If you struggle with being overweight, or you want to get rid of some extra kilos, you will have to try different diet plans to reach your goal. But, not all diet plans are effective. Throughout this detailed article, we will talk about one of the most controversial diets, which is the HCG diet. Let’s know more about it!

 

What is the HCG hormone?

HCG is an abbreviation for Human Chorionic Gonadotropin, also known as the pregnancy hormone, and it is produced by placenta cells when pregnancy occurs. The production of the pregnancy hormone begins immediately after the fertilization of the egg by the sperm, and therefore it’s used to detect the occurrence of pregnancy. HCG helps stimulate the ovaries to produce the hormones estrogen and progesterone to stabilize pregnancy. It also helps retrain the corpus luteum, which contributes to the secretion of progesterone, which is necessary to prepare the uterine lining and increase the thickness of its wall, which means stabilizing the fetus and providing it with nutrition.[1]Human Chorionic Gonadotropin Hormone (HCG)

HCG HormoneThe level of hormone HCG depends on the nature of the woman’s body and her body’s response to pregnancy, in addition to the number of fetuses into the uterus. In fact, the levels of this hormone continue to rise until the tenth to twelfth week of pregnancy, after which they begin to decline gradually, and perhaps this explains the intensification of symptoms signs of pregnancy in the first weeks of pregnancy.

The HCG hormone uses:

Although all of the things are positive, the high level of this hormone in the blood may be a symptom of ovarian, testicular, or placental cancer. [7]Human chorionic gonadotropin and its relation to grade, stage and patient survival in ovarian cancer (nih.gov)

What is the HCG diet?

We can see that there are many approved methods for losing weight and obtaining a slim and harmonious body, and the HCG diet is one of the latest types of diets, which lies in pumping the female pregnancy hormone HCG, which is formed in pregnant women’s bodies, into the body, which helps to stimulate and accelerate the metabolism in the body and achieve the goal in losing the extra kilos. Dr. Albert Simeons came to this diet in 1954. He believed that the hormone reduces the feeling of hunger.

How does the HCG diet work?

This diet depends on two main points, including:

  1. Taking the HCG hormone in the form of drops or injections
  2. Adopting a specific diet that does not contain more than 500 calories per day.

The HCG diet burns about 1000 to 1500 calories per day from the fat accumulated in the body and converting it into energy. Because basically, it’s a kind of stimulated pregnancy process, where the woman’s body during pregnancy uses its fat reserves to feed the baby in the womb.

The phases of the diet

The first phase (loading phase)

It’s two days long.

It begins to supply the body with the hormone.

In this stage, it’s recommended to eat a lot of high-fat and high-calorie foods. You can eat whatever you want and as much as you can, this helps motivate the body to increase the metabolic rate to work effectively to burn off these extra calories.

The second phase (weight loss phase)

It lasts 3 to 6 weeks

It continues to supply the body with the hormone while limiting the consumption number of calories to 500 calories per day. In this stage, you begin to lose about 1 to 2 pounds a week, and if you suffer from obesity, you may lose from 4 to 15 pounds after two weeks. 

During this stage, only two meals are eaten, lunch and dinner, each of which includes protein, vegetables, starches, and fruits.

The last phase (maintenance phase) 

This stage lasts 3 weeks

Stop the body’s supply of hormones. Gradually increase the calorie intake per day while You can eat any kind of meat,  fruits, vegetables, and dairy products that are low in sugar, and avoid consuming sugars and starches.

People who are striving to lose little weight may spend three weeks in the intermediate phase, and for those who are seeking to lose more kilos, it’s better for them to keep following the HCG diet for six weeks, and may have to repeat all the stages again for many times.

Allowed Foods:

The foods that are allowed to be consumed in the HCG diet are:

  • It’s recommended to eat two servings of protein foods (lean protein) in lunch and dinner such as eggs, caviar, veal, chicken, white fish, lobster, crab, shrimp, and legumes. 
  • Eggs could be a good choice for breakfast.
  • Carbohydrates include red rice, brown rice, wheat.
  • Milk is the only dairy product that is allowed in the diet, and it’s used in very small amounts as you can add just one tablespoon to enrich coffee and tea.
  • The vegetables that are recommended to be eaten are cabbage, asparagus, celery, cucumber, fennel, onions, spinach, tomatoes, dandelion, chard, chicory, green salad, and red radish.
  • Fruits should be limited to be consumed once at lunch and once at dinners such as apples,  a handful of strawberries, grapefruit, and orange, berries, and citrus.
  • Nuts and seeds like almonds, flax seeds, pistachios, walnuts, sunflower seeds, and watermelon seeds are allowed.
  • Mineral water, coffee, and tea are also allowed.
  • Herbs and spices are also allowed since they are low-calorie or no-calorie such as pepper, rosemary, and thyme. They help add a flavor to the foods.

