Dr. Robert Atkins first developed his low-carbohydrate diet in the 1970s, but it wasn’t until the next decade that it began to gain widespread popularity. In the 1980s and again in 1992, Dr. Atkins released a revamped version his diet plan, updating and tailoring it to fit modern lifestyles. When the updated Atkins Diet hit the market, it was an instant success.
Although the Atkins Diet plan has undergone some revisions over the years, it has always contained the same five, essential components:
- a diet high in protein
- elimination of trans-fats
- fiber-rich foods
- high intake of vitamins and minerals
- low intake of sugar.
If you follow Atkins Diet recipes and these core principles, you will lose weight and keep it off.
How to Follow the Atkins Diet Plan
Just like many diets, this plan is broken up into several phases, including the:
- Induction period
- Ongoing Weight Loss phase
- Pre-maintenance period
- Maintenance phase.
Each phase limits your intake carbohydrates and bans sugar. The premise of the Atkins Diet is that weight gain comes from an overabundance of carbohydrates. As a result, complete elimination of carbohydrates is the first step, while the following phases slowly reintroduce carbohydrates back into your eating regimen through Atkins Diet recipes.
Eliminating Carbohydrates in Phase 1 (Induction)
In general, the most difficult part of the Atkins diet plan is the first phase, which is two weeks long. In this phase, you must eliminate all carbohydrates from your diet. You can eat as much food as you need to in order to feel satisfied, but none of the foods may contain carbohydrates. During Phase 1, you can ‘t eat any of the following carbohydrate-rich foods:
- high glycemic index veggies (peas, corn, carrots and potatoes)
Instead, Phase 1 of the Atkins Diet allows you to eat:
- unlimited meat.
Phase 2: Ongoing Weight Loss
After the first phase, you can begin to introduce 5 grams of carbohydrates, in the form of vegetables, back into your diet each day. This should help you lose between 1 and 2 pounds per week. During this phase, you will find out your Critical Carbohydrate Level for Losing (CCLL), so you’ll know how many carbohydrates you can consume and still lose weight.
When introducing carbohydrates back into your meal regimen, follow the Carbohydrate Ladder. This ladder starts your consumption of approved Atkins Diet foods with vegetables, followed by whole grains. Keep in mind that you’ll want to stay in this phase until you’re between 5 and 10 pounds from your goal weight.
Phase 3: Pre-maintenance
Once you are close to your weight loss goal, you’ll increase your carbohydrate intake to 10 grams each day for the next two to three months. This phase of the Atkins Diet is when you figure out your Atkins Carb Equilibirum (ACE). ACE is the amount of carbohydrates you can eat without gaining weight. The emphasis is not losing (even though you may still lose pounds) but, instead, on keeping the weight off.
Phase 4: Maintenance
Once you know your ACE, you are ready to follow it with Atkins Diet recipes to maintain your desired weight. This phase lasts for the rest of your life and should consist of eating healthfully, with continued awareness of your carb intake. Even though you’ll be allowed to eat more carbohydrates, you will never be able to consume sugar through candy or soda.
The Pros and Cons of the Atkins Diet
Some of the benefits of the Atkins Diet include:
- being able to eat foods not normally included in other diets (such as steak, cream, olive oil and butter)
- being able to individualize diet plans to help you find your own Atkins Carb Equilibirum (ACE) and Critical Carbohydrate Level for Losing (CCLL)
- decreasing your serum triglyceride levels
- increasing your HDL ( “good ” cholesterol).
Because the Atkins Diet has been around for decades, another advantage of this diet plan is that there are numerous support groups and lots helpful information about this diet that can help you fully understand it and stick to it.
On the negative site, the Atkins Diet:
- can cause you to experience an electrolyte imbalance due to the your limited carbohydrate intake (Over time, electrolyte imbalances can cause more serious health problems.)
- limits your carbohydrate intake for the rest of your life, which can make it difficult for long-term weight loss maintenance (Similarly, many individuals following the Atkins diet recipes experience “Carb Crash ” marked by irritability and fatigue due to lack of carbohydrate intake.)
- can lead to acidic urine, which contributes to osteoporosis and kidney stones (Urine will get too acidic with excessive protein consumption.)
Since the Aktins Diet also requires you to eliminate many essential vitamins and minerals from your diet, keep in mind that you also need to take a supplement when following this diet plan. This supplement, however, does not include phytonutrients (organic plant nutrients). Prolonged lack of these nutrients may cause health problems.
Remember, before making any changes to your diet, contact your doctor to ensure that you are physically fit enough to handle the change. This is especially important if you have any chronic health problems, including kidney problems or diabetes.