The Atkins Nutritional Approach, more popularly known as the Atkins Diet, is a low-carbohydrate diet made popular by Robert Atkins in 1972. After using the methods of the diet to lose weight himself, Atkins proceeded to write two books on the subject, Dr. Atkins’ Diet Revolution (1972) and Dr. Atkins’ New Diet Revolution (2002). The second book is a more modern version and is slightly different than the first because of the scientific progress that was made in the 30 years between them, but the original concepts of the diet remained the same.
What is the Atkins Diet?
The energy molecule of the body is glucose, a simple sugar. The body metabolizes glucose into energy. The way the body refuels itself is by eating foods like proteins, fats, and carbohydrates. In the Atkins diet, the body limits the intake of carbohydrates. This causes the body to metabolized stored fats into energy, as opposed to metabolizing glucose. The goal of the Atkins Nutritional Approach is to restrict “net carbs,” or the total number of carbohydrates in food minus its fiber content. In essence, this is keeping track of a number of carbohydrates you consume that have a significant impact on your blood sugar. Other foods that have high numbers of carbs but don’t have a large impact on blood sugar, such as fruits and vegetables, are okay to eat because they don’t cause weight gain. This does not mean it is okay to eat unlimited fruits, vegetables, or fatty cheeses and meats. Instead of filling up on carbs, dieters should fill up on higher amounts of protein, fats, and healthy carbs.
How does the Atkins Diet work?
The Atkins Diet is broken down into 4 phases: induction, ongoing weight loss, pre-maintenance, and continued maintenance.
The most restrictive of the 4 phases, this is where the body switches from metabolizing glucose as energy to metabolizing the body’s stores of fat. In this phase, the dieter is restricted to less than 20 grams of “net carbs” a day, calculated using the formula: the total number of carbohydrates – fiber content (for a specific food). During induction, a good daily food intake is roughly 20 grams of “net carbs,” 150 grams or 18 ounces of protein, and over 100 grams of fat. Alcohol isn’t allowed in this phase, but caffeine is on a moderate basis. Induction is where the most drastic weight loss takes place, up to 5-10 pounds per week if the dieter is also exercising regularly.
Ongoing Weight Loss
In this phase, the amount of “net carbs” increases approximately 5 grams a week. This small increase in carbohydrate intake will still allow weight loss to occur. There are two main goals of this phase. The first is to find the foods that the dieter can eat without causing cravings for sweets or unhealthy, high carbohydrate foods. The other goal is to find the “Critical Level of Carbohydrates for Losing.” This is the maximum amount of “net carbs” the dieter can consume without gaining weight. Alcohol is allowed during this time but must not exceed the carbohydrate count. This stage of the diet continues until the dieter is roughly 10-15 pounds away from their goal weight.
The key goal of this stage is to find “Critical Level of Carbohydrates for Losing.” The dieter will add 10 net grams of carbohydrates each week until the hit this level. This may take several weeks to find the optimal number of carbs. Once the dieter reaches their goal weight, it is recommended that stay at the same level of carbohydrate intake for a month to see if they can maintain their weight. If they are still losing weight, or begin to gain weight, the daily intake of carbohydrates should change accordingly.
The goal of this stage is to maintain the weight loss achieved in the first three phases and carry over the healthy habits and make them part of their everyday life.
The Atkins Diet, when followed correctly, is a great and healthy way to lose weight. The eating habits learned during the diet are great to carry over into everyday life. Even though there are restrictions on what is okay and not okay to eat, especially in the first two phases, once you find the foods that work for you, it is easy to get into a routine and have success.