If you’re a health buff or tend to follow the health trends popping up every now and then, then you’ve probably heard of the HCG Diet. The HCG Diet has actually been around for a few years already, but has only grown in popularity recently as more and more people are enjoying its quick and dramatic results. The downside? The FDA and other health organizations don’t quite agree with it and are even calling it dangerous and fraudulent. With these claims from government institutions yet tons of support growing for it online, it can get confusing for those who are desperate to lose weight and get healthy but don’t want to make a devastating mistake. Let’s take a closer look at the HCG Diet so you can make your own decision about whether you should or shouldn’t give it a try.
What is the Diet Exactly?
HCG stands for human chorionic gonadotropin. Yeah, we know, it’s a mouthful to say. HCG is basically a hormone that occurs in a woman’s body during the early stages of pregnancy. In fact, it’s so common that HCG is one of the main markers used for home pregnancy tests. The diet was developed by Albert Simeons, a British doctor, in 1954 when he suggested that the hormone be used in combination with an extremely restrictive diet to promote dramatic weight loss of up to two pounds in a day. Those who take part in the diet consume an extremely low fat and low calorie diet and the whole program is split into three separate stages.
How the Diet Works
The first stage is known as the Loading Phase and involves eating a lot of foods that are high in fat and calories. This phase goes on for two days. At this point, participants will also start taking the HCG hormone, which can be received in the form of liquid drops or injections. After the Loading Phase comes the Weight Loss Phase. This phase can last anywhere from 3 weeks to 6 weeks and requires that the participant continue taking HCG drops while maintaining a daily diet of just 500 calories. The third and final phase is called the Maintenance Phase and involves returning to a regular diet. Participants cease the ingestion of HCG and slowly start increasing their daily caloric intake. However, participants are required to avoid ingesting any starch or sugar for their first three weeks on the Maintenance Phase and are only allowed to have two meals per day.
The time you spend on the diet depends on how much weight you have to lose. Those who don’t quite have so much weight to lose are recommended to stay in the Weight Loss Phase for just 3 weeks, while morbidly obese participants follow the 6-week version of the diet. Some people may even repeat all three cycles multiple times until they achieve their ideal weight. The HCG meal plan recommends including one serving of lean protein, one vegetable, fruit and some bread in each meal. Unsurprisingly, those on the diet are asked to abstain from any kind of oils, butter and sugar. Drinking tons of water is an absolute must and those on the diet are also permitted to drink coffee and tea.
Given the fact that HCG is most commonly known as a pregnancy hormone, many people were left scratching their heads trying to figure out why Dr. Simeons would even suggest such a thing. Since it stimulates the production of pregnancy hormones, it seemed irrelevant to the concept of weight loss all together. However, some research shows that HCG can actually help boost your metabolism. This boosted metabolism coupled with a 500-calorie a day diet, proponents say, will help you lose huge amounts of fat quickly. The best part of their claims? You won’t even feel hungry.
As many people out there are already aware of, losing weight often comes with one other clear loss: the loss of muscle mass. It’s an unavoidable part of losing weight and it’s prevalent in severely restrictive diets similar to the HCG Diet. Where this diet is supposed to differ, however, is that you won’t lose any muscle, just fat. This is supposedly due to HCG’s ability to elevate the other crucial hormones the body and the way it boosts your metabolism. Supporters of the diet also say that the HCG hormones lead to an anabolic state in the body, which promotes growth.
Where the Skepticism Starts
Since the rise of interest in the HCG Diet, multiple studies have been launched to study the correlation between HCG hormones and weight loss. However, the skepticism really started when there was no clear way to explain how HCG worked to promote weight loss or stave off hunger. Additionally, studies have shown that the weight loss caused on the HCG Diet could potentially be completely attributed to the severe calorie restrictions of the diet. Some studies even claim that receiving the HCG hormones, which are administered through injections, have absolutely no effect in preventing subjects from experiencing hunger.
What to Watch Out For
Just like many of the diets out in the market today, there are definitely some HCG dealers that are scams. This is why it’s so important to do your research before starting any kind of diet plan. However, if you feel that you have found a reputable source and are dead set on trying out this particular diet plan, then there are certain things that you should definitely watch out for. The most important thing to keep track of are any side effects that you may be feeling from being on the diet or the HCG hormone. Commonly reported symptoms include depression, chronic headaches and fatigue. These side effects are typically connected to the low calorie intake, which can be compared to starvation levels of food consumption. Remember also that the HCG Diet has, in no way, been approved by government agencies like the FDA.