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Health Guide Review: 3,1/5

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Atkins Diet Review

What is it?

The Atkins Diet is a diet plan for people looking for a low carbohydrate approach to weight loss. It emphasizes a high fat and high protein based approach to eating.

It’s currently one of the most popular choices for a low carbohydrate diet, and it started a new diet craze that other diet plans now use as a template.

You can find many different resources that offer support for using this diet properly. This includes:

  • Pre-packaged foods: Bars, full meals for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, shakes, and protein drinks are sold. These are available in many markets, often in the frozen section. You still have to read the nutrition facts as some of the foods such as granola bars do have carbohydrates you need to count
  • Free apps: You can use mobile applications to help you track your fats, protein, and carbohydrates. There’s also access to recipes and meal planning tips. You can find these tools on their official website.
  • Online videos: There’s free videos offered by the makers of this diet. It includes substitutions for common carbohydrate heavy meals such as kale chips, iced latte alternatives, and recipes. Since many people use this diet, there are also user submitted videos available.
  • Some healthy carbohydrates: The diet has you avoid processed refined grains and sugar sources, but it does advise to eat vegetables and certain fruits.

Dr. Robert Atkins came up with this diet and published a best selling book in 1972. When it came out it was criticized as offering far too much saturated fat to be considered healthy.

Now the Atkins Diet has been popularized since many claim that reducing carbohydrates is a healthy approach to weight loss. This diet provides 4 different phases that is meant to slowly introduce people to this diet.

 Foods Allowed by the Diet

A lot of the foods that you’ll be eating include:

  • Meats, chicken, seafood, and eggs.
  • Healthy fats such as nuts, avocado, and healthy oils.
  • Dairy.
  • Some fruits and vegetables.

Though it’s easier to note what you’ll be avoiding. This includes foods like pasta, bread, candy, potatoes, and heavy grains.

The company does make low carbohydrate noodles as well.

A free guide is offered on the official website that provides a full list of acceptable foods, as well as their carbohydrate content. You’re meant to use this information to track all the carbohydrates you eat.

How Does the Diet Work?

The company advises you work in this diet in 4 stages:

  • Phase 1: This stage prepares the body to start burning fats instead of carbohydrates. You start with a daily maximum of 20 grams of carbohydrates a day in veggie form. To put it in perspective, one medium banana has around 27 grams of carbohydrates. So you’ll likely be unable to eat anything beyond just vegetables.This stage gets the body used to what’s known as ketosis. This is a process in which your body uses ketone bodies that are made when fat is a primary fuel source, instead of glucose.This stage is considered the hardest to adopt, as you greatly restrict common foods. It’s also the most likely to lead to side effects and flu like symptoms known as keto flu.
  • Phase 2: You’re allowed a steady increase of nuts, low-carb vegetables, and some fruits. This stage is meant to get the body used to a well-rounded macronutrient ratio. You get around 5 grams of
    You continue this phase until you get around 10 pounds of your goal weight. It’s key to figure out what foods trigger cravings, so you can avoid these foods in the future. Certain foods you eat may give you the urge to overeat or feel bad; you add this to a list of foods that you shouldn’t eat.
  • Phase 3: Known as the pre-maintenance stage. You get to increase your net carbohydrates by 10 grams each week.8 glasses of water are required daily.  One you hit your goal weight; it’s advised to make sure you can maintain this for at least a month. Then after a month you can up your net carbohydrates another 10 grams to see how well your body reacts. If you end up gaining weight you know your carbohydrate intake should be lower.This phase is unique to each person and it’s specifically meant to help you figure out your own dietary needs.
  • Phase 4: The final stage is known as the lifetime maintenance period. You can go back down to any of the other stages if you end up gaining weight. It’s advised to keep following all the good habits that lead to your weight loss.

Since this plan is considered a lifestyle change, you’re advised to keep up with it for the rest of your life.

Another important point to consider is the quality of carbohydrates. You’ll have to read nutrition facts and research which foods you can eat. It’s also recommended to keep track of the carbohydrates eaten, so you don’t overeat. This can be hard to do especially when eating out, as there’s hidden amounts of carbohydrates even in healthy foods such as vegetables, fruits, and nuts.

An easy way to determine the total amount of calories is by subtracting fiber from carbohydrates. This is known as net carbs.

For example, take one whole cucumber. It has around 11 grams of carbs and 2 grams of fiber. You subtract this total and determine that one medium cucumber provides 9 grams of net carbs.

Pros

  • There’s pre-packaged meals available to make food selections easier. You can find these items in many major supermarkets, in both the frozen section and bars section.
  • Many free resources are available such as online groups, apps, and tools.
  • Carbohydrates aren’t banned, so you can still eat some healthy but low carbohydrate options.
  • You can read several books focused on the Atkins lifestyle. There are also many stories you can read from others who use this diet.
  • Some restaurants offer specific Atkins centered meals.

Cons

  • You have to restrict yourself and count carbohydrates especially in the beginning. For the first phase you get only 20 grams of carbohydrates, which is incredibly low.
  • Many of the ore-packaged foods have artificial ingredients, flavorings, and colors.
  • It can be hard to maintain for vegetarians who rely on grains for their protein.
  • Forbes magazine reviewed the sample menu offered by Atkins, and it was considered one of the most expensive diet plans. This is because the plan has recipes for lobster tails and other pricy foods.
  • Many studies show that eating this diet long term may have unwanted health consequences. This includes metabolic issues and a high saturated fat intake, which can lead to heart issues.

Better Alternatives to the Diet

This diet can be extremely restrictive and hard to maintain because you have to start with just 20 grams of carbohydrates a day. This limits virtually all fruits and grains.

Also, a study ran by QuackWatch reviewed Atkins and mentioned how it’s:

“not yet been determined whether such diets are safe for long-term usage”

The American Heart Association also has this to say:

“Scientific studies do not demonstrate (that Atkins style diets) without concomitant decreases in caloric intake result in sustained weight loss”

Therefore, continuing this style of diet may have unwanted long term complications. It’s also not proven to be effective for weight loss.

The Atkins Diet makers also admit that especially in the early stages, it’s possible to experience side effects such as:

  • Constipation
  • Fatigue and weakness.
  • Headaches and dizziness.

This is referred to as the keto flu stage, and it happens as the body readjusts from using glucose as a primary fuel source to ketones.

It can also lead to an almost chemical like taste and breathe.

Mayo Clinic also mentions that research into this diet has revealed that:

“studies show that low-carb diets like Atkins are no better for weight loss than are standard weight-loss diets”

One other complication is determining whether or not you’re losing water weight or fat. Athletes looking to lose weight will often limit their carbohydrates. By not eating as much carbohydrates you can lose up to 20 pounds of pure water weight, but it’s not fat loss.

It’s for all these reasons that an Atkins style diet has yet to be proven as an effective solution to overall health and weight loss.

Conclusion

It’s claimed that within the first 2 weeks of starting this diet that you’ll be able to lose upwards of 15 pounds. However, it’s also explained that this isn’t typical to all.

This diet plan can be incredibly restrictive, as you’re only allowed a certain amount of carbohydrates. For some this diet was too much to handle, as it caused what’s referred to as keto flu. This is what happens when the body transitions from glucose as a primary fuel source to instead using ketone bodies made from a fat heavy diet.

There are also lots of free resources online such as groups, apps, books, and other media. The main issue with this is that the Atkins Diet is yet to be considered a long-term healthy diet. Some studies by groups such as the American Heart Association show that this plan has not been proven to be safe.

There are better diet plans available that aren’t as restrict and potentially dangerous.

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