(Diet Review) The HcG Diet: Steak Days and Gorging and Shots, Oh My!
Human Chorionic Gonadotropin is usually referred to as ‘The Pregnancy Hormone’, because that’s basically what it is: when you pee on a pregnancy test, HcG is what the test detects when you get a positive result.
Pregnancy is associated with weight gain. So why in the world would people be consuming a pregnancy hormone via drops or shots to help themselves lose weight??
We’ve got to take a look at this diet. Here we go!
The HcG diet was invented by Dr. A. Simeons over 50 years ago. I’m completely amazed and astounded that people are still interested in this diet after so long. It reminds me of The Alkaline Diet, which I just reviewed: the entire premise makes ZERO sense, but people just keep on trying it. It’s almost as though they’re hoping that they’re going to be exceptions to every biological and chemical rule out there. It’s not going to happen though! Sorry to be the bearer of bad news!
The proponents of this diet claim that HcG resets your metabolism and tells your body to burn fat for fuel. This shit is all over the internet and it seems fairly easy to find some clinic or person to shoot you up with ‘HcG’ while they take your money and laugh all the way to the bank.
As I said before, you’ll take ‘homeopathic’ HcG drops/pellets or shots of actual HcG (or at least, that’s what you THINK you’re getting..more on that later) for 23+ days (and up to 8 weeks, GAH) while you’re starving yourself on the program.
You’ll be eating 500 total calories a day in two meals, which is as many calories as one regular meals’ worth. Sounds, um, horrible? It’s also dangerous, but the diet’s disciples say this about it:
Is it safe to only intake 500 calories per day? Yes, understanding that the calories you are in taking are pure nutrients. This now seems more plausible considering that when evaluating your daily calorie intake of 2000 calories, only 300-500 of those calories might actually be usable burnable nutrients.
I’m not exactly sure what kind of diet they think only uses 300-500 out of 2000 calories, but that’s total bullshit. Food is food is food. There is HIGH quality food, and there is LOW quality food. Calories are not all created equal, fine. But to say that the 500 calories you take in on this diet are PURE nutrients versus whatever else you were eating before isn’t just faulty science, it’s pure idiocy. DO NOT be that person who believes this crap. If you are, though, I don’t blame you. People can be very persuasive, which is why I do these reviews: to call your attention to quackery that’s disguised as science.
The diet begins with ‘gorge days’, which sounds absolutely disgusting and like you’re about to be force-fed like a foie gras goose. These ‘gorge days’ consist of you eating of the fattiest food you can find, washed down with the fattiest drinks you can find. The diet states the reason for them is this:
This step gets your body’s normal fat reserves stocked up to keep you feeling okay until the HCG has fully opened up your abnormal fat reserves to start releasing fat from there according to Dr. Simeons. If you do not gorge, you may be miserable for the first 4-7 days of the HCG diet. The gorge days are meant to fill up your fat stores to carry you over through your first few very low calorie days until the HCG has a chance to fully kick it. (their typo)
Seriously? I think you’re going to be miserable for the entire time you’re on the diet, regardless of how many days you gorge yourself beforehand. This explanation is nonsense because your fat stores don’t need bolstering or preparing in any way, shape, or form. They’re already stocked – we all have fat stores and unless you’re seriously underweight, you’ve got enough fat to go on. With gorging, you’re just adding weight. This diet isn’t off to a very good start!
The gorge-step is not like a re-feed day in intermittent fasting. It’s more like a last-chance-for-pizza binge before you become very, very hungry, cranky, faint, and broke, for about three weeks or more.
The foods you’re allowed on this diet are basically limited to non-starchy vegetables; small amounts of fruits; meat and fish; breadsticks or melba toast; and coffee/tea/water.
For some dimwitted reason you’re not allowed to MIX the vegetables at one meal. Wow, super scientific!
For breakfast you only get coffee/tea/water.
For lunch and supper, you get 3.5 oz of protein, 1 breadstick OR 1 piece of melba toast (whoa! Let’s not get nuts here!), 1 serving of an ‘approved’ fruit (basically an apple) and 1 serving of an ‘approved’ vegetable.
