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A Complete Guide: HCG Diet

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Dieting is essential for losing weight. Observing a healthy diet not only helps you lose weight but also ensures you are healthy. One diet popular for losing weight is the HCG diet. Although it tops the list of fad diets, the original form of the diet has been discredited by scientists. Yet many people are still enticed by the diet’s promises of losing up to 1-2 pounds daily without feeling hungry. It is in your best interest to know what the diet entails if you want to use it to lose weight. So what is the HCG diet? This article highlights what the diet is, its benefits, and expected results.

What Is the Diet?

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Human Chorionic Gonadotropin (HCG) is a hormone present at high levels during early pregnancy. It is a viable marker to tell whether a person is pregnant, which explains why it is used to detect a pregnancy in at-home pregnancy tests. It has also been used in treating fertility issues in both genders. However, high levels of the HCG in the blood may be a common symptom of several types of cancer, including testicular, ovarian, and placental cancer. The diet combines hormone injections, drops, pellets, or sprays with a restrictive 500-calorie diet, which many medical practitioners have labeled as a risky proposition.

Albert Simeons, a British doctor first proposed HCG diet as a weight-loss diet in 1954. The diet is comprised of two main components: hormone injections, and the ultra-low 500 calories daily. Today’s HCG products are sold in a variety of forms, such as sprays, pellets, and drops. These products are readily available through many websites and retail stores.

The Function of HCG Hormone

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HCG is a protein-based hormone produced during pregnancy in a woman’s body. The hormone helps in maintaining the production of vital hormones like estrogen and progesterone, which are needed in the development of the embryo and fetus. After the first three months of pregnancy, blood levels of HCG decrease significantly.

Diet Prescription

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HCG is a low-fat and low-calorie diet divided into three phases:

  1. The loading phase where the individual takes HCG and eats plenty of high-fat, high-calorie foods for about two days.
  2. The weight loss phase where the person continues taking HCG and only eating about 50 calories daily for a span of three to six weeks.
  3. The maintenance phase where the person stops taking HCG and gradually increases food intake, but avoids eating sugary and starchy foods for about three weeks.

Individuals seeking minimal weight loss may spend about three weeks in the second phase but those seeking to lose a significant amount of weight should follow the diet for about six weeks and may even want to repeat the cycles for optimal results. In the weight loss phase, you are allowed to have two meals daily–lunch and dinner.

The meal plans suggest that each meal should contain a portion of lean protein, a vegetable, a fruit, and a bread piece. Oils, butter, and sugar are avoided, but you are encouraged to drink a lot of water. You can also include tea, coffee, and mineral water.

Scam Alert

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Most of the HCG products in the market are scams since they are homeopathic, meaning they contain no HCG. The real HCG is typically in the form of injections and is administered as a fertility drug. It is only available through a doctor’s prescription.

Benefits of the HCG Diet

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Proponents of HCG diet articulate that the diet works by boosting metabolism, which helps you lose large amounts of fat, without feeling hungry. There are various theories that try to explain this weight loss mechanism. Multiple studies that investigated the weight-loss mechanism concluded that weight loss is due to the ultra-low-calorie intake alone and not anything to do with HCG. The studies made comparisons of the HCG effects and placebo injections given to people on a calorie-restricted diet.

Weight loss was identical in both the experimental and control groups. This implies that HCG does not play a part in shedding off the extra pounds, rather, it is the low-calorie diet. In addition, the studies established that the HCG hormone did not reduce hunger. The HCG diet limits your calorie intake to 500 calories daily, making it an extreme weight loss diet. Any other diet with minimal calorie intake will also lead to weight loss.

Does the HCG Diet Improve Body Composition?

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Muscle loss is a common side effect of losing weight. This is particularly common in diets that severely restrict calorie intake, for example, the HCG diet. The body also “thinks” that you are starving and reduces the number of calories it burns to conserve energy.

In contrast, proponents of the HCG diet claim it causes fat loss and not muscle loss. They claim the diet elevates other hormones, boosting metabolism in the process while also leading to an anabolic or growth-promoting state. However, unlike what opponents have established through studies, proponents have no scientific evidence to back their claims.

So if you are looking for a low-calorie diet, there are better ways to help you prevent muscle loss and metabolic slowdown than taking HCG. You can also consider weightlifting, which is one of the most effective strategies for losing weight. Besides, eating a lot of proteins and taking occasional breaks from your diet might also do the trick in boosting your metabolism for weight loss.

Expected Results

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Proponents of the diet claim you will lose between 1-2 pounds, but there are doubts since there is no scientific evidence. In fact, the diet may be risky and can only lead to limited results. The American Society of Bariatric Physicians warn against the diet, a stance supported by nutritionists. Note that the FDA has not approved the diet.

The Diet Could Be Harmful Due To:

  • Expensive injections daily, there are concerns on whether the injection will work as it claims to
  • Little medical support as the diet is not endorsed or backed by scientific evidence
  • Likely weight regain if you no longer sticking with the diet
  • Few food choices since it is calorie restrictive
  • Long-term health risks, due to the six-week nutritional deficiencies

Short- and Long-Term Effects

woman on the treadmill

Government agencies have questioned the safety of the HCG products because the ingredients are unregulated. In the short-term, a dieter will start feeling lousy because of low energy levels. You will also be fatigued, cranky and irritable. You won’t get enough nutrients and you will not have the energy to exercise, which would help you lose weight and maintain long-term weight loss. You risk being malnourished if you stay on the diet for a long time as a 500-calorie daily consumption is not enough to meet your nutritional needs.

HCG Diet Might Work Because of Cutting Calories

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The diet limits your calorie intake to 500 calories daily, making it an extreme weight-loss diet. Any diet with this minimal caloric-intake will result in significant weight-loss. Many studies have established that the HCG hormone has no effect on losing weight and does not reduce your appetite. You should be wary of claims purporting otherwise as they have no scientific backing. Note that there are other diets you can adopt that are far better in losing weight than HCG diet. For instance, the Mediterranean diet.

Conclusion

The HCG diet combines hormone injections, drops, pellets, or sprays with a restrictive 500-calorie diet. HCG is a protein-based hormone that is produced during pregnancy in a woman’s body, and has no connection to weight loss, at least from the scientific evidence tabled so far. It mainly helps in maintaining the production of pregnancy hormones and the development of the embryo and fetus. The HCG diet has three phases – loading, weight loss, and maintenance.

Many studies have established that the HCG diet only works due to the restriction of calories. In fact, some experimental studies involving placebo control groups have shown that weight loss was identical in both the experimental and control groups. Therefore, HCG does not play a part in shedding off the extra pounds, rather, it is the low-calorie diet. The HCG hormone does not reduce hunger and limiting your calorie intake to 500 calories daily, makes it an extreme weight-loss diet. This is just like any other diet involving minimal calories.

Although the HCG diet may have the desired result of weight-loss, the side effects should make any potential user stop and think. Common side effects include muscle loss, fatigue, depression, and headaches. The dieter will begin to feel drained fairly quickly from the low caloric intake required on the HCG diet, they will be cranky (otherwise known as hangry), and irritable. The insufficient intake of nutrients will drive energy levels down and the dieter will not feel able to exercise. Science has not linked the HCG hormone to weight-loss, and it does not have an effect on appetite reduction. Consumers should be very wary of claims suggesting that HCG does, as the scientific evidence has only been to the contrary.

There are other diets you can adopt that are far better, such as the Mediterranean diet. You can also consider weightlifting and eliminate the unnecessary risks involved with HCG diet. We hope that this article has adequately addressed what the HCG diet is purported to be, what it really is, its ‘benefits’, and expected results.

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