The HCG diet is not for the faint of heart. It is a quick way to lose weight, but it takes willpower and a resolve to be consistent. The HCG hormone allows your body to go through a rigorous low-calorie diet for a short period of time and lose anywhere from half a pound to two pounds per day.
HCG by itself does not cause weight loss. Eating fewer calories does. If you take HCG while eating fewer calories though, it can help your body retain its muscle mass—which can be a hard to do with low-calorie diets.
Alright, I used the word “rigorous” before but when you look at the actual HCG diet food list for the diet phase of the plan it’s not so bad—especially if you know a thing or two about grilling chicken.
Most people are interested in what is allowed during the diet phase so here is a quick rundown:
There’s not much to breakfast but keep in mind that you can move items from lunch to breakfast if you like to eat more at the beginning of the day. It’s mostly important that you stick to the allotted amount of food per day, but it doesn’t much matter when you eat that food.
So, for breakfast you can have as much tea or coffee as you like. Bear in mind though, that you are allotted only one tablespoon full of milk in a 24-hour period and for sweetener you can use saccharin or liquid Stevia.
That’s not much so I’d recommend taking some of your fruit from lunch and inserting it into breakfast, but that’s just me.
For lunch, you get a pretty good serving of protein. You may have chicken breast, veal, beef, fresh white fish, lobster, crab, or shrimp. Everything needs to be unprocessed (e.g. no fish sticks or chicken nuggets) and you will want to cut off any fat you see.
Your serving of meat should weigh 3.5 ounces (or 100 grams). You will want to weigh your meat raw before cooking it. That’s a pretty good amount of meat considering that a serving size of meat is 4 ounces and the recommended daily amount (RDA) prescribed by the USDA is two servings of meat per day.
The other offerings for lunch include a serving of vegetables, fruit, and an Italian breadstick called grissini or one piece of Melba toast. For your vegetable you can have spinach, chard, chicory, beet greens, green salad, tomatoes, fennel, celery, onions, red radishes, asparagus, cucumbers, or cabbage. The fruit choices are an orange, apple, a handful of strawberries, or half of a grapefruit.
Dinner is exactly the same as lunch, but that does not mean dinner has to be exactly the same as lunch. Choose a different protein, vegetable, and fruit to keep some variety in your diet. This will also help you to get as many essential vitamins and nutrients from your food as possible—which is important because your calories are limited.
To end the diet phase you stop taking the HCG for three days while still continuing the diet. After the diet phase you move onto the maintenance phase. You do this phase for three weeks and it has the broad guideline of no starches (like potatoes) or sugars.
There are three phases to the HCG diet. You only take HCG for the first two. The diet begins with a loading phase which lasts two days. Then, you move on to the low-calorie diet phase for 23 to 40 days. The last phase is the maintenance phase and it lasts three weeks.
There is no specific menu for the 2-day loading phase. You take your HCG (oral drops are recommended) and you eat as much as you can and stay full all day long for two days. This phase helps signal to your body that enough food and fat are available so it will feel ok about burning the fat instead of the muscles in your body during the diet phase.
The HCG diet menu for the diet phase is a lot stricter. You have specific choices for breakfast, lunch, and dinner but you can take items from lunch and eat them at breakfast time if you like. The only thing that matters is that you stick to the list of foods and eat only the quantities specified for each day.
The diet for the diet phase is a low-calorie, low-carbohydrate, low-fat, high-protein (compared to the amount of other foods you consume) diet. Your food choices are mainly low-fat meat, vegetables, and fruit. The diet specifies drinking at least eight cups of water (or another acceptable liquid such as tea) each day.
Drinking enough water should be on the agenda even when you’re not dieting. It helps prevent dry skin and aids your immune system in fighting infection. I’ve noticed that I don’t need to use products like chapstick or lotion (I live in a dry climate) anywhere near as often when I’m good about drinking enough water.
This is good because you need to stay away from using certain lotions and skincare products containing oils while on the diet. Interestingly enough, the HCG diet plan will target the oils in these products instead of your body fat. So, all your hard work dieting would be wasted.
Also, sometimes people mistake thirst for hunger so it’s good to drink a bit of water and wait a minute or two to see if that was thing your body needed before you eat a snack. This is a nice trick for cutting back on calories.
