Losing Muscle Mass On the Master Cleanse

Karen Frazier
Woman with muscular arms and back

Many people believe a cleanse or fast can help purify the body; however, a large number have discovered there is a very real probability of losing muscle mass on the Master Cleanse. While this cleanse has been around since the 1940s, many people are unaware of the dangers associated with short term or long term cleansing protocols. Before you undertake a fast or cleanse such as the Master Cleanse, be sure you have all of the facts so you can make an informed decision.

The Master Cleanse

The Master Cleanse was first conceived of in 1941 by an alternative medicine practitioner named Stanley Burroughs. Since the 40s, it has come and gone out of fashion. The Cleanse itself is a liquid diet that claims to detoxify the body by removing harmful toxins. Other claims are that it can:

  • Cure cravings for alcohol
  • Cure cravings for tobacco
  • Cure cravings for drugs
  • Heal a number of chronic health conditions such as ulcers
  • Kick start weight loss
  • Increase energy.

The Cleanse is a fasting protocol that involves drinking/eating only the Master Cleanse concoction of water, maple syrup, lemon juice and cayenne pepper for a period of a week to ten days. No solid foods are eating during this period of time.

Dangers of the Master Cleanse

Losing muscle mass on the Master Cleanse is just one of many dangers of this fasting protocol. Other dangers include issues with blood sugar, lack of energy, lack of nutrition, lack of sufficient caloric intake, potential for vitamin deficiencies, and danger of electrolyte imbalances. After all is said and done, the protocol is not nutritionally sound and even a short term course of drinking only a sugary drink devoid of vitamins and minerals can lead to any or all of the above problems.

Losing Muscle Mass on the Master Cleanse

Muscle loss is guaranteed on any diet, cleanse or fast that severely restricts calories. The Master Cleanse is no exception. There are many reasons why muscle loss will result.

Lack of Calories

When you fail to take in sufficient calories, your body begins to operate differently than it does when you are providing it with adequate nutrition. The Master Cleanse allows you only three "foods" - maple syrup, fresh lemon juice and cayenne pepper. In the absence of sufficient calories, the body begins to feed on itself. The most efficient way for the body to quickly get the nutrition it needs in order to create energy to go about your daily life is for it to convert lean body tissue (anything that isn't fat) into energy. This can lead to rather significant muscle loss over a period of seven to ten days.

Lack of Protein

One of the ways to avoid losing muscle mass during times of a very low calorie diet is to have most of your caloric intake come from protein. This is the basis of low carbohydrate or ketogenic diets, which are protein sparing diets. These diets rely largely on protein and fat as a source of calories, and the amount of protein in these diets (even in absence of what might be deemed sufficient caloric intake) spares the lean tissue in the body. The Master Cleanse is almost the opposite of this, and lean tissue becomes target number one for the body to meet its energy stores.

High Sugar Content

Not only is there zero protein intake for the period during the Master Cleanse, but the diet is actually quite high in sugar. Diets high in sugar cause insulin spikes every time sugar is eaten. With the Master Cleanse, there is nothing but sugar. This causes a reaction in your body where the insulin spikes very quickly after drinking the concoction, which causes a precipitous drop in blood sugar as the insulin very quickly removes the sugar from the blood.

Here's the problem with the way your body's insulin responds in this case: insulin is the mechanism by which fat is escorted into fat cells. It is also what keeps fat from exiting the fat cells because it is there for storage - not release. What this means is that while you are on the Master Cleanse, you will very likely experience high levels of insulin, causing your body to have the inability to turn to its stored fat as a source of energy. Since you are not receiving energy from any fuel (food) and your body fat isn't providing any energy, there is only one place for the body to turn to get its energy needs met - your lean tissue.

Lack of Nutrients

The Master Cleanse offers almost no nutrients. It has very few vitamins and minerals - which your body needs to function efficiently. While this doesn't contribute as directly to muscle wasting as the other factors do, it doesn't help the situation much.After doing the Master Cleanse, there is a good chance you will wind up weaker and with less muscle mass than when you started. While you will very likely lose weight, the weight you lose will be lean, beautiful muscle in your body and not fat. Because of this, you might want to think very seriously before electing to undertake the Master Cleanse.

If, in spite of the above information, you do elect to do the Master Cleanse or another similar fasting protocol, it is strongly recommended you do so only for a very short term and always under the supervision of a physician or health care provider.

Losing Muscle Mass On the Master Cleanse