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Is the HCG Diet Effective for Weight Loss?

You want to lose weight and you’ve decided that now is the time. That means that this time you’re ready to put everything into it – good food, regular exercise and an unbreakable level of commitment.

You want to follow a plan that guarantees results, but with so many different diets to choose from you’re unsure which one will work best.

That’s where we come in. The purpose of this article is to review the current science on the HCG diet. Is this extreme approach to weight loss effective? Or is it just another over-hyped fad?

Let’s find out more…

What is the HCG Diet?

Human chorionic gonadotropin or HCG is a hormone that is produced by the placenta during pregnancy. It helps the baby to develop and grow.

It’s basically a signalling hormone that let’s you know that you are pregnant and to begin putting things in place to help the fetus grow into a baby. It is such an important hormone that it is also used by medical clinicians during fertility treatment.

The first version of this diet was introduced back in the 1950s by a doctor called A.T.W. Simeons who was based in Rome, Italy.

The basic idea behind the diet is two-fold. You limit yourself to only 500 calories and administer a small dose of HCG supplement each day. This comes in the form injections, but also sometimes pills or sprays as well.

How Does The HCG Diet Work?

It’s a very strict diet but as you’d expect for such a low-calorie approach, and of course it claims to help you lose weight at an ‘incredible’ speed.

There are typically a small number of distinct phases of the diet:

  • Phase 1: During days 1 and 2 you’ll begin taking the HCG supplement 3 times per day and eat lots of fatty foods. This is a preparation phase.
  • Phase 2: Between days 3 and 23 you begin your 500 calorie diet and keep using the drops. You can only choose foods on the approved diet list that comes with the plan.
  • Phase 3: Between days 24 and 26 you stop taking the supplement but continue eating only 500 calories.

This plan is based on a 26-day supplement kit, but there are also more gruelling 40 day versions too.

You’ll not actually find any HCG in your supplement though

Clinical HCG requires a prescription from your physician. The supplements that claim to contain HCG aren’t technically lying as they contain minuscule amounts of the hormone. But these are only homeopathic quantities that are dosed so low that they practically don’t exist.

Although used as a treatment for fertility, there isn’t any evidence to suggest that HCG actually helps with weight loss. The fact that men are able to follow the diet tells you how potent the HCG content is.

It isn’t approved as an over-the-counter weight loss treatment either, with the FDA advising people to avoid it altogether.

The FDA have advised consumers to avoid HCG injections and over the counter HCG products as they may be potentially unsafe.

Scientifically selected foods?

As we’ve mentioned, you’ll find that your daily calorie allowance on this diet is very low – and this is what causes weight loss, not the injections. Let’s be right – the fact that you won’t be eating much will lead to weight loss. And it doesn’t leave many food choices for you to be in control of either.

It is claimed that the foods chosen for you are ‘scientifically selected’ but in reality each diet isn’t tailored to your needs at all. All you’ll be provided with is a generic list of very low calorie foods that you are allowed to eat. This makes the plan extremely rigid.

The low calorie intake coupled with such a strict diet plan isn’t a successful way of losing weight. In fact, research suggests that restrictive dieting is far less successful than flexible eating patterns where users choose their own foods but just keep an eye on total energy intake. Not following the plan to the letter or having a one-off slip up can often lead to complete loss of focus and success on restrictive diets.

Just to give you an idea, 500 calories is the equivalent of only eating 2 slices of pizza, 5 apples or 4 slices of bread. And that’s all you’d be allowed. All day. It is mind-blowingly hard work.

Does The HCG Diet Help You Lose Weight?

Eating only 500 calories a day will certainly cause weight loss. The question is though, will it be sustainable and safe?

The term very low-calorie diet or VLCD is given to any eating plan that only allows less than 800 calories per day. The problem with these diets though is that they can have big implications for long-term weight loss success. They are usually only reserved for extremely obese people who are under constant medical supervision.

It isn’t sustainable

Being on a VLCD can lead to short-term weight loss. This is often a mix of water and glycogen loss coupled with a little bit of fat. It isn’t a great way to lose weight but it does work.

The problem with being on so few calorie though is that your body cannot function properly. After a while the hunger gets so much that you’ll fall off the wagon. This will lead to guilt, bad associations with food and of course, weight gain.

Loss of muscle mass

The lack of protein and overall energy in the diet will lead to a loss of muscle. As lean muscle controls your metabolic rate, lower muscle mass means a lower metabolic rate. This will lead to massive weight gain once you begin to up your calories again.

You’ll not have enough energy to exercise

The low calorie nature of the diet doesn’t give you enough energy to get through a normal day, let alone to exercise.

A big part of successful weight loss is to feel fitter and healthier. It promotes positive changes to your body shape and boosts your confidence too. Not being able to exercise will slow down your progress and leave you tired and run down.

You’ll miss out on vital fat burning nutrients

Following a 500 calorie a day diet makes it near impossible to obtain all of the important nutrition you need to fuel your body. Not only will you feel tired and lethargic, you’ll be at a higher risk of short term illness such as colds and flu too.

You’ll likely miss out on nutrients that have been found to speed up fat loss such as zinc and vitamin B12. This can lead to vitamin deficiencies and less than optimal fat burning. Eating a little more sometimes goes a long way.

It increases your risk of illness

VLCDs can make you feel dizzy, confused and can lead to fatigue, heart arrhythmias, menstrual irregularities and hair loss. The lack of fiber in the diet can cause gastrointestinal discomfort and diarrhea, as well as gallstones.

In extreme cases, low calorie diets can lead to coma or even death if followed for too long.

Summary – Is the HCG Diet Safe for Weight Loss?

If you’re after safe and effective weight loss then this diet won’t help you. The HCG injections are in such small doses that they will have very little effect, and they haven’t been proven to boost weight loss in the first place.

The very low-calorie nature of the diet you have to follow is potentially unsafe. Surviving on only 500 calories won’t provide you with the necessary energy to exercise and it’s likely that it’ll lead to sub-optimal fat burning and potential nutrient deficiencies.

We strongly suggest that you give this diet a miss and instead focus your attention on an alternative that is safer and more effective.

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