The Atkins diet was created by cardiologist Robert C. Atkins, M.D. and popularized by the best-seller „Dr. Atkins’ Diet Revolution”, published in 1972. The diet promotes a low-carb, high-protein, high-fat eating style.
Dr. Atkins’ theory is based on the fact that sugars and refined carbohydrates increase insulin levels, facilitating fat storage. Depriving the body of carbohydrates results in stored fat burning as energy. This induces the state of Benign Dietary Ketosis (BDK). Although it constitutes a supplementary strain for the kidneys, ketosis is seen as a target in the Atkins diet. For him it is a necessary state for losing weight,as it triggers appetite loss.
The Atkins diet plan consists of four phases: Induction, Ongoing weight loss, Premaintenance, and Maintenance.
This phase aims to induce lipolysis/ketosis, switching the metabolism to primarily burning fat for energy.
Ongoing Weight Loss
During Atkins’ second phase, the process of fat burning and dissolving goes on. The maximum level of carbohydrate intake will be established during this phase, so as to allow continuing the weight loss process and maintaining control of cravings. The carbs will be healthy and complex. The amount will be at the level of “subsistence”.
This phase prepares the body for the new eating style meant to maintain body weight. The level of weight loss decreases. New foods will be reintroduced as well as 20 more grams of carbs twice or three times a week. It is time to create your eating plan for the maintenance phase, which is supposed to keep your body line for the rest of your life. During this phase you will test whether the reintroduced foods will not bring cravings back. If so, you will need to go back a little to the stage where you can control your eating. You will establish your carbohydrate equilibrium. This lets you know how many carbs you can eat each day to maintain your weight.
This phase may be the most “liberal” but there is no turning back to the former eating habits. The diet is high in protein and poor in carbs.
The goal is to maintain your personal best carbohydrate level. Cravings should not return and the body weight is maintained.
For all phases of the diet, Dr. Atkins recommends weighing once a week, regular exercise and diet supplements.
Is the most restrictive phase. Hardly any carbs are allowed(maximum 20 grams per day). The carbs must be derived from non-starchy vegetables.
Foods to Enjoy
Eggs, meat, poultry, fish, processed meats in unlimited quantities.
Other Foods to Eat in Moderation
Cheese, cream, low GI vegetables, sugarfree spices, butter, many fats (especially olive oil).
Water, decaf, diet soda (with sucralose), herbal tea.
Foods to Avoid
Meat and fish products cured with nitrates, all grain products, all sugar products, caffeine, grain beverages (coffee substitutes).
Ongoing Weight Loss
The amount of allowed carbs increases each week by five grams. Thus, during the first week of phase 2 you are allowed 25 grams of carbs per day and during the second week, 30 grams per day, and so on. The increase is made until you stop losing weight. At this moment you subtract five grams of carbohydrates from your daily intake. This level allows weight maintenance.
The foods from phase 1 with the addition of more vegetables, some legumes, small portions of starchy vegetables, some fruit(especially berries), seeds and small portions of unprocessed grains.
The carbs intake increases by 10 grams each week for as long as the weight remains constant. As soon as an increase in weight is noticed, the increase of carbs intake is stopped – the final amount of carbs permitted represents the maximum that the body accepts without putting on weight.
All foods allowed during phase 2, with the addition of some carbs from: sweet potatoes, brown rice, legumes, oatmeal (not instant), whole grain breads and pastas.
The maintenance phase allows a wide variety of foods but it still restricts carbohydrates.
The permitted foods are mainly all foods reintroduced up to phase 3, with limited amounts of carbs.
Nutritional meal-replacements, snacks (Atkins Bars), shakes, diet sweets and syrups, cereals, pasta and bake mixes.
Advantages and Disadvantages
The diet might be effective for weight loss.
The diet contains far too much saturated fat and protein than the normal amounts for a healthy diet, and too little vitamin and fiber. It increases the risk of kidney stones, coronary disease, osteoporosis and cancer.
It seems that the dangers to health surpass the benefits of weight-loss. The diet is most likely to have negative effects on the state of health and is not advisable for people who are ill.