There are so many diets out there that it can be confusing over whether they really work. After all, why would we need different diets if they all worked?
Well, each diet is for a different reason. They all have different aims and goals, which is why there needs to be so many. When it comes to the HCG diet, it’s designed to encourage the use of fat stores more to aid with weight loss. But does it really work?
There is a science that has gone into the HCG diet. It’s been developed a lot since Dr. Simeons found that injecting overweight women with the HCG from pregnant women to help encourage the body to use the fat stores. And it is constantly being updated. Just recently the fourth phase was added to make sure it really works.
Marketing gurus have jumped on the diet to help make it sell. The aim has always been to get you to spend your money with claims that you could possibly lose a lot of weight. The problem is that there are a lot of science and health professionals who refute the claims. You need to know about it all to make a well-informed choice for your dieting needs.
Here’s a look at everything you need to know about the HCG diet to understand how and why it works.
What Exactly Is the HCG Diet?
Before we get started, let’s consider what the HCG diet is. For those who think they’ve heard of HCG before, you won’t be mistaken. This is a hormone that increases when women get pregnant. It’s the reason blood and urine pregnancy tests come up positive. The tests read the levels of the hormone and determine if they are above a certain rate.
While pregnant, the body is encouraged to use up the fat stores. This helps to offer the mother and baby all the nutrients and energy necessary, especially in the earlier and later stages when taking in food can be difficult. Dr. Simeons developed the diet by taking HCG from pregnant women and injecting it into people who were overweight.
Since the 1950s and 1960s the focus on the diet has changed. But the reasons for following the diet are the same. Scientists believe that the HCG helps to reduce the appetite and help with weight loss. This is especially the case when following a healthy and balanced diet.
The way that the diet is done now is completely different. While there are injections, there are also drops that you can take to get the HCG levels into your system. Now, the injections are the only legal method, but nothing is approved by the FDA. But it’s not all about the hormonal levels. You need to get the right type of diet while you’re losing weight with this method.
There are now four phases to the diet—there used to only be three until recently. The first phase is the most popular and only lasts two days. You’re encouraged to take in as much food as you want, specifically fats. You’ll need these for the next two phases, which take three weeks together.
During phase two, you need to drop to just eating 500 calories a day. These calories will come from fruit, vegetables, and lean meat. It’s a difficult phase and you will need to take the HCG drops at the same time. A week and a half into it, you’ll start the third phase. You’ll need to stick to the 500-calorie diet but you’ll stop taking the drops.
Some of the diets will have an eight-week period for the two phases. This will depend on who you go through, but the original diet was a three-week phase.
The final phase is one that you will be ready for at the end of all this. You go back to eating normally, although it is encouraged that you eat a balanced diet that focus on healthy foods. If you regularly ate junk and fried foods before this diet, you want to make some substantial changes to keep the weight off in the end.
How Could the HCG Diet Really Work?
Before looking at whether it does work, let’s consider the scientific claims. Just how could a diet like this work?
Well, it’s all based on the reduction of the calories. You’re creating a major calorie deficit by cutting down to 500 calories. Isn’t this too much? We’ll consider this more very soon.
But cutting down so much with the higher levels of HCG is important. It’s the HCG that plays the role of stopping your body from eating away at the muscles during the three-week two-phase period. The HCG gets the body to work on the fat stored already within the body. Your body will get the 1,500 calories or so from the fat just to get the energy. In some cases, it will take 2,500 calories a day from the fat, so your body will expel 3,000 calories throughout the day.
The HCG must work, because pregnant women can get all the nutrients and energy they need throughout the day despite sometimes barely being able to eat anything.
So, why has the diet changed? Well, there were flaws in the Simeons’ method. It’s something that scientists now agree isn’t good for us, but it has helped develop the diet that is supported by clinical trials. However, it is worth pointing out that the diet isn’t approved by the FDA.
But to make use of this diet in full, you will need to take some HCG drops to get the extra hormone in your body. Not all the drops you take will be legal, either. Only those given by your doctor are legal. Anything over the counter cannot be sold or bought, and you are putting your health at serious risks by taking them. Keep all this in mind when it comes to following the diet.
