Weight loss is so tough for many people. Are you one of them? No matter how hard you diet, you may find that you’re on an impossible mission of yo-yo dieting. Your weight goes up and down as you struggle against your metabolism to reach a healthy weight. Despite all of the dieting, you almost always end up overweight. If this sounds like you, then the HCG diet may hold the keys to helping you lose that stubborn weight.

This radical weight loss diet has gained the attention of dieters around the world. The HCG diet drops plan, like other strict weight loss programs including the military diet, involves strict rules about what you can eat. However, unlike these diets, the HCG drops offer you a secret weapon: the use of the human chorionic gonadotropin hormone. Is this the secret to stunningly fast, but lasting weight loss?

Find out everything you need to know about this diet that promises to help you lose up to 1 pound a day, here in this article. We’ll cover everything from how the diet was created to what you have to do and what doctors and scientists are saying about this diet.

Origins of the HCG Diet

The HCG Diet was developed by Dr. ATW Simeons in the 1950s. Dr. Simeons was an endocrinologist in Britain who was treating obese men with low levels of testosterone using HCG (human chorionic gonadotropin). HCG is a hormone produced by pregnant women. The hormone is produced in the placenta and is what urine pregnancy tests test for when women want to discover if they’re pregnant or not. While the men were taking the hormone, Dr. Simeonss discovered that they lost weight, especially around the mid-section. Can you imagine finding a way to help people lose weight around the belly and hips?  After making this discovery, Dr. Simeonss experimented with the HCG hormone.

He conducted a number of experiments, leading him to develop the HCG diet plan or protocol. In this plan, he combined a dietary plan with HCG injections. Dr. Simeonss went on to publish his findings and offered his dietary plans and regulations in his book, Pounds and Inches. The protocol involves 4 phases. Following the publishing of the book, the diet became very popular around the world.

There have been many clinical trials done which dispute Dr. Simeonss claims and results, showing that HCG plays no role in weight loss. Critics of the diet suggest that all of the weight loss can be attributed to the diet, and that HCG doesn’t make dieting any more effective. However, the diet is still popular despite critics and evidence suggesting that the diet isn’t effective. Recently, more trials and tests have been done with more promising results. We’ll explore some of these after exploring the specifics of the diet program.

What Does the HCG Diet Involve?

There are several stages in the original HCG drops diet protocol developed by Dr. Simeons. Proponents of the diet claim that they lose drastic amounts of weight through the diet, and often times when they haven’t been able to lose the weight otherwise. So, how can you achieve the same results as so many happy followers?

You’ll need to prepare for taking this diet on, as it’s quite an involved process involving both taking hormones and dieting. To make it work, you need to follow each stage of the diet carefully. Each phase involves different kinds of eating and places restrictions on what types of foods you can eat and how you can prepare the food. The diet never really ends, because the goal is for you to make changes in your eating habits so that you don’t ever gain the weight back. Ready to get started? Here we go:

Phase 1: Loading

The first two days of the diet are called loading days. Others might call them “gorging days.” Just as you may have suspected from the name of the phase, you really eat up during these first few days.  During these first two days, you’ll also take your first doses of HCG, whether you opt for the injections or HCG drops.

What should you eat?

There isn’t consensus on how to eat during this stage. Some suggest that you should eat whatever you want until you’re full. Others suggest that you eat the richest, fattiest, carbohydrate and protein heavy foods you can, such as cheese, French fries, cake, ice-cream, pasta, and bread. Still others recommend avoiding carbohydrates and choosing a cleaner diet during the loading phase. Those who prefer a clean, sugar-free loading diet say that it helps avoid getting into poor eating habits and reduces cravings later on. If you suffer from binge-eating and think that loading on your favorite foods could awaken your desire to eat them more and more, you may want to consider loading on healthier foods.

Why is there a loading phase?

Dr. Simeons wrote that the restrictive nature of phase 2 creates a need for dieters to have well- stocked fat reserves. For those looking to begin the HCG diet who have done a lot of dieting in the past, Dr. Simeons even recommended up to a week of loading to replenish fat reserves. In addition, the doctor mentions that the first few HCG doses are basically non-effective. There must be a build-up of the hormone in the body before it starts to work to promote weight loss. By loading beforehand Dr. Simeons believed that his patients had greater success during the restrictive phase two.

Phase 2: Very Low-Calorie Diet

During this phase, a strict diet must be followed. Before we get into the details of the diet, we’ll go over the other aspects of the HCG diet drops protocol. What is required during phase 2?

