- October 2014 UPDATE: FDA issued warning, more info in the article below.
HCG diet was created by the British doctor A.T. Simeons, author of the book ‘Pounds & Inches’. In his book, the doctor has exposed the theory behind this very popular program.
What makes this program stand out from the other weight loss methods is the fact that it uses a hormone called Human Chorionic Gonadotropin. This is a special type of hormone, usually found in women at pregnancy.
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In the beginning of pregnancy, the role of this hormone is to support the body in fat burning process, especially when fat is broken down and used to feed the baby.
What Is The Plan Like?
There are three main phases in the plan:
- The Loading Phase – This is a preparatory phase. You are free to eat whatever you want. It’s great, isn’t it? However, this will only last for two days. The following phase will be much stricter and the initial stage is designed only to prepare the body for it.
- The Maintenance Phase – This is the phase in which you will really start to see results, provided that you follow the rules. For three weeks, a 500 calorie per day (Risk-benefit analysis of a hCG-500 kcal reducing diet (cura romana) in females) rule will be usually followed. This is a very low calorie diet and a lot of people get scared at the thought of extreme hunger. However, Dr. Simeons argues that there is no starvation involved. HCG will help people conquer their food cravings and go through this phase without any struggling.
- The Stabilization Phase – Like in other programs, this is a transition phase, in which you progressively switch from a very low calorie levels to higher ones. It is designed to allow a come-back to a regular diet, without the dangers of putting-on weight.
“HCG has not been demonstrated to be effective adjunctive therapy in the treatment of obesity. There is no substantial evidence that it increases weight loss beyond that resulting from caloric restriction, that it causes a more attractive or ‘normal’ distribution of fat, or that it decreases the hunger and discomfort associated with calorie-restricted diets.”
Foods To Eat While On This Plan
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The fact that you have quite a freedom in terms of what foods you are allowed to eat, make this diet really interesting for people around.
Due to the low calorie limit, you will not be able to eat a lot in the second phase. However, being able to enjoy a variety of foods makes things a little easier.
Below you can find a few examples of foods that you can enjoy during the strictest phase, i.e. the second one:
- Beverages: water, coffee, milk, tea
- Vegetables: lettuces, spinach, asparagus, chicory, cucumbers, tomatoes, cabbage
- Meat / fish: chicken breast, shrimp, veal, crab
- Seasonings: salt, pepper, vinegar, basil, garlic, parsley
- Fruits: oranges, apples, strawberries, grapefruits
This is just a part of the food list you can follow. There is enough variety to prevent getting bored during the three weeks.
What Is The Difference Between Drops vs. Injections??
As mentioned, HCG plays a key role in this eating plan, as it suppresses the appetite and it allows you to maintain such a low calorie intake.
The question is, how do you get it into your body?
Initially, people used injections and this is still a format that can be used today for those that prefer it. You can inject it deep into muscles if you know how to do it.
Otherwise, a lot of people go to a clinic in order to have this done. If you add the cost of the mixing kits, syringes, solutions and clinic fees, the expenses can be quite high.
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Many dieters prefer a more convenient and cheaper format – the drops. You don’t need to deal with needles and worry about the administration, like in the case of injections. You can easily put the drops under your tongue and be done with it.
You need to be careful when you purchase your drops, though. Due to the fact that the diet has grown to be quite popular, selling products such as the drops is a profitable business.
[Read More: hCG Injections for Weight Loss: Do They Really Work?]
This attracted lots of companies which offer drops of questionable quality. Always double-check how reliable the producer is and don’t make your choice based only on price. The cheapest products are not always supplied by legit companies.
Those keeping the diet will have to make a choice between following the original plan as indicated by Dr. Simeons or going the homeopathic way. This choice is triggered by the availability of homeopathic drops. There are some debates on whether the homeopathic version is effective or not.
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From a scientific point of view, if you intend to follow Dr. Simeons’ method by the book, you will need to use products developed accordingly, i.e. containing the hormone. From clinical results point of view, there are also reports that present positive results of those who have used just the homeopathic version.
However, opponents to this homeopathic wave argue that it’s just a Placebo effect. The proponents of the approach argue that they get similar results without having to intervene in the hormonal balance of the body.
In the end, the ones that want to stick to the original approach will buy the classic products. Those more inclined to experiment will give the homeopathic products a try and will see how they work for them.
What Are The Side Effects???
Like with any method out there, some people might experience side effects. It is advisable to be careful, monitor the progress and seek medical advice whenever you feel something is not right.