Some patients have also found that they don’t feel the need to eat as much, which counters one of the issues we’ll notice below. The hunger is suppressed, so eating 500 calories or so just becomes the norm. This can take a while to set in, and is noticed more in those who follow the diet for longer than the basic three-week period.
How can the HCG help with appetite suppression? Well, HCG in pregnant women is the reason for the morning sickness and feeling of not being that hungry. When you don’t have another body to worry about while you’re losing weight, you can focus more on how little you need to eat.
The injections of HCG work much better than the drops. These are still available, but you do need to get them through your doctor. The problem with drops is that they dissolve before they have a chance to get to your blood stream. When you opt for the injection, they’re going straight into your blood stream.
Yes, the HCG Diet Makes You Lose Weight
There are plenty of people who will tell you that you can lose weight following the HCG diet. In fact, people have lost 10-20 pounds in the three-week period by following this heavily calorie controlled diet.
They’ve not had fun doing it, but they’ve seen the results. That’s what they really care about.
There is a prescribed diet that doesn’t involve the HCG drops and this even works for losing weight. Some people have lost 30-40 pounds in the three-week period by dropping down to 500-600 calories without the drops.
When it comes to dropping the calories so much, you are going to lose calories. After all, the diet is forcing your body to take the extra needed calories from elsewhere, and this means taking them from the stored calories. You’ll find that you drop a large amount of weight, so it shouldn’t really be surprising that the diet really does work.
That doesn’t mean that the diet is going to be good for you. Nor does it mean that you will keep that weight off when you’ve finished the diet. There are also other major downsides to following this type of diet. We need to focus on these downsides to determine whether the diet really does work for the long term.
This Isn’t a Diet to Follow Forever
If you drop the number of calories you eat to 500 on a regular basis, you’re not going to do yourself any good. Your body needs so much more and it will eventually run out of calories that you’ve stored in the past. You’ll also find that you’re taking calories from the wrong places.
The body starts to take calories from the muscles rather than the fat stores. The muscle calories are so much easier to gain and more substantial for the energy levels. The problem is your muscles will feel weaker and you won’t get the toned body that you’ve always wanted.
Whenever it comes to any diet, you can end up taking calories from the muscles. The best way to avoid this from happening is by doing exercise to build the muscles while you lose weight. You’ll burn more calories and encourage the body to take the calories from the fat stores instead. But you’re burning more calories! How are you going to do that when you’re reducing your calorie intake by so much?
You probably can’t safely do exercise while on such a low-calorie diet. Sure, it’s only three weeks for the main diet but what about that one that keeps you going for eight weeks? Just think of the amount of energy you’ll feel like you won’t have!
Therefore, some people who recommend the diet have made a few changes. There are now versions of the HCG diet that drop the calories to 1,500 instead. You’re still creating a calorie deficit but not by as much with the original HCG diet. Those who offer this diet will offer a diet that drops your calories by between 500 and 1,500. The focus is on your health and medical history. The aim is to make sure the diet is just right for you.
So, you may be on a different number of calories to your best friend who is following the same diet. This helps to consider any exercise that you do, your weight loss goals, and any health risks that you have.
The HCG drops are supposed to help save your muscles from damage. The problem is that not everyone will be able to get them. Remember that those you get over the counter are legal to take. Most websites have been forced to stop selling them or won’t deliver to you, but that doesn’t mean you can’t find them somewhere. They may not be just pumped with the hormone, but also include various other ingredients that are harmful to the health.
Of course, when you go through your health care provider there will be questions. Not all doctors will want to facilitate this diet because they don’t agree with it. Others will want to run you through a series of tests first to make sure this is the right diet for you—there are plenty of others out there that tend to be healthier.
Then when you are allowed the drops, you’ll need to pay for them. They aren’t cheap and most insurances aren’t going to cover them. That means you need to pay for them yourself, out of pocket. Can you really afford this when there are other diet plans there that don’t require a doctor to supply injections?
Sure, you can follow the diet without the HCG drops but then you’re not exactly following the diet properly. You’re also putting your health at risk because there are no hormones to encourage you to take the calories from the fat instead of the muscles.
