The HCG Diet is a method of weight loss that promotes extreme weight loss through the use of the hormone human chorionic gonadotropin, or ‘HCG’.
The original HCG diet was first developed by the British doctor Albert Simeons in 1954 and was ultimately based on little supporting scientific evidence back then. Nowadays the concept of using HCG for the purposes of weight loss has undergone a number of revisions and has effectively been hijacked by numerous homeopathic supplements companies that are looking to sell their products alongside a calorie-restricted diet program.
The current most popular version of the diet is named HCG Triumph, and involves consumers regularly taking their branded HCG drops while following a 3-phase caloric-deficit diet.
What Is The Theory Behind The HCG Diet?
HCG is the protein based hormone produced in a woman’s body during pregnancy. HCG helps to support and maintain the production of other vital hormones such as estrogen and progesterone that are essential for the healthy development of the embryo and fetus. The levels of HCG in the woman’s body increase for the first three months of pregnancy and then decrease during the next six months of gestation.
Advocates of the program claim that the hormone helps to shift large amounts of fat without the dieter feeling hungry.
Controversy Behind The HCG Diet
Despite the FDA officially stating that supplements that contain HCG are illegal, the diet plan requires that the dieter both take unnatural amounts of the HCG hormone via drops, and also maintain a large calorie deficit on a low-fat diet, consuming just 500 calories a day, and extreme hunger has been reported by many people following it.
Critics of the diet claim that any weight loss associated is due to the starvation level calorie intake required, and not due to the effects of the HCG hormone.
Multiple studies that have been carried out looking at the effectiveness of it have found that the hormone plays no role in the weight loss and that it is purely due to the low calorie diet.
Participants in the studies were split into two groups; one taking HCG injections as well as maintaining a 500 daily calorie diet, and the other maintaining a 500 daily calorie diet with placebo injections. Weight loss was found to be nearly identical or identical between the two groups, and the claim that HCG reduces hunger was also found to be false. There was also no evidence to suggest that HCG reduces muscle loss while users lose weight, or that the HCG diet enables only fat and not muscle to be used as energy.
How Does The Diet Work?
There are three distinct phases to the diet, each with its own diet plan and suggestions.
Phase One: The Loading Phase
Also known as the ‘gorging’ phase, the loading phase of the HCG diet typically lasts two or three days. HCG dieters in the loading phase are told to eat a higher than normal amount of high fat, high calorie foods. HCG supporters recommend loading on a low carb diet, avoiding sugars and instead focusing on consuming fatty and protein rich foods. This is because eating high carbohydrate foods before going into an extremely large calorie deficit would cause blood sugar to crash (known as ‘carb withdrawal) and make the first few days of the low calorie diet less pleasant for the dieter.
The idea behind the loading phase is to gain weight and provide your body with ‘easily accessible’ fats to make the second stage of the program (where followers go into a significant calorie deficit) easier, although there is no scientific support behind this logic.
Another idea behind the loading phase is that eating foods that are high in fat while taking the first doses of HCG trains your body to recognize where your fat stores lie and utilize them for fuel, although again there is no scientific data to support this. Some people who have participated in the program claim that by gorging on their favorite foods in the loading phase, dieters are less likely to crave those foods during the low calorie phase of the regime.
Loading Phase Sample Dietary Menu
- Breakfast: A full English breakfast of two fried eggs, two slices of bacon, two sausages, fried potatoes and toasted bread with butter. HCG dieters can drink as normal, so a couple of cups of coffee with cream or tea could accompany breakfast. If you can manage it, finish breakfast with a couple of pastries or donuts.
- Snack: A large pack of seasoned potato chips accompanied by a cream based dip
- Lunch: A battered, deep fried fish fillet, french fries and vegetables sauteed in oil or butter. A suggested beverage would be a thick milkshake made with ice cream and full fat milk.
- Snack: A handful of roasted nuts- preferably Macadamia nuts, which contain the highest fat content of the nut varieties
- Dinner: A large bowl of pasta with a creamy Alfredo sauce, garlic bread made with butter and topped with shredded cheese, and a salad with full fat salad dressing. Accompany with a glass of wine and (if you have room) a large slice or two of chocolate fudge cake and ice cream for dessert.
