According to the Guardian, drinking lemon water is a huge celebrity wellness trend. But, you probably wonder if its benefits carry over to bodybuilding, helping you build muscle and lose fat. As a nutrition coach, I’m here to break down the science.
- Lemon water is good for bodybuilding because it is a calorie-free way to flavor water and improve hydration. Also, it provides antioxidants (mainly vitamin C) to limit inflammation and promote post-workout recovery. You can even add some Stevia as a calorie-free sweetener.
- Since lemon water has no macronutrients (protein, carbs, or fats), it can’t be a substitute for food and should be consumed with a complete meal. You can drink lemon water before training to hydrate yourself and improve your performance and post-training to replace lost fluids.
- Because of its high acidity, lemon water can cause some stomach issues in the form of nausea or heartburn. Be mindful of that possibility if you have a sensitive stomach. Lemons and other citrus fruits can also be a trigger for migraines in people who experience them regularly.
Lemon Water: Pros
1. Lemon Water Can Help You Drink More Water
Drinking enough water is vital for bodybuilders as dehydration can negatively impact your performance during your workout.
Many of my bodybuilding clients struggle to get enough water throughout the day simply because it isn’t that interesting just to drink water.
When they tell me this, I recommend adding a calorie-free or low-calorie flavor to their water, such as lemon, fruit, or herbs (like mint).
Other store-bought water flavorings include added sugar, which are just empty calories that can lead to unwanted weight gain.
2. Lemon Water Is a Calorie-Free Drink Option
Lemon water has no calories, which is especially helpful for bodybuilders who are cutting.
You eat fewer calories than you burn during a cut, which can lead to hunger.
If you are drinking calories by consuming something like soda or juice, you are likely to find that hunger is even worse, as these liquids do nothing to fill you up.
By opting for a calorie-free drink like lemon water, you can use all your calories on food that will physically fill you up so you are more satisfied.
Lemon water can also be a great option when you are craving sugar.
Add a bit of stevia to your lemon water for a calorie-free lemonade substitute. I also like to blend this mix with ice, which feels a bit more “filling” if you are in a cutting phase.
3. Lemon Water Is High in Vitamin C
Lemon water is high in vitamin C, which has been shown to help boost immune function, keeping you healthier and able to fight off sickness.
Lemon water with 2 tbsp of lemon juice provides approximately 21% of the daily recommended dosage of vitamin C.
“Like other citrus fruits — including oranges, grapefruit, and limes — lemons are rich in flavonoids. These are compounds that help boost health and fight disease.
Although a single glass does not seem to provide a lot of nutrients, lemon water is a healthful, low calorie, and low sugar beverage that can boost a person’s vitamin C intake.
For comparison, replacing the lemon with the juice of half an orange (weighing 43 g) would provide almost twice as many calories, about three times as much sugar, and 24% DV of vitamin C.”–Joe Leech, Dietitian (MSc Nutrition & Dietetics)
For bodybuilders, getting sick can be a significant hurdle, especially if they are prepping for a competition or show. Not only can it cause you to miss workouts, but it can also impact your diet.
Lemon Water: Cons
1. Lemon Water Provides No Macronutrients
Lemon water provides no macronutrients, which, for bodybuilders, means it’s crucial to consume it with a full meal.
Bodybuilders need to consume carbs, protein, and fat throughout the day so they have enough energy and their body can function at its best.
Since lemon water provides none of these, it should not be a substitute for food, particularly around a workout.
If you do try and substitute lemon water for a snack or meal, you are likely to find your energy crashes quickly, and you’re reaching for a snack as a pick-me-up.
Here are some other drinks we’ve analyzed for bodybuilding:
2. Lemon Water Can Cause Digestive Discomfort
Lemon water is quite acidic and can lead to digestive discomforts, such as heartburn, nausea, or vomiting, impacting a bodybuilder’s ability to perform well during a workout.
As you can imagine, if you experience these symptoms before or during a workout, you are not likely to perform at your best.
In addition, it may make consuming food, especially protein, during the remainder of the day difficult.
To reduce the risk of digestive issues, limit the lemon juice to 2 tbsp and ensure you are not drinking it on an empty stomach.
3. Lemon Water Can Cause Migraines
Citrus fruit, like lemon, is a common trigger for migraines in those who regularly suffer from them.
For bodybuilders, this can negatively impact your ability to perform at the gym and prioritize your nutrition.
Those who suffer from migraines know how difficult it is to function when you are experiencing one. You are unlikely to be able to complete your workout or eat the nutrition required to build muscle.
If you are a common migraine sufferer, slowly add lemon water into your diet and pay attention to any change in migraine frequency.
Can You Drink Lemon Water Before Workouts?
Yes, you can drink lemon water before a workout, as it can help you stay hydrated and perform well during your workout.
According to research, a mere two percent dehydration can affect athletic performance.
To avoid these adverse effects, drink 17 to 20 ounces of water two to three hours before training and up to 8 ounces 20-30 minutes before your workouts.
You should also drink 7 to 10 ounces of water every 10 to 20 minutes during exercise to replace the fluids lost through sweat.
Of course, you can drink less water during exercise if you don’t sweat much. However, be more mindful of your fluid intake if you do long endurance workouts or exercise in warm environments (e.g., your gym doesn’t have an air conditioner).