The HCG helps to boost the amount of testosterone in your body. This is the hormone needed for the building of muscle. So, if you can get more of that into your body naturally, you’ll find it much easier to protect your muscle mass.
Are You Really Going to Enjoy This Diet?
This also isn’t going to be a diet that you enjoy. With so few calories, just how are you going to enjoy your meals. Let’s think about what 500 calories are going to give you daily. 300 calories are a slice of toast with some beans. Do you really feel satisfied after that? Do you think you’ll get through your day with just the 500 calories?
The diet is designed so that you get two meals a day. And you need to split your 500 calories up between them. You don’t have anything for your breakfast, and must wait until lunch for your first meal. If you’re planning meals with your friends, you’ll end up barely enjoying your time out with them!
Being so restrictive makes it very difficult to get all the food that you want to eat. Researchers have found that those who feel like they don’t enjoy their diet or are telling themselves “no” far too much are more likely to not stick to the diet. You could find after a week that you’ve just had enough and you’re more likely to binge.
If you do get to the end, you’re more likely to binge on all the food that was banned for the duration of the diet. This will lead to you quickly putting all the weight back on very soon after you’ve stopped following the diet. It’s important to follow a balanced diet afterwards, and you may find that you need to build the number of calories you eat up slowly.
It’s also worth noting that reducing your calories so much will mean that your metabolism slows down. When it comes to going back to eating normally, you will find it much harder to eat everything that you once did. Your metabolism will find it harder to burn it all off and you could end up gaining more weight than you lost in less time than it took to lose it.
What Can You Eat While Following the HCG Diet?
Now that we’ve looked at the risks and benefits of the HCG diet, we want to consider the type of food that you can eat while on the diet. The restrictions are more than just the calories. As we’ve seen, you’re restricted at the type of foods you eat.
When you get your two meals, you need to make sure you have one bit of lean meat, one bit of bread, some fruit and some vegetables. And you cannot have any oily fish, because they are full of fats—sure, they’re healthy fats but they’re still fat. You want to cut fat out completely. You can have shellfish if you really want something from under the seat.
Chicken breast, lean beef, veal, or fresh white fish are the only options that you have. Make sure you get rid of all the visible fat from the meat that you do include. Of course, poultry is going to be your best option in this case.
The leafy green vegetables are your best options when it comes to this portion of food. You can also opt for tomatoes, onions, red radishes, celery, and cucumbers, though. The benefit of the leafy greens is that you’ll get most the nutrients your body needs from them, since you won’t be allowed any dairy except for a tablespoon of milk for your calcium.
As for fruit, half a grapefruit, a handful of strawberries, an orange or an apple is allowed for your meal. The fruit must be in full form, rather than as a smoothie or juice, because you need to get all the pulp for the fibre. It’s important to keep your digestive system working properly while you follow this diet.
Juices especially just end up releasing more sugars into the body. When your body is fighting with the blood sugar levels, it stores the calories that you eat to handle later. This will just stop you from being able to burn your calories effectively and lose the weight. You’ll also have to deal with the sugar rush and crash, which will just lead to lack of exercise and more weight gain.
As for the bread, no you’re not able to eat a slice of toast or two. You can have a piece of melba toast if you’d like or opt for one breadstick.
When it comes to cooking, you’ll want to boil or grill your meat. Oils and butters aren’t allowed, and this includes the likes of peanut butter for your melba toast. See, we never said that this was going to be fun! All sugar is banned too, except for substitutes. It’s best to stick to these for just your drinks rather than adding them to your meals.
All the other stuff that you love to eat daily is banned. That means no snacking, no sweet treats, and no potatoes or pasta! Are you ready to make that change?
And what about your drinks? This will be where you get some good news. You can have as much water as you want throughout the day. You can also have as much tea or coffee you want, but do remember that 1 tablespoon of milk allowed. You’ll either want to learn to drink your tea and coffee black or opt for just one on a morning with your milk and drink water for the rest of the day.
The good news about the liquids is that they can help keep you feeling full. When you feel hungry, you can grab a glass of water and fill up your stomach. This is a temporary reprieve, but you’ll be able to do this throughout the day. Some people find that sipping on water throughout the day is the best way to keep them feeling full until their next meal.