Enough with the preliminaries, here is a brief overview of the HCG diet menu:
For breakfast you pretty much stick to tea or coffee without any sugar (use liquid Stevia or saccharin to sweeten if you like). Drink these liquids in as large of quantities as you want since they contain very low amounts of calories and fat when there is no added sugar or cream. You are allowed one tablespoonful of milk in 24 hours so you may want to use it here.
Lunch is much more interesting. You get a decent serving of meat: 3.5 ounces (100 grams) weighed raw of chicken breast, beef, fresh white fish, lobster, crab, or shrimp. You must remove any fat you can see and cook your meat either by boiling or grilling it.
You may have one of the following vegetables with your lunch: spinach, chicory, chard, beet greens, green salad, tomatoes, celery, fennel, onions (you could use these to season your meat—just an idea), red radishes, cabbage, asparagus, or cucumbers.
For fruit you can have one apple, orange, handful of strawberries, or half of a grapefruit. The last item allowed for your lunch is an Italian bread stick referred to as grissini, or one piece of Melba toast (I found these near the crackers last time I went to the store).
Dinner choices are exactly the same as lunch, but be sure to mix and match your choices to keep yourself from going insane. After the diet phase, you will need to do three weeks of the maintenance phase with no starches or sugars and that, my friends, is the diet in a nutshell.
Considering how dramatic a change your body goes through when you’re doing it, HCG diet side effects are actually pretty minimal. The good news is that they usually don’t last very long—just a couple of days as your body adjusts to your lower caloric intake and the consumption of fewer fats, sugars, and preservatives.
It appears that most people do not react to the HCG hormone itself. Rather, they may experience headaches, moodiness, or fatigue as their body gets used to a new diet. Often, people end up consuming less caffeine since no soda is allowed (even diet).
It’s well documented that quitting caffeine cold turkey (especially if you’re used to having large amounts of it) can cause withdrawal headaches. Fortunately, the withdrawals don’t usually last more than a day or two. Besides, tea and coffee are allowed in unlimited amounts so you won’t be completely deprived.
The elimination of other substances from your diet can cause withdrawals as well. Sugar, fat, and sodium are things your body actually craves and can make you feel better when you eat them. That’s why some people develop an emotional need or attachment to food. They’re not craving vegetables when the need hits—it’s the stuff high in sugar and fat (like ice cream) that fills the emotional void.
As you may already know, the diet phase of the HCG diet is low calorie and low fat which also means it’s low in sugar. If your body is used to getting these substances in large quantities whenever the mood strikes, there’s going to be some pushback when you take them away.
Although the diet is referred to as “low calorie”—and it is—you don’t actually count calories while on it. You simply follow the guidelines provided for which foods and at what quantity to eat daily and if you stick to it exactly you end up with a low calorie diet.
Calories are just a measurement tool nutritionists use to determine how much energy it will take to burn your food. Calories do give us a standard to follow when we’re making food choices, but we have to remember that foods containing the same amounts of calories do not also contain the same nutritional value.
That is why you don’t count calories on the diet. Simply using calories to choose your foods does not give you the whole picture. For example, you also consume a high amount of protein (compared to carbohydrates) on the diet and your body uses proteins differently than it does carbohydrates, so you could not substitute say, a piece of bagel for your chicken breast even though they have the same number of calories in them.
In fact, you are not supposed to make substitutions of any kind on the diet although you can spread out what you eat throughout the day instead of eating them only at meal times.
To dramatically change your body you need to dramatically change your eating habits and this diet can be a good way to jumpstart your weight loss. To help keep you on the path to permanent weight loss there is a three-week maintenance phase of no starches and no sugars.
Once you’re done with that, you can go back to consuming these, but I suggest moderation. Make things containing refined sugars (like soda) an occasional treat rather than the norm. Hopefully, you will be learning more and more about keeping your body healthy as you go through the diet.
HCG is a hormone produced during pregnancy to help a woman’s body access her fat stores instead of her muscles (as generally happens when people are undernourished) to feed her baby. HCG stands for human chorionic gonadotropin.
This hormone is produced by humans and is used for the treatment of maladies such as infertility in women and delayed puberty in boys. Because of its ability to help the human body access fat stores instead of muscle tissue in times of low calories it has come to be regarded as an effective weight loss aid in recent years as well.
HCG taken by itself does not result in weight loss. Only when taken while practicing a low-calorie diet for a short period of time (three to six weeks) is the hormone effective for losing weight. The diet generally results in a weight loss of about one-half of a pound to two pounds per day—which is a lot.
