The HCG diet plan is another alternative that promises great weight loss results in a short time. This trendy restrictive diet is making its mark in the fitness world, focused on deficient caloric intake and pregnancy hormone use.
But does it really work? Let’s find out…
Developed almost 60 years ago, the HCG diet is a weight loss plan that involves consuming few calories – more specifically 500 a day – and taking a daily injection containing human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG), a hormone produced naturally by the placenta during gestation.
In the early 1950s, the English physician Dr. Albert Simeons observed that obese young men receiving HCG injections showed reduced appetite and decreased abdominal girth.
While they were shedding fat, they also lost little muscle mass – even though their weight did not change significantly.
Based on this observation, Dr. Simeons theorized that HCG was responsible for mobilizing hip fat and resolved to couple the hormone with a highly restrictive diet.
The goal was to force the body to use its own fat reserves as fuel for the cells. The doctor obtained the expected result, and his patients began to lose weight and reduce their sizes.
What is the controversy with the HCG diet plan for weight loss?
Although Dr. Albert Simeons’ analyses have been published in renowned scientific journals, his colleagues were never convinced of the efficacy and safety of the HCG diet.
This is because there is no proof that HCG acts on appetite control or mobilizes body fat reserves.
A meta-analysis of 24 studies developed to evaluate the performance of HCG on weight loss concluded that:
- There is no scientific evidence that chorionic gonadotropin supports weight loss
- The hormone does not cause fat redistribution
- HCG does not reduce appetite nor does it increase satiety
For the researchers, the effects of the HCG diet are due to the very low-calorie intake suggested by Dr. Simeons and not exactly because of the hormone’s action, which would have a placebo effect.
Chorionic gonadotropin is a hormone found in higher concentrations in the female body after egg fertilization.
HCG can serve as a stabilizer of the environment so that the corpus luteum (a structure that aids fetal development) remains in the ovary in the first six months of pregnancy and continues to produce progesterone.
When the egg is fertilized, there is an increase in HCG concentration in the blood and urine, which are analyzed through pharmacy kits intended to confirm a possible pregnancy.
How the HCG diet plan for weight loss works
After many years of prescribing treatment for obesity based on the combination of diet + HCG, Dr. Simeons created two types of protocol according to the weight loss goal:
For those who need to lose up to 7 kg:
- Between 125 to 500 IU/day of HCG daily for 23 days
- Fairly caloric food during the first two days of the diet
- Start the 500 calories per day diet on the third day of HCG and continue for 26 days
- Three-week period for readjustment to normal eating
For those who want to lose more than 7 kg:
- HCG daily for 40 days (except for the menstrual period)
- Fairly caloric food during the first two days of the diet
- 500 kcal/day diet after the third day of hormone
- Doing the low-calorie diet for 43 consecutive days
- Use the three weeks after the end of the diet to reintroducing more foods to the menu; At the beginning, give preference to protein and healthy fats and limit carbohydrate intake
- In case of eliminating more than 17 kg before 40 days, it is recommended to discontinue the diet
Similarly, whoever intends to lose more than 17 kg should wait at least six weeks before restarting the HCG diet.
Detailed HCG diet
As you can see, Dr. Simeons divided the HCG diet into four distinct phases: the loading phase, phase 2, the transition phase, and the weight stabilization phase.
Understand how each of them works:
Initial phase (loading)
The first phase of the HCG diet lasts two days and begins with applying the hormone and the initial weigh-in. In these 48 hours, you will take the hormone twice, but you will not go on a restrictive diet.
In fact, you should do the opposite: to prepare the body for the caloric restriction period to come, consume as many high-calorie foods as you can, such as avocado, nuts, eggs, heavy cream, meat, pizza – avoid sugars if possible.
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The idea here is to fill the fat cells with as many fatty acids; this way (supposedly) the body gets the message that it already has enough fat and should not store any more.
Still, on the morning of the first day, do not forget to weigh, take measurements, and even take pictures for comparison at the end of the diet.
After the first two days of the “fattening diet,” it is time to eliminate calories and focus on the goals.
Continue with the hormone application, but reduce your caloric intake to 500 kcal per day and continue this until you reach the desired weight or the 40-day diet limit.
Weigh yourself every day in the morning and consume only the foods allowed without exceeding 500 calories.
To facilitate eliminating toxins originating from fat oxidation and stimulate satiety, it is essential to drink at least 2 liters of water during this second phase of the HCG diet.
The low supply of energy for the body may make it difficult to practice physical exercise during this period, but if you feel up to it, try to include light walking in your routine.
Phase 3 (transition)
This phase lasts only 3 days and starts immediately after reaching the desired weight, or then a minimum period of 23 days for those who need to lose up to 7 kg.
As soon as phase 2 is over, you should stop using HCG and continue for three more days with the 500 calorie-restrictive diets.
This period without HCG is for the body to “return to normal” and eliminate the high doses of the hormone present in the system.
Phase 4 (weight stabilization)
Lasting 21 days, this is usually the most important – and often the most difficult – phase of the HCG diet. And for several reasons.