Water is also beneficial for the diet. When you drink cold water, you’ll boost the number of calories you burn and you keep your body hydrated. Your organs work efficiently and your skin looks better. You’re giving your body the best help while losing weight.
What about if you’re a vegan or vegetarian? You’ve noticed that the meat is a must. Doctors recommend extra skimmed milk for vegetarians following the diet. However, there isn’t a substitute for vegans. Not eating meat means that you won’t get the protein that your body needs to support itself. The lower number of calories are already bad enough.
There isn’t a gluten-free option for the diet either. That bit of bread is necessary for the carbs to give the body some energy throughout the day.
Is It the HCG That Works or the Low-Calorie Intake?
There are a lot of debates over whether the HCG diet really does work. Sure, people have seen results, but is this actually because of the HCG? Maybe it’s just the low number of calories that is the benefit.
As I’ve mentioned, those who don’t take the HCG have noticed that they can lose more calories in the three-week period. That doesn’t necessarily mean the diet without the drops or injections is better for you. What some people have found is that they’re losing muscle mass because they don’t have the hormones to promote muscle building and toning.
There are currently no studies to show whether the HCG works in the diet or not. Right now, the clinical studies just show that the diet can work. There is more research needed to see just how well the HCG works within the diet.
Overall, though, the diet does help you lose the weight. Whether this is from the low calories or the injections, you will see the weight drop off.
Keeping the Weight Off After the HCG Diet
While it all works, you now need to think about the weight loss after your diet. Will you be able to keep that weight off or is it just going to pile back on? Well, this will depend on the choices that you make.
If you’re one of those who binges of everything they weren’t allowed after they’ve finished their diet, then you’ll find it hard to keep the weight off. You’ve made a huge change by dropping to so few calories, and eating all that food you’ve been missing isn’t going to be good for you. You run the risk of other health problems as well as weight gain.
You could cause a sugar crash or run the risk of putting other organs on overload. You’re forcing your body to do things that it hasn’t had to for three to eight weeks.
And you’ve got to remember that your metabolism will have slowed down to help factor in that you’re taking in so few calories. It will take time for the metabolism to get used to more calories and start to speed up. There are a few foods and drinks that you can have, like green tea, to help boost the metabolism but it will still take time to get back to where you originally were. That means that your body will store those extra calories and you can see the weight go back on.
This happens even if you eat healthily after your diet. You’ll need to slowly increase the number of calories you take in after the diet to make sure you don’t overeat. It’s also important to follow a healthy and balanced diet.
If you’re going to consume all that sugar and fat that you’ve been missing, you will find that your blood sugar levels will increase quickly. This means more insulin being released and your body stores calories for use later while dealing with the sugars.
You can exercise more as move onto a healthier and balanced diet. If you want to keep all the weight off that you’ve lost, you’ll need to consider adding some exercise into your diet plan if you haven’t already started doing some.
Exercising During the HCG Diet
Exercising is a great way to encourage the growth of muscles and to get the body to burn calories from the stored fat. But with a 500-calorie diet, just what type of exercises will you have the energy for? This can be a difficult one.
It’s not really going to be about the type of exercises you do, but how you feel before and during the exercises. If you feel weak, drained, fatigued, or dizzy, you shouldn’t exercise. This is your body’s way of telling you that it doesn’t have the energy to sustain burning the extra calories. If you find that you’re weaker on a night but have some energy on a morning, try adding a small amount in then.
Start off small with just two days or so of exercise. Avoid pushing yourself too much and listen to any pain or nausea that you feel while you’re exercising. These are signs that you need to stop or you run the risk of injury.
The exercise while you’re following the diet is more about building strength and toning your muscles. Try focusing on the likes of bodyweight exercises or strength training. Some yoga or Pilates could also be a good option, and there are home workouts that you can try for building muscles in the body.
Once you’ve finished the diet and are on the maintenance, you’ll want to boost the amount of exercise that you do. This is the time to follow a strength and cardio program. It’s time to add some running or walking, and consider other types of classes to help you keep the weight off.
You’ll still need to listen to your body, even when you are consuming more calories. And you’ll also want to build the amount of exercise you do up slowly to avoid injury.
