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My opinion on the HCG Diet

I had a client tell me about a new diet her mother was starting … called the HCG diet. I’d never heard of it, and after only a minimal description of it I was horrified to say the least! So off I went to do my research …

The HCG diet is an extreme VLCD (very low calorie diet) and there appears to be many variations out there to the original one of Dr Simeons.  HCG is the hormone Human Chorionic Gonadotropin produced during pregnancy, however it is present in both genders.  The brief basis of this diet appears to be initially eating 2 days of double what you normally eat (which is meant to trick the body into releasing fat stores) then starting on daily doses of HCG (either oral drops or injections, though the majority appear to say avoid injections due to complications & side effects), combined with a daily calorie intake of a mere 500 calories … yes you read right! As well as strict avoidance of oil based products like conditioner, hand creams, foundation, chapstick, cooking oil etc because “your body absorbs the oil and converts it to fat” according to one source, and no medicines . Vigorous exercise is also to be avoided (I’m not surprised as you wouldn’t be capable of exercise consuming only 500 calories per day!).

The original diet plan of 500 calories is no breakfast just tea or coffee, then minimal lunch and minimal dinner.  With at least 2 litres water per day.  The only purpose (according to what I’ve read) of the HCG is to curb food cravings and help the body use fat stores for energy.  They do not say HCG will make you lose weight.  However the FDA requires all marketing of HCG to state there is no substantial evidence to support the above.  The low calorie intake is where the weight loss comes from, and there are many many reports of huge losses by people.  They say to expect an average weight loss of 1-3 pounds (appx 0.5-1.4kg) per day.  I’m not surprised with that calorie deficit but I would bet highly that there is no body composition testing going on to see how much muscle is lost and that the results are purely from what the scales tell them.  Sure there would have to be fat loss, but there would also be significant muscle and fluid loss. I would be interested to know how long the weight stays off after they start eating normally again.  It was reported some then gained food intolerances they never had before after that diet.

One lady promoting this diet compared it to gastric banding and was bagging the banding saying “you need to learn about how to eat correctly to get the weight off”.  Um correct me if I’m wrong but the HCG diet does NOT teach people to eat correctly, it’s starvation!  She also stated that “To lose weight you definitely don’t need to exercise while on this diet.  And if you work out a lot during the diet you will be burning more calories than you are eating and you’ll be very hungry. So it’s best to avoid a lot of exercise during the diet.”  Exercise isn’t just about weight loss – it’s about keeping your body (particularly your heart) healthy.  Doesn’t that say something that they know the diet doesn’t provide enough energy to be able to exercise …??!!  No you don’t need to exercise to lose weight, but you will have better muscle tone, less loose saggy skin, be fitter and healthier to name a few benefits.  You could easily burn 500 calories in an hour session at the gym – I say move more to eat more!  Rather than eat less and move less …

I don’t know the effects of HCG – however the human body requires more than double those calories just to function normally (organs, brain, lungs etc) and not get sick!  An average female needs 1,200 calories to function, and a male 1,500. If you consume less than your basal metabolic rate [BMR] (the number of calories your body burns in resting state to maintain normal body functions) your body will compensate by using stores of glycogen, protein (muscle) and some fat, which also lowers your resting metabolism.  For instance my BMR is 1367 – this is easy to find out and if you want to know yours just send me a message!

The common side effects of this diet include headaches, mood swings, depression, blood clots, confusion, and dizziness. Some women also develop a condition called Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome (OHSS); symptoms of this include pelvic pain, swelling of the hands and legs, stomach pain, weight gain, shortness of breath, diarrhoea, vomiting/nausea, and/or urinating less than normal.

Sounds great doesn’t it – not!  Sounds dangerous and absolutely ridiculous to me that anyone would even contemplate such a diet … mind you there are many useless, metabolism destroying diets out there ready to suck people in, everyone wants a quick fix … but the truth is there are no quick fixes when it comes to weight loss!  The weight didn’t come on overnight, so you can’t expect to get rid of it overnight!  It takes hard work, discipline and determination, and ultimately a willingness to change your current lifestyle or you just end up right where you started!

Anyone who has trained with me will know I don’t believe in “diets”.  I believe in educating my clients to make lifestyle changes, and I work with food guidelines that can be adopted and sustained forever without feeling hungry.  Most times I find people aren’t actually eating enough, so we increase their food intake to help boost their metabolism.  These guidelines (nothing stricter) along with a proper structured training routine have seen me get weight losses with my clients of 10, 20, 30kg’s!!!  And these people are able to keep the weight off.  Of course diets do have their place – but I’m talking sports specific – bodybuilding, endurance events like marathons etc.  How many of you already know you’ve damaged your metabolisms with years of yo-yo dieting??

I’m not a doctor, and have never tried this diet (nor will I ever as I treasure my metabolism far too much) this is purely my opinion on the HCG diet.  But if any of my clients even think of doing this absurd diet I will say one thing – time to find yourself a new trainer as this would demonstrate to me that you do not want to learn from me!  Hopefully I’ve provided you with enough info to warn you against this sort of diet though!

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