It’s recommended to drink plenty of water to help keep hydrated and to help curb the feeling of hunger. 

Supplements are important in the HCG diet to help make up for the deficiency of vitamins and minerals that are needed to keep the body healthy. 

Foods To Avoid:

Foods that are not allowed in the HCG diet:

  • Butter, oils, and sugar should be avoided 
  • Dairy products such as cheese, yogurt, ice cream, and more 
  • High-carb foods including grains, bread, and pasta,…..
  • Sweets and desserts such as muffins, cakes, cookies, and candies
  • Fats and oils are also not recommended
  • Sugary beverages like soda
  • Alcohol

What are the side effects of the HCG diet?

HCG diet pros

  • It helps lose weight quickly due to the strict diet, which is based on limiting the number of calories to 500 calories per day.
  • It’s an easy diet to follow because it’s divided into three phases and use a specific number of calories 
  • Following this diet may help develop a good routine

HCG Diet Different Protocols:

The 800 calories HCG diet

This diet is a developed version of the 500 HCG diet. Phase 2 is considered the most important stage for weight loss. So, the main idea of this diet is to add a variety of food groups to reduce hunger and provide the body with the necessary nutrients. Moreover, it’s effective in weight loss because it will not cause metabolism to slow down which leads to a quick weight loss. It allows for more calories, but the main element is protein. In addition, breakfast is an important meal in this diet.

Following the 800 HCG diet for 30 days leads to losing weight in women from 15 to 25 lbs, while in men from 20 to 35 lbs.

We should mention that the weight loss average depends on many factors such as age, gender, the weight of people when they start the diet, and their medical condition. 

Foods that are allowed in the 800 calorie HCG diet

  • For breakfast, you can eat egg whites, yogurt low in sugar, cottage cheese, and one serving of fruit
  • For lunch and dinner, you have to eat one kind of protein such as veal, beef, chicken breast, white fish, crab, lobster, or shrimp
  • You have a variety of vegetables such as chard spinach, onions, beet greens, green salad, tomatoes, cucumber, fennel, celery, and more
  • Fruits like apple, orange, strawberries, grapefruit, cherries, pears, and berries
  • For snacks, they should be low-carb and low-sugar foods
  • Spices are considered a great addition like cumin, onion powder, chili powder, basil, oregano, paprika, bay leaf
  • Garlic, parsley, and cilantro are good additions
  • Coffee, tea, and herbal drinks
  • Healthy and useful artificial sweeteners including Truvia, Saccharine, and Sucralose
  • Supplements are important such as  multivitamins, magnesium, vitamin B12, and potassium

The foods that should be avoided include:

  • Bread
  • Pasta
  • Cereal
  • Rice
  • Starchy vegetables
  • Black and red beans
  • Crackers
  • Cooking oils
  • Sugary drinks

The 1000 – 1200 calorie HCG diet protocol

This diet plan also depends on the same three phases as the original HCG diet. But, as you can see, it allows consuming more calories, which makes it healthier, and helps the body to increase metabolism rate, which is essential for burning fat effectively. But, it will be a slower weight loss.

The weight loss average in 30 days is nearly 15 lbs.

Foods that are allowed in the 10001200 calories HCG diet

  • Proteins including white fish, white chicken, veal, roast, salmon, tuna, eggs, clams, shrimp, venison, white pork, ocean perch, crab, lobster, and white turkey
  • Vegetables including cauliflower, carrots, zucchini, broccoli, greens, celery, lettuce, spinach, radishes, cabbage, peas, onion, mushrooms, tomatoes, and dill pickles
  • The fruits that are allowed include apples, nectarines, peaches, oranges, berries, pears, plums, cantaloupe, and grapefruit
  • Most spices are allowed, sea salt, pam cooking spray, vinegar, lemon juice, soy sauce, Picante sauce, natural garlic, thyme, and mustard
  • Sweeteners like Stevia, Truvia, and Agave Nectar

Vegan and vegetarians HCG diet

You may wonder if this diet is suitable for vegans and vegetarians !! Yes, they can follow this diet, and they have many food options that they can use as protein substitutions on the HCG diet. Vegetarians can replace meat with lean protein. Eggs are a good source of protein for them. Tofu and a lean vegan burger can be used by vegans.