  1. You need to take your dose of HCG drops or injection at about the same time every day. Make sure you’re following the indications from your healthcare provider or the instructions on the package.
  2. Weigh yourself every day. This is another important aspect of your diet. Make sure you also do this at the same time every day. One good time to do this is in the morning before you’ve had anything to eat. This will ensure that whatever you’ve eaten hasn’t had an effect on your body weight. If you weigh yourself before breakfast one day and after lunch the next, you won’t get an accurate idea of your progress. No matter how little you’ve eaten or drank, it will have an effect on the results. So, make sure you find a good time to weigh yourself every day.
  3. No need to exercise. You may go for a short walk and participate in your regular activities. However, heavy exercise isn’t recommended during this phase because of the extreme calorie restrictions.
  4. Follow the diet protocol which is outlined below.

How long does it last?

According to Dr. Simeons, it depends on how much weight you need to lose. However, he worked in a range between about 3 and 5 weeks (1). You can get additional input from a doctor or other healthcare professional regarding the time frame that would be appropriate for the amount of weight you need to lose. Some of the concern surrounding the time frame that the diet can be followed is due to the fact that your body may become resistant to the HCG. In addition, this Very Low-Calorie Diet (VLCD) could be dangerous if you continue following it for too long. (1)

One important note is that you must continue this diet for 3 days after your last dose of HCG. This ensures that you gain all of the benefits of the HCG that is still in your system.

The Details of the Diet

The diet outlines the food you should eat over the next few weeks. In total, you will consume 500 calories each day.

The original diet allows for two meals per day and as much tea, coffee and water as you’d like. No sugar is allowed. You can use sweeteners instead if you really have a sweet tooth. One tablespoon of milk is allowed during a 24-hour period. (1)

You can eat your meals whenever you’d like or break them up into small snacks throughout the day. It’s up to you. Here are the guidelines for your two meals:

LUNCH (FIRST MEAL)

You may have one of each of the following:

  1. 100 grams of meat. Remove all fat and bone and weigh it raw, before cooking. The following meats are ideal: veal, beef (very lean), chicken breast, white fish, lobster, crab, shrimp. These meats are not allowed: salmon, eel, tuna, herring, dried or pickled fish. The meat must be prepared without any oil or butter. It’s best to boil or grill it. You can occasionally substitute 3 egg whites or 100 grams of fat-free cottage cheese for your portion of meat.
  2. One vegetable. The following vegetables are approved: spinach, chard, chicory, beet-greens, green salad, tomatoes, celery, fennel, onions, red radishes, cucumbers, asparagus, cabbage. These are the only vegetables on the list. Keep in mind that if you substitute or include vegetables like carrots and potatoes, you’ll increase your carbohydrate intake. In addition, you may go over the allotted calories if you substitute. Regarding the portion size of vegetables you can eat, there is no specific information provided by Dr. Simeons. Use your best judgment. A small salad plate’s amount should do.
  3. You may have 1 apple, ½ grapefruit, 1 orange or 1 handful of strawberries.
  4. One breadstick (grissino) or piece of Melba toast.

You are allowed to use salt, pepper, garlic, herbs and other seasonings as long as they don’t contain carbohydrate fillers. Make sure you don’t use any oil, butter or dressings. You may use the juice from one lemon daily for seasoning purposes.

The same as lunch.

As mentioned, you may break up the meals as you please, as long as you don’t add to the allotted amounts of food.

Phase 3: Maintenance

Phase 3 lasts for three weeks. During this phase, you’ll keep the weight off by following a few rules, but the diet becomes much less restrictive. This is the real test phase, however, because you need to develop habits that will allow you to keep your weight off. The goal during this phase is to maintain the same weight you had on the day of your last HCG dose. This is called your “Last Dose Weight” or LDW.

What does this phase involve?

Here are the rules and guidelines for a successful phase 3:

  1. Eat what you want, but no starch (carbohydrates) or sugar. (1) This means you should avoid things like bread, pasta, rice, crackers, corn, starchy vegetables like potatoes, carrots, and other roots or tubers, and of course sugary items like desserts.
  2. Weigh yourself daily just like in phase 2. It’s best to choose one time of day to weigh yourself, such as when you get up, before breakfast. This will ensure you can get an accurate sense of how your weight is changing if it does.
  3. Now you may exercise as normal. But, start out slowly.
  4. If you gain more than 2 pounds (even if it’s a tiny bit) from your LDW, you have to have a steak day. More details to come on that below.

As you can see, this is basically just a low-carb diet. So, you can use the same wisdom from other low carb diets and make use of a lot of those recipes. Just remember, sugar sneaks its way into foods in lots of tricky ways. You’ll find sugar in salad dressings, fruit and plenty of other places. Processed foods are something you should be especially careful with. Even prepared pasta sauces can have lots of added sugar. So, beware.

What’s a Steak Day?

