Atkins Diet Revealed
The Atkins Diet Plan - A Weight Loss Breakthrough - or Just an Unhealthy Fad?
Although low carb diets have been around in one form or another for years, the diet most associated with a low carb approach is the Atkins diet. Atkins is one of the strictest low carb approaches.
It was created by founder Dr Robert Atkins who claimed he used it to resolve his own weight problem. The diet originally got attention because it produced rapid weight loss. Also people liked the fact that dieters could eat as much as they wanted - of certain foods like meat, cheese, eggs, etc.
However it did get criticized by other medical authorities for the emphasis on 'unhealthy' foods like red meat, cheese, bacon and all the saturated fats that went along with it.
While the older Atkins approach was extremely low carb, the newer Atkins plan has gone through some changes and is now more focused on overall health (less of a red meat, cheese and saturated fat buffet).
The changes made to the 'newer' Atkins diet, involve more carbs being allowed in later phases of the diet - which can make it easier to follow.
How The Diet Works:
The Atkins diet is basically a ketogenic diet. What is a ketogenic diet?
Well, your body basically has 2 forms of fuel it can burn: glucose (from carbs like bread, fruit, cookies, pizza, oatmeal etc.) or fat (from protein and fats like eggs, meat, cheese, some veggies etc.).
Your body prefers to burn carbs if that's what you give it. When you eat carbs, your body produces the hormone insulin to get the sugar (from the breakdown of the carbs) into your cells to be burned for energy.
Insulin however is also a fat-storage hormone that signals your body to store fat. So when you're producing high amounts of insulin, your body wants to hold on to extra fat and not burn it.
However when you are not eating a lot of carbs, your body turns to it's second source of energy - burning fat for fuel. In this state, you don't make as much insulin and your body is no longer in a fat-storage mode, but a fat-burning mode.
In theory then, your body will turn to burning the fat in your food as well as the fat from your hips, thighs and belly.
The proof that your body has switched to burning fat for energy instead of glucose is the production of ketone bodies (which you can test for in your urine). Hence the term "ketogenic diet". Your body is burning fat (and making ketones) instead of carbs/glucose.
The Atkins diet consists of four different phases. The first phase will be the strictest phase and where your carbohydrate content is very low.
You'll focus on only eating protein rich foods, vegetables, and healthy fats, and this will serve to jump-start your fat loss.
After the first phase is completed, you'll add slightly more carbohydrates to the plan, however it will still be very low carb in nature with only foods such as berries or some higher carb vegetables being added.
Phase three takes the carbohydrate content higher, allowing in some slow-digesting grains, more fruits, and some starchy vegetables. At this point you will have accomplished most of your weight loss and just be working to get off the last few pounds.
Finally, phase four of this plan is the maintenance phase and you'll now add more healthy carbs to the diet in order to maintain the weight loss over time.
A typical day during the first part of this plan may have you eating an omelette with diced vegetables for breakfast, a grilled chicken salad with toasted almonds for lunch, a few slices of cheese for a snack, and a steak with steamed broccoli and olive oil for dinner.
How Does It Rate?
Is It Fast?
For many people the Atkins diet works very quickly. Depending on how much weight you have to lose, and how active you are, you can lose from 2 - 4 pounds a week on the strict induction phase and from 1 - 3 pounds on later phases of the diet.
However you should note that you still have to watch calories on this diet in order to lose weight. A free-for-all meat binge is not going to take the weight off (nor is it healthy).
One problem people run into is that they go crazy eating low carb foods but find they don't lose any weight - because they're still eating way too many calories.
Is It Easy To Follow?
The first phase can be difficult, and even moreso if you are very active (your body actually needs glucose for heavy, intense exercise). However the later phases are easier to follow with more healthier carbs being introduced.
It can be a bit of a challenge to follow a low-carb diet (you have to buy low-carb treats, prepare the meals yourself etc.) However, as with any lifestyle change, you just have to learn where you can buy the special foods and how to prepare them.
Is It Safe?
As stated above, the older version of the Atkins diet was criticized for a heavy emphasis on high fat foods like meats, bacon, sausage, cheeses and creams. However the newer Atkins is much more reasonable and tries to focus on whole, healthier foods with less saturated fat.
It should be noted as well that while Atkins can be good for diabetics or people with blood sugar problems, they also run the risk of their blood sugars running too low. So they should work with their doctor to watch their diet and reduce their medications as needed.
Does It Permit 'Treats'?
Not on the first phase. However later phases are more relaxed. Also, there are plenty of 'low carb' treats you can now buy in the stores that are Atkins-approved and/or low carb.
With the discovery and use of low-carb sweeteners like Stevia and Xylitol it's now easier than ever to make low-carb treats like brownies and cookies. So you don't have to go without, even on a low carb diet.
Is There Support?
You can find message boards and online communities as well as plenty of recipes online. There are also many support sources for low-carb diets (not just Atkins) online as well.
Final Grade: C+
The Atkins diet is a ketogenic, low-carb approach that can help take off weight fairly quickly (if used correctly). It's also great for people with blood sugar issues and diabetics.
The newer Atkins diet does allow for more carbs in later phases which will help you to feel more energetic and stick to the diet. However it's also fair to note that there are many low-carb diet approaches out there, so you're not just limited to Atkins.
The diet can be a challenge to follow as you have to buy and prepare your own foods and can easily get stalled in weight loss if you're not also careful about your calories.
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