HCG diet for vegans and vegetariansHere are some food options that can be used to substitute meat and fish:

  • Cottage cheese

One cup of cottage cheese contains about 30 grams of protein. You can add it to your favorite salad.

  • Shake it Dairy-Free soup

Consuming 30 grams of this soup provides you with 20 grams of protein.

  • Tofu

One cup of it contains about 20 grams of protein. It can be added to your favorite salads

  • Tempeh

One cup packs contain 30 grams of protein

  • Eggs

Eggs are delicious and can be eaten in different ways. In addition, they are high in protein. Two boiled eggs contain 12 grams of protein. 

  • Miso soup

It is a Japanese soup that is a great option for vegetarians and vegans since it contains low calories. So, you can consume a lot of it without worrying about overdoing calories

  • Protein powder
  • Beans
  • Quinoa

For vegans, it will be more difficult since they don’t eat dairy products. So, they can use soy products and protein shakes to get the needed protein amount. Including probiotics in the HCG diet is important to control the food cravings which are caused by the bacteria in the gut. Anyway, this diet is considered suitable to follow for vegetarians and vegans.

What is Apple Day?

Apple day is just a break day, in which it is allowed to change the routine of the regular diet. When you have the same weight for three days in phase 2 on the HCG diet, you will need to have apple day. It’s not allowed to eat anything until lunchtime, you can eat from 4 to 6 apples till midnight, and drink little water because you need to get rid of the extra water weight.

What is Mni Steak Day?

If you find yourself the same weight or you have extra weight for three or more days, then you need to go for the Mini Steak day. Throughout the day you can drink coffee, tea. Don’t have lunch, after that, you can eat 3.5 grams of beef fillet steak or beef sirloin and also eat an apple or one tomato. It’s recommended to drink plenty of water.

Is the HCG diet effective?

In fact, all the products, which are available without a prescription, are not effective and safe. It’s also important to note that although HCG hormone is approved by FDA as a fertility treatment, its use as a weight-loss treatment is considered “ off-label” use. Various theories also attempt to explain the mechanisms of weight loss using the pregnancy hormone.

However, several studies have concluded that losing weight by following the HCG diet occurs only because of the extremely low number of calories that are consumed, which leads to a significant weight loss. These studies have shown that when comparing the effects of injections of the HCG hormone did not show an effect on reducing the feeling of hunger, and with a low-calorie diet. The weight loss results were completely or nearly the same between the two groups. [14]Obesity: Identification, Assessment and Management of Overweight and Obesity in Children, Young People and Adults: Partial Update of CG43

Moreover, these studies have shown that the HCG hormone does not have an effect on reducing the feeling of hunger. In fact, following the HCG diet will probably help to lose weight and shed extra kilos quickly, but the weight that was lost might return, and it’s usually in the form of fat. It is essentially a kind of starvation diet that is not healthy and results in many health problems.

HCG Products

HCG Diet injections

HCG diet drops

There are two forms of the drops, one of them is prescribed by a doctor and contains the HCG hormone. The second one does not need a prescription, which contains the energy pattern of the HCG hormone. They are used by putting them under the tongue to be absorbed into the bloodstream. 

Sample products

  • Complex Diet Drops

It’s considered one of the most famous HCG drops that are used for weight loss. They were created by BioSource LLC Labs. It’s approved by the FDA and GMP. They are used throughout the diet to help promote burning fat.

  • Official HCG Diet Drops

These drops work to burn the stored fat in the body and convert them into calories, which leads to reducing the calories that are taken daily. You will need to use a small daily dose.

  • HCG Warrior

They are known for their effectiveness as a weight-loss supplement. They save your money because you need just only a small dose, which means you can use the bottle for a long time. They help to suppress the appetite and keep a healthy metabolism. They can be used on the 500, 800, and 1200 calorie HCG diet plan.