You should be weighing yourself every day to compare your weight to your LDW. Don’t compare your weight to the last day of phase 2. You may have continued to lose weight after you stopped taking HCG, but this isn’t what you’re aiming to do. Rather, you’re comparing your daily weight to the last day you took HCG. For example, on your last dose day, let’s imagine you weighed 160 pounds. But, on your last phase 2 day, you weighed 158 pounds. So, you would have a steak day if you get up to 162 pounds, and not any sooner. The goal is weight stabilization, not continuing to lose weight. So, it’s normal if you gain a few pounds. After all, you just lost a considerable amount of weight and were on an extreme diet. Getting back to eating a more normal diet that meets your caloric requirements will result in gaining a bit of weight back. So, relax.

At the same time, stabilization means you shouldn’t be skyrocketing back up the scale. So, if you do push the scale up 2 pounds above your LDW, it’s time for a steak day. Assuming you weigh yourself in the morning, you’ll notice that your weight is more than 2 pounds above you LDW before you eat anything. On this day, don’t eat anything until the evening. You’ll fast most of the day and then eat a lean steak for your evening meal. You can also eat a raw tomato or an apple along with it. You may also drink as much water as you’d like.

Some dieters experienced with the HCG method recommend re-starting the phase 3 clock when you have a steak day. This is especially true if you need a steak day towards the end of your phase 3. By restarting the phase 3 time frame, you give yourself a bit more time to help your body adjust to your new weight.

Phase 4: No Restrictions

After you’ve completed phase 3, you can begin to include sugars and starches in your diet once again. There are no more restrictions, however, it’s wise to use moderation. Many an experienced HCG dieter will tell you that you can keep the weight off if you avoid binging and follow a healthy diet.

One of the HCG diet’s biggest fans, Robin Woodall, talks about learning how to feel when your body is truly hungry again. Eating can be an emotional activity for so many of us. So, sometimes it can be tough to maintain the good habits you’ve gained through the first 3 phases of the HCG diet. However, by learning to listen to your body to truly sense your hunger and finding new recipes and healthier ways of cooking, you can keep the weight off and stay healthy.

Don’t forget to hydrate yourself well during this phase, and all phases of the diet. By making sure you drink enough water, you’ll help your body feel full in addition to getting the necessary daily fluids.

Now What?

For those who would like to lose more weight, after completing this full cycle, you should be in phase 4 for about 2 weeks before beginning again. The more rounds of HCG you do, the longer the rest period should be. Why? Dr. Simeons claimed that some of his patients developed an immunity to HCG, and the break period helped prevent this. (1)

What Does HCG Do?

The role of HCG in the diet plan is not to help you lose weight. The purpose is rather to help you stave off hunger, by helping you feel full. Another helpful contribution of the hormone is that it helps reduce the amount of muscle that will be lost. Rather than losing muscle, with HCG, you’ll lose fat, supporters say. Or at least, the make-up of weight lost will be much more favorable than if you followed a strict diet without HCG.

Why are these factors important? Obviously, if you’re following a strict very low-calorie diet, you’ll experience hunger. However, many users of the HCG diet claim that they experience very little to no hunger while on the plan. Dr. Simeons also mentioned this in his work. (1) By reducing feelings of hunger, you increase your chances of success while on the diet. It’s easier to stick to the rules if you’re not really hungry.

As far as losing fat over muscle goes, this is preferred for a number of reasons. First off, even when resting, muscle burns more calories than fat. This means that once you’re done dieting, you want to have more muscle on your body than fat. This will help you maintain your weight loss by raising your metabolic rate, or the number of calories you burn while at rest. On the other hand, if you lose excessive muscle mass, your body will burn fewer calories at rest, meaning that weight gain afterward is actually easier than before! That could mean you’ll get on a yo-yo diet train, which is not the idea. HCG dieters claim that the HCG selectively helps you lose fat instead of your muscle. Granted, you’ll lose some of both, but there are many personal testimonies from dieters who have successfully lost a greater quantity of fat over muscle. (2)

Drops vs. Injections

There are plenty of HCG products available online and in stores and weight loss clinics. How do you know what to choose? Dr. Simeons’s research was done exclusively with injections. However, HCG diet drops have become popular because they are easier to take. A daily injection can be an inconvenience for some, and so the HCG drops have understandably become quite popular. But, is it the same?

Your body can absorb medicines and hormones in several ways. Dr. Emma, who appeared on Dr. Oz’s show, alleges that HCG drops can’t be effectively absorbed by the body. In her opinion, only the injections work.

Reviews and Research on the HCG Diet

Dr. Simeons’s research and findings sparked interest. Following his initial publications, many clinical trials and research studies were conducted. Much of the research has concluded that HCG does not play a role in causing weight loss. Even when injections are used, there is very little evidence to support the idea that they make a difference in weight loss. To the contrary, results in many studies show equal levels of weight loss, the composition of weight loss and reports of hunger while on the diet. (4, 5, 6) Don’t be too discouraged if you’ve found the diet helpful or if you are interested in trying. Hunger levels are very difficult to study, and it’s hard to know whether or not a medication can curb hunger. There are also those who have had success.

