Diets are a fad in today’s fast-paced world, and people are constantly on the lookout for diets that can help achieve the weight loss they desire in the easiest and fastest possible manner.
To top it, if the diet has a natural aspect to it, then it becomes more appealing. Here is one diet that claims to be both natural and effective. We are referring to none other than the HCG diet.
The HCG diet is one of the diets, popular, for both controversies and its extreme nature. It follows a strict regimen involving calorie restrictions and taking HCG to achieve the desired weight loss.
Interested? Read on to know more about what is HCG, the diet plan, and the outcome.
Table of Contents
HCG: What is it?
HCG or Human Chorionic Gonadotropin, known as the pregnancy hormone is produced naturally in a woman’s body when she conceives. HCG presence is measured through urine tests during pregnancy. (1)
This hormone level doubles during the first trimester, diminishes in the later stages, and ceases in a couple of weeks, after delivery or termination of pregnancy, and is essential for fetal development.
HCG is also responsible for the accumulation and breaking down of fat to provide nutritional support for the growing fetus and providing the required energy. (2)
HCG has also been found to be useful in addressing fertility issues in men and women. (3)
Beyond the normal levels accepted for pregnancy, elevated levels of HCG can be symptomatic of some types of cancer. (4)
Summary: HCG is a hormone indicating pregnancy in women and crucial for aiding fetal growth. HCG breaks down accumulated fat to provide energy and nutritional support for the growing fetus.
The Science Behind HCG Diet Plan
The HCG diet was formulated by a British endocrinologist, Dr. Albert Simeons in 1954 for stimulating weight loss.
Dr. Simeons who used HCG to treat to treat a metabolic condition called Frohlich syndrome in obese children experimented with HCG on normal obese people and found that it resulted in suppressed appetite and weight loss.
He reasoned that by restricting daily calorie intake to 500 calories and taking the HCG hormone via injections would help in achieving quick and effective fat loss.
The diet as a whole is divided into multiple stages or HCG phases classified as a cleansing phase, a loading phase, weight loss phase, stabilization phase, and finally a maintenance phase.
Restricting calories and taking the HCG hormone as injections, pills, or drops, is intended to suppress appetite, maintain energy, and to use the accumulated fat reserves to trim inches off your body to achieve substantial weight loss.
Summary: Dr. Albert Simeons proposed the HCG diet which involved a 500 calorie restriction and taking HCG hormone to achieve desired weight loss. The 5 phase diet was designed to reduce appetite, increase energy, and result in weight loss.
The 5 HCG Diet Phases
The HCG diet plan is formulated to be practiced in cycles. One cycle is completing all 5 phases and restarting the second cycle for further weight loss with specified breaks between two cycles.
HCG Diet Phase Zero
Phase zero is not a standard part of the HCG diet plan and is left to the discretion of the user.
This phase is a pre-preparatory stage for the forthcoming compulsory phases of the diet plan. It involves detoxification or cleansing of the body’s internal system to arrive at a stage of readiness to undergo the HCG diet.
Cleansing routines such as colon cleanse, candida cleanse, or liquid cleanse make ideal choices for this phase.
HCG Diet Phase 1
The HCG phase 1 is a welcome and appetizing start for those who are fond of high-fat and high-calorie foods. This HCG diet phase 1 accumulates fat reserves that will be used as fuel and energy in the next two phases.
This phase also referred to as the loading phase, lasts for about 2 days and can include consumption of foods high in good fat content and some fiber to avoid potential digestive issues.
Foods such as red meat, fatty fish, eggs, avocados, butter, cheese, oils, and nuts are all advised as part of the meal plan along with HCG injection, pills, or drops.
Summary: The HCG diet plan phase 1 is intended to let the body accumulate fat reserves for 2 days, that will provide energy and sustenance for the calorie deprivation that follows in the next phases.
HCG Diet Phase 2
The HCG diet phase 2 is the most important but trying phase in the diet plan. It starts on the third day, right after the loading phase, and is where the much-awaited weight loss takes place.
The 500 calorie restriction per day begins with this phase and must be adhered to either 26 or 43 days, depending on one’s requirement for weight loss.
The minimum doses of HCG required are 23 and can be extended to a maximum of 40 doses. After completion of the HCG dosage, the diet should be maintained for another 3 days, which makes it 26 or 43 days of phase 2.
