The Atkins diet was first introduced by Dr. Robert Atkins in 1978 as the Atkins Diet Revolution. It is a multi-phase low-carbohydrate diet. Much like the Dukan diet, it involves a first phase that drastically reduces the amount of carbohydrates in the diet, and gradually reintroduces them throughout the next 3 phases. Atkins has been one of the most popular diets of the last 30 years.
The induction phase claims to flip a switch in your body, so that you burn fat (including body fat) instead of carbohydrates for energy, which should, in turn, jump start your weight loss. This is done by eating no more than 20 net carbs over the day. Atkins.com recommends that most of these carbs are vegetables that are high in vitamins, minerals, and fibre. Since this diet is so focused on low carbs, there is a high emphasis on protein, and artificial sweeteners. This phase lasts at least 2 weeks.
What you can eat
- All fish (including shellfish), fowl, and meat
- Eggs, cheese
- most vegetables – no potatoes
- Fats and oils such as butter, olive oil, and coconut oil
- Artificial sweeteners
- Coffee, tea, diet soda
Ongoing Weight Loss Phase
The next phase of the Atkins plan is Ongoing Weight Loss or OWL. This phase gradually increases the net carbs by 5 daily net grams per week. The main goal is to figure out the amount of carbs you can eat while still losing weight. OWL also brings more variety into the diet, including nuts and seeds, and more vegetables. This phase should last until you have approximately 10 lbs left to lose.
What you can eat
- Everything from induction phase
- Nuts and seeds
- Low-carb fruits including melon and berries
- Atkins-branded bars and shakes
This third phase of the Atkins diet involves the most experimentation. Dr Atkins instructs you to slow your weight loss in order for your body to recognize that this weight is meant to stay off, rather than yo-yo back on. To do this, you will again test your carbohydrate tolerance. You are instructed to increase your weekly net carbs by 10 net carbs per day, and evaluate if your weight loss stalls, or simply slows down. In this phase you also reintroduce higher-carbohydrate fruits, starchy vegetables, and whole grains to determine how your body reacts to them. Again, you evaluate whether your body responds to the increase in carbs by stalling or gaining weight, or simply slowing down as the plan suggests. If you find that your weight loss has stopped, or you are starting to gain weight, you are instructed to eliminate those foods you have reintroduced. This will bring you to your Atkins Carbohydrate Equilibrium (ACE), the amount of carbs you should be eating to sustain your long-term weight loss. This phase should last a month.
What you can eat
- Everything from OWL phase
- Starchy vegetables like squash, potatoes, and carrots
- Beans and legumes
- All fruits
- Whole grains – brown rice, whole oats, whole wheat pasta
Lifetime Maintenance Phase
This phase is where you should be for the rest of your life. You have lost the weight you wanted to, and are now trying to maintain a healthy weight for life. Your new way of eating should become a habit, enabling you to successfully keep the weight off. According to this plan, as long as you keep to your ACE number, you will stay within 5lbs of your goal weight. You can eat everything you successfully reintroduced in Pre-maintenance phase. If you find yourself gaining too much weight, readjust your ACE number as you did in Pre-maintenance phase until you are happy with your weight again.
Many people have had success with the Atkins diet; however there are some side effects to this diet plan. Because the first two phases are so high in protein and low in carbohydrates, the body goes into ketosis, which is the burning of fat for energy. This causes constipation, as well as sickly-sweet breath. It is importation to monitor your overall health as well as your weight loss during this plan, to ensure that you are not making yourself sick with these side effects.