Last Updated June 13th, 2021
What is HCG and what role does it play in the body?
HCG is a hormone secreted in both men and women. In men, it stimulates the production of testosterone (male fertility hormone). In women, it is involved in stimulating the production of estrogen and progesterone. These hormones are vital for the development of an embryo and fetus.
HCG diet for weight loss
The HCG diet is a very low-fat, very low-calorie diet. This diet increases metabolism and also promotes fat loss without making you feel tired. Here, along with the intake of the hormones, the diet also involves the consumption of low-calorie foods.
How did the idea of HCG for weight loss come in the first place?
A doctor in a Roman clinic Albert T.W. Simeons was treating men with a hormonal disorder (in the 1960s). The doctor used HCG to treat the hormonal deficit in men. The hormonal deficiency in men resulted in the patients becoming overweight. So, the doctor treated the patients with HCG. After some days, the doctor noticed that they lost weight.
The same doctor began experimenting with the use of HCG for normal people who wanted weight loss. The doctor included these people into a 500 calorie diet and noticed the loss in weight. Many doctors or scientists were not sure if it is the HCG or the 500 calorie diet that was behind the weight loss. Studies proved that HCG was not responsible for weight loss.
Phases of the HCG diet
It is generally divided into three phases:
- Consume HCG.
- Consume a lot of high-fat, high-calorie foods for two days.
Weight loss phase
- Continue taking HCG.
- Consume only 500 calories per day for 3 to 6 weeks.
- Stop taking HCG.
- Slowly increase your food intake.
- Avoid sugar and starch for three weeks.
If you are looking for minimal or small weight loss, you can remain in the middle phase for 3 weeks. If you are looking for a major weight loss, you will be advised to repeat all the cycles several times according to the amount of weight loss target. You should know that during the weight loss phase, you must consume only two meals per day (usually lunch and dinner).
The HCG products in the market
- Most of the HCG products are labeled homeopathic to signify that they do not contain any HCG. This sounds fishy.
- HCG injections are usually prescribed as a fertility drug only under the doctor’s advice.
What are the side effects?
HCG diet based products have not been approved as a weight loss drug by the FDA.
The government is questioning the safety of HCG products as the ingredients are unregulated and unknown.
There are side effects associated with the HCG diet, such as:
- It is understood that HCG is a severe calorie deficit diet. People will definitely feel tired and miserable.
The weight loss is because you starve on the calories
Since the HCG diet limits calorie intake to around 500 calories per day, for a certain time period, it is a starvation based weight loss diet. If you supply your body with low calories, you are bound to lose weight. There are many kinds of research that found that the HCG hormone has no effect on weight loss and does not reduce your appetite. Calorie deficiency or starvation is foolish to follow. There are other sensible weight loss diets available.
How does the HCG diet affect your body?
- Diets that involve severely low-calorie intake cause weight loss and reduce muscle mass as well.
- Your body will be of the notion that it is starving and hence it will reduce the burning of the calories in order to save the energy.
- The use of HCG in diets also elevates other hormones, boosts metabolism and leads to a growth-promoting, or an anabolic state (a state where the energy released is used in the manufacture of other complex molecules).
- You prevent muscle loss and prevent metabolic slowdown via other diet plans rather than taking HCG.
- In fact, the United States Food and Drug Administration doesn’t recommend the use of an HCG diet for weight loss.
There are a number of reported serious side effects associated with HCG and muscle building.
Side effects in women
- It can cause vaginal bleeding and irregular periods
- Ovarian cysts – fluid-filled sacs on the ovary acting as a blockage
- Clotting of the blood
- Tenderness of the breast
- In the long run, there is a risk of breast cancer in pre-menopausal women.
Side effects in men
- Breast enlargement
- Breast tenderness
- Reduced sperm production
- Excessive blood clotting
Gynaecomastia – enlargement of breasts in men as HCG use causes the body to convert testosterone to estrogen. Estrogen is a female hormone that regulates the development of female sexual traits. Some HCG diet products recommend the use of an estrogen blocker for this reason.National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre (NDARC) has highlighted that the use of HCG for a period of time or in very high doses can inhibit the natural production of testosterone or makes the testicles in men resistant. It also disrupts the process of ovulation in women.
Prostrate Hypertrophy – it is an enlargement of the prostate gland. This condition is not malignant nor does it increase the risk of prostate cancer.
Pregnancy and multiple births – there will be more tendencies of multiple births such as twins, triplets, etc. Take the doctor’s advice on whether to use HCG or not especially, if you are thinking of getting pregnant, or if you are already pregnant.
Other side effects include:
- Acne (pimples)
- Mood swings
- Fluid retention
- Irritation in the area of usage
Severe calorie restriction can also cause the following adverse effects:
- Vitamin and mineral deficiency
- Risk of gall bladder stones
- Muscle loss
- Electrolyte imbalance
- Irregular heartbeat
- Risk of heart diseases, kidney diseases, and diabetes.
What is included in the HCG meal plan?
Usually, the HCG meal plans generally contain one portion of lean protein, a vegetable, a piece of bread, and a fruit. Avoid butter, oils, and sugar but you must drink a lot of water. You can also consume coffee and tea.HCG intake is in the form of shots, oral drops, or sprays.
Each meal must include:
- A protein source
- A vegetable
- A fruit
You can explore the following food options:
- A handful of berries
- Skinless chicken breast
- Half a grapefruit
- Lean ground beef
- Melba toast
- Sliced turkey
- Spinach and other leafy greens
What to avoid?
- Dried and pickled fish
- Fatty fish, such as salmon and tuna
- Potatoes and other starchy vegetables
Common post diet problems
- Your body might become resistant to the HCG hormone.
- Calorie starvation might leave people weak and malnourished (nutrient deficiency).
- After completion of the diet, the calorie cravings will increase.
- Patients will definitely realize that there are much better ways to lose weight than starving on calories.
- After completion of the diet regime, the calorie intake must be gradual to allow the body to adjust.
It requires a lot of effort
- You are bound to spring back to your cravings more than before.
- It is very hard to stick to the 500 calories per day limit and it is also dangerous.
- Also, the HCG diet does not offer significant nutritional benefits. You will not be getting much protein either.
It is not safe especially for vegans and vegetarians. In fact, vegetarians will have to drink more of skimmed milk as they have a restricted choice in protein-based foods. Since it has skimmed milk (dairy), it does not make it a vegan diet.
HCG diet: Is it safe?
The HCG diet is designed with the use of hormone supplements and low-calorie intake to aid in weight loss. The research found no change with respect to body weight, body proportions, and feeling of hunger.HCG diet works only because of the severe calorie restriction. Intake of just 500 calories a day is not healthy nor is it sustainable.
Your body has so many processes functioning and it requires energy (calories) for all that. Energy is required even for waste removal and synthesis of important molecules. Also, the HCG diet does not offer other nutritional benefits.
It is important to consult a doctor or even a dietician because each body type is different. Any diet will have a different impact on each individual. It is advisable for an intake of 1200 to 1800 calories per day and exercise regularly for a good weight loss.
Many doctors recommend that the best way to lose weight is to reduce the calories, include a balanced diet with whole grains, fruits and vegetables and curtail on fatty or meat-based foods.
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