The Atkins Diet has helped countless people lose weight. It’s one of the most popular diets in the Western world, and it’s not going anywhere. With this in mind, I’ve put together a guide to answer questions related to the diet’s principles, what it is, whether it works and why you should try it.
What is Atkins Diet?
The Atkins Diet helps a person lose weight by limiting the intake of carbohydrates and also controlling insulin levels. This means that those who use this diet can eat as much protein and fat as possible.
An American cardiologist, Dr. Robert Atkins, created this diet in the early 1970s. It evolved over time and encouraged people to eat more high-fiber vegetables and do exercises.
The Atkins Diet is a highly controversial low-carb eating plan that Dr. Robert Atkins first created in the 1970s. When a person follows the diet, their body’s metabolism switches from burning glucose, or sugar, as fuel to burning stored body fat, this switch is called ketosis. Before eating, their glucose levels are low, so their insulin levels are low. When eating, their glucose levels rise, and the body produces more insulin to help it use glucose.
Dr. Robert Atkins designed this diet to reduce the intake of carbohydrates significantly. It has four core principles:
- Maintain weight loss
- Achieve good health
- Lose weight
- Lay a permanent foundation for disease prevention
The main reason for weight gain is the consumption of carbs, sugar, flour, and high fructose corn syrup.
How Does it Work?
When you’re planning to do this diet, you need to be clear about how it works and how beneficial it is to your health. The Atkins Diet is one of the most popular diets globally that helps you burn fat faster than any other diet.
This diet doesn’t limit the amount of fat you can take into your body. Counting calories and measuring portion sizes are also not necessary. But you should count the carbs you’re eating carefully. This diet is strict on restricting carbs, especially in the early stages. With the use of net carbs as a tracking method, it counts the total number of carbs minus their fiber content in grams.
The Atkins diet focuses on a low-carb, high-fat, protein-rich diet to keep your body in ketosis. This is when your body begins to burn fat for energy rather than just relying on carbs as its main energy source. The goal of this diet is not only to help you lose weight but also to keep it off for good. And if you’re willing to put in the work, it’s possible!
Atkins Diet 4-Phase Plan
We’ll show you how to follow the Atkins diet. Before starting a new weight-loss diet plan, don’t forget to consult your dietitian or physician first.
It is split into 4 different phases :
Phase 1 (Induction)
For weeks, you have to go for under 20 grams of carbs per day. You need to eat high-protein, high-fat, leafy greens and low-carb vegetables. It will definitely kick-start your weight loss.
Phase 2 (Balancing)
You’ll slowly add more low-carb vegetables, nuts, and small amounts of fruits to your diet in this phase.
Phase 3 (Fine-tuning)
If you think you’re getting close to your goal weight, you need to add more carbs into your diet until the weight loss slows down.
Phase 4 (Maintenance)
In this last part of the phase, you need to eat as many healthy carbs as your body can take without regaining weight.
Keep in mind that these phases presented above are not necessary.
Some people choose to skip the induction phase and include many vegetables and fruits from the start. This may be very effective and may help you ensure that you’re getting enough fiber and nutrients.
However, others prefer to stay in the induction phase. Also known as a very low carb ketogenic diet (keto).
This diet has been around for decades, and it has a lot of benefits too! It works for some people because it has:
Who doesn’t want to go back to their favorite clothes that don’t fit right? Your body will shed excess water weight when you’re reducing carbohydrates. The Atkins diet and other keto diets claim that once the stored carbs are used for energy, our body learns to tap into fat to use it as fuel. Moreover, once the excess water is lost, expect the remaining weight loss to come from body fat .
Furthermore, expect that the weight loss you can get from the Atkins diet is not superior to other diets that accept carbs. Some studies show that the Atkins diet is better for weight loss .
We know that there are no good or bad carbohydrates, but there are simple and complex carbs. This diet helps you understand the main difference while encouraging you to eat more complex carbs as you go up toward phases that allow greater carbohydrate intake .
Want to know a valuable asset? By improving your knowledge of nutrition! Yes, you can take that learning for the rest of your life. Having knowledge of which carbs offer you more nutritious benefits and how less nutritious choices work in your body will help you make better food choices in the long run. A better understanding of types of carbohydrates will ultimately make you have better food choices on the Atkins diet plan.
A lot of people have problems with unclear structure and guidelines. Lucky for you, the Atkins diet clearly maps out each phase accompanying you with simple instructions and cool colored icons that let you know which foods you can include in your diet. That is based on the phase you are currently following.
Another thing is that there’s a complete food list for each phase of the program. What a convenient thing, right? Their website also lets you choose which phase you want based on your lifestyle and weight loss goals. You can even have access to meal plans, recipes, carb-counter, shopping lists, and a meal tracker app. Now tell me if that isn’t something worthwhile.