I asked Registered Dietitian Breda Paralta about drinking lemon water before a workout. She said:
“Lemon water doesn’t contain a lot of calories or carbs. It is a great way to add some flavor to water and keep yourself hydrated before an exercise”.
Therefore, lemon water makes a great pre-workout choice but as an addition to a meal and not as a replacement.
Can You Drink Lemon Water After Workouts?
Yes, lemon water is an excellent option to drink after a workout as it provides vitamin C, which promotes recovery.
In one study, researchers looked at the impact of vitamin C supplementation before and after exercise. They found that it can reduce subjective muscle soreness and limit creatine kinase levels (a muscle damage marker).
“Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that helps diminish the stressful effects exercise can produce on the body”.
When you work out, you create stress within your body. This type of stress is not a problem so long as you give your body what it needs to recover.
Consuming an antioxidant, like vitamin C, can help reduce this inflammation from stress, allowing our body to rebuild and recover.
However, lemon water alone won’t be an adequate post-workout meal.
After a workout, it’s also important to consume carbs and protein to restore energy and encourage muscle strength and growth.
Does Lemon Water Help Muscle Growth?
Lemon water can help with muscle growth as adequate hydration is required to perform well at the gym and provide a good training stimulus.
Providing your muscles with an adequate training stimulus is the most crucial factor in muscle building.
Dehydration can have a significant adverse effect on your workout, leading to performance that won’t provide the stimulus your muscle needs.
Therefore, lemon water can help with one aspect of muscle growth, but you must combine the adequate training stimulus with sufficient protein and calories to build muscle.
Frequently Asked Questions
Should Bodybuilders Drink Lemon Water Instead of Sport Drinks?
Bodybuilders can drink lemon water to stay hydrated and get vitamin C without ingesting any calories. However, sports drinks have electrolytes and fast-digesting carbs, which can boost performance, especially during long, high-volume sessions.
Does Lemon Water Interact With Bodybuilding Supplements?
Some research suggests that citrus flavonoids can boost nitric oxide production and improve athletic performance, hinting at potential benefits of drinking lemon water alongside a pre-workout supplement.
How Does Lemon Water Compare To Protein Shakes For Bodybuilding Recovery?
While the antioxidants found in lemons can limit inflammation and support muscle recovery, they alone are not enough. The body needs protein for muscle recovery and growth.
Is It Better to Drink Warm or Cold Lemon Water?
It’s a matter of preference, as there doesn’t seem to be an advantage to drinking cold or warm lemon water for bodybuilding or general health.
Lemon Water Recipe for Bodybuilders
This easy lemonade is the perfect addition to your pre or post-workout meal as it provides hydration, vitamin C, and some quick-digesting carbs from the honey.
- Juice from 5 lemons
- ⅓ cup of honey
- 4 cups cold water
- Ice when serving
- Add the lemon juice and honey to a blender and blend well.
- Add in the cold water and mix to combine. Store in the fridge until ready to serve.
- Pour over ice when ready to enjoy.
Per one cup serving, this recipe has 144 calories, 0g protein (0%), 36g carbs (100%), and 0g fat (0%).
Other Drinks To Consdier For Bodybuilding
Ayotte, D., Corcoran, M.P. Individualized hydration plans improve performance outcomes for collegiate athletes engaging in in-season training. J Int Soc Sports Nutr 15, 27 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12970-018-0230-2
Padayatty SJ, Katz A, Wang Y, Eck P, Kwon O, Lee JH, Chen S, Corpe C, Dutta A, Dutta SK, Levine M. Vitamin C as an antioxidant: evaluation of its role in disease prevention. J Am Coll Nutr. 2003 Feb;22(1):18-35. doi: 10.1080/07315724.2003.10719272. PMID: 12569111.
Judge LW, Bellar DM, Popp JK, Craig BW, Schoeff MA, Hoover DL, Fox B, Kistler BM, Al-Nawaiseh AM. Hydration to Maximize Performance and Recovery: Knowledge, Attitudes, and Behaviors Among Collegiate Track and Field Throwers. J Hum Kinet. 2021 Jul 28;79:111-122. doi: 10.2478/hukin-2021-0065. PMID: 34400991; PMCID: PMC8336541.
Bryer SC, Goldfarb AH. Effect of high dose vitamin C supplementation on muscle soreness, damage, function, and oxidative stress to eccentric exercise. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2006 Jun;16(3):270-80. doi: 10.1123/ijsnem.16.3.270. PMID: 16948483.
Overdevest E, Wouters JA, Wolfs KHM, van Leeuwen JJM, Possemiers S. Citrus Flavonoid Supplementation Improves Exercise Performance in Trained Athletes. J Sports Sci Med. 2018 Mar 1;17(1):24-30. PMID: 29535575; PMCID: PMC5844206.
Kerksick, C.M., Arent, S., Schoenfeld, B.J. et al. International society of sports nutrition position stand: nutrient timing. J Int Soc Sports Nutr 14, 33 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12970-017-0189-4
About The Author
Laura Semotiuk is a Precision Nutrition Level 1 certified nutrition coach. She works with athletes and active individuals looking to improve performance and develop healthy nutritional habits and behaviors. She has a passion for cooking, meal prepping, and creating simple and healthy recipes.
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