What to Know About Lemon Water and Its Potential Health Benefits
By now you’ve probably heard the claims that drinking lemon water speeds up your recovery process, helps you lose weight, decreases bloating, boosts your overall health and even helps you climb better. That’s a lot of benefits from one bitter glass of H2O. But here’s the quick truth: Drinking lemon water doesn’t truly yield as many benefits as you think.
While plenty of influencers tout the benefits of drinking lemon water, the science just isn’t there to back it all up. The pro is that adding lemon to your water may encourage you to drink more fluids, but it won’t be the secret ingredient that helps you hit all your health goals. So here’s what to know about sipping the citrus-infused H2O.
The True Benefits of Drinking Lemon Water
Lemons are nutritious fruits and consuming the juice in a cup of water can offer up a few advantages for your well-being (keywords: a few).
Fact 1: Lemon water keeps you hydrated
The biggest benefit to drinking lemon water? It can encourage you to sip more water and help you stay hydrated, Kristen Arnold, MS, RD, CSSD, sports dietitian and cycling coach tells Bicycling.
“Anything that is going to make water taste better is going to promote that habit,” she says. “If [adding lemons] makes water more appealing to drink in the morning then you’re going to do it more consistently. And that hydration in the morning is going to promote better recovery and hydration status overall.”
It’s no secret that drinking water is super important for everyone, especially athletes, as it can help you maintain daily function, keep you fuller longer, and help you maintain energy levels throughout the day. According to data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, American adults consume about 3 to 3.5 litres of water each day. Yet, many of us aren’t getting enough fluids throughout the day, according to the recent Dietary Guidelines For Americans.
When it comes to drinking water, there isn’t a set recommendation as to how much you should drink a day. Instead, your water requirements will vary depending on your activity level and environment. For cyclists proper hydration is extremely important. If you meet your hydration needs, your muscles can work at their peak performance as you exercise. After your workout, it is equally important to rehydrate and replenish your body with the fluids your body lost. Lemon water is an option for meeting these needs.
Fact 2: It does offer a few other nutritional benefits
“Lemons themselves are high in antioxidants including vitamin C which has a plethora of benefits including fighting free radicals, excelling recovery, and overall lowering inflammation,” says Arnold. In fact, according to the USDA an ounce of lemon juice contains nearly 11 milligrams of vitamin C and your cells, tissues, and organs rely on vitamin C to function. One scientific paper in the Encyclopedia of Immunology backs this up, saying vitamin C is an important antioxidant that helps to keep you healthy through a few bodily reactions, including fighting inflammation.
Naturally, Arnold says, exercise is an inflammatory activity, so having foods with anti-inflammatory properties is important for recovery and helping you perform at your best.
Fact 3. It may support your heart health
“In general, the anti-inflammatory and antioxidants effects [of lemon water] will positively promote heart health and nerve health,” says Arnold. A major study published in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine supports this, saying that an increase in fruits and veggie intake—particularly leafy greens and vitamin C-rich foods (like lemons)—helps protect against coronary heart disease. Also, overall hydration supports heart health.
Keep in mind, just drinking lemon water won’t be a heart health cure-all, but it could be a part of a heart-healthy diet.
The Truth About Other Lemon Water Health Claims
Don’t get it twisted: Some of the health claims influencers tout about lemon water either just aren’t true or the benefit isn’t backed by science.
Fiction 1: Lemon water helps you lose weight
Some health gurus claim drinking lemon water will help you lose weight. But these claims come from animal studies, says Arnold. When it comes to humans, she says, there have been little to no studies to prove or deny drinking lemon water will support your weight loss efforts.
Lemon water is a healthy alternative to other sugary drinks like soda and sweetened teas, yes, and it can help you cut back on calories. So it’s smart to swap in the citrus beverage for one of these more calorie-laden choices. But it won’t be sole reason you drop pounds.
Fiction 2: It decreases bloating
You might have heard that starting your day with lemon water can help you de-bloat. And while that may be true, there’s not Western science to back it up. Most of the evidence comes from Ayurvedic medicine, which is an ancient holistic approach to medicine practiced in India. This approach has been practiced for thousands of years, Arnold says, which is promising. And while drinking lemon water probably won’t lead to any negative effects when it comes to your gut, helping with bloat just isn’t a proven benefit.
One thing to note: Arnold says the citrus in lemons can aggravate acid reflux. So consider drinking lemon water in moderation if you have a sensitivity.
Fiction 3: It helps you detox
There’s no evidence to back this claim and your body naturally gets rid of toxins on its own. Arnold says that lemons contain antioxidants that can help clear your body of toxic compounds and waste, but scientists haven’t proven that drinking lemon water will help with that process any better than regular water. What’s more, according to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health there are very few and only low-quality studies that found detox diets (like the lemon water detox diet) to be successful.
The bottom line: Lemons are a good source of vitamins and minerals that can be beneficial to your body. Keep in mind, though, you won’t get the most nutritional value out of lemons by drinking lemon water.
In general, if you like the flavour, it helps you stay hydrated, or it just makes you feel good, drink that lemon water. Just know that it won’t solve all your health woes.