Ever wondered what happens when you drink lemon water for 7 days? By now, you'll likely have heard of the many reported health benefits of daily lemon water. The age-old wellness trend has gone viral on TikTok in recent weeks promising to boost hydration, improve digestion, and up your vitamin and mineral levels.
That said, it's no new phenomenon. Hailed as a quick health boost for decades, before TikTok virality, it was huge on Instagram, and before that it was a magazine sensation promising benefits from fat loss to improved digestion.
As a Health Editor, I’ve always wondered whether lemon water can live up to these claims. The research seems to think so: a 2019 report found that lemon water could have anti-ageing effects, improve your gut microbiome and prolong your lifespan. Similarly, a 2021 paper also reported that drinking lemon water before meals improved the digestion of those who drank it rather than plain old water.
That's why, when asked to test the theory and drink lemon water daily by team MC UK, I jumped at the chance. While I'm sometimes a bit of a wellness sceptic - I like my habits to be science-backed, simple and affordable.- I wanted to know whether I'd actually feel any different. Could a simple squeeze of lemon in my water really ease bloating, indigestion and more?
What happens when you drink lemon water for 7 days? I tried it
What are the benefits of lemon water?
First up: a bit of background on the science-backed health benefits of drinking lemon water. According to Sarah Campus, a nutrition coach, personal trainer, and founder of LDN MUMS FITNESS, there are a whole host of benefits of adding fresh lemon juice to your day-to-day.
She explains that the most commonly touted benefits of lemon water are the following:
1. It can help digestion
A fun fact for you - lemon water can be great for aiding digestion. Why? Well, "the acid in the lemons is said to help break down food and may be especially helpful in supplementing stomach acid levels, which tend to decline as we age," Campus explains.
2. It can help you stay hydrated
Did you know? Most of us don’t drink enough water - which is where a daily lemon water habit can come in handy. "It's an easy way to get your day off on the right foot," the expert explains. "Not to mention, it’s more interesting than water and can encourage you to drink more."
Do note here: you'll know you're drinking enough if your urine is almost clear.
3. It can prevent oxidation
You all know that fruit and vegetables are good for you, packed full of fibre and phytonutrients that are key to warding off diseases.
Lemons are particularly high in phytonutrients and can help to protect your body against disease. "These phytonutrients have powerful antioxidant properties, which prevent cell damage from oxidation," explains Campus.
4. It can boost your Vitamin C levels
Juicing half a lemon into your water means you get more than a sixth (21%) of your daily vitamin C, the expert continues.
Vitamin C is a key for protecting you from both cell damage and injury.
5. It's high in potassium, too
Your body can’t function without potassium, continues the pro, a nutrient that lemon is high in. "It’s necessary for nerve-muscle communication, transporting nutrients and waste and blood pressure regulation," she details.
6. It can help prevent kidney stones
In short, lemon water can not only help prevent dehydration - the most common cause of kidney stones - but make kidney stones themselves less painful for certain people, if you do get them. "Lemon water helps prevent painful stones in those deficient in urinary citrate, a form of citric acid," shares Campus.
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What happens when you drink lemon water for 7 days? I tried it
Days one to three
To kick off my experiment, I stock my fridge with fresh lemons and a jug of iced water. Day one rolls around and I squeeze the juice of half a lemon into half a pint of water. So far, so good.
While there's no evidence that drinking lemon water in the morning is any better for you than, say, drinking it in the afternoon, there is research indicating that habits are more likely to stick if you do them first thing. It made sense to me to try this first thing in the morning as I have a pretty solid morning routine. I wake up, take a Symprove probiotic supplement, and drink green tea and lots of water while getting ready for the gym. Then, en route to the gym, I eat a carby snack and get my workout in before commuting to the office.
As rehydrating is already a solid part of my daily routine, I don’t think that adding lemon water in would be a hard tweak. That said, come day three, and I'm finding it a bit of a faff. I make an effort to pre-cut the lemons and refrigerate them to take a step out in the morning.
I also decided to drink through a reusable straw as studies, such as a 2022 paper, show that acidic beverages can cause erosion of the tooth enamel. Sure, you may need to drink a lot of lemon water on a regular to notice these changes, but it’s not a risk I wanted to take.
Days four to seven
After seven days of trialling lemon water and despite my best efforts, I find myself resenting the idea of it. Cutting and squeezing a lemon might not seem like a big deal, but I find the extra step such a faff, especially as I’m trying to be slow and mindful in order to notice any side effects of my new routine.
I asked Campus if I'd be missing out by moving my lemon water to the afternoon when it feels like less of a chore. "The best time to drink lemon water will depend on the individual," she explains. "It's key to manage your wellness habits in a way that doesn't feel overwhelming - in other words, set yourself small, manageable and realistic goals so they don’t overwhelm you." Hear, hear.
With that in mind, I push my glass of lemon water to later in the day. When I WFH, lemon water becomes a great addition to my lunchtime routine, helping me stay hydrated when another glass of water feels too dull.
Come the end of the week, I'll be honest - I haven't noticed any immediate side effects, despite trying my best to tune in to my body and how I'm feeling. I've no doubt I'm more hydrated, however feel I could have achieved that by drinking an extra glass of plain water sans lemon.
That said, it feels good to know that I’m topping up my vitamins, especially as winter is around the corner. I can see why others swear by it - it's cheap, simple, and can be done from the comfort of your own home. That said, I'd rather just drink plain old water and add a healthy squeeze of lemon juice to my salad dressings, here and there.
Ultimately, healthy habits are meant to make you feel good both mentally and physically, and I'll never force myself into a "healthy" habit if I don't enjoy it, too. That's why, simply put, lemon water isn't for me - it might work wonders for others, but I didn't feel a difference and didn't enjoy the new addition to my routine, either. Will you be giving it a go?
What is the best time to drink lemon water?
Short answer: there is no one "best" time, according to Sarah Campus, a nutrition coach, personal trainer, and founder of LDN MUMS FITNESS.
"The best time to drink lemon water will depend on the individual," she explains. She advises managing any healthy habits in a way that works for you - in other words, if you enjoy drinking your lemon water in the afternoon, drink it in the afternoon. Don't force yourself to drink it in the morning because you think it's more beneficial for you - there's no solid, science-backed evidence to prove that as of yet.
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Chloe Gray is a freelance journalist who writes and talks about health, fitness, and wellbeing through a feminist lens. She was part of the launch team for Stylist magazine's fitness brand, Strong Women, and has written for i news, Women's Health, Red magazine, Good Housekeeping, Refinery29, and more. She's all about building mental and physical strength, eating delicious food that fuels you well, and making the fitness industry more accessible and enjoyable. She's also a qualified fitness trainer and research nerd, so you can be sure everything you read is backed by proper science.
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