There would hardly be anyone who is not interested in losing weight. While some of us may seek the help of a professional nutritionist or trainer, many of us end up finding about diets and eating habits from others.
One such diet that has been highly popular and widely followed is the Atkins diet.
What Is Atkins Diet?
Limited consumption of carbohydrates is one of the pre-requisites of weight loss. The Atkins Diet has been devised keeping this in mind. As the name suggests, the Atkins diet was designed by Dr. Robert Atkins, an American cardiologist. He first wrote about it in the 1970s in his book, “The New Diet Revolution”.
This diet is based on the premise that you can lose weight by restricting the consumption of carbs while consuming as much protein and fat as you desire. Though the claim is rather controversial, the diet did yield positive results in many cases and has become extremely popular over the last decade.
In short, this Atkins diet plan imposes a severe restriction on carbohydrate intake including foods with sugar, bread, cereal, starchy vegetables and pasta.
The Atkins Diet:
|Resemblance||South Beach Diet, Eco-Atkins, Paleo Diet|
|Claim||You can lose up to 15 pounds within 2 weeks and still eat fatty food.|
How Does Atkins Diet Work?
The theory of Atkins diet can be explained in a simple way. Our body is similar to an engine and the carbs are the fuel needed to make it run. When the availability or rather consumption of carbs is restricted, the engine (our body) is forced to use alternative fuel, i.e. stored fat.
Drastic reduction in carbs forces the body to burn body fat for energy. This process is known as ‘Ketosis’, where the stored fats are converted into fatty acids. A person in a state of ketosis gets energy from ‘Ketones.’ These are little carbon fragments that are created by the breakdown of stored layers of fat. In this stage, you tend to feel less hungry and hence, likely to eat less.
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Another reason for the Atkins Diet to cause weight loss is that carbs stimulate the production of insulin. Insulin converts excess carbs into fat, resulting in increased hunger and weight gain. By restricting the intake of carbohydrates, Atkins diet stimulates the body’s metabolism. This causes the body to burn body fat rather than burn glucose. Moreover, less carbs lead to less insulin formation and hence, less fat creation.
Phases of Atkins Diet
Atkins Diet Plan involves four stages or phases, of which the induction stage is the toughest to follow. Each phase is well defined and less restrictive on the intake of carbs than the previous one. There is no specific duration of each phase as it largely depends upon the extra weight of the person. The four phases of Atkins Diet are explained below.
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Phase I – Induction:
This is the introductory phase in the Atkins diet where the intake of carbohydrates is restricted to just 20 grams a day. In the first two weeks, focus on the consumption of low carb foods such as green vegetables, salads, meat, seafood and eggs.
- You can try cooking with eggs, chicken breasts, fish, canola or olive oil, cheese, yoghurt, veggies and nuts.
- Low carb Indian dishes like moong dal, dosa and paneer are perfect for the Atkins Induction Phase.
- The purpose of this phase is to induce a change in your body chemistry. This leads to ‘Lipolysis’ (burning of fat for energy) and ‘Ketosis’ which enables your body to switch over from using glucose for energy to using fat.
- Thus, this phase is not only meant to cause fat reduction but also suppresses your appetite.
Phase II – On-going Weight Loss (OWL):
In the second phase, carbohydrates are slowly re-introduced in your diet. This results in the slowing down of weight loss to 1 to 2 pounds per week. The daily intake of carbs is increased by 5 grams a day. In this stage, you can add dairy products, nuts, berries, fruits and grains in your diet.
- You can have dry roti or a slice of brown bread with peanut butter for breakfast.
- Nuts like almonds, peanuts, walnuts and cashew nuts are filling snacks to satisfy your hunger.
- A dosa made from “besan” (chickpea flour) is a good low carb substitute for roti.
This stage continues till the dieter is 5 to 10 pounds away from the desired weight loss and is basically concerned with increasing the food choices while continuing the diet program safely.
[ Read: Low Carb diet ]
Phase III – Pre-Maintenance:
In this phase, weight loss slows down even further as the dieters near their goal weight. It aims to increase the carb consumption by 10 grams a day. According to Dr Atkins diet, this stage should last for about 2 to 3 months. It is basically a learning phase for dieters on how to maintain their ideal weight using the Akins approach. Complex carbs like beans, peas and starchy vegetables are introduced in this phase.
- You can add some high carb vegetables to your dishes such as green peas, black eyed peas, rajma sprouts etc.
- A single serving of low carb fruits can also be incorporated such as mangoes, strawberries, apples, oranges, grapes, grapefruit, cantaloupes, dried and fresh apricots, plums and peaches.
Phase IV – Lifetime Maintenance:
As evident from its name, this phase lasts for the rest of your life. The aim of this phase is to maintain the healthy weight obtained in the course of the diet. However, if you gain weight again, you have to go back and start from the induction phase. In the maintenance phase, you become aware of the needs of your body regarding the intake of carbs. You need to know the maximum carbohydrates that can be taken without gaining weight. You can continue to enjoy low carb foods such as roti or brown rice. As Dr. Atkins puts it, “this lifestyle is the foundation for a lifetime of better health.”
Atkins Diet Food List: What to Eat and What to Avoid
The induction phase is the most important phase of the Atkins diet. The following foods can be consumed during the induction phase to limit your carb intake to 20 grams a day.
This diet plan emphasizes on the consumption of proteins such as meat, seafood and eggs. These foods have little or no carbohydrate.