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This diet is a low-calorie one and some common side effects found in such regimens are:
- Light water retention.
HCG should facilitate the transition to the low-calorie intake. Most dieters reported that the side effects disappeared after a few days. However, if the side effects are persistent, you will need to talk to your doctor about the best course of action.
[Read More: HCG Diet Dangers: Is Fast Weight Loss Worth the Risk? by USNews.com]
Those who chose to use injections may develop:
- Swelling in the injected area.
This happens usually only in the cases in which the injections were not properly administrated. Make sure you know how to administer the injections properly or get some qualified professional help.
Another element to take into account is that it is a hormone and the hormonal system is a very sensitive one. Although there were generally no reports of severe hormonal problems, there were cases of OHSS, i.e. ovarian hyper-stimulation syndrome. Among the symptoms of OHSS, patients reported stomach and pelvic pain, swelling and shortness of air.
Check out side effects in here:
Whenever you experience something that does not feel right, you should seek medical advice right away. It is actually advisable to be under medical supervision. Have blood tests done and a complete medical evaluation before starting and stay in-touch with your doctor while keeping it.
Do I Have To Exercise??
Dr. Simeons recommends only moderate exercising. This includes for example:
- Taking the stairs instead of the elevator,
- Light biking and so on.
Some people are confused with the fact that intense exercising is not encouraged. It all has to do with the fact that this is a low-calorie diet overall and in particular, a low carb one.
While performing high intensity exercising, the body needs carbs as a source of energy. When you keep a regular diet, your body is using the carbs you eat to produce energy and then it stores the excess glucose as glycogen in the muscles and in the liver.
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When you start exercising intensely, your body turns to these glycogen stores and starts using them.
However, because you have a low carbs intake, the glycogen reserves are almost nonexistent. Therefore, you will start to feel bad if you force your body into intense exercising.
Dr. Simeons argues that HCG drives metabolic rate up and that it also facilitates the break-up and use of fat to produce energy. This is good news, as typically when you lose weight, your body starts to break-up part of your muscles in order to use the amino acids as a source of energy.
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This leads in time to a lower metabolic rate and weight loss becomes more challenging, while weight gain is often experienced. This is not the case with this program though. You will be able to keep most of your muscle mass intact and achieve your weight loss objectives while doing only light exercises.
It is important to respect the body and not force it to eat only low calorie food and go through an intense workout program at the same time.
Vegetarians And Their Options
Normally protein is part of the daily menu and the main source of proteins are meat and fish. In this context, it seems that vegetarians would not be able to keep the diet. This is not quite the case though, as in most cases there are alternative solutions. It depends on what type of vegetarian you are though.
- Pescetarians are the ones who avoid meat, but are allowed to eat fish. This is the easy case, as it shouldn’t be any real problem for them at all.
- Lacto-ovo-vegetarians are the ones that don’t eat both meat and fish. However, they do eat eggs and dairy products. It is still possible to follow the plan, getting your protein from fat-free cottage cheese, fat-free milk and egg whites, which are all on the food list.
- Vegans are the ones avoiding all animal products. You can still use soy as a source of proteins and maybe vegan protein powder shakes. However, in this case it seems extremely challenging to get good results.
Who Can Get The Best Results With HCG Diet?
In order to get the best results, program should be chosen not only based on what is trendy or most effective for other people. It should be a method that suits your lifestyle to some degree. If dieting is a permanent struggle, you will be very tempted to cheat and the results will be less than great.
Remember, your carbs consumption will be very limited. If you are currently eating a lot of carbs, you may consider lowering progressively the carbs share in your diet. This will make it easier for your body to adjust to this new plan.
Another element to consider is exercising. Dr. Simeons recommends only light exercising. Therefore, if you are currently going for very intense workouts, you should adjust this for the period in which you plan to follow the diet.
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- Make sure you learn all you can before you start. You should can start with Dr. Simeons’ book ‘Pounds & Inches’.
- Any diet involves a certain level of stress for your body. It is not the best idea to plan your weight reduction during the most stressful period of the year, after going through a prolonged illness and so on. Getting enough rest also has positive effects on any diet.
- In terms of products, using injections or drops depends on your personal preference. However, you need to be very careful in choosing a reputable company that produces quality products.
As a final consideration, getting medical support is key in order to make sure you are safe and to maximize the results. The best way is to start by a complete medical examination including blood tests and to stay in-touch with your doctor throughout the dieting process.