That’s all folks! You’d better hope you get the stomach flu that lasts for 23+ days because that’s the only way you’re not gonna want to gnaw your arm off during that time.
Oh! And I can’t forget about Steak Days!!
This is the best (and by best, I mean most idiotic): if you go off-track with this diet and gain over 2 pounds, you must do a Steak Day.
This means that you get to punish yourself by starving ALL DAY, and then for dinner, eating the biggest steak you can find, followed by a raw tomato or medium apple. Apparently this starvation-followed-by-meal is supposed to kick your body into ‘HcG range’ again. This makes no sense, and why am I not surprised.
This is going to be a really short section. Shocker, I know.
HcG is supposed to suppress your appetite and speed fat burning, aiding in weight loss. However, there is little to no research that proves that HcG helps anyone lose weight.
In fact, there are studies here, here, here, and here (that last one found one instance of weight loss, the rest nada) that all show that using HcG to lose weight is a losing game. Here’s a meta-analysis that slaps the entire diet down. Done. Some of these studies are quite old, but it seems that the scientific community has given up on the HcG diet – there’s really no new research on it. And why should there be? Nothing has changed with the diet or our bodies in 50 years.
Really, I’ve found NO research that shows that taking HcG is efficacious for weight loss. That’s pretty much it. Case closed!
Here’s the main issues with the HcG diet:
In case you’re still not convinced, there’s also this:
Any HcG you buy over the counter, on the internet, or from your best friend’s mom’s trainer’s uncle is NOT REGULATED, so you may be getting anything from real HcG to salt water to poison. People who are going on the internet and buying ‘HcG’ from China (yes, this is happening) are not behaving wisely.
The FDA recently put out a warning telling people that it’s (surprise!) dangerous and illegal to sell or buy HcG as a weight-loss aid. Seriously, why the hell would you ever inject yourself with or eat a substance you know nothing about?
Please don’t do that.
The use of HcG for is NOT legal for weight loss purposes. You can get it injected by a doctor for other health issues such as infertility, but your doctor needs to have a serious heart to heart with themselves about their ethics if they’re injecting you with HcG for weight loss. Some doctors are actually losing their licenses – as they should – for selling this crap and running shady-ass diet clinics that use HcG. IDIOTS.
Any medical professional who is licensed, ethical, and intelligent – and unfortunately, those three things sometimes aren’t all present in the same individual – knows that HcG doesn’t work for weight loss. They’re just in it for the $$$.
Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s talk about the actual diet and weight loss.
Our hormones are responsible for many of our bodily processes. Sticking more hormones into our bodies, especially without medical oversight, can cause all sorts of issues. I’m talking potentially fatal blood clots among others. Birth control pills, thyroid medications, and insulin are hormones, but you take them under medical supervision. Why would you ever take the chance of self-medicating with something that’s unregulated?
This diet makes you lose weight because it’s a STARVATION DIET. HcG actually has NOTHING to do with the weight loss that occurs on this diet. If you eat 500 calories a day, you’re going to lose weight, period. And, it’s likely you’re going to gain it all back, because once you wreck your metabolism, mess up your hunger cues, and lose muscle mass on this half-baked diet, you’re going to have a very hard time maintaining any weight loss.
This diet has ‘failure’ written all over it, and I really don’t want you subjecting yourself to this. Please don’t set yourself up to lose.
Every statement that comes out about this diet says the same thing: it’s not the HcG, it’s the starvation diet that causes weight loss. It’s just another low calorie (or Very Low Calorie) diet.
Lastly, just a thought: If HcG is such a great fat burner and metabolism-recharger, why the need for the 500 calories a day? Why wouldn’t you be able to eat either a normal diet, or a Low Carb High Fat diet and get the same results? Hmmm.
The bottom line:
Nope, Nope, Nope. Cutting calories can be a good way of losing weight, but you don’t need to underconsume and starve yourself. This can result in even more problems.
Eating healthy food and cutting out crap is a good way of losing weight, but harebrained, punitive meal plans (ONE breadstick?) can mess up your relationship with food.
You don’t need needles or starvation to lose weight. Pass.