Going the Atkin’s Way; The Truth Behind the Fabulous Diet that is Making Waves
Dr Robert Atkins, an American cardiologist, explored how a diet low in carbohydrates can help the body burn fat instead of glucose as an energy source. Struggling with weight issues himself, he tried the diet o himself to prove it works. He then wrote a book, Dr Atkins’ Diet Revolution, about his nutritional plan, which was published in 1972. The diet made waves after Dr Atkins’ New Diet Revolution was published in 2002. The new book gave readers a path to follow based on the guidelines and concepts set out in the first book.
How Does the Atkins Diet Work?
When on an Atkin’s diet, your body’s metabolism resorts to burning its own stored body fat instead of sugar or glucose like it is programmed for. This shift is referred to as ketosis. As insulin falls with the depreciating glucose levels, your body goes into ketosis. In a nutshell, when your body is running low on glucose, it switches to its own reserves of fat for energy.
Your glucose levels are generally low on an empty stomach, which also causes your insulin levels to plummet swiftly. However, as you eat, your glucose levels rise, which also causes your insulin levels to spike.
The glycemic index is a scale that measures carbohydrates on a scale from 0 to 100, depending on how fast they cause your blood sugar levels to spike after eating and by how much. For instance, refined carbohydrates such as candy and flour-based goodies, are considered high glycemic foods, since they are high in glucose. As carbohydrates enter the bloodstream, they cause a rise in the blood sugar levels. However, low glycemic carbs like oats do not affect blood glucose levels so quickly.
Using the fat in the body
Once your glucose reserves are depleted, ketosis will occur. During ketosis, the body will transfer some of the fat stores in fat cells to the blood to be used as energy. This is what the Atkins diet is based on. A diet so low in carbohydrates encourages Ketosis, causing your body to burn more calories than it would on other diets. According to Dr. Atkins, a person´s saturated fat intake should not exceed 20 percent of all the calories they consume.
The original Atkins Diet plan severely restricted carbohydrate intake during the initial diet phase, which led to rapid weight loss. However, over time, the diet has been slightly modified to allow a small amount of carbohydrate. It means that less extreme ketosis occurs, and the weight loss is more gradual and healthier.
Purpose of Following the Atkin’s Diet
People live the Atkin’s live to shed off those unwanted pounds (and keep them off) by making major changes in their dietary habits. The Atkins Diet is a healthy lifelong approach to eating, regardless of whether your aim is to improve health conditions such as metabolic syndrome or a high blood pressure or to lose weight.
Why you might follow the Atkins Diet?
- You enjoy the Atkins Diet products, such as bars, shakes, cookbooks
- Have medical concerns for which you are prescribed the diet
- Looking to adopt healthy eating habits
- Want a diet that restricts certain carbs to shed off those layers of fat
- Enjoy the portions and types of food featured in the diet
Check with your health care provider before adopting the Atkin’s diet plan, especially if you have any health conditions, such as diabetes or pregnancy.
Phases of the Atkins Diet
The Atkins Diet occurs in four phases. Depending on your weight-loss goals and what you are trying to accomplish, you can start at any of the first three phases.
Phase 1: Induction
This is the hardest part of the diet for most people, since this is where you are expected to almost obliterate all carbs from your diet. You can only consume a maximum of 20 grams of net carbs a day, and that too from vegetables. While all nutrition guidelines put carbohydrates behind 45 to 65 percent of your daily calories, here you can get only about 10 percent. Here’s a breakdown of what you can eat during this phase:
- All fish, such as halibut, cod, trout, tuna, sardines, salmon, herring, sole, and flounder
- All fowl, such as ostrich, turkey, quail, pheasant, goose, duck, chicken, and Cornish hen.
- All shellfish, such as lobster, squid, shrimps, crabmeat, and clams. While mussels and oysters can be consumed, make sure that you eat no more than four ounces per day.
- All meat, such as venison, veal, pork, lamb, ham, beef, and bacon, but make sure the meat is not cured with sugar.
- Eggs in anyway you like, be it boiled, scrambled, poached, fried, or deviled.
- Healthy fats and oils, such as safflower oil, sunflower oil, grapeseed oil, sesame oil, soybean oil, olive oil, walnut oil, canola and vegetable oils, mayonnaise, and butter (not margarine).
- Instead of sugar, swap with Artificial sweeteners like stevia, saccharin, and sucralose.
- Apart from water, Beverages like unflavoured soy/almond milk, herbal teas, decaffeinated or regular coffee and tea, diet sodas, clear broth, and no-calorie, flavoured seltzer.
- No more than 4 ounces of Cheese, including feta, swiss, cream cheese, mozzarella, gouda, cheddar, goat, and parmesan.
