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My Unbiased Review And Final Verdict On The HCG Diet

I’ve received several e-mails over the last few months requesting my opinion of the HCG diet. This is the latest and greatest in the fad diet scene so I figured I’d do a blog post on it and fully express my opinions.

While the very nature of this diet goes against everything I teach and believe in, I’ve spent quite a bit of time fully investigating and researching it with an open mind.

A local Charleston physician I regularly refer to has recommended this diet recently to a few of my personal training and coaching clients so it’s something I felt I really needed to take a long hard look at.

What you’re about to read below is my honest assessment of this diet along with all the pros and cons so you can make your own judgment. Unlike a lot of the HCG Diet reviews, I can assure you this is not a sales pitch.

What is the HCG Diet?

In a nutshell the HCG Diet is a weight loss strategy developed by British endocrinologist Dr. A.T.W Simeon way back in the 1950’s. It consists of following a severe calorie restrictive diet (500 calories per day) combined with injections or sublingual drops of the hormone HCG (human chorionic gonadotropin).

Just so you know, HCG is a hormone that is primarily produced by females during pregnancy. While it’s produced in small amounts by the pituitary gland in both males and females, the main role of HCG is to assist in the production of progesterone during pregnancy.

Progesterone basically helps the uterus build a thick lining of blood vessels and capillaries so it sustains the growing fetus. I tell you all this so you know right up front that human chorionic gonadotropin serves no “natural” role in lipolysis (fat burning) in the human body.

Medical research and the HCG Diet

This is an area that I poured through the research on looking for conclusive evidence. After reading numerous studies and reports, there’s nothing that conclusively shows that HCG is directly involved with helping to increase fat loss.

Both the Journal of the American Medical Association and the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition have released statements on their position that HCG is not an effective weight loss aid.

You’ll find conflicting studies on just about any subject but the gold standard of credible research will include non-subsidized double blind studies. There just wasn’t anything along these lines to be found providing conclusive evidence to support the claim that HCG increases fat loss.

Notice I didn’t say people aren’t losing weight on the diet. I’ll explain that in minute.

The FDA position on the use of HCG as a weight loss aid…

As a side note, the FDA has also NOT approved the use of HCG as a weight loss aid. It seems there’s little support on the effectiveness of HCG as a weight loss aid in the upper tiers of the medical community.  Having said that, the research hasn’t conclusively shown significant safety risks either.

This has left the door wide open for some doctors and health practitioners to jump on the bandwagon, sometimes just out of the lure of easy profits. This is the part where it gets really scary.

Because of loopholes in regulation of HCG,  just about anyone can prescribe the diet. You’ll find plastic surgeons, dermatologists, chiropractors, basically anyone with a license to practice selling the HCG Diet program.

I’m not so sure it’s such a good idea to put the trust and care of your body to a plastic surgeon for example, but that’s exactly what a lot of people are doing. We’re talking about messing with sensitive hormonal balances and not just taking some pill or vitamin here.

It’s generally never a good idea to go “monkeying around” with hormones on any level. In my personal opinion we’ve got some people over-stepping their scope of practice by getting into the administration of hormones which should be reserved to a trained physician knowledgeable in the endocrine system.

Is HCG use safe both in the short and long term?

Here’s the thing EVERYONE who is on the diet or considering the diet should think about. While there’s no conclusive evidence pointing to short-term safety risks of HCG use, there’s also no conclusive evidence to support there won’t be long-term health risks.  We’re simply still in the very early stages.

There’s just not enough research yet to show potential long-term risks of HCG use…

If you decide to take HCG for several diet cycles you’re basically going to be playing the role of  a guinea pig and rolling the dice with the impacts to your health.

Nobody…not your doctor, not me, I mean nobody can tell you with absolute certainty what may or may not happen down the road. You need to think about that for a minute.

Does the HCG Diet work?

Putting all the non-conclusive research and evidence to the side for a second, you’ll find plenty of people who swear by the diet and can show you the weight loss to prove it. So something must be working or how do we explain the results people are getting?

