In the study Gorin mentioned, 84 obese adults were asked to either drink two cups of plain water before their main meals every day for three months, or to imagine the feeling of being full. Those who drank water before their meals lost about 2.6 pounds more than those who didn’t.
This suggests that drinking water (lemon-flavored or not) before a meal may be an easy way to feel fuller and possibly prevent you from eating more than you should.
Lemon water is also a far better choice than many other beverages out there. And, if used to replace sugary coffee concoctions, sodas, and energy drinks in your diet, lemon water can indirectly help you cut calories and shed pounds.
Lemon Water Helps You Stay Hydrated
The benefits of hydration go well beyond avoiding a dry mouth and headache. Dehydration can impact your fitness performance, your ability to focus, and more. “Staying properly hydrated is important for keeping your bodily functions running smoothly,” says Gorin. “These functions include temperature regulation, joint lubrication, keeping the eyes and mouth moist, and helping to prevent constipation.”
To keep things ahem, moving, and your body operating at its best, your goal should be to drink half your body weight (in pounds) in ounces of water each day. If you start your day with a glass of lemon water, that’s one glass down! You’ll also get a small dose of vitamin C first thing.
The Best Time to Drink Lemon Water
Downing a glass of lemon water right after you wake up is ideal — it rehydrates you after sleep, and may help assist your body in its natural process of flushing toxins. Also, proper hydration is necessary for good digestion. It’s a great way to feel more alert in the groggy morning hours.
The only downside? Due to its high acidity, lemon juice may damage the enamel on your teeth. Of course, you’re not drinking pure lemon juice when you sip lemon water, but the concentration of lemon in your water can be higher if you keep the sliced lemon submerged in the water rather than just squeezing the juice into your cup. To offset possible damage to your tooth enamel, follow these simple precautions: Drink your lemon water with a straw so it doesn’t come into direct contact with your teeth (coffee lovers, take note!), rinse your mouth afterward with a gulp of plain water, and wait for at least 30 minutes after you finish drinking to brush your teeth since harsh toothpastes and vigorous brushing can wear away at already thin enamel.
How to Make Lemon Water
There’s no wrong way to make lemon water. You can add a slice of lemon or a the juice of several squirts of half of a lemon. You can strain the seeds or ignore them — the choice is yours.
But for those who appreciate clear instructions, here’s a basic recipe you can modify as you like: Squeeze a quarter wedge of fresh raw lemon into 8 to 12 ounces of lukewarm or room-temperature water (for easy sipping), stir, and voilà! Your lemony beverage awaits.
Feel free to dilute your lemon juice with more water if it’s too sour, or add the juice of half a lemon if you like it extra tart.
What Other Healthy Low-Calorie Beverages Exist?
If you’re determined to guzzle only lemon water all day long (RIP, caramel latte), but you become bored with the flavor (or lack thereof), there are other easy, healthy, low-cal alternatives.
If you like bubbles, swap soda for seltzer water. And ditch sugary, sweet tea in favor of unsweetened hibiscus or peppermint tea. “You get a good amount of flavor without adding any sugar or honey to your drink,” says Gorin.
When all else fails, jazz up a glass of good old-fashioned H2O with whatever makes your taste buds happy: orange slices, cucumber, strawberries, watermelon, basil, lime, jalapeño — the options are endless. Consult your Beachbody nutrition plan booklet or digitally on Beachbody On Demand for additional creative ways to spruce up your water.
And if you’re still in love with the idea of lemon water, go for it. It isn’t the powerful weight-loss elixir the world wishes it could be, but it is an easy, refreshing way to stay hydrated and get a little kick of vitamin C. After all, no one wants scurvy.