ABC (Ask Bret Contreras) – HCG Diet

Here’s another question that I’ve received several times over the past few months that warrants a blogpost.

Question:

Hey Bret,

I would love to hear your thoughts on the HCG Diet. I have a couple of friends who have lost a bunch of weight on it, and I’m thinking about doing it myself.

Thanks!

Stacy

Answer

Stacy,

Here’s a quick overview of the HCG Diet:

Participants take 125 iu’s of HCG (Human Chorionic Gonadotropin – a hormone that naturally occurs in the body in large quantities during pregnancy) per day while consuming 500 calories per day and not exercising. Here is a page from a popular HCG website that discusses some of the diet’s claims.

The HCG diet has been out since the 1930’s when it was pioneered by Dr. ATW Simeons. It is claimed that overweight patients who follow the Simeons therapy will a) lose weight quickly, b) not feel weak, c) not be hungry, and d) lose fat from those parts of the body where it tends to remain longest during normal dieting (i.e. stomach, hips, thighs, upper arms).

Below is link to a full paper meta-analysis conducted in 1995 by Lijesen et al.

The effect of human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG) in the treatment of obesity by means of the Simeons therapy: a criteria-based meta-analysis

Here are the researcher’s conclusions:

We conclude that there is no scientific evidence that HCG causes weight-loss, a redistribution of fat, staves off hunger or induces a feeling of well-being.

For more information, read this great article by Anthony Colpo.

I also think that the recommendations to avoid exercise are absurd. If it were up to me I’d have participants strength train for thirty minutes three days per week so they kept more muscle and lost more fat. The theory behind the diet is that since you’re only consuming 500 calories per day you don’t need to exercise and the HCG will cause the weightloss to come in the form of fat loss, but this theory just doesn’t seem to hold true.

The diet is very popular here in Scottsdale and I know of several individuals who are on the diet. Although they’ve achieved impressive amounts of weight loss due to consuming only 500 calories per day, their physiques paint a different story as they appear to be losing an equal amount of muscle and fat according to my observation. For optimal physique-enhancement, you want to do whatever you can to keep your muscle and shape and lose mostly fat for weight loss. Strength training and progressive overloading in particular would be of great benefit in this regard, despite the diet’s claims.

On a side note, many male bodybuilders take HCG during or following a cycle of anabolic steroids (AAS) to maintain and restore testicular size and testosterone production. When exogenous AAS are taken, negative-feedback loops cause the body to shut down its production of testosterone via shutdown of the hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal axis (HPGA), which causes testicular atrophy. High levels of AAS trigger the hypothalamus to shut down its production of gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) from the hypothalamus. Without GnRH, the pituitary gland stops releasing luteinizing hormone (LH). LH travels from the pituitary gland to the testes, where it triggers the production of testosterone. Without LH, the testes fail to produce testosterone. In males, HCG helps restore testosterone production and testicular volume by mimicking LH and triggering the production of testosterone.

8 Comments

  • kdavis27 says:

    This is such a frightening topic. I wish women would approach weight loss with longevity in mind. I don’t think any look is worth achieving if the process is detrimental to your health. Thanks for shedding light on the subject. I am glad women are coming to you before they take the leap.

  • Linda G says:

    With the diet protocols out there, how is the HCG administered? Injected or sublingual? If sublingual, what is the formulation of the drops – homeopathic, or a stronger formula?
    Just curious…

  • hcg says:

    HCG is used with Injection, I recently have a great fear of needles.

    • Zach LaBoube says:

      There is a better way to lose – no needles just drops!

      I want to share some facts about the original HCG diet…

      1. The numbers don’t add up. The original HCG diet is called a 500 calorie diet, but if you choose to have an onion, an apple, an orange, and your bread sticks, you’re already over 300 calories without even considering your protein options. Why? Because an onion is a root vegetable and has just many carbs and calories as an apple or an orange.
      2. 100 grams of beef has double the calories as 100 grams of white fish. Why would they be considered equal?
      3. Everyone is different. A large male might have double the muscle mass of a small female, yet the allowable calories (500) are the same for both. Not only does this lack reason, but it’s dangerous.