Here are my thoughts after really digging into the technical details. It’s not completely known the role (if any), HCG plays in helping to offset the down-regulation of thyroid production and metabolism with severe low-calorie dieting.

Something is happening though to allow a person to stay on such a severe calorie restrictive diet. Let’s be perfectly clear, 500 calories is severe and it would always trigger a primal starvation response in normal conditions.

I have to believe from what I’ve researched that HCG is doing something to alter the chemical signals and neurotransmitters in your brain that signal hunger.

Let’s use some common sense here for a minute…

If you were to go on 500 calorie diet for only a few days, how long do you think it would take before you’d be ready to chew your arm off?

The primal responses we have built in are very effective at releasing certain hormones and neurotransmitters to signal our brain that we need to eat. The normal biology of your body simply wouldn’t let you go comfortably for long periods of time with eating only 500 calories.

Heck most of us can’t stay on even a moderate restrictive diet for much longer than 4-5 days. There’s something going on with HCG that allows the dieter to simply maintain being in a state of starvation.

There is no denying that people are losing weight on the HCG diet, but who wouldn’t lose a bunch of weight if you were able to stay on a 500 calorie diet for a period of 30-40 days!

It’s simply a matter of some metabolic trickery that allows the dieter to stay in starvation mode.

There’s going to be a strong boomer-rang effect on this diet I suspect with a lot of people.
I’ve already heard of numerous reports (and I expect there will be more) of people losing a lot of weight on the diet only gain it all back once they stopped taking the injections and eating 500 calories a day.

The boomer-rang effect with coming off the HCG diet….

The biggest risk in this diet (other than the unknown long-term safety risks to your health) is the boomer-rang effect at the back end. If you haven’t corrected the root problems behind your weight gain in the first place, the weight is bound to come back once you start eating “normal” again.

Think about it, how long do you expect you can really go around eating 500 calories a day? Nobody in their right mind would want to stay on a diet like this for very long.

That’s not living…that’s being in a constant state of restriction and denying yourself the simple pleasure of eating foods you enjoy.

Will you choose a quick fix or make the commitment to putting your body back in balance?

As a certified Charleston personal trainer and nutrition coach, my philosophy has always been one of helping people gain liberation and freedom over the constant battles with dieting and yo-yo weight gain/loss. The whole idea is to put balance back in your body and correct the root problems behind why you are overweight in the first place.

From there MODERATION is the key to maintaining your weight and staying healthy. It should never be about always restricting calories or denying yourself a simple indulgence from time to time.

The longer I’m in this game the more I can honestly say there’s ONLY one way to lose the weight, keep it off, and be able live in the “moderation” mode.

Lifestyle change MUST be a core component to any long-term weight loss solution…

You have to make lifestyle changes across the board with everything from what you eat, your exercise habits, thoughts, behaviors, etc. There’s no simple quick fix or magic bullet.

The darkside of the HCG diet few people talk about…

If the lifestyle changes I’m talking about aren’t made, the body will rebound off this diet with a vengeance and trigger a primal response to start STORING body fat.

If you were to go on this diet (although I can’t honestly find a good reason to recommend it), I would tell you to make sure you get help with establishing a supportive nutrition diet and exercise routine at the end.

It will be a MUST that you change your eating and exercise habits or you’re likely to slide down the dark path of being tempted to keep repeating this diet. This gets real risky as I’ve seen it happen far too many times with other drugs, pills, and quick-fixes.

One of the many problems with the HCG diet, like most others using any type of hormone or drug, is a lot of people will inherently abuse it and not follow the recommendations.

You know the story….if the diet worked well for three weeks by taking two shots each week and following the meal plans, then it must work even better with three shots each week!

It’s either that or you’ll lose a bunch of weight, get to the end of the 30-40 day period and stop, start putting all the weight back on, then say heck with the recommended lay-off period and get right back on the diet.