Most of the carbohydrate in this diet comes from vegetables. You should be aware about the carbohydrate content of the veggies you are consuming. This will help to ensure that the total carb count is not more than 12 to 15 grams a day.
3. Fats and Oils:
People resorting to Atkins Diet are not prohibited from eating fatty foods. In fact, adequate fat consumption is vital for this diet to succeed. Dieters are advised to maintain a balance of natural fats and avoid trans-fat completely. You can eat plenty of cold water fish and other foods that contain omega 3 fatty acids. Cook your food in virgin and extra virgin olive oil. Corn, soy, sunflower, and safflower oils should be avoided. Butter and other sources of saturated fat, such as coconut, should be eaten in balance with other fats. Avoid eating margarine unless it is trans-fat free.
Cheeses can be eaten as they have less than a gram of carbohydrate per ounce. Atkins diet permits 3 to 4 ounces per day during induction. You can have cream cheese but avoid cottage cheese, farmer’s cheese or other fresh cheeses. While choosing mayonnaise, go for a regular full fat mayonnaise.
Atkins Diet advises drinking at least 8 glasses of water per day. You can drink soda water or carbonated water with sugar-free flavourings. Avoid any beverage with sugar in it including juice and cider. Herbal teas or decaffeinated beverages can be introduced. Diet sodas sweetened with sucralose are also acceptable. Clear broths are suitable as they are very low in carbs.
6. Foods Prohibited during Induction:
Certain food items should be avoided during the induction phase. The list given below includes, but is not limited to these food items.
- Any food that includes added sugars, which is mostly processed food. The list includes soft drinks, fruit juices, agave, candies and ice creams.
- Gluten grains like wheat, spelt, rye and barley. It includes items made from these grains such as breads, cakes, pastries, pastas and anything made of flour.
- Trans fats such as hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated fats
- Fruits and fruit juices
- Dairy products except certain cheeses and cream in limited quantities
- Starchy vegetables like potatoes, beets, corn etc.
- Legumes such as bean and peas
- High omega 6 and vegetable oils such as cottonseed, soybean, sunflower, grape seed, corn, safflower and canola oils.
- Alcoholic beverages
- Artificial sweeteners such as Aspartame, saccharin, sucralose, cyclamates and Acesulfame Potassium
7. Foods Allowed after Induction:
The following foods can be reintroduced after induction:
- Fresh cheeses such as cottage, ricotta etc
- Seeds such as sunflower seeds
- Other naturally low carb foods like unsweetened soy or almond milk, soy flour, coconut milk and other speciality low carb foods.
Benefits Of Atkins Diet:
Atkins diet plan has been studied in detail to understand its effects on the human body. It has proved to be moderately successful, especially in the first couple of weeks. The participants can gain the following benefits from the Atkins diet:
1. Weight Loss:
Weight loss is the major benefit of this diet. The drastic reduction in carbohydrates causes your body to burn fat for energy. The ultimate result is weight loss.
2. Simple to Follow:
This dietary plan is relatively simple to follow. All you need to do is learn what to eat and focus on basic carb counts.
3. Highlights Correct Carbs Level:
The biggest strength of this diet is that it enables you to know the correct carb level that you require to maintain a healthy weight. Different people have different levels of sensitivity to carbohydrates and this diet is a way to know your own level.
4. Weight Maintenance:
Atkins diet not only helps in losing weight but also in maintaining it. The diet enables you to determine the level of carb intake at which you can maintain a healthy weight through the eventual increase in the amount of carbs consumed.
5. Promotes Good Health:
Atkins diet encourages you to eat nutrition rich foods along with vitamin and nutritional supplements, when needed. Thus, it promotes good health.
6. Disease Prevention:
As stated earlier, restricting your carb intake lowers the insulin levels of the body, thus making it effective in prevention of diseases like diabetes. Research has indicated that followers of Atkins Diet have healthier blood pressure levels, better cholesterol levels and less weight gain in comparison to other diets.
7. Promotes Balanced Diet:
Atkins diet has been modified over the years to incorporate a variety of foods including lean protein, vegetables, fruits, nuts, legumes and in certain cases whole grains and healthy fats.
Drawbacks Of Atkins Diet:
Atkins diet is effective if you stick to it, but the problem lies in compliance. People who start with this diet are often unable to continue with it on a long term basis.
The induction phase is the most difficult phase of this plan and does not always have a positive effect. Most people suffer from carb crash within 3 to 5 days and are unable to proceed with this diet due to this negative reaction.
2. Difficult to Stay on Low Carbs:
It is rather difficult to get all the nutrients from an extremely low carb diet. The problem worsens if induction continues for more than 2 weeks. According to Atkins, some people are metabolically resistant to stay on a very low carb diet permanently to lose weight or maintain weight loss. But the fact remains that though vitamins and minerals can be replaced with supplements, phytonutrients cannot. This can lead to long-term health issues.
A low carb diet like Atkins becomes boring very quickly, particularly during the induction phase, before it yields the desired results. This is one of the reasons why people turn away from low carb diets.
4. Confusing after Induction:
One of the drawbacks of Atkins Diet is that it is difficult to find out what carb level would work for each individual after the induction phase. Carb counting requires a lot of effort and it is all the more difficult to stick to it. It involves some experimentation to figure out what works best for you.
So, if you think you need to lose some weight and are ready to walk that extra mile, try Atkins Diet Menu Plan.