Further to the lack of scientific evidence in favor of using HCG drops or injections, one case even suggested that a patient resulted with thrombosis or blood clots in her leg due to following the diet.

Certainly, there is cause for skepticism given the lack of evidence supporting the use of HCG. Despite this, more recently, however, doctors and dieters alike have awakened interest in the diet. Why? Results.

One example is Dr. Sheri L. Emma, who conducted her own research on how HCG drops and injections can affect weight loss. In her trials, she discovered that HCG drops and other forms of oral HCG didn’t work. But, injections of the hormone dramatically changed the way that weight was lost. In the HCG group, participants only lost an average of 2 pounds of muscle while those in the placebo group lost an average of 5 pounds of muscle. In addition, participants lost a significant amount of fat weight. It’s also important to note that Dr. Emma supports using a calorie-restricting diet, but does not limit her patients to only 500 calories. This is a concern that many critics of the diet bring up, alleging that the diet is unsafe due to the extreme dieting in phase 2. Dr. Emma argues that her trials provide a more recent perspective on this diet. Most other trials were done in the 70s, 80s and 90s and didn’t strive to discover if HCG affected the composition of weight loss. (7)

The reviews of many dieters also show success. HCG supporters have shared their journeys and success online through their blogs and social media pages. (8, 9) As you can see if you read through some of the stories, dieters use both HCG diet drops and injections to obtain great results.

HCG Diet FAQs

If you’re considering using the HCG diet, you probably have some questions. Here are the answers:

Should I exercise?

During phase 2 of the diet, it’s not recommended that you exercise. Eating only 500 calories a day is extremely restrictive and so you won’t have much energy for lots of exercise. You can take walks, but don’t over-exert yourself. During the other phases of the diet, you can exercise as you normally would. Or, consider beginning an exercise program during this phase of the diet. Exercise is great for staying healthy and maintaining your weight!

How much HCG should I take?

It depends on what type of HCG you’re taking. HCG drops are often taken several times a day. Follow the instructions on the package. If you’re taking HCG injections, you should be taking the recommended dose once a day. Typically, recommended doses run between about 125 IU to 200 IU. This depends on your start weight, how much you need to lose, whether you’re male or female and even at what phase of the diet you are.

Many supporters of the diet agree that adjusting the dose of HCG can help make sure you keep hunger at bay and don’t suffer through phase 2. So, if you’re feeling too hungry, you may be taking too much or even too little HCG. Check with the person overseeing your treatment or do additional research to make sure you’re taking the correct amount.

Are there any side effects?

The Food and Drug Administration warns against using over the counter HCG. Some of the side effects to be noted include fatigue, irritability, restlessness, depression, fluid buildup, and thromboembolism.

What can I eat?

You can only eat what’s on the approved foods list for phase 2. Anything that isn’t on the list isn’t allowed. During phase 3, you must only avoid starches and sugars. In phases 1 and 4, you may eat anything you’d like.

What kind of HCG should I buy?

There are many different types of HCG on the market. From HCG drops to injections, it’s hard to know what to get. The most evidence points towards using injections. If possible, get prescription grade pure HCG. Seek out reputable companies that can prove their products are pure through 3rd party testing. Or, you can work with a reputable clinic or doctor’s office to obtain the HCG.

The Bottom Line: Do HCG Diet Drops Work for Weight Loss?

It’s a tough call. All we can say is that it is certainly a highly disputed diet that gains a lot of attention, both negative and positive.

There are many supporters of the diet. Those who have had great success claim that the HCG made all the difference in their ability to lose weight. Many formerly failed dieters claim that the HCG drops diet has completely changed their lives, making weight loss a real possibility instead of a dream.

However, it’s impossible to ignore the lack of scientific evidence favoring HCG for weight loss. Few research studies have been done that support it, and no peer-reviewed studies can prove the function of HCG in weight loss.

It’s easy to see why the many people who believe in the diet have succeeded. The extreme restrictions on diet would allow just about anyone to lose weight. Yet, there is story after story from users claiming they’ve been unable to lose weight any other way. Could it be that HCG plays an important role that science has been unable to uncover?

In the end, each person has to make their own decisions about their body. While the HCG diet is certainly extreme and controversial, it has also changed thousands of lives, whether due to extreme calorie restriction or the extra help HCG could be providing.

There are many less extreme and healthier ways to lose weight that don’t involve injections or very low-calorie diets. Eating a healthy diet full of whole, nutritious foods and void of processed foods and refined sugars can go a long way to helping you lose weight. Exercise is also an important element, not only for weight loss but also for your overall health. However, if you simply haven’t had success with a radical lifestyle change, maybe HCG will make the difference.

Do you have experience with the HCG diet? Tell us about it in the comments below.