The HCG diet has been popular for many years. It's an extreme diet, claimed to cause fast weight loss of up to 1-2 pounds per day. What's more, you're not supposed to feel hungry in the process. However, the FDA has called it dangerous, illegal and fraudulent. This article takes an objective look at the science behind the HCG diet.
HCG, or human chorionic gonadotropin, is a hormone present at high levels in early pregnancy.
In fact, this hormone is used as a marker in home pregnancy tests.
HCG has also been used to treat fertility issues in both men and women.
However, elevated blood levels of HCG may also be a symptom of several types of cancer, including placental, ovarian and testicular cancer.
A British doctor named Albert Simeons first proposed HCG as a weight loss tool in 1954.
His diet consisted of two main components:
• An ultra low-calorie diet of around 500 calories per day.
• The HCG hormone administered via injections.
Today, HCG products are sold in various forms, including oral drops, pellets and sprays. They are also available through countless websites and some retail stores.
hCG Diet Chart
hCG Meal Plan — Breakfast
Tea or coffee - As much as you'd like, NO sugar.
Only one tablespoonful of milk allowed per day. You may use Saccharin or Stevia to sweeten.
hCG Meal Plan — Lunch and Dinner
You get each of the following items for Lunch and then again for Dinner. Try to mix it up a little... maybe have grilled chicken with asparagus for lunch then fish with cucumbers for dinner.
1. 100 grams (weighed raw) of one of the following meats:
• Chicken breast
• Fresh white fish
Note: Remove all fat before cooking (grill/boil). Chicken breast should be removed from the bird before cooking.
To ensure I get the right amount of meat with each meal, I use this kitchen scale to weigh food.
2. One serving of one of the following vegetables:
• Green salad
• Red radishes
3. One breadstick (grissino) or Melba toast.
4. One of the following fruits:
• A handful of strawberries
• Half a grapefruit.
Remember, you get each of these foods twice every day (for lunch and then for dinner). It is a good idea to space out the foods. For example, eat the fruit if you start feeling hungry, then an hour later have the vegetable. If you space out the items in each meal, you will feel great.
hCG Meal Plan — Drinks and Seasonings
The following drinks can be consumed all day:
• Plain water
Note: Two or more liters of water per day is recommended.
The following can be used for seasoning:
• Mustard powder
• Garlic, basil, parsley, thyme, etc...
Note: No oil, butter or dressing.
The juice from one lemon can be used daily for any purpose.
*Note: Some people find that supplementing their Lunch/Dinner with an HCG Meal Replacement Shakehelps.
Other hCG Meal Plan Information
Important hCG Meal Plan Notes:
• Strictly adhere to the 500-calorie limit.
• 2 small apples are not an acceptable exchange for “1 apple.”
• On rare occasions, you may have egg - boiled, poached or raw
Note: Individuals who cannot have meat should eat 1 whole egg and 3 egg whites instead.
• Cottage cheese made from skimmed milk (100 grams) can be used instead of meat from time to time.
What HCG Does in the Body
HCG is a protein-based hormone produced during pregnancy.
What HCG basically does is telling a woman's body that it's pregnant.
HCG helps maintain the production of important hormones like progesterone and estrogen, which are essential for the development of the embryo and fetus.
After the first three months of pregnancy, blood levels of HCG decrease.
Does HCG Help You Lose Weight?
Proponents of the HCG diet claim that it boosts metabolism and helps you lose large amounts of fat, all without feeling hungry.
Various theories attempt to explain the mechanism behind HCG and weight loss.
However, multiple studies have concluded that weight loss achieved by the HCG diet is due to the ultra low-calorie diet alone and has absolutely nothing to do with the HCG hormone.
These studies compared the effects of HCG injections with placebo injections when given to individuals on a calorie-restricted diet.
Weight loss was found to be identical or nearly identical between the two groups.
Furthermore, they found that the HCG hormone did not significantly reduce hunger.
Does the HCG Diet Improve Body Composition?
One common side effect of weight loss is decreased muscle mass.
This is especially common on diets that severely restrict caloric intake, such as the HCG diet.
The body may also think it's starving and reduce the amount of calories it burns in order to conserve energy.
However, proponents of the HCG diet claim that it facilitates weight loss resulting from fat loss only, not muscle loss.
They claim that HCG also elevates other hormones, boosts metabolism and leads to a growth-promoting (anabolic) state.
However, there are no scientific studies available to back up these claims.
If you're on a low-calorie diet, there are much better ways to prevent muscle loss and metabolic slowdown than taking HCG.
Weight lifting is the most effective strategy. Also, eating plenty of high-protein foods and taking an occasional break from your diet can boost metabolism.
How the HCG Diet is Prescribed
The HCG diet is a very low-fat, very low-calorie diet.
It is generally divided into three phases:
1. Loading phase: Start taking HCG and eat plenty of high-fat, high-calorie foods for 2 days.
2. Weight loss phase: Continue taking HCG and eat only 500 calories per day for 3 to 6 weeks.
3. Maintenance phase: Stop taking HCG. Gradually increase food intake but avoid sugar and starch for 3 weeks.
For people who have less weight to lose, 3 weeks is recommended for the weight loss phase. Those who need to lose a lot of weight may be advised to follow the diet for 6 weeks and even repeat the cycle (all phases) several times.
As for the weight loss phase, you're only allowed to eat two meals per day, usually lunch and dinner.
HCG meal plans generally suggest that each meal should contain one portion of lean protein, a vegetable, a piece of bread and a fruit.
You may also get a list of "approved" foods to select from in specific amounts.
Butter, oils and sugar should be avoided, but you're encouraged to drink lots of water. Mineral water, coffee and tea are allowed as well.
Most HCG Products on the Market Are Scams
Most of the HCG products on the market today are actually "homeopathic." What this really means, is that there is literally no HCG in them.
Real HCG, in the form of injections, is approved as a fertility drug. It is only available through a doctor's prescription.
Only these injections are able to raise blood levels of the hormone, not these "homeopathic" products sold online.
Safety and Side Effects
HCG has not been approved as a weight loss drug by agencies like the FDA.
On the contrary, they have questioned the safety of HCG products, as the ingredients are unregulated and unknown.
There are also a number of side effects associated with the HCG diet, such as:
These may be largely due to the starvation-level calorie intake, which is pretty much guaranteed to make a lot of people feel miserable.
Additionally, in one case a 64-year-old woman was on the HCG diet when blood clots developed in her leg and lungs. It was concluded that the clots were likely caused by the diet.
The Diet May Work, But it's Only Because You're Cutting Calories
The HCG diet limits caloric intake to around 500 calories per day for weeks at a time, making it an extremely weight loss diet.
Any diet that is this low in calories will make you lose weight.
However, numerous studies have found that the HCG hormone has no effect on weight loss, and doesn't reduce your appetite.
If you're serious about losing weight and keeping it off, then there are plenty of effective methods that are much more sensible than the HCG diet.
For more science-based tips on weight loss, check out this article: 30 Easy Ways to Lose Weight Naturally.