HCG Diet and Exercise–Increases Weight Loss in HCG Diet; But-No Killer Workouts on the HCG Plan
As with most things on the HCG diet there are multiple views on whether exercise should be incorporated as part of the HCG diet. Even among those who do recommend exercise, there is no consensus on the intensity, duration, frequency, and types of exercise that should be included.
On the HCG diet it is completely possible to lose a significant amount of weight with very little exercise, or even without exercising at all. In fact, some clinics and practitioners recommend absolutely no exercise. The extra fat deposits are great deposits of energy. While on the HCG diet, your body will be breaking down these deposits. The presence of HCG allows this breakdown to occur more easily. Often without exercise there is a lot of water released during fat breakdown. Exercise helps prevent this water accumulation.
Dr. Simeons recommended only light exercise such as walking and light biking. This exercise should only be done at low intensity and for fairly short periods of time. He noted the weight gain caused by vigorous exercise in this way:
“…the weight can temporarily increase — paradoxical though this may sound — after an exceptional physical exertion of long duration leading to a feeling of exhaustion. A game of tennis, a vigorous swim, a run, a ride on horseback or a round of golf do not have this effect; but a long trek, a day of skiing, rowing or cycling or dancing into the small hours usually result in a gain of weight on the following day, unless the patient is in perfect training. In patients coming from abroad, where they always use their cars, we often see this effect after a strenuous day of shopping on foot, sightseeing and visits to galleries and museums. Though the extra muscular effort involved does consume some additional calories, this appears to be offset by the retention of water which the tired circulation cannot at once eliminate.”
Our opinion about exercise in the HCG Diet: If you are used to intense exercise already, you can try to continue with what you are doing, but most likely you will lack the necessary energy and/or will not recover as quickly as usual while you are on phase 2 of the HCG diet. If you are not used to intense exercise, do not attempt it during the HCG diet start slowly with light exercise shortening the duration or intensity of your workouts as necessary. As with intense exercisers, watch for overtraining and energy levels. Dial down your training if you see any signs of it.
High-intensity workouts when on the HCG diet are not recommended
This is because your body has little carbohydrates stored in the form of glycogen in the liver and muscle. Heavy weights, cardiovascular workouts like running or high-intensity step aerobics, or circuit training require large amounts of carbs that you simply do not have available. Attempting these exercise results in rapid dehydrated and hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). The result is intense weakness and a feeling you are going to pass out. It also increases hunger.
What type of exercise is recommended on the HCG diet?
Walking is great exercise on the HCG diet.
Taking a mile or two walk several times a week on the diet is one of the best ways that you can
be on the HCG diet and exercise safely. There should be no problems, unlike if you were doing intense workouts like jogging or running.
How Carbohydrates Fuel Exercise
In the HCG diet you will markedly reduce your carbohydrate calories, your body will start to use up these glycogen stores. Low glycogen forces your body to switch to using more body fat for energy and begin converting amino acids from proteins to fuel. This is the source of the remarkable weight loss in the HCG diet. This often makes exercise hard and intense exercise even more difficult. Here’s why:
Carbs provide the energy that is needed for exercise. Once eaten, carbohydrates breakdown into smaller sugars (glucose, fructose and galactose) that get absorbed and used as energy. Any glucose not needed right away gets stored in the muscles and the liver in the form of glycogen. Its thought that the body can store up to 2000 carbohydrate calories in muscles (15 grams of carbohydrates per 2.2 lbs. body weight). Glycogen is the source of energy most often used for exercise because it is immediately accessible from muscle and liver. The amount of carbohydrate you eat determines the amount of glycogen stored in the liver and muscles, which in turn greatly affects your ability to exercise.
During depletion (from diet, exercise or a combination) you use up the stored carbohydrates. There is enough stored glycogen for 30-80 minutes of exercise, depending upon the intensity. It takes less than 24 hours of fasting to completely drain your liver glycogen stores. Carbohydrates are the brain and muscle’s fuel, so your body needs to use carbs even while you sleep. A glycogen drain will make you may feel listless and uninterested in exercising. That’s why in the HCG diet you need to space your exercise out throughout the week. A few days off is needed for your body to recharge the glycogen stores.
What is the Role of Exercise in the HCG Program or any Other Weight Loss Program?
Gary Taubes writes in Good Calories, Bad Calories (2007)
“In the past few years, a series of authoritative reports have advocated ever more physical activity for adults—now up to ninety minutes per day of moderate-intensity exercise—precisely because the evidence in support of the hypothesis is so unimpressive. No substantial evidence, in fact, supports this recommendation for weight loss or maintenance.”