      These are just a few of the reasons I didn’t feel comfortable recommending the original HCG diet to my patients and the reason I wrote HCG 2.0. I’m not arguing the physiology that supports the original diet, nor am I criticizing Dr. Simeons and his work, but let’s face it, he had limited resources.

      HCG 2.0 is a contemporary adaptation of the original diet that utilizes everything you already know about ketosis dieting, caloric ratios and basic food chemistry that didn’t exist when the original diet was published.

      Times have changed. So should your HCG diet.

  • Will C says:

    Hello to all who read this blog.
    I am a male aged 37 and I will soon start a HCG-diet. It will be in sublingual form and I am looking at both the diet and testosterone building aspects that HCG should provide.
    Although I am quite skeptical of a 500 calorie a day diet I will certainly start out the program this way. I am a full supporter of exercise with any diet so if I apply any routine to a 500 calorie diet I assume that I will experience drawbacks.
    I’ll do what I can to keep you informed.

  • Heather Dube says:

    Hi Bret, thanks for blogging about a very important & dangerous topic.

    I’d like to chime in as a Board Cert Holistic Health Practitioner, Holistic Nutritionist, National Figure Competitor, etc.

    But let’s make it really simple…
    a. whenever we go against nature’s brilliance for immediate gratification, we cause long-term health problems – I’ve not seen any research taht shows implications of this path for men or women 20, 30, 40 yr’s from now, have you??

    b. the hormone doesn’t occur naturally in men, nor does it occur in women at those levels other than during pregnancy – when are people going to stop going against nature, and learn that having an advanced knowledge of how to use nature to advance your progress is truly what creates unbeatable results..I’m a natural national competitive athlete – I use nothing more than a a very advanced knowledge of whole foods nutrition program design & hard a*s work in the gym…that is how you transform a body safely, effectively & naturally

    c. when you take the body to a dangerously low 500 kcal a day intake, where do you think it gets all the nutrients, vitamins and minerals it requires to function just to maintain basic metabolic rate?? people perceive that HCG ptus them in a state of just selectively burning fat – NOT SO — all the other key nutrients the body requires for proper function in those 4-6 wks will generate nutrient deficiencies in your body, which can potentially lead to OTHER health problems…ie. if it needs calcium b/c your food intake is too long, well it will just pull it from your bones….smooth move people, when you could just be managing your body the safe way, through nutrition & fitness

    d. as a nutrition coach & coaching psychologist, I get all theh post-HCG’ers who drop hoards of money for this program & think this is going to be the final solution…and then they walk out and teh sad reality sets in….they still have a body, they still don’t understand how it truly works, or how to feed it or move it or utilize it to generate optimal energy, function, health, wellness, lack of sickness & body composition for their lives…they’ve not really achieved much at all in terms of a healthier relationship w/ food or their bodies, it just is one more delay for the true change that has to happen

    The body is a brilliant, ever-powerful machine. If it was meant to lose 30 lb’s safely in 1 month, it would do it naturally on it’s own, period.

    One of our local Scottsdale area business partners is an ND who runs HCG and she is so distraught by the poor #’s of people that go through the program and lack success at maintaining change.. which is the true indicator for success…that she sends them to us for our 3-6 mos coaching programs to teach them to understand their bodies & nutrition to be empowered.

    THAT is where the real change happens, when we start in the mind.

    It’s sad that HCG has become such a money making craze that will further warp many people’s already very confused, very frsutrated perception of food and the human body.

    It saddens me that most people will go a lifetime living in one….and fail to learn the first thing about the power of it, or how to love it back appropriately through food & movement, vs. all these abusive tactics like depleting it of critical energy/kcal it needs to function.

    What’s next….people cutting off a body part to lose weight?? People need to get right in their heads about how they show thankfulness to their own bodies.

    The mass public approach to health today is very sadly distorted.

    Heather B. Dube’ | Expert Lean Body & Weight Loss Results Mentor

    National NPC Figure Competitor; Fitness Model; Natural Foods Online Nutritionist; Board Certified Holistic Health Practitioner; ACSM Health Coach; NASM Private Trainer

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