It appears that the HCG diet is as misunderstood as a teenager in a grunge band. As with any diet scrutinized by the ever-based media, a few things have been exaggerated and misreported.
The HCG diet is actually quite simple to understand—it’s just hard to do because it is very specific. You do take HCG via injection and drops and yes, you do lose weight on the diet, but it’s not actually the HCG that makes you lose weight—this is where people get confused.
It is actually the low-calorie diet paired with your drops or injections that causes the weight loss. The HCG just makes your body handle the low-calorie portion of the diet better and helps to curb hunger. If you ask me, the biggest benefit is that it keeps your body from feeding on your muscles rather than your fat stores when you cut your calories.
For some reason, our bodies go for our muscles first (instead of our readily-available, all-you-can-eat fat stores) when it feels that food is getting scarce. This is where the HCG diet comes in. It’s basically a way to lose weight by cutting your calories way down without the negative side effects of doing too much cutting too soon.
Interestingly, on the low-calorie portion of the diet you don’t actually count calories. You measure the weight or quantity of your food instead. The diet will bring your daily caloric intake to about 900 calories—sometimes more, sometimes a little less depending on your food choices.
As you may have already realized, 900 calories is a little less than half of the average 2,000-calorie diet the USDA uses to compare the relative nutritional values of all foods. This is why the diet works. You consume less calories and your body loses pounds.
You must lose 3,500 calories from your diet (either by not eating them or burning them through exercise) to lose a pound. That’s a lot of calories—more than the average daily intake! That doesn’t mean you can quit eating for a day though and see results on the scale.
Eating lower amounts of calories—especially if you drop your calories down suddenly—changes the rate at which your body burns calories. So, if you don’t do it right, eating less calories may just train your body to subsist on less calories. Meaning it slows your metabolism way down and you still aren’t losing weight.
As mentioned before, the key to the HCG diet is consuming fewer calories. Exercise is actually not needed or recommended. If you plan on exercising more than by jogging or walking a mile or two each day, you will need a special plan for this diet to work.
The reason for this is that exercise also burns calories and, again, if you cut out too many calories too soon, your body primitively thinks it’s come into times of starvation and needs to keep all the fat on you it can. This causes major problems when you’re trying to lose weight.
So, if cutting calories (as opposed to exercising more) sounds like the right way to lose weight for you, it might be good to look into the HCG diet. The big caveat is that once you’ve lost all the weight you need to with the HCG diet, you can’t completely go back to your old eating habits. You don’t have to be as stringent as you were when dieting, but you will need to balance the amount of calories you consume with the amount of calories you burn to maintain your losses.