Foods to Eat
While you’re on the Atkins diet, it’s important to base your diet around these foods:
- Low-carb vegetables: spinach, kale, asparagus, broccoli, and others.
- Meats: pork, lamb, beef, chicken, bacon, and others.
- Nuts and seeds: walnuts, almonds, macadamia, sunflower seeds
- Eggs: omega-3 pastured or enriched
- Full-fat dairy: cheese, cream, butter, full-fat yogurt
- Healthy fats: coconut oil, avocados, extra virgin oils, and avocado oil
- Fatty fish and seafood: sardines, trout, salmon, and mackerel
Building your meals around a high-fat protein source with plenty of nuts, vegetables, and healthy fats is essential.
Want to know what drinks you can take while on the Atkins diet? Here are acceptable ones:
- Coffee: being high in antioxidants may offer significant health benefits
- Green tea: another one with high antioxidants
- Water: this is the go-to beverage that you really need
If you’re wondering if you can drink alcohol while on this diet, you can, but in small amounts. Sticking to dry wines that don’t have added sugars and avoiding high-carb drinks like beer is definitely a no.
Foods to Limit
If you have a list of foods to eat, it’s also important to limit the food that isn’t relevant to this diet.
- Grains: rye, spelt, barley, rice
- Starches: sweet potatoes and potatoes (induction phase only)
- High-carb vegetables: turnips, carrots, etc. (induction phase only)
- Sugar: fruit juices, soft drinks, candy, cakes, ice cream, etc.
- Low-fat and diet foods: they’re high in sugar sometimes
- Legumes: chickpeas, beans, lentils, etc. (induction phase only)
- High-carb fruits: apples, oranges, bananas, grapes, pears (induction phase only)
Your day’s menu might consist of:
Breakfast: eggs and vegetables fried in coconut oil.
Lunch: Chicken salad with nuts, cherry tomatoes, and cucumbers.
Dinner: Steak and vegetables.
Snacks: Hard-boiled egg, nuts, or greek yogurt.
Some supporters of the Atkins diet say that exercise is not really essential for weight loss. However, it’s a win-win activity, as it can boost your overall well-being and energy.
They advise dieters to:
- Get carbohydrates from vegetables
- Consuming plenty of protein
- Eating a high protein meal within 30 minutes of finishing the exercise
- Eating a snack an hour before exercising
The Atkins diet requires you to restrict yourself to certain nutrients that are very important for your body. While you’re losing weight and experiencing favorable metabolic changes, this diet can also result in the following side effects, especially in the early phase of the diet [5,6]:
- Electrolyte imbalance
- Low blood sugar
- Kidney problems
If you’re restricting yourself to carbohydrates in the Atkins diet, it puts you at risk of insufficient fiber intake. Fiber plays a big role. It protects you against heart disease and certain types of cancer, regulates appetite, and supports your gut motility and healthy gut microbiota .
Before getting started, it’s vital to gain knowledge on the Atkins diet if you’re that serious. You can either buy a book or learn from the internet. With that being said, this detailed guide should contain everything you need to get started. The Atkins diet is an effective way to lose weight, but it’s not entirely for everyone because access to fresh produce or high-quality meat and relying on these foods may be expensive.
As a rule of thumb, consulting your doctor or registered dietitian before starting a new weight-loss diet is the best thing to do to make sure it’s right for you.
Disclaimer: This article is only a guide. It does not substitute the advice given by your healthcare professional. Before making any health-related decision, consult your healthcare professional.
Editorial References And Fact-Checking
- Kosinski, C., & Jornayvaz, F. (2017, May 19). Effects of Ketogenic Diets on Cardiovascular Risk Factors: Evidence from Animal and Human Studies. Nutrients, 9(5), 517. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu9050517
- Astrup, A., Meinert Larsen, T., & Harper, A. (2004). Atkins and other low-carbohydrate diets: hoax or an effective tool for weight loss?. Lancet (London, England), 364(9437), 897–899. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(04)16986-9
- Batch, J. T., Lamsal, S. P., Adkins, M., Sultan, S., & Ramirez, M. N. (2020). Advantages and Disadvantages of the Ketogenic Diet: A Review Article. Cureus, 12(8), e9639. https://doi.org/10.7759/cureus.9639
- Oh, R., Gilani, B., & Uppaluri, K. R. (2022). Low Carbohydrate Diet. In StatPearls. StatPearls Publishing.
- Barber, T. M., Kabisch, S., Pfeiffer, A., & Weickert, M. O. (2020). The Health Benefits of Dietary Fibre. Nutrients, 12(10), 3209. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu12103209