If you’re interested in hiring a personal trainer, make sure this person is aware of the diet that you are currently following. This will affect the type of exercises given to you and the time you spend doing them to make sure you don’t injure yourself. Some personal trainers may want you to change your diet, so you’ll need to find one who is just interested in working around your diet if you’re concerned about this.
Don’t forget to let your doctor know about a change in exercise. This is essential to make sure your overall health is protected while you follow this type of diet. After all, your diet will already be monitored by your doctor for the HCG injections.
What About the Negativity Surrounding the HCG Diet?
Yes, there are a lot of people against the HCG diet, and this includes doctors. In fact, when you discuss this doctor with your diet, you may find that they aren’t willing to give you the HCG injections to help support your weight loss. You’ll need to find a doctor who is willing to help, as this is the only way to get the injections legally.
One of the main concerns with health professionals is the lack of calories. There are fears that a person won’t get enough. After all, the body needs to get 1,200 calories to get all the nutrients needed. Some organ, brain, and bodily functions will be affected negatively by not getting all nutrients from the food.
Could these nutrients be gained through supplements? There’s nothing in dietary research to show whether supplements are allowed.
The lack of calories will also lead to muscle loss, even with the exercise—and it will be difficult to do exercise. The recommended amount of weight loss is up to two pounds a week. Any more than that and muscle is lost as well as fat. On top of that, you retain water because you risk becoming dehydrated and you run the risk of losing carbohydrates, which will affect the energy levels.
This is an unrealistic weight loss, which is a major concern for doctors. The main time that this type of diet is recommended is in seriously obese people or when there is a medical need. It will be heavily controlled and monitored to make sure there are no serious adverse effects.
Studies have also failed to show that the claims made about the diet aren’t true. The HCG doesn’t help to suppress hunger or help with weight loss. There is a peer review that shows there are some benefits, but this hasn’t been backed up with other clinical studies.
There is also the issue with claims that the diet is homeopathic. The FDA regulates this phrasing when it comes to getting medication and herbal remedies, and the HCG drops are not included within any paperwork about homeopathic remedies. That means that the claims are false, which is taken extremely seriously by the medical profession.
If you do opt for the “homeopathic” drops, you’ll not get that much HCG. The drops are diluted considerably. By the time, they get into your blood stream, there is nothing worth the money. You also have no idea about all the other ingredients added into them. The websites can say anything, as they’re not exactly well monitored since they’re not even allowed!
But doesn’t a doctor recommend the diet? Sure, it’s been noted on the Dr. Oz show. That doesn’t mean the diet is any good for you. This is a show that has regularly shared information on crash and questionable diets. It makes sense that something like this would be included, too.
Much of the information shared on the program has been purely marketing material. The aim is to get you to buy, rather than think about what you’re doing to your body.
Crash dieting is a major concern. Research has shown that people who lose a lot of weight in a short space of time put that weight back on again. There’s this problem of yo-yo dieting, which can lead to an excessive calorie intake drop for the sake of losing weight, only to then go back to the way you ate in the first place. The metabolism struggles with this, along with other bodily functions.
If you want to lose weight and keep it off, a long-term plan is better. This isn’t one of them.
Should You Follow the HCG Diet?
It’s important to follow a diet that is good for you and has proven to work. Sure, the HCG diet does help you lose weight and it is possible for people to lose tens of pounds during a few short weeks. Any low-calorie diet like this would, so it’s not necessarily the HCG injections that help.
The question that you should be asking yourself is whether this type of diet is good for you. There are many negative side effects to losing so much weight in such a short space of time. This isn’t a sustainable diet and there isn’t a maintenance plan afterwards. You need to focus on following a low-calorie diet and slowly build up the amount you eat, watching what happens with your weight gain afterwards. There are very high chances that you will just end up gaining all the weight back.
Exercise will be extremely difficult while following the diet, but is extremely important. You will need to find a way of minimising the number of calories that you lose from your muscles, and building them up while losing weight is the best way to do that.
If you want a quick fix diet, this is one of them. You will find it hard to keep the weight off, though, and it’s not a fun diet to follow. If you want a diet that is more of a healthy eating plan, this isn’t for you.
But the HCG diet does really work. Just not for the long term.