Phase Two: The Very Low Calorie Diet (VLCD)
Phase two of the HCG diet involves going on, and maintaining, a very low calorie diet (500 calories a day) for three to six weeks. Along with the very low calorie diet, HCG dieters need to also inject themselves with (or consume) doses of the HCG hormone.
The dose of HCG is individual to the person, but most people choose to inject either 125ius or 150ius daily, but the spectrum is anywhere from 75ius to 175ius. Proponents of the program claim that if the dosage of HCG is ‘correct’, the dieter should not feel ‘abnormal hunger’, although there is no evidence to support this claim.
The general recommendation for portioning your daily calories during the VLCD phase is to eat two meals of a 100g portion of a protein rich food (chicken, for example) plus one vegetable, one fruit and one very small amount of carbohydrate such as a single piece of melba toast or a cracker. People who have followed the diet recommend eating these meals at lunchtime and dinner time and having tea or coffee upon waking. If the dieter has a labour intensive job or does not have much weight to lose, an extra 100-250 calories per day may be appropriate and if there is a lot of weight to lose or the dieter is finding it easy, eating as little as 300 calories a day is advocated.
Diet Phase Two “Dos and Don’ts” Guidelines
- Drink at least two liters of water every day. The thinking behind this is that ‘toxins’ stored in fat will get ‘flushes’ out of your system more quickly while your body uses fat for fuel, if you consuming large amounts of water.
- Weigh your protein portions. If you are weighing raw meat, weigh out 100 grams. If you are weighing out cooked meat, weigh 70-80 grams as uncooked meat contains water that will be removed during cooking.
- Remove all visible fat from the meat
- If you are following the program for more than three weeks, skip one HCG drop serving per week. The thinking behind this is to avoid immunity that is said to be possible in some dieters.
- Do not mix vegetables in one meal. The thinking behind this is that people are more likely to overeat when creating tasty combinations of vegetables, while only eating to satisfaction with one variety of vegetable.
- Do not combine both servings of protein, fruit or vegetables into one meal. For example you cannot have both protein servings at lunchtime, or save your lunchtime vegetable portion to have at dinner time.
- Do not allow any skin contact with fats or oils. The thinking behind this is that your skin is your largest organ and so contact with fat may interrupt the fat loss process.
- Do not use any cosmetic products that contain oil, for the same reason as point three.
Phase Three: The Maintenance Stage
This is the final stage in the diet, where people gradually increase their calorie intake from 500 up to a sustainable energy consumption. Phase 3 is essentially a low-carb diet, with the rule “no starch, no sugar, no cheating.”
How To Start The Diet
To start the HCG diet you simply sign up at the HCG Triumph homepage where you can buy HCG and complementary diet products.
There is a sign-up fee of around $50 and a monthly subscription of around $15 (there are occasional deals). You can pay via debit or credit card online or Paypal.
After signing up you will receive:
- A 26 day supply of the HCG hormone combined with three essential amino acids arginine, ornithine and carnitine. Arginine is converted in the body into a chemical called nitric oxide, which causes blood vessels to open wider for increased blood flow. Ornithine stimulates the production and release of the HCG hormone and helps regenerate the thymus gland, liver, heart tissue and other muscles, as well as increasing the function of the immune system. Carnitine helps the body to produce energy and is important in maintaining the health of heart and brain function and muscle movement.
- A 26 day supply of Vitamin B12 boost liquid.
- Oral syringe.
- Tape measure.
- Official HCG Triumph Guide Book.
The HCG diet is a fairly popular but unproven diet method that has no solid scientific support. The logic behind using the HCG hormone for weight loss is flawed, as is the recommendation of maintaining a starvation-style diet for extended periods of time.
Dieters are very likely to regain weight after stopping the diet, as the HCG program does not help to educate users about sustainable healthy nutrition and long term weight loss and maintenance behaviors.
We would not recommend the HCG diet to people looking to lose weight; an increased exercise program and moderate calorie deficit diet rich in vegetables is a better option. This is not intended as a substitute for medical advice; speak to your physician before changing your diet or embarking on a weight loss plan.