- Make sure you are getting 12 to 15 grams of net carbs per day in the form of foundation vegetables, such as snow peas, pumpkin, kohlrabi, spaghetti squash, cherry tomatoes, brussel sprouts, shallots, leeks, green beans, cabbage, yellow squash, portobello mushrooms, jicama, tomatoes, turnips, scallions, kale, eggplants, sprouts, bell peppers, broccoli, asparagus, swiss chard, rhubarb, okra, fennel, beet greens, cauliflower, cucumber, zucchini, onions, daikon radish, avocados, sauerkraut, broccoli rabe, pickles, collard greens, celery, artichoke, radicchio, hearts of palm, turnip greens, lettuce, bok choy, spinach, radishes, argula, watercress, olives, escaroles, endives, chicory greens, alfafa sprouts, and broccolini.
- Salad garnishes such as grated cheeses, sour cream, sautéed mushrooms, hard-boiled eggs, and crumbled bacon.
- Herbs and spices, like garlic, pepper, sage, rosemary, oregano, ginger, chives, parsley, tarragon, dill, cilantro, cayenne, and basil.
- Salad dressings, such as creamy Italian, Italian, balsamic vinegar, lime, blue cheese, lemon juice, ranch, Caesar, red wine vinegar, and olive oil.
Phase 2: Balancing
In this phase, you continue to avoid sugar-laden foods, and get at least 12 to 15 grams of net carbs as foundation vegetables. However, you now have the liberty to add back a few nutrient-rich carbs, such as seeds, nuts, berries, and vegetables, in your diet as you continue to lose weight. This phase lasts until you are a mere 10 pounds from your goal weight. In addition to the food groups allowed in the first phase, you can add:
- Dairy, such as cream, cottage cheese, ricotta cheese, whole milk, unsweetened milk, yoghurt, and mozzarella cheese.
- Seeds and nuts, such as cashews, pecans, peanuts, pistachios, almonds, walnuts, sunflower seeds, macadamias, and brazil nuts.
- Fruits such as blueberries, boysenberries, gooseberries, honeydew, cantaloupes, strawberries, cranberries, raspberries, and blackberries.
- Juice including tomato juice, lime juice, and lemon juice.
- Beans such as chickpeas, great northern beans, navy beans, black beans, all lentils, pinto beans, lima beans, and kidney beans.
Phase 3: Pre-maintenance
During this phase, you gradually add new foods to your diet, including whole grains, starchy vegetables, and fruits, adding no more than 10 grams of carbs to your diet each week. However, if at any point you feel like your weight loss journey has come to a standstill, you need to cut back. You stay in this phase until you have reached your goal weight. Some food groups to add are:
- Starchy vegetables, such as corns, potatoes, parsnips, potatoes, acorn squash, beets, rutabaga, and carrots.
- Fruits such as pears, bananas, dates, oranges, grapes, mangoes, peaches, pineapples, apricot, kiwis, grapefruits, clementine, apples, guavas, plums, papayas, pomegranate, watermelon, cherries, figs, and coconut.
- Grains such as rice, millet, barley, whole-wheat pasta, grits, polenta, oatmeal, whole-wheat bread, quinoa, oat bran, wheat germ, and wheat bran.
Phase 4: Lifetime maintenance
Once you have reached your goal weight and determined what amount of carbohydrates can be consumed again without causing any weight gain, you can move to this phase, and then you continue this way of eating for life. Up to 100 g per day carbs are allowed now, as long as the weight doesn’t creep back on.
Once the Induction Is Over, You Can Slowly Add Back Healthier Carbs
Even if you have heard differently, the Atkin’s diet is quite flexible. The hardest part is only the two-week induction, during which you need to watch your carb intake. Once you have gotten past this period, you can continue to add back healthier carbs to your diet such as rice, oats, legumes, and high carb vegetables like potatoes and berries. However, if you wish to maintain your weight and stay true to your goals, you will probably have to stay moderately low carb for life. As is
If you start eating the same old foods again in the same amounts as before, you will gain back the weight. This is true of any weight loss diet.
A Sample Atkins Menu for One Week (Induction Phase)
Here is a sample menu for one week on the Atkins diet while you are in the induction phase.
- Breakfast: Mushroom and swiss cheese omelet, half an avocado.
- Lunch: Grilled chicken, with a side of alfalfa sprouts, olives, and mixed greens drizzled with Italian dressing.
- Snack: 1 carrot, handful of walnuts
- Dinner: flank steak, with a salad of mixed greens, goat cheese, pickled beets, and snow peas with a dressing of raspberry vinaigrette.
- Breakfast: coconut chia pudding
- Lunch: Crustless Spinach, Mushroom & Feta Quiche
- Snack: Atkins bar with blueberries
- Dinner: Bun-less cheeseburger, with vegetables and butter.
- Breakfast: Omelet with veggies, fried in butter.
- Lunch: Garlic Chicken with Cauliflower Mash
- Snack: sliced cucumbers, celery and carrot sticks with hummus
- Dinner: Crispy Salmon with warm bean salad
- Breakfast: 2 scrambled eggs with 1/4 cup sautéed onion and 1/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese
- Lunch: Chicken kebabs with peanut dip recipe.
- Snack: A handful of nuts with a beef jerky
- Dinner: Feta-stuffed, Bacon-wrapped chicken
- Breakfast: Savory, Flourless Egg-and-Cottage-Cheese Breakfast Muffins
- Lunch: Chicken salad with olive oil and a handful of nuts.
