Does lemon water help you lose weight? How about help you de-bloat, optimize digestion, and more? Dietitians debunk one of the internet’s favorite health fads—and explain why lemon water isn’t exactly the magic elixir people make it out to be.
Health fads come and go, but drinking lemon water for weight loss is one that stands the test of time. Celebrities like Jennifer Anniston, Gweynth Paltrow, and Gisele Bundchen have been touting the health benefits of lemon water for nearly a decade. Open up any social media app and you’ll likely see someone starting their day with a glass of lemon water—and claiming that it has helped them do everything from drop pounds to relieve constipation.
But does lemon water actually help you lose weight? Not exactly, according to experts. While the drink does have some serious benefits, it doesn’t burn fat or help you shed pounds like many claim. Below, nutritionists and dietitians explain everything you need to know about drinking lemon water for weight loss and other health benefits.
Is Drinking Lemon Water Good For You?
There are several benefits of drinking lemon water. The biggest one? That the yummy flavor may entice you to drink more water in general—and hydration is key for overall health.
“Hydration helps with everything in the body, so in my book, anything that can get you to drink more water is a plus,” says Jennifer Hanway, board-certified holistic nutritionist, celebrity health coach, and wellness expert. “Many of us are chronically dehydrated and need a little flavor to encourage us to drink more.”
But there are other benefits to drinking lemon water aside from increased hydration. “Lemon water can help boost your vitamin C intake, which is great for your immune system and skin health,” says Gaby Vaca-Flores, RDN, CLE, and HUM’s education specialist. “Plus, the citric acid in lemons can help promote healthy digestion and kidney function.” How does citric acid promote healthy digestion? A recent study found that consuming citric acid found in lemon juice before a meal can help boost gastric acid function. Gastric acid works to break down food particles into soluble matter, initiates the breakdown of nutrients (particularly protein), and prepares the food for the small intestine. And when it comes to kidney function, there’s evidence that citric acid may help prevent certain types of kidney stones due to its potassium content.
So what about all of the other supposed benefits you may have heard about? These are the top lemon water claims:
- Lemon water helps you lose weight
- Lemon water helps you poop
- Lemon water reduces bloat
- Lemon water is alkalizing
Here’s what the experts had to say about those claims.
Does Lemon Water Help You Lose Weight?
“No, lemon water alone does not cause weight loss,” says Grace Terrell, certified holistic nutritionist. “I think [this myth] so popular because it’s a seemingly easy ‘quick fix’ and it’s not an expensive supplement and doesn’t take much effort—so I get it, I’d want to believe it too!”
But unfortunately, lemon water isn’t a magical weight loss solution. “However water itself can indirectly help with weight loss by boosting the metabolism and helping you feel fuller faster, so lemon water has those same benefits,” Vaca-Flores says.
When you ingest water, the body responds by warming it to match your body’s core temperature, Vaca-Flores says. This heating process causes a quick boost in your metabolism. In fact, researchers have found that drinking two cups of water at a time can increase your metabolism by 30 percent, though only for around 20 to 30 minutes. “Although this boost is only temporary, it can be beneficial during a weight loss journey,” she says.
Additionally, water can help you feel fuller faster by taking up space in the stomach—reducing feelings of hunger. Research has shown that this can lead to fewer calories consumed, which is ideal for people trying to lose weight.
Terrell says staying hydrated with water (or lemon water) can help you lose weight in a couple of ways. “If you’re dehydrated, your organs aren’t functioning as well, which can have an impact on many processes that help us maintain a healthy weight,” she says. “It can also help your performance in the gym. If we’re dehydrated, we tend to fatigue much more quickly.”
There is one situation in which drinking lemon water for weight loss might work, however. If you consistently drink high-calorie, high-sugar drinks (think: soda or juice concentrate), swapping them for lemon water can help you reduce your overall calorie intake, which can lead to weight loss.
Does Lemon Water Make You Poop?
Indirectly, yes, lemon water may help you poop, Terrell says. “Dehydration can cause constipation or irregularity, so drinking more water can help this.”
Plus, lemons contain nutrients that can help support our system. “Lemons contain potassium, which is a mineral that can help with nerve function, and in turn help remove waste products from the body,” Hanway says.
But the idea that the lemon works as a laxative to help you lose weight overnight isn’t true at all. While research confirms that vitamin C has a laxative effect, lemon water likely won’t cause that reaction. “You’re not getting enough vitamin C from a squeeze of lemon juice to have any sort of laxative effect, Terrell says. “You’d need around 2,000 milligrams to have an effect, and a squeeze of lemon would have about 30 milligrams of vitamin C.”
The one exception? Warm lemon water. “If you have warm lemon water, that can help stimulate and warm up the bowels” Terrell adds. It’s true—research has confirmed that drinking warm water has a favorable impact on intestinal movements. There’s not much of a difference between drinking warm plain water or drinking warm lemon water aside from taste and a small extra dose of vitamin C (which is never a bad thing).
If you’re struggling with irregularity or constipation, make sure you’re getting enough fiber. Incorporating detoxifying foods that are high in fiber can help promote healthy bowel movements. And if that doesn’t help, consult a doctor to get proper treatment.
Does Lemon Water Help With Bloating?
“Adding lemon juice to your water may help improve bloating and other signs of poor digestion,” Vaca-Flores says. “Bloating usually happens when certain nutrients are not fully digested. Fortunately, the citric acid in lemon water can boost the production of stomach acids and fluids that can help break down food in your stomach for better digestion.”
Additionally, the other nutrients in lemons can help support your digestive system. “Lemon water may help with bloating due to the potassium assisting the nervous function of the GI system, helping to remove gas and waste products from the body.”
Still, it’s important to remember that it’s not a magical elixir that will give you a flat stomach. Drinking plain water is still your best bet for a healthy functioning digestive tract. “No studies have shown that drinking lemon water versus plain water has any impact on the way we digest food,” Terrell says.
Does Lemon Water Alkalize Your System?
Another lemon myth Terrell wants to bust? That this drink alkalizes the body (read: increases the pH above 7). “Our bodies do an amazing job at regulating our pH, and what we eat and drink has no effect on the pH of our blood,” she says.
Lime Water Vs. Lemon Water
What about other citrus-infused waters, like lime water? Despite lemon water’s popularity, experts say there’s no real benefit to choosing lemon water over lime water. “Lemons and limes are pretty similar when it comes to their micronutrient density,” Hanway explains. “Lemons contain more citric acid than limes, and contain more potassium and magnesium, but limes have higher amounts of phosphorous, Vitamins A and C, calcium, and folate.”
So if life gives you lemons or limes, go ahead and squeeze them into your water for a hydrating treat.
Despite being touted as a miracle drink, lemon water alone won’t cause much change in your body. Still, it’s worth incorporating into your routine to help you drink more water (something we all could do more of).
“Drinking lemon water can encourage people to drink more water overall, which has benefits for every metabolic function in the body,” Hanway says. “It can also be a great replacement for more caloric or caffeinated beverages and has some vitamin C, which is an important antioxidant.”
But if you’re hoping to see dramatic results, you won’t find them simply from this drink. “Lemon water is a great thing to add into your routine,” Terrell says. “It helps you hydrate, tastes good, and is refreshing, but it’s not a magical weight loss or detox tool.”
And, of course, there’s no need to drink lemon water every day if you don’t want to. Hydration will benefit your overall health more than a cup of lemon water will. “While drinking lemon water is great, there’s no need to disregard plain water—both offer important health benefits,” Vaca-Flores says.