An Apple Cider Vinegar Cleanse Gave Me Abs...and an Awful Stomach Ache

I broke the one obvious diet rule and tried a cleanse I found on social media.


The reported benefits of apple cider vinegar range from helping you lose weight, protecting your heart, preventing cancer, and even banishing bad breath. So when I saw a fitness influencer attribute an ACV cleanse to her killer abs, I broke the one diet rule I've always kept and tried a fad diet prescribed on social media.

My Pursuit for a Six-Pack

I always thought that diets shared by fitness influencers on Instagram tend to come across as shady and inauthentic, but when my by BFF sent me the Instagram post below, I forgot all about that skepticism. The post talked about a cleanse to eliminate bloat, help digestion issues, and get those much-coveted obliques. I was game.

I figured I didn't have anything to lose-the ingredients are "real" food and ACV was having a moment. I'd seen other fitness peeps snap shots of gallon jugs, talking about their own concoctions. So, I committed to giving it a try.

ACV Cleanse

Day 1: I'm just gonna say it: The shake tasted disgusting. I didn't even finish the whole serving. I drank what I could first thing in the morning when I woke up. I ate regularly at work and did an extra-long endurance run in the evening. I also worked in a few new abs exercises into my workouts. After all, this cleanse was about to give me abs, right? The post also recommended a magnesium supplement at night, so I took one after dinner.

Day 2: The shake still tasted sour (IDK why I was surprised about that; there's vinegar in it), but I managed to down the whole thing and felt kickass for it. The only major change was-warning: TMI ahead-that I went to the bathroom more than usual that day. Otherwise, I ate regularly again, went for a shorter run and did some weight lifting after work, and popped another magnesium pill. Day two of the cleanse, check.

Day 3: The taste of the drink got better (or I was getting used to it). I spent decent time in the bathroom again, which debloated me and made my stomach flat. I felt less hungry throughout the day and didn't feel a surge of early-afternoon fatigue like a normally do. Later, after I completed an endurance run at the gym, I lifted up my shirt, looked in the mirror, and...there they were-abs! Yes, legitimate abs (a first for me). At home, I piled my plate high with veggies and took another magnesium supplement.

Day 4: The shake was tolerable, but I felt queasy in the morning, and I wasn't very hungry at lunch. I decided to take a rest day from my workouts. I completed my day with another round of magnesium, but little did I know this was the beginning of the end of my temporary abs.

Day 5: My stomach felt terrible. I dealt with a nauseous, acidic stomach all day. I tried to do my long run, but my stomach wouldn't allow it. I still took my magnesium pill with dinner.

Day 6-7: I woke up with the worst stomach ache I've ever had. I hesitantly made the shake and told myself I was almost done and maybe this was just part of the process. The post suggested trying the cleanse for at least 7 days. (I know now that I should have listened to my body.)

Day 8: No shake, no magnesium pill, continued stomach ache, and fading abs. This cleanse ended on a(nother) sour note.

The Truth Behind the Fad

So, sure, I got abs, kinda, and for a day or so, but the side effects were obviously not worth that mini reward. I knew I'd never do it again. I was curious about whether my circumstances were abnormal, or if there was actually some secret abs-sculpting benefits to an apple cider vinegar cleanse that I just missed somehow. So I talked to Jessica Crandall, R.D.N., a certified diabetes educator. Crandall says she's never prescribed ACV to any of her clients, and she doesn't see that changing anytime soon.

"Because it tastes nasty, it might curb your appetite," says Crandall. "But it's just a diet fad."

The other ingredients in the cleanse fared a little better from Crandall's expert point of view, though. Turmeric has anti-inflammatory properties; blueberries are high in fiber and antioxidants; lemon juice is high in vitamin C; and spinach is a great source of vitamin K (and boosts your fitness performance). The magnesium in the evening helps relax your muscles and blood vessels and (ironically) helps normalize your bowel movements. All good stuff, "but nothing in there will give you six-pack abs," says Crandall. In fact, she tells me that the acidity of the ACV may have been too much for my stomach to handle, which makes a lot of sense considering my frequent bathroom breaks and tossy-turny stomach.

So besides some obvious dehydration, to what does she attribute my day-long abs? Simply put, being aware of my goal and my diet. In theory, people who follow an influencer or fitness figure who suggests a diet, food, or detox will likely "eat something healthy they otherwise wouldn't and it kickstarts other habits like trying new exercises or eating better," hypothesizes Crandall. It's true. Remember, I did start doing a few new abs exercises during the cleanse.

Lessons Learned: Abs Just Aren't Worth It

Stay skeptical of words like detox and cleanse. While some may have their benefits, most are nothing more than fluff. Regardless, the moral of the story here to is listen to your body. I should have known something was up when I could barely stomach the first shake on day 1, or at least on day 4 when I was so queasy. Next time, I'll listen to my gut (pun intended).

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