by Bret Contreras October 18, 2010
Here’s another question that I’ve received several times over the past few months that warrants a blogpost.
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.
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.
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.
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