It’s important to understand that any drug or hormone you take works with receptors at the cellular level. Over time the receptors start to down-regulate and shut-down to receiving the hormone or drug.

This is the main reason why bodybuilders for example will cycle anabolic steroids and other drugs. Your body is smarter than you are and when it perceives there’s too much of any hormone, the receptors start to shut down.

When the results start to diminish, the knee-jerk response is that you must need more of the drug or hormone to see the same results as before. This is a huge mistake.

What ends of happening is the effects of the drug or hormone will continue to flat-line while the side effects and health risks will continue to go up. This is exactly what happened in most of the cases where people were having heart attacks and cardiorespiratory problems with the prolonged use of ephedrine for fat loss.

HCG Diet and cellular starvation

One more reason I can’t bring myself to recommend this diet is the inherent problem of cellular starvation. If you rob your body of vital micronutrients, antioxidants, and phytonutrients, you’ll be tearing yourself down from the inside out.

Your body needs basic micro-nutrients at the cellular level to fight free radicals and help with the daily rebuilding process of lean tissue and vital organs. We need food not just for energy but also for the nutrients that help us rebuild, repair, and defend against viruses, bacteria, etc.

Starvation is always a very bad thing for the human body, there’s no getting around this fact.

HCD Diet and falling off the wagon with exercise…

My last big beef with the HCG diet is the requirement that you can’t exercise during the duration of time you’re eating 500 calories and taking the injections. This is without a doubt put in place so you won’t further down-regulate your metabolism and sabotage fat loss through increased cortisol production.

With the body already in a compromised state, exercise which is a natural stressor, would likely only cause you to crash and burn. Taking someone off exercise for 4-6 weeks comes at its own set of risks.

We’re altering lifestyle habits and routines which we all know can be a disastrous thing. Once you stop exercising and completely get off track, it won’t be such a simple thing to go right back to the gym once you’ve completed the diet.

You’ll have fallen into new habits and routines which can be hard to break. Maybe you’ve started working longer hours, or whatever. In my opinion exercise should be a non-negotiable part of a healthy lifestyle.

Bottom line with the HCG Diet

At the end of the day here’s where I stand on this diet. Does it work to help produce short-term weight loss? We don’t have to look any further than the people who have seen significant weight loss to say yes it can.

What’s causing the fat loss in my opinion has less to do with the miraculous effects of HCG on lipolysis and more to do with the hormone somehow helping a person stay in a prolonged state of starvation.

People are losing weight because they’re eating 500 calories for 4-6 weeks at a time, period! For all the reasons I mentioned above, this is not a good idea. There’s just too much downside and not enough upside for me to recommend this diet, even on the short-term.

I’ve heard all the arguments for a “psychological” boost with helping a person kick-start weight loss when they’ve been stuck for a long period of time.

While it makes some sense on the surface, my gut tells me we’re just dodging the real underlying issues. Changing your body composition will take time and yes, there’s going to be hard work, sacrifice, and lifestyle change.

You can either continue working on that process and inch your way closer to a body in balance, or make the decision to lose some weight quick and come back to the underlying problems later.

That’s all the HCG Diet does in my opinion…it provides people with a short-term weight loss solution so they get instant gratification. After all that’s what our society wants. I would just ask you to think about the big picture before you jump to a decision.

It will ultimately be your call but it’s my hope that I’ve helped you think your decision through. I certainly won’t make anyone feel bad for going on the diet or chastise their decision.

Instead, I’ll be here to help as a friend and coach in assisting you with making lifestyle changes with your nutrition and exercise. Sooner or later you’ll have to address these areas and I’ll be there for you when you’re ready.

Shane Doll is a certified personal trainer, fat loss expert, speaker, and founder of Shaping Concepts, a Charleston personal fitness training studio that specializes in weight loss and body transformation. You can receive a FREE, no-obligations (2) session personal training trial and consultation to experience the difference for yourself.

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Category: Supplements.