The HCG diet is an extreme but very popular type of eating plan. Why is it extreme? Well, it is said that you will lose between 1-2 pounds (0.5-1 kilogram) of fat per day.
Please bear in mind, before reading on, that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has labelled it as dangerous and illegal. However, we are going to delve into the HCG diet and explore every inch of it so you can decide for yourself.
What is the HCG Diet?
HCG stands for 'human chorionic gonadotropin' which, at the early stages of pregnancy are present within your body at very high levels. It is used to treat fertility problems, regardless of your gender and is even utilised in home pregnancy tests.
When found in increasing levels in your blood, HCG can be a symptom of placental, ovarian and testicular cancer.
But, in 1954 it was plugged as an effective weight-loss tool by a doctor called Albert Simeons (yes, he also came up with the HCG diet itself).
So, what exactly is the HCG diet?
In short, it combines the use of the HCG hormone with eating an extremely low-calorie diet to garner a huge amount of weight loss in a quicker period.
It is divided into three definitive stages:
- Loading phase
- Weight loss phase
- Maintenance phase
The Loading Phase
This stage lasts for two days only. During this time, you will eat a lot of high-fat foods containing many calories as you start taking HCG.
The Weight Loss Phase
Now, this phase is longer at 3-6 weeks! You will continue to take HCG but ingest only 500 calories every day. People looking for a very noticeable amount of weight loss might need to stay at this stage for the full 6 weeks — some individuals choose to repeat all 3 phases a few times!
You are only permitted to eat two meals a day here; normally, this will be lunch and dinner.
The Maintenance Phase
Lastly, you will cut out the HCG hormone completely and slowly increase your calorific intake. However, for three weeks, you must leave any sugar and starch out of your diet.
Don't worry, we can hear you! You are asking...
What to Eat on the HCG Diet?
From the above, it isn't clear what you are supposed to eat specifically. So, let us break it down.
What to Eat in The Loading Phase?
As you know, this is your time to fill up on fats and calories. If you don't do this, the first week of your weight loss stage will be, quite frankly, horrible!
Your menu for these two days could include some of these foods:
- Bacon, sausages, toast (with butter and jam) and eggs
- Very sugary cereal (Lucky Charms, etc)
- A bagel topped with cream cheese and eggs on the side
- Any fast food (McDonald's, Taco Bell, KFC, Burger King)
- Fast food (your choice, just make sure you supersize on the fries and drink)
- BBQ lamb (any meat that is high in fat) with your choice of sauce and a large portion of fries
- Baked potato (include all the toppings) with any type of cake for dessert
You need to have three snacks during this phase — in the morning, afternoon and the evening.
- Protein bar
- Full fat cheese
- Full fat ice cream
- Chocolate bars
- Iced coffee (yes, with cream and toppings)
What to Eat in The Weight Loss Phase?
Of course, you will be continuing on with taking your HCG hormone but, your diet here takes a drastic turn from the first stage. The approved foods list contains mostly proteins, fruits and vegetables. 'Like what?' you ask, well, this is your answer:
Fruits and Vegetables
- Green onions
- Bell peppers
- Beet greens
- Brussels sprouts
- Dill pickles
- Green beans
- Albacore tuna
- Buffalo steak
- Skinless chicken breast
- White pork
- Veal steak
- Lean ground beef
Vegetarian-Friendly Protein Sources
- Boca burgers
- Egg whites (three egg whites = one egg)
- Cottage cheese
- Skimmed milk
What to Eat in The Maintenance Phase?
Some call this the 'stabilisation phase' and it is basically where your metabolism is being reset. Here, you will be increasing your calorie count to somewhere between 1500 and 2000 — avoiding starch and sugar, as previously mentioned.
Foods that you can reincorporate at this stage are:
- Brown rice
Once the three weeks are over, if you want to add sugars and 'bad' starches back into your day-to-day life then you can — just do it gradually! Although, it is advised to find healthier alternatives to your favourites. However, after phase 3, you shouldn't feel restricted anymore.
How Does it Work?
Advocates of this diet say that the hormone boosts metabolism and causes fat loss — but there is zero scientific evidence to suggest that this is the case.
The weight loss is more likely due to the severe calorie deficit you are in while following the strict diet, not because of the actual HCG.
Manufacturers of over the counter HCG products (which, by the way, are illegal as they are not FDA approved) claim that this hormone will promote weight loss of up to a pound per day and that it will 'fix abnormal eating habits' but there is no research to support this.
In fact, it is particularly unsafe to partake in this diet plan for the majority of people.
Can You Live by HCG Without the Diet?
So, does HCG work without the diet? Medical experts who have looked into the HCG diet are adamant that you will not see the same weight loss results without the strict eating routine which only heightens the fact that it is not the hormone that is delivering these effects — just the extreme low-calorie intake.
And no, this is not healthy for anyone as your vital organs will not receive enough protein or overall nutrition which causes detrimental impacts on your health.
You now have all the information you could ever need in order to make an informed decision about whether or not to go on this diet. Just bear in mind all the health risks involved and, if you are still struggling to make up your mind, speak to your doctor — they will be able to give you personalised advice.