Many of us have a love/hate relationship with the loading phase of the HCG Protocol (Phase 1/P1). It can be really challenging in it’s own way that is different from the lifestyle changes required for Phase 2 and Phase 3. On one hand, binging on food, and eating whatever you want for a few days might sound great, however, on the other hand, gaining even MORE weight, and feeling crappy sounds horrible. By the time most people decide to do HCG, they are desperately wanting to change their eating habits and transform their bodies; loading and gaining more weight just sounds scary and upsetting.
Why load? Loading is a really important part of the HCG protocol. My understanding is that the main physical reason for loading is to build up your fat storage so that you are not hungry in the first days of Phase 2 while the HCG is kicking in. In addition, I have heard that by eating high fats before you start the VCLD (very low calorie diet) it assists your body in finding the fat stores more easily during P2 in order to release them. It is possible that if you do not load, you will be hungry and weak, and perhaps lose less weight. (for more information on this, check out Dr Simeons Original Protocol).
There are many ways to load. Traditionally, based on the Original Protocol, the idea is to eat whatever you want and lots of it, being sure to eat lots of fats. It can be a good time to eat your favorite ‘binge’ foods and get them out of your system. By the time you start Phase 2, you will be ready for clean eating and your body will have lots of stored calories so that you aren’t overly hungry.
One downside is this way of loading is that some people actually feel hungrier from eating all the carbs and sugar those first few days of P2, in addition to experiencing some sugar and carbohydrate withdrawal symptoms like headaches, being bloated, grumpiness, and tiredness.
I have found another issue is that I generally eat very, very low carb and high fat, and little to no sugar. When I load by eating whatever I want, all I want is carbs. I wind up feeling gross and sick and stuffed, and I don’t even enjoy the food. In addition, I start craving those foods again.
Considering that the main physical intention for loading is to bulk up on fats, HCG Chica offers the possibility of what she calls a ‘clean load‘. Loading clean would be loading by only eating high fat foods, with minimal carbohydrates and no sugar. The foods to eat include fatty meats, Salmon, Bacon, dark meat chicken with skin, butter on everything, sour cream, dairy, avocado, cheese, nuts, and more. The benefits to a ‘clean load’ is that you will likely feel better physically, you will transition to the VCLD/Phase 2 more easily, and perhaps you won’t gain as much weight during loading. It is also possible that you might lose your loading weight more easily in P2.
I personally have done it all. I have loaded by purely binging on carbs (breads, french fries, pasta) and desserts. I have also loaded by eating really clean – no sugar or starches and only eating high fat foods and protein. One time I ate somewhere in between a ‘clean load’ and a ‘binge load’; I ate mostly clean but with a few carbs as side dishes and some desserts.
I certainly feel a lot better when I do a clean load. I don’t feel stuffed, I don’t obsess over food, and I feel great the first week of P2. However, I really do like fully indulging in junk for a few days. I appreciate the rare opportunity to just eat whatever; I am usually so strict about everything I eat, and have been for a very long time, so giving myself permission to eat my favorite foods is simply nirvana.
I do always feel horrible when I do this. Not only do I feel physically lousy, it reminds me what it was like living with an eating disorder (over 30 years ago) when I was crazy and obsessed with food and binge eating. The good news is that it makes me feel SO crappy, I get it out of my system and am reminded WHY I don’t eat that way anymore. It makes me really glad to start P2 and then P3 and to eat well and in a way that supports my body.
Regarding how long to load for; the Original Protocol requires a 2 day load. Some of the HCG alternative variations suggest a 3 day load. I don’t think that there is a right way to do it. As long as you get full in 2 days, that definitely seems to be plenty of fat storage. Personally, every time I think I WANT to do a 3 day load, I wind up starting P2 after day 2, because I simply can’t stand the idea of eating one more bite. In fact, one time, I only loaded for 1 day because I was so full I just couldn’t do another day. I bet if I had completed a ‘clean load’ I would NOT have felt this way 🙂
Regardless of how you do it, even while knowing that loading is important, it can be scary and uncomfortable to eat so much and/or to eat foods you might not normally eat, and to gain weight. From what I can tell, people seem to gain between 2 and 4 pounds, but I have heard of people gaining as much as 6-10 pounds. In addition, the cleaner I eat normally, the more I seem to gain when loading with ‘junk’. I always have to remind myself that HCG works and that I WILL lose that weight, because it is uncomfortable every time. I have always lost my load weight in 1-3 days at most; generally it takes 2 days. Phew!
As long as you DO load, I don’t think that there is a right way to do it, except to be sure to eat a lot of calories and fats. Ask yourself what best supports you in your HCG journey? What will best set you up to be successful in P2 and P3?
Whatever you do, be sure that you choose it. This is your protocol, your journey, and everyone is different. Give yourself permission to make mistakes, to learn, and to use this opportunity with HCG to heal and transform your relationship to food and your body every step of the way.