  • NU Image Medical

It’s an online company. So, you can buy the HCG products online. 

HCG injections

Injections are considered the most effective way of using HCG hormone. They are usually prescribed by a doctor. They are not approved to be used as a treatment for losing weight. 

Sample products

  • US HCG Shots
  • My Diet Doc

Pills 

They are not common like injections and drops but they give the same results.

Sample products

  • BioGenetic Laboratories HCG weight loss pills

Cheating on the HCG diet 

It is common to experience cheating on the diet. It’s not the end of the world, be positive and focus on positive thoughts. It’s easy to get back on track if you stop cheating. When you cheat, if you are lucky, you will not gain weight. But, you can experience stale weight or weight gain. So, you can do some steps to go back on track:

  1. One of the ways is Apple Day. It may not be effective enough due to the high sugar and net carbs content of apples, because consuming 6 apples provides you with 114 grams of sugar and 123.6 net carbs. 
  2. You can try Steak Day by eating a large steak during this day with drinking plenty of water
  3. Eat only proteins and vegetables for days after cheating and avoid eating fruits and melba
  4. Drinking plenty of water will help reduce water retention in the body
  5. Don’t repeat the same mistakes 

Here are some popular questions:

  • Can you exercise on the HCG diet?

It’s not recommended to exercise during phase 2 because it’s a very low-calorie diet, so it will be hard to exercise and may cause fatigue and weakness. During phase 3, you can start adding some physical activities such as walking, yoga, and swimming for short periods of time. 

  • Can you eat popcorn on the HCG diet?

No, because popcorn is a kind of grain that is not allowed on the diet.

  • Can you have turkey on the HCG diet?

No, it’s not included in the original diet plan of Dr. Simeons. It is not recommended to eat it because it has a kind of amino acid, which can slow down the metabolism.

  • Can you drink alcohol on the HCG diet?

It’s not advisable to drink alcohol on the HCG diet because it’s considered a source of empty calories. So, it’s better to get these calories from more healthy options.

Last words

If your goal is to lose weight, there are safer ways to do that. Talk to your doctor or a nutritionist to find out how to make healthy changes to lose weight consistently, such as following a balanced diet and exercising regularly. Following an unhealthy and unsafe diet like the HCG diet may have many risks that affect your health.

References

References
1 Human Chorionic Gonadotropin Hormone (HCG)
2 [Diagnosis of pregnancy before the menstrual period is delayed. Interest of the determination of plasma chorionic gonadotropin (HCG) in fertility disorders] – PubMed (nih.gov)
3 Stimulation of sperm production by human chorionic gonadotropin after prolonged gonadotropin suppression in normal men – PubMed (nih.gov)
4 Effect of administration of human chorionic gonadotropin after artificial insemination on concentrations of progesterone and conception rates in beef heifers – PubMed (nih.gov)
5 Human chorionic gonadotrophin (hCG) for preventing miscarriage
6 Treatment of an undescended testis with human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG)
7 Human chorionic gonadotropin and its relation to grade, stage and patient survival in ovarian cancer (nih.gov)
8 Body Composition Changes in Weight Loss: Strategies and Supplementation for Maintaining Lean Body Mass, a Brief Review (nih.gov)
9 Metabolic adaptation to weight loss: implications for the athlete | Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition | Full Text (biomedcentral.com)
10 Risk of symptomatic gallstones and cholecystectomy after a very-low-calorie diet or low-calorie diet in a commercial weight loss program: 1-year matched cohort study
11 Acute Multiple Deep Venous Thrombosis (DVTs) As a Probable Adverse Event of the Use of Human Chorionic Gonadotropin (HCG) for Weight Loss | Blood | American Society of Hematology (ashpublications.org)
12 Effect of the human chorionic gonadotropin diet on patient outcomes – PubMed (nih.gov)
13 hCG: Biological Functions and Clinical Applications (nih.gov)
14 Obesity: Identification, Assessment and Management of Overweight and Obesity in Children, Young People and Adults: Partial Update of CG43
I am a registered dietitian nutritionist and own a private nutrition practice, where I provide one-on-one nutritional counseling to patients. I specialize in chronic disease prevention/ management, vegan/ vegetarian nutrition, pre-natal/ postpartum nutrition, wellness coaching, medical nutrition therapy, and weight management.

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