The HCG diet was born out of a promise that women could lose weight by taking a “natural” hormone. While it is usually produced when someone is pregnant, this hormone apparently helps one lose a lot of weight. This promise turned heads all over the world, and many people started taking the hormone in the hope of shedding some weight. However, are these claims valid? Can a magic hormone help you lose weight? Even if it does work, is the HCG diet safe, or is it just a fad? Here’s a look at everything you need to know about the diet.
What is the HCG Diet?
The HCG diet is one in which you follow a super low-calorie diet plan and then take enough hormones to reset your metabolism, to enable faster fat burning. HCG, which stands for Human Chorionic Gonadotropin, is a hormone that our bodies produce. However, does this hormone help with weight-loss, or does it happen because of the low-calorie diet? The diet in itself restricts you to under 500 calories a day, making it extremely strict and hard to follow. Meanwhile, during the 8-week course, dieters must also ingest HCG in the form of shots, drops, sprays, or pellets.
What Is HCG?
The human chorionic gonadotropin is a hormone that is produced at high levels during early pregnancy. In fact, several home test kits use this hormone as a marker for confirming a pregnancy. Due to its connection with pregnancy, it is used to treat fertility problems in both women and men. But, studies have shown that very high levels of HCG lead to ovarian, testicular, and placental cancers. Due to the popularity of this diet, the HCG hormone comes in various forms, such as pellets, drops, sprays, and tablets.
The hormone helps with maintaining the right level of production of other hormones, such as estrogen and progesterone. Both these hormones assist with the development of the fetus. However, in most people, the levels of the HCG hormone reduce after the first trimester.
Is it FDA Approved?
The interesting fact here is that none of these theories or products are FDA Approved. You can take the shots if you make sure you get them administered through a health-care provider, as they help in treating fertility problems. But, all the other over-the-counter HCG products are not approved as there is no proof that these medicines work. In fact, the FDA has sent a warning to several companies that indulge in manufacturing and marketing these products.
HCG Diet Food Restrictions
The diet in itself is extremely restrictive, as you have to limit your daily calorie intake to less than 500 calories. You are allowed to have two meals in a day, preferably lunch and dinner. Each meal you have must contain something substantial in protein, a vegetable, fruit, and one type of bread. You are also not allowed to use any type of visible fat.
Meat Choices (Grill or Broil) What To Avoid
- Veal Salmon
- Beef Tuna
- Chicken Breast Herring
- White fish Eel
- Lobster Dried fish
- Crab Pickled fish
Vegetable Choices Fruit Choices
- Spinach 1. Orange
- Chard 2. Apple
- Tomatoes 3. Strawberries
- Chicory 4. Grapefruit
- Onions 5. Lemons
- Beet greens 6. Raspberries
- Celery 7. Blackberries
- Radishes 8. Blueberries
The bread option may be either a breadstick or melba toast. Other than these things, you can have as much tea, coffee and water as you wish, and one tablespoon of milk daily. However, you have to avoid sugar at all costs and rely wholly on sugar substitutes. Similarly, all types of butter and oil must be avoided altogether.
Does It Work?
As you can see, the diet is extremely restrictive and can result in about 2-pound weight loss per day. However, due to the aggressive nature of the diet, the FDA has deemed it dangerous, fraudulent, and illegal. Supporters of this diet claim that the HCG hormone helps fasten the metabolism rate, which, in turn, helps with losing more fat. However, several studies concluded that the weight loss caused by the HCG diet is purely due to the highly restrictive diet plan. It has nothing to do with the hormone, but rather occur as a result of the body achieving a severe calorie deficit. In fact, these studies concluded that the HCG hormone merely produces a placebo effect that makes people think they will lose weight.
Are There Any Changes To the Body Composition?
Most low-calorie diets lead to a decrease in muscle mass. As you start consuming fewer calories, your body starts to think that it is starving, reducing the calories needed to conserve energy. However, supporters of this diet state that the diet helps only with losing weight and is not a cause for muscle loss. Many of them also claim that the HCG hormone helps boost metabolism that actually leads to muscle growth-promotion. But there is no scientific evidence to support any of these statements. One of the best ways to prevent muscle loss on a low-calorie diet is to turn to weightlifting. Eating high-protein foods also helps you to avoid muscle loss.
How To Go On the HCG Diet
- Loading phase:
Start consuming the HCG and start the meal plan. However, you have the freedom to eat high-fat, high-carb foods rich in calories two days a week. Continue this way for a week or three before you move into the second phase.
- Weight loss phase:
Continue taking the HCG regularly. Also, switch to a 500-calorie per day meal plan. Continue this diet for around 3–6 weeks.
- Maintenance phase:
Once you hit your target weight, stop taking the HCG. Slowly start adding new food groups to your diet. However, avoid starchy veggies, sugar, and refined carbs for at least a month.
Most products available over-the-counter do not actually contain HCG. The HCG shots are available only if you have a doctor’s prescription as they help in fighting fertility problems. As you can see, there is more than enough evidence to see that this diet looks more like a sham than anything else. Also, since these products do not have any FDA approval, they are not safe for consumption and must be avoided. Furthermore, the diet is very restrictive and can lead to side-effects such as severe headache, fatigue, weakness, dizziness, and even depression. Actually, the only real reason these diet works is because you punish your body by putting it on a 500-calorie plan. It would be advisable to avoid such fads and look into legitimate and proven ways to lose weight, such as the keto diet. In case you genuinely want to lose weight and get healthy, you should opt for more proven and effective methods.