In his ground breaking study published in early 2007, Dr. Ravussin notes physical exercise plays a minor role in weight loss. In a very well controlled study, overweight people who were restricting their calories but did not exercise, lost almost the same amount of weight (about 10% of their body weight) compared to those who were restricting their calories AND exercising. Dr. Ravussin adds that exercise can “produce health benefits,” such as improvements in blood sugar and aerobic fitness, which do protect against heart disease.” Dr Ravussin writes: “It’s all about calories; so long as the energy deficit is the same, body weight will decrease in the same way.”
In his extensive clinical study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) in 1999, Dr. Anderson proved what many people suspected: overweight individuals do not have to act like athletes or spend hours in a gym to lose weight and become healthy. Dr. Anderson and other researchers emphasize that sedentary, overweight individuals can be successful in their weight loss plans with a simple and slight increase in the amount of physical activity in their daily lives. Dr Anderson writes, “Diet plus lifestyle programs were as effective as diet plus aerobic training programs in improving weight, blood pressure and serum lipids… This is good news for people who dislike vigorous physical activity or believe they lack time to exercise.”
According to Jamy D. Ard from the University of Alabama in Birmingham, gym exercise—even the strenuous type—is not necessary for weight loss or weight maintenance. In 2007 Dr. Ard writes: “At follow-up, 80% of all participants maintained their body weight and 20% had regained weight. The maintainers consumed 384 fewer kcal a day on average. There was no significant difference in physical activity (min/day) reported by maintainers and gainers.”
Exercise Does Not Remove Local Fat Accumulation
The exercise industry promotes the idea that working out will also help you to sculpt your body. Using the right equipment or doing the right exercises, according to them, will take fat off the love handles, thighs, underarms, and other very specific parts of your body. Men do the crunches and therefore lose their bellies and show their abs and females get a rid of their muffin tops.
“It may well be true. For the vast majority of individuals, overweight and obesity result from excess calorie consumption and/or inadequate physical activity. But it also seems that the accumulation of fat in humans and animals is determined to a large extent by factors that have little to do with how much we eat or exercise: that is a biologic component.” writes Gary Taubes in Good Calories-Bad Calories.
Our genetic structure makes losing specific localized fat deposits very difficult. Exercising is usually ineffective in permanently altering this distribution. Exhausting yourself by doing hundreds of sit-ups to produce those rock-hard abs that will never be seen if covered with a layer of fat, is no better than spending significant effort sculpting a better butt, or toning your thighs and legs.
What Exercise Is Needed on the HCG Diet?
The evidence above means that if you are already significantly restricting your food intake as in the HCG Diet, adding exercise may have very little effect in assisting your weight loss. Of course, I’d like everybody to be active and to move their bodies in order to strengthen their heart, circulation, and stimulate muscle and bone growth. It would also be good for your emotional well being. I do not expect you to do physical exercise at the levels that would actually make you lose weight. Unless you are a professional athlete or plan to work out like one over the course of at least 3 to 6 months, that goal is achieved much easier by making different and smarter food and beverages choices.
Discovering the Lifestyle Exercises
Any extra calorie-burning movement, that you can add to your life as a part of your normal daily routine is what I like to call a lifestyle exercise. The concept is to integrate these extra activities in a way that does not disrupt your normal daily routines. This will allow a few extra calories to be burned off and adds some other health benefits to your life. The old saying, “habits are hard to change” can apply to positive as well as negative behavior. In this case, the “habit” we want to incorporate is almost unconscious daily exercise.
Dr. James Hill at the University of Colorado has written extensively on the use of lifestyle exercises for weight loss and maintenance. He advocates walking an additional 2000 steps per day which translates to burning an extra 100 calories per day. Dr Hill Writes in 2006 in the Step Diet: “These results were supportive of our hypothesis that small lifestyle changes can be achieved through a family-based program and can prevent weight gain in adults and excessive weight gain in growing overweight children.”
The emphasis of what I call lifestyle exercises are both realistic and simple and can be done by just about anybody, anywhere, at any time.
Examples of lifestyle exercises include:
- Taking the stairs instead of the elevator
- Parking the car at the far reaches of the parking lot
- Getting off the bus a stop early and walking the distance to your destination
- Walking or biking on errands
- Delivering a message in person in an office, instead of by e-mail
- Walking your dog an extra block
- Doing yard work
Some people have enough self-discipline to implement these lifestyle exercises naturally. However, the majority of people need a more formal plan and something more structured than taking the stairs everyday, but less structured than going to the gym four days a week.
For a more formal lifestyle exercise program, try walking. Most of us have the equipment to do this with us everyday, even when traveling. Walking cost nothing and can take as little as a few minutes. Even walking for ten minutes several times a day can help stimulate weight loss and more importantly will improve your cardiovascular health.
