October 2015 UPDATE: FDA issued a warning – HCG Diet Products Are Illegal!
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.
At the beginning of pregnancy, the role of this hormone is to support the body in a fat burning process, especially when fat is broken down and used to feed the baby.
The 3 Phases of HCG Diet Plan
There are three main phases in the plan:
- Loading phase – This is a preparatory phase. You are free to eat whatever you want for just two days. The following period will be much stricter.
- Maintenance phase – This is the stage in which you will really start to see results, provided that you follow the rules. For three weeks, you need to follow a 500 calorie meal plan per day.
- Stabilization phase – Like in other programs, this is a transition phase, in which you progressively switch from extremely 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.
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.
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.
Rabe, T., et al. (1987). “Risk-benefit analysis of a hCG-500 kcal reducing diet (cura romana) in females”, in Geburtshilfe und Reauenheilkunde, Vol. 47(5).
Lijesen, G. K., et al. (1995). “The effect of human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG) in the treatment of obesity by means of the Simeons therapy: a criteria-based meta-analysis”, in British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, Vol. 40(3).
Foods You Can Eat While on This Diet
The fact that you have quite a freedom regarding what foods you are allowed to eat make this diet really attractive for people all around the world. 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 five groups of foods with examples that you can enjoy during the second phase:
- Beverages – Water, coffee, milk, and tea.
- Vegetables – Lettuces, spinach, asparagus, chicory, cucumbers, tomatoes, and cabbage.
- Meat & fish – Chicken breast, shrimp, veal, and crab.
- Seasonings – Salt, pepper, vinegar, basil, garlic, and parsley.
- Fruits – Oranges, apples, strawberries, and grapefruits.
This is just a part of the food list you can follow. There is enough variety to prevent getting bored during whole three weeks.
The Difference Between HCG Drops & Injections
As mentioned, HCG plays a key role in this dietary plan, as it should suppress appetite and allow you to maintain such a low-calorie intake without any issues. The question is, how do you get it into your body?
There are two primary forms of Human Chorionic Gonadotropin you can take:
- Original injections – These were developed and used first. You need to inject these deep into muscles (leave administration for medical professional at a clinic). If you add the cost of the mixing kits, syringes, solutions, and clinic fees, the price can get high.
- Homeopathic drops – The second option is more convenient and much cheaper. You don’t need to deal with needles and worry about the administration. You can easily put the drops under your tongue and be done with it.
Because this diet has grown to be quite popular, selling products such as the drops is a profitable business. This attracted lots of companies which offer drops of questionable quality.
Pay attention: Always double-check how reliable the producer is and don’t make your choice based only on price. Legit companies do not always supply the cheapest products.
Most Common Side Effects
As with any method out there, some people may experience side effects. Therefore, you need to monitor the progress and seek medical advice whenever you feel something is not right.
This diet is a low-calorie one and some common side effects found in such regimens are light-headedness, headaches, irritability, and light water retention.
HCG should facilitate the transition to the low-calorie intake. Those who chose to use injections may develop:
- Swelling in the injected area.
This happens 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 human hormonal system is a very sensitive. Although there were generally no reports of severe hormonal problems, there were cases of ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome that include stomach and pelvic pain, swelling, and shortness of air.
Pay attention: Whenever you experience something that does not feel right, you should seek medical advice right away. It is best to be under medical supervision while following this diet (have blood tests done and a complete medical evaluation before starting any diet).
HCG Diet & Exercise
Dr. Simeons recommends only moderate exercising while following his special diet. This includes for example:
- Taking the stairs (instead of elevator)
- Light biking
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 (particularly low-carb) diet overall, and while performing high-intensity exercises, your body needs carbs as a source of energy.
Pay attention: 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 to use the amino acids as a source of energy.
Vegetarians & 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 follow this diet.
This is not quite the case as in most situations, there are alternative solutions. It depends on what type of vegetarian you are, though.
This group of people avoids meat but is allowed to eat fish. This is the easy case, as this diet shouldn’t be any real problem for them at all.
This group of people doesn’t eat both meat and fish. However, they do eat eggs and dairy products. It is still possible to follow the plan, getting your daily protein intake from fat-free cottage cheese, fat-free milk, and egg whites.
This group of people avoids all animal products. You can still use soy, and vegan protein powder shakes as a source of protein. However, in this case, it seems extremely challenging to get good results with this diet.
Way to Get The Best Results with HCG Diet
To get the best results, this weight loss program should suit your lifestyle to some degree. If dieting is a permanent struggle, you will be very tempted to cheat, and your results will be poor.
Remember, your carbs consumption will be very limited. If you are currently eating a lot of carbs, you may consider lowering their share in your diet progressively as this will make it easier for your body to adjust.
Another element to consider is exercising as Dr. Simeons recommends only light workouts. If you are currently going for very intense workouts, you should adjust this for the period in which you plan to follow the diet.
Tips worth following for best success:
- Make sure you learn all you can before you start. You should start with Dr. Simeons’ book ‘Pounds & Inches‘.
- Any diet involves some degree 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.
- Regarding products, using injections or drops depends on your personal preference. However, you need to be very careful in choosing a reputable company that produces only high-quality products.
Getting medical support is key 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.