This guide is part 2 in a series I am writing about how to properly and effectively use weight loss medications (including dosing, duration of therapy, and titration). Part 1 contains information and dosing on Victoza which you can read about here.
HCG is often misused and misunderstood by patients, especially when it comes to weight loss.
HCG can be used as part of a weight loss regimen to help you lose weight, but it’s almost always coupled with a very low-calorie diet which can actually be harmful to your metabolism long-term.
Learn how to use HCG in this guide:
*Note: Information in this article should not be considered medical advice nor can I offer medical advice to you. This information is provided as an educational resource.
HCG the Hormone vs The HCG Diet
It’s important that we set the record straight on the difference between HCG the hormone and the HCG Diet.
HCG is actually just a hormone known as human chorionic gonadotropin.
It is naturally secreted in high amounts during pregnancy.
In fact, the amounts that pregnant women are subjected to are much higher than any dose that most people use for weight loss (including in the HCG diet).
HCG the hormone itself has some special properties (1) (which we will discuss below) that make it a valuable tool when and if you are trying to lose weight.
The problem is that HCG gets a bad name because the name itself is often associated with the HCG diet.
This is why we need to spend some time separating these two ideas.
I’m sure you are familiar with the HCG diet, but if you aren’t I would read this post which outlines in more detail why it is often harmful.
The HCG diet is a combination of a sustained very low-calorie diet which is coupled with HCG injections (or drops) throughout the weight loss phase.
The problem with the HCG diet is the duration of the calorie restriction, NOT the HCG hormone itself.
The prolonged calorie restriction in the HCG diet often causes metabolic damage and thyroid changes which almost always result in regaining any weight that was lost during the diet.
Despite this known side effect many people still decide to use the HCG diet, presumably for the temporary weight loss that results.
The problem is that each time you do the HCG diet you damage your metabolism more and more.
So the first time you use the HCG diet you may lose 20+ pounds, the second time you may only lose 5-10 and the third you may not lose any at all.
Each consecutive time you use it you will see your results diminish.
And this process occurs because of the calorie restriction.
This side effect is NOT from the HCG shots or injections!
You could couple a 500-calorie diet with any hormone (such as testosterone, progesterone, or thyroid hormone) and you would end up in the same place.
But don’t make the mistake of blaming HCG for the damage to your metabolism when it’s the fault of the calorie restriction.
If this concept is new to you, or it doesn’t make sense I would encourage you to read this article which outlines more information on how calories influence your weight and how to determine if you are eating enough.
It’s important to realize that HCG is simply a hormone and because it is a hormone it has special benefits that we can utilize.
And if we combine HCG with proper dietary therapies, supplements, weight loss medications and so on we can actually gain all of the benefits from HCG without any of the downsides.
So let’s talk about some of the benefits:
Benefits of using HCG for Weight Loss
Like any hormone or medication, there are potential side effects and benefits you should consider when using it.
It’s helpful to erase in your mind how you currently think about HCG and start over with a blank slate.
In this slate I want you to simply think about HCG as a potential weight loss hormone that, if used correctly, can be added to various different diets and therapies.
Once you’ve changed how you think about HCG a new world of opportunities and possibilities is available to you.
It can be combined with ANY diet including the ketogenic diet, the AIP diet and so on.
Suddenly HCG becomes a helpful tool that you can use on your journey to weight loss.
But how does HCG Work? How does it help with weight loss?
It can actually help in several ways…
Potential positive benefits of using HCG:
- May help regulate sex hormone levels such as estrogen and progesterone (2) – Some women have excess levels of sex hormones such as estrogen and progesterone which can make weight loss difficult.
- May help regulate appetite suppression – Normalizing appetite levels is important when considering caloric consumption. Eating a sufficient amount is required for proper metabolism but some hormone disorders can cause excessive hunger and/or cravings for certain foods which may retard weight loss efforts.
- May help increase testosterone (especially in men) (3) – HCG may stimulate and promote normal testosterone levels which can become dysregulated by other hormone imbalances such as insulin resistance.
- May support thyroid function (4) – HCG has been shown to stimulate thyroid function in pregnant women and this effect may be part of the reason that HCG is effective as a dietary aid in some diets.
Because HCG is a hormone it also may have negative side effects that can pop up based on dosing or the sensitivity of the individual.
Potential side effects of using HCG:
- Water retention – Reversible and usually related to dosing
- Headaches – Often fade over time
- Irritability – Subsides over time
- Weight gain – Rare but can happen occasionally and if it does occur it is a reason to discontinue the hormone
HCG is usually very well tolerated and most people do not experience negative side effects.
But some people may experience these side effects and it may be an indication that they are using too much.
If you experience side effects they can usually be eliminated by simply reducing your dose.
The goal is to use the least amount of hormone possible for the largest amount of benefit.
Hormone therapies often suffer from a concept known as diminishing returns.
Diminishing returns is the idea that a given therapy will diminish in value with an increasing dose.