The diet phase of the HCG method is only supposed to last up to 40 days (depending on how much weight you want to lose), but you can do the diet more than once if you don’t hit your goal after the 40 days. Because it is a low-calorie diet, you don’t want to stay on it too long.
As with everything, there is a point of diminishing returns and you need to consider your body’s needs when doing any diet.
In its early stages, HCG was mainly prescribed to recipients through injections but as demand for it has grown, HCG drops, an oral solution of HCG in an alcohol base, have been developed. As you can imagine, this method is generally the preferred one. Injections should be given by or under the direction of a medical professional and that means lots of appointments.
On the other hand, HCG drops are very easy to administer. They generally require three doses of 15 drops per day, taken 20 minutes before or after eating. Where do you drop these drops? Interestingly enough, they go under your tongue.
The underside of the tongue has loads of blood vessels, capillaries, and soft tissue that make it a good place for quick absorption.
It can be difficult keeping track of all your drops as you put them under your tongue—even when looking in the mirror—so you many people put their drops in a large spoon or small cup and then pour them under their tongue to make sure they get the proper dose.
It’s best to use a timer to ensure you wait the full 20 minutes before or after a meal when taking your HCG drops. Experienced HCGers recommend taking your HCG at the same time every day and setting a reminder on your phone.
A few warnings on the HCG drops: there are a lot of cheap (and therefore fake) products out there. Unfortunately this happens when products receive a lot of hype and HCG has been getting a lot of attention.
So, inexpensive is not a good way to go. That being said, you can’t always trust a product just because it costs more either. Basically, use your best judgment and make the effort to know your vendor. An excellent solution is to get a referral from someone you know who has actually done the program and achieved results. If you are ordering online be extremely, extremely cautious and make sure the company producing the HCG is located in the US.
The HCG diet plan is an intense short term solution for losing weight. As you may have heard, HCG (human chorionic gonadotropin) is a hormone produced during pregnancy. In a nutshell, it signals to the brain to access stores of body fat when extra calories are needed instead of going for the easier-to-burn muscle tissue.
The other major component of the diet includes a diet phase in which calories are extremely limited. For every 3,500 calories you cut out of your diet, you lose a pound. Cutting too many calories too soon for too long of a period can cause your body to slow your metabolism and attack your muscles for extra nutrition—and isn’t very good for you.
So, the HCG helps you to be on a very low calorie diet safely for a short period of time while your body burns off your fat stores. This is why I referred to it before as a short term solution. It will cause you to lose weight, but once you’ve done it, it’s up to you to keep it off. Fortunately, it’s easier to maintain weight loss than lose weight in the first place. So what have you got to lose besides lots of weight?
The diet phase especially changes how people normally eat. It’s low carbohydrate, low calorie, and high protein. If you’re used to consuming lots of sugar, fat, and sodium (and gaining weight from them) your body is going to take a couple days to adjust to this diet.
Sugar, sodium, and fat are substances that your brain actually craves. There’s an evolutionary reason: they weren’t as abundant back in prehistoric times (or even recent history), so humanity had to consume all we could find. That’s one of the reasons we find foods that are so bad for us to be so tasty.
And, I might add, that’s why food producers (like restaurants and food processors) make food high in fat, sugar, and sodium. Sodium is also used as a preservative—that’s another reason processed foods contain a lot of it—and a major reason to stay away from processed foods.
Changing the way you eat and your body composition—especially if you do it quickly—is going to change how your body feels. You may feel withdrawals for the carbs and fats that your body is used to getting so much of, especially if you have any sort of emotional attachment to eating.
If you are used to consuming large amounts of caffeinated sodas, you will probably get a headache as your body adjusts to a low-to-no caffeine intake. I have experienced headaches myself (not associated with the HCG diet) just from going off caffeine. (Coffee and tea are allowed in the diet phase so you won’t be completely deprived.)
More HCG side effects can include fatigue and moodiness. Cutting your calories is serious business. Your body needs calories to function and so cutting back on them is hard to do. There is a reason exercise is not recommended on this diet—you have too few calories available to burn anything extra.
It makes sense that your body is going to feel that there is less energy to draw from. But remember, cutting out calories is the way to lose pounds. There are dozens of reasons that people can experience moodiness while on the HCG diet.
If you are craving fat and sugar and you’re not getting any, it can cause a bit of angst. That being said, after a couple of days without those substances your body will adjust to your new diet and stop craving them.