The aim of phase 2 is to use the HCG hormone to obtain around 2000 calories from the built-up fat reserves as energy. So you must ensure the intake of protein, vegetables, fruits, and some toast during this phase.
After completing the HCG doses of 23 or 40, a transition period of 72 hrs or 3 days is essential to wean off HCG and for the hormone to be excreted from your system before you commence the next phase.
Summary: HCG diet phase 2 is a crucial phase where weight loss occurs due to a combination of 500 calorie restriction and taking HCG hormones. The fat reserves from the loading phase provide the required energy and stamina.
HCG Diet Phase 3
HCG diet phase 3 or the stabilization phase is again important in the HCG diet. It lasts for about 3 – 4 weeks and the calorie count is increased to 1500 – 2000 calories with no more HCG hormones.
This phase aims to stabilize the new weight from fluctuations, by not giving in to temptations. Though all foods, except sugars and starch, are allowed, it is important to balance food choices to keep the weight in check.
This phase’s success depends on continued consumption of foods taken and the slow introduction of foods that were avoided, in phase 2. Healthy fats and 3 meals a day become the norm here, to help transition to the final phase.
Summary: HCG diet phase 3 involves stabilizing the new weight through healthy eating, slowly increasing the calorie consumption to 1500 calories and restricting sugars and starches.
HCG Diet Phase 4
Commonly referred to as the maintenance phase, the HCG diet phase 4 is the final phase. It is an extension of the stabilization phase but with relaxations.
This phase allows the slow reintroduction of all foods including sugars and starches. An equilibrium must be maintained to maintain the newly acquired weight while still eating your favorite foods.
Phase 4 acts as a learning cycle where one understands calorie counting, eating healthy carbs, and treating yourself to occasional chocolates or desserts while still maintaining your weight.
Summary: The final phase of the HCG diet, this phase allows all food in moderation. Making suitable changes to your diet to allow your favorite foods while still eating healthy foods helps in lifetime maintenance of the new weight.
Safety and Side Effects of the HCG Diet Plan
The HCG diet has not found favor with many owing to its extreme nature. The FDA has now made HCG a prescription drug that is used in fertility treatments and hence it is illegal to purchase it as an over-the-counter (OTC) medication. (5)
Research also indicates that the HCG diet does not have enough evidence to prove its effectiveness and may do more harm than good. (6)
A study conducted by researchers from the Vrije University in Amsterdam noted that:
“There is no scientific evidence that HCG is effective in the treatment of obesity; it does not bring about weight-loss of fat-redistribution, nor does it reduce hunger or induce a feeling of well-being” (7).
The HCG diet was found to cause deep vein thrombosis or pulmonary problems in certain cases. (8)
Though the HCG diet has a huge number of followers, there is a concern that the weight loss is temporary and the procedure being followed may be harmful to health due to the extreme restriction of calories.
Summary: The HCG diet is not approved by the FDA and HCG is now a prescription medicine. Many studies have revealed the inefficacy of the diet and consider it harmful.
The Bottom Line
Advocated by Dr. Simeons, the 5 phases of the HCG diet form a cycle that can be repeated with breaks between cycles to achieve desired weight loss.
While HCG phase zero is optional, it best to start with an internal cleanse. The HCG diet phase 1 acts is the actual take-off point. This loading phase includes healthy sources of fat as well as high fiber foods to help accumulate the necessary fat and fiber for the later phases of the diet.
HCG diet phase 2 is where weight loss takes place owing to 500 calorie restriction per day and the added HCG hormone along with your body’s fat reserves provide the required energy for you to function during this phase.
The intake of HCG hormones is stopped in phase 3. The slow introduction of certain foods to help balance the new weight is the crux of HCG diet phase 3.
HCG diet phase 4, where all foods are reintroduced, is the final phase where the weight continues to be maintained without restrictions.
The HCG diet is not accepted by many experts in the medical fraternity as there have been many studies that did not find it effective for weight loss. There is also a concern regarding the extreme caloric restriction in the beginning phases of the diet.
You should also be aware of the risk of serious health consequences such as deep vein thrombosis or pulmonary problems among people following the HCG diet.
Weight loss can be better achieved through a balanced diet, appropriate lifestyle changes, and under the guidance of a nutritionist. If you choose to follow the HCG diet plan, it’s best to do so under medical supervision.