So if 100 IU’s works for you it doesn’t mean that 200 IU’s will work twice as well or that 400 IU’s will work 4x as well.
HCG for Women
HCG is often very helpful for certain women who are trying to lose weight.
Much of this benefit may stem from HCG and its ability to help regulate estrogen and progesterone levels.
The imbalance of estrogen to progesterone may be responsible, at least in part, for weight gain in certain areas of the body (think breasts, butt, thighs and so on).
This distribution of fat differs from other hormone imbalances such as insulin resistance which tends to promote weight gain in the abdominal cavity or surrounding the organs (so-called visceral fat) (5).
The problem with fat mediated by estrogen and progesterone is that it can be very difficult to treat and typically doesn’t respond to conventional exercise and diet routines.
Even if these women tend to lose weight, if they don’t improve their estrogen/progesterone balance they may end up with an abnormal fat distribution such as very little fat on the abdomen but excess fat on the arms/thighs and so on.
Women who fit this category may benefit from the episodic use of HCG as a complementary therapy to other weight loss therapies.
I’ve included a list of potential patients who may benefit more than others from the use of HCG based on my own personal experience and based on various clinical studies.
Which women should consider using HCG?
- Women who suffer from “stubborn” weight that is difficult to lose (especially fat in less common areas such as the upper arms, lower legs, etc. (6))
- Women with a large proportion of their weight in the hips/thighs/butt area
- Patients who desire appetite suppression or who need help in regulating their appetite due to other hormone imbalances such as leptin resistance
- Women with high baseline estrogen (estrogen dominance)
- Women with low baseline progesterone (even if estrogen is normal)
- Women who have 50+ pounds to lose or who have failed other weight loss medications
- Note: If you fall into any of these groups then HCG is more likely to augment your weight loss.
Whenever you can individualize weight loss therapies such as weight loss medication the results tend to be much better than a blanket or one-size-fits-all regimen.
But even when following these guidelines HCG may only promote weight loss in up to 70% of individuals who use it.
HCG for Men
HCG also has many benefits for men and may be the reason that men do so well on the conventional HCG diet when compared to women.
Because HCG looks similar to LH (at least to cellular receptors) it may sit on and activate LH receptors and lead to a normalization or natural boost to testosterone levels in men.
Because testosterone is so important (for both men and women, but especially in men) in promoting the male physique (8) the use of HCG may stimulate weight loss in men through this mechanism alone.
HCG should also be considered an integral part of normal testosterone replacement therapy which should include bio-identical testosterone, HCG to retard testicular atrophy, and an estrogen blocker.
For this reason, men tend to benefit greatly from the periodic use of HCG, especially during weight loss.
It should be noted, though, that HCG should not be used in place of testosterone or for extended periods of time.
HCG Dosing & How to Use it
Part of realizing the weight loss benefits of HCG is ensuring that you use it correctly.
The “standard” way of using HCG is to combine it with a calorie-restricted diet and to use it daily.
It may be better to use smaller doses less frequently and combine it with other therapies which also aid in weight loss.
Using it in this way promotes more sustained weight loss and limits any potential negative side effects associated with the hormone.
Combining HCG with other Medications & Therapies
Whenever we talk about a weight loss medication or therapy we should always discuss how potent or how efficacious that therapy actually is.
It’s one thing to say that a medication or hormone is effective at weight loss, but it’s more important to understand just how effective it is.
Would you be more interested in a weight loss therapy that worked 90% of the time but only helped you lose 1-2 pounds or would you be more interested in a weight loss therapy that worked 60% of the time but helped you lose 15-20 pounds?
The truth is that not all weight loss therapies will work for all people, and even if they do work for some people the efficacy will vary from person to person.
So 10 people could use the same therapy and experience various degrees of weight loss despite using it in the exact same way.
This doesn’t mean that the therapy is flawed, but it does mean that you should do your best to personalize your regimen.
HCG is more useful as a side therapy for weight loss that should be combined with more powerful weight loss medications such as Victoza and Liothyronine.
In this way, it’s not the most powerful weight loss medication but it can often help boost weight loss results by 5-15 pounds (depending on the person).
HCG is a hormone that may help to promote other hormone functions in both men and women.
It gets a bad name because of its association with the HCG diet, but after reading this hopefully, you can make a distinction between HCG the hormone, and the HCG diet.
HCG the hormone is beneficial when used correctly, and the HCG diet is almost always harmful.
If you are considering using HCG make sure that you obtain a written prescription from a physician and make sure that you personalize dosing to your body.
It should be noted that proper use of HCG (as discussed here) should NOT result in any harm or long-term damage to your metabolism.
But now I want to hear from you:
Have you used HCG successfully in the past?
Did the HCG diet harm your metabolism?
Have you used HCG in the way that I’ve described here?
Leave your comments below!
If you have other questions or comments about using HCG in this way please leave them below and I will do my best to answer them.