However, there are some challenges associated with walking, as your ability or willingness to be outdoors may be affected by the weather, pollution, or safety concerns. And remember, just because you are sweating does not mean that you are burning calories. It could simply be hot outside! Most people vastly overestimate the amount of calories they burn while walking. Here are three easy methods to quickly estimate the calories you are burning while walking.
|Method|| How does it work?||Pros||Cons|
|Pedometer||A tiny meter-like device attached to your belt that measures each step and converts them into calories; 1,000 steps equal about ½ mile or 50 calories*||accurate||You have to wear it|
|“Walk a mile”||Measure out a mile with your car; a mile equals about 100 calories*||easy||Calories burned depends on other factors|
|Factor of “4”||Multiple the time you walk by 4 to give you close to the calories you burned; 3o minutes walking = 120 calories*||simple||A quick way to see how hard it is to burn calories|
*Depends on height, weight, fitness level, terrain, clothing, temperature, and many other factors.
Realizing how many calories you actually burn during physical activities or lifestyle exercises gives you an idea of how much effort you would need to make to burn off some of the common foods that you eat. Once you understand this, you will understand why selecting the right foods instead, is so much easier and a lot more realistic for you. The following table illustrates the time it takes to burn off the calories in some of the more common foods that we eat.
|Food||Calories||Minutes of Walking to Burn the Calories|
|Cheese (2 oz)||250||50|
|Bagel, pizza, fries, chicken Caesar salad||450–650||150|
|Fast food: burgers, fries, chicken nuggets||800–1300||160|
*Calories burned and times are approximate and depend on speed, body weight, resistance, elevation, and other factors.
Benefits from Regular Lifestyle Exercises
What I call regular lifestyle exercise can actually assist your weight loss and more specifically, help you through plateaus. I’m not talking about two hours in a gym. Instead, the addition of small amounts of physical activity to your daily routine can improve many aspects of your health. Moreover, such improvements can be experienced by virtually everyone, regardless of age, sex, or physical ability. They will not require great commitments or an enormous amount of willpower. The following are some of the additional benefits of regular lifestyle exercises.
Strengthens your cardiovascular system
The term “cardiovascular system” refers to your heart and your blood vessels. Cholesterol buildup in your arteries can cause strokes and heart attacks. Regular physical activities prevent this from happening in three different ways:
- Lowers the buildup of bad cholesterol (LDL) in arteries by increasing the concentration of good cholesterol (HDL).
- Prevents the onset of high blood pressure if you are at an increased risk of developing this condition.
- Lowers your blood pressure if it is already high.
Keeps bones and muscles strong
Regular physical activities are one of the best methods to prevent osteoporosis and strengthen your muscles. Choose lifestyle exercises that bear your body’s weight, such as walking and jogging.
Can help to break through plateaus
Physical activities will help to increase your metabolism again after its normal slowing that accompanies weight loss. In this case, I do recommend working a little harder while doing your lifestyle exercises. Walk a little faster and maybe a little longer to break a sweat. And maybe add one or two more physical activities to your day during those periods.
Prevents and manages diabetes
Regular physical activities, coupled with weight loss, are important ways to control your blood sugar. Exercise helps insulin work and can lower your blood sugar.
Eases depression and manages pain and stress
Regular physical activities can help fight depression by activating the neurotransmitters (chemicals used by your nerve cells to communicate with one another) serotonin and norepinephrine. Exercise also stimulates the production of endorphins, other neurotransmitters that produce feelings of well being.
Reduces your risk of certain types of cancer
Regular physical activities may help lower the risk of cancers of the colon, prostate, uterus, and breasts.
Helps you sleep well
A good night’s sleep helps maintain your physical and mental health. Moderate physical activities at least three hours before bedtime can help you relax and sleep better at night.
Helps prolong your life
In addition to making you feel better, regular physical activities definitely prolongs your life expectancy.
As you can see, there are many benefits that can come from regular physical activity. Here are the four things you need to know about the role that exercising plays (or does not play) in my weight loss program:
- “Lifestyle” exercises are equally or more effective than structured aerobic or weight lifting exercise for weight loss.
- Having an idea about the calories you really burn during exercises permits you to understand the efforts it takes to burn of the calories of bad food choices.
- Exercise plays only a minimal role in short-term weight loss as in the HCG Diet. The obsession with hours of working out in gyms often diverts attention from what is really important—the foods that one eats.
- Diet and/or exercise cannot remove genetically determined fat deposits in most individuals.
Richard Lipman MD is a endocrinologist and board certified internist who has treated more than 10,000 overweight patients in his Miami office with his new 800 calorie HCG diet for the past 10 years in Miami, Fl