After so many days with little food, the body tends to retain all that is consumed, the cells cry out for quick energy (carbohydrates), and after a period of sacrifices, the feeling of reward is stronger than ever.
That is to say: after 23 days or more with only 500 calories and almost no sugars, the urge to eat to “reward” yourself for having achieved weight loss can ruin all the effort of weeks.
To prevent this from happening, you should gradually increase your caloric intake and continue to focus on protein and fat.
There is no exact calorie amount for this phase, as the body will be trying to restore balance and bring the metabolism back to normal.
Try to stay within a range of 1,200 to 1,500 calories, remembering that the important thing here is to maintain and not lose weight.
If you put on weight again, analyze your diet and make modifications in the menu to regain the kilos you took weeks to lose in a few days.
Allowed foods for the HCG diet plan for weight loss
Before looking at the hcg diet plan for weight loss, check the foods allowed in each stage:
In the first two days of the HCG diet, you must consume caloric and high-fat foods. Example: yellow cheeses, red meat, salmon, coconut oil, cream cheese, peanuts, and olive oil.
Phases 2 and 3
Leave carbohydrates aside and use vegetables, proteins, and fats to reach the 500 calories daily quota.
You can consume:
- Legumes and low-starch vegetables: endive, kale, spinach, cucumber, chard, celery, radish, broccoli, cabbage, bell pepper, hearts of palm, tomato, arugula, watercress, and other leafy greens
- Protein: lean beef, low-fat fish (such as tilapia), skinless chicken breast, eggs, shrimp, squid, and octopus
- Low glycemic index fruits: apple, strawberry, orange, blackberry, and raspberry
- Small amounts of carbohydrates: equivalent to two slices of toast
- Liquids: water with lemon when fasting, tea or coffee without sugar (stevia is allowed to sweeten), and plenty of water
- Fats: only fat present in food. The use of cooking oil is not allowed
You can consume all the foods of phase 3 (in great moderation) plus:
- Fruits with low sugar content (cherry, pear, blueberry, guava, papaya, peach) and legumes with low starch (pumpkin, pea, cauliflower, zucchini, eggplant)
- Cheese, yogurt (without sugar), skim milk, and butter
- Nuts, olive oil, soybeans, mayonnaise, unsweetened peanut butter
- Alcoholic beverages in small amounts (a glass of dry wine with a meal, for example)
- Sugar and carbohydrates continue to be prohibited during this weight stabilization phase
Besides sugar, desserts in general, bread, cheeses, sausages, cereals, legumes (beans, chickpeas, lentils), and soft drinks (even diet versions) are not included in the HCG diet menu.
Now that you know how the HCG diet works, let’s see some menu suggestions with 500 calories per day for phases 2 and 3:
- 1 boiled egg or toast
- 1 cup of tea or coffee without sugar (you can use stevia)
- 1 small apple or 5 strawberries
- 100 grams of lean protein (choose between chicken fillet, seafood, red meat, or fish)
- 1 small plate of green salad or 50 grams of sautéed chayote
- 1 glass of cabbage juice with lemon or 1 orange
- 100 grams of low-fat protein
- 1 plate of sautéed cabbage with garlic
- The complete daily menu of the HCG diet should not exceed 500 calories, so be careful not to underestimate the caloric value of foods
- Reduce salt intake to avoid fluid retention
- Do not make substitutions so as not to run the risk of exaggerating in calories or even altering blood sugar levels (which can increase appetite)
- Keep an eye on labels: many salty-tasting foods contain sugar in the ingredient list. Salad sauce, soy sauce, mayonnaise, mustard, and ketchup are some of these and should be kept off phases 2 and 3 of the HCG diet
- A glass of cabbage juice with water upon waking up is a good way to stabilize blood glucose and control appetite in the morning
- What is forbidden during all phases of the HCG diet? artificial tanning, oil-based body creams and lotions, oily make-up, light or diet foods, and sugar
- If you notice that your weight loss has “stopped,” start counting the number of carbohydrates you ingest daily. Some suggest a whole day with apples to boost weight loss again, but this alternative seems to be even less recommended than consuming 500 calories of varied foods
Although not listed in Dr. Simeons’ original protocol, diet gelatin can offer relief in times of too many cravings for sweets.
But don’t overdo it: 5 tablespoons are enough to “take away the craving” and continue with the diet per day.
HCG diet plan for weight loss: Risks and conclusions
The HCG diet is slimming, but there can be some side effects: the low-calorie intake can cause nutritional deficiencies, hair loss, headaches, mood swings, constipation, mental confusion, and fatigue.
In addition, HCG use is only approved for fertility treatment, and elevated hormone levels appear to be a major factor in the development of tumor cells.
Also, the rebound effect is common in diets with high caloric restriction. This is because after a long period of starvation, the body tends to slow metabolism and hinder fat burning.
As the desire to eat often has a psychological and not a physiological reason, going back to eating as before with a slower metabolism can be a feast to regain the lost weight in a short time.
To lose weight healthily, invest in a dietary re-education and start practicing physical activity at least three times a week.
However, if you still think it may be worth trying the HCG diet to lose weight, remember that only a doctor can prescribe the correct HCG dose necessary for the different stages of the program.