- Snack: Cucumber boast filled with tuna salad
- Dinner: Meatballs with vegetables.
- Breakfast: Omelet with various vegetables, fried in butter.
- Lunch: BBQ Garlic Prawns with Avocado
- Snack: Celery stuffed with cream cheese
- Dinner: Thai Coconut Beef.
- Breakfast: Skillet-Baked Eggs With Spinach, Yoghurt, and Chili Oil
- Lunch: Celery, avocado, and walnut salad with crispy bacon
- Snack: A lettuce leaf wrapped around grated Cheddar cheese
- Dinner: Grilled chicken wings, with some salsa and veggies.
The Atkins Diet claims to help you lose up to 15 pounds in the first two weeks of induction, but results vary from person to person. The Atkins diet also accounts for the fact that the first few pounds that you lose are just water weight. Nevertheless, your weight loss will continue in phases 2 and 3 as long as you keep your carb count in check.
Most people can lose weight on any diet that keeps their calorie count in check. However, in the long run, numerous studies have proven that low-carb diets like the Atkins are not superior to standard weight-loss diets in terms of weight loss, and once people revert to their old eating habits, they tend to regain the weight they lost.
Since carbohydrates make up a significant chunk of calories consumed, Atkins diet works by reducing the overall calorie intake from eating less carbs. According to numerous studies, there are numerous other ways that Atkins Diet helps accelerate weight loss. By limiting your food choices, and making you consume more fats and protein to help you feel full longer, the Atkins diet makes sure you control your portions and lower your calorie intake.
The Atkins diet claims to improve major health conditions, such as cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and metabolic syndrome. This is partly due to the fact that any diet that helps you fight obesity and shed a few pounds, can ultimately reverse risk factors for a host of chronic diseases. In fact, when you look at it like that, most low-carb diets temporarily improve blood sugar or blood cholesterol levels.
One study showed that subjects on the Atkins diet saw improved triglycerides, an indicator of goof heart health. However, we have no evidence to prove if such benefits hold up for the long term. On the other hand, some health experts believe that since the Atkins diet promotes eating a lot of fat and protein from animal sources, which can eventually increase your risk of heart disease or some cancers. However, long term risks of this diet, if any, are still not known since no study has gone beyond two years.
The Atkins Diet acknowledges that completely eliminating carbs so drastically during the induction phase does have its own side effects, including:
In fact, some diets like keto completely eliminate carbohydrates to the extent that they lead to severe nutritional deficiencies, giving rise to health problems such as nausea, diarrhea, and constipation. Eating carbs that are nutrient dense, whole grain, and high fibre can improve the health profile of programs like the Atkins Diet. Nonetheless, the original Atkin’s diet has been changed to prevent these risks. To make up for the lack of nutrients, it is recommended to take supplements, vitamins, and extra salt when on the Atkin’s.
Not to mention, consuming less than 20 grams of carbohydrates leads to ketosis. Ketosis occurs when your body doesn’t get enough glucose for energy, so your body breaks down stored fat, causing ketones to build up in your body. Ketosis can lead to side effects such as mental fatigue, headache, nausea and bad breath.
Not to mention, the Atkins Diet isn’t is not everyone’s cup of tea. For instance, the Atkins Diet suggests consultation from a doctor before starting the diet if you take oral diabetes, diuretics, or insulin medications. Even those suffering from chronic kidney diseases should not follow the diet, and certain weight-loss phases of the diet should be avoided by pregnant or breast-feeding women.
Atkins Diet vs. Ketogenic Diet
In a nutshell, we can say that the Atkins diet is a high-protein, low-carb diet. Akin to its counterpart, the Keto diet, the Atkins also limits your carb intake to induce your body into ketosis. The ketogenic diet was initially introduced to treat patients with epilepsy. It is also based on a diet high in fat and low in carbs. Similar to the Atkins diet plan, the keto diet helps to burn fat and regulate blood sugar levels.
Though at a glance, the two diets seem quite similar in nature, they differ vastly. Firstly, the Atkins diet plan consists of four phases unlike the monotonous and rather rigorous nature of the keto diet. Though Atkins starts off with a carb-restricted phase, it gradually progresses to add carbs back into the diet. The Atkins diet also focuses on net carbs rather than total carbs consumed. Essentially, the keto diet is really restrictive, while the Atkins diet allows you to choose from a variety of foods and is thereby less controversial.
Atkins 40 or Atkins 20?
Atkin’s diet fives you two plans to choose from: Atkins 20 and Atkins 40. If you choose to with Atkins 20, you would be consuming about 20 net carbs per day, gradually adding more food groups and carbs as you move through its four phases. Only choose this plan if you have 40 or more pounds to lose.
With Atkins 40 on the other hand, you can eat 40 net carbs per day, gradually adding more carbs as you progress down this path. This plan lets you eat three meals and two snacks per day and allows more food options. This option is good for people who have less than 40 pounds to lose, just need a little more variety in their meals, or are breast-feeding or pregnant.