The Atkins Diet

The Atkins Diet was developed as a high protein, low carb diet with several phases. It is similar to the South Beach Diet which restricts diets to specific carbs during each phase.

Like the Low Carb Diet, GI Diet and South Beach Diet, the Atkins Diet recommends that dieters restrict their food intake to foods with a low-glycaemic value. Foods with a low glycaemic value take longer to digest and do not put 'spikes' in the blood sugar levels.

There are numerous books and web sites available which provide recipes and tips for staying on the diet. Most also provide lists of what can and cannot be eaten during each phase.

How The Diet Works

The main theory behind the diet is that consuming too many carbs is what is causing our overweight problem. The human body uses fats and carbs for energy but burns the carbs first. By reducing the number of carbs we consume, our bodies are forced to burn the stored fat. With this diet, an individual chooses to eat low-carb, nutrient dense foods along with fats and proteins, from a list of approved food items.

The Atkins Diet is divided into four phases.

Phase 1 is the Introduction Phase and normally lasts 14 days. Most people lose a number of pounds during the two week period. However, many people stay continuing with this phase for 6 months or more because once you progress to the next phase, weight loss drops dramatically. During Phase 1, the dieter consumes no more than 20 grams of carbs per day. The purpose of limiting the daily carb intake to 20 grams or less is to send your body into ketosis. During keytosis, the body burns fat for energy. Advocates of the Atkins diet say that you can safely stay in Phase 1 as long as a) blood chemistries and blood pressure remains stable, b) you feel well, have a high energy level and sleep patterns are normal and c) you are not bored. Boredom often leads to cheating.

Phase 2 is the Ongoing Weight Loss (OWL) phase. During this phase carb allowance is increased by 5 grams per week until weight loss discontinues. When weight loss stops, remove the preceding 5 grams from your daily allotment. More choices are allowed during this time and that means a better variety of foods. Slower weight loss is experienced during period.

Phase 3 is the Pre-Maintenance phase. This is the transition from Phase 2 to Phase 4. Weight maintenance is achieved by increasing your gram intake in increments of 10 grams per week. The dieter continues to increase the carbohydrates until weight loss slows to one pound per week.

Phase 4 is the Lifetime Maintenance phase. At this time, the dieter should be at their goal weight. This final phase is used to control carbohydrate intake and ensure a lifetime of weight management.

Benefits of the Diet

The Atkins diet offers many benefits. The diet encourages you to eat foods composed of good carbs, fat and protein.

The main benefit of the Atkins diet is that the majority of the people in-fact do lose weight. It helps to improve your HDL cholesterol, helps to lower your risk of cardiovascular disease, hypertension and diabetes.

Side Effects

The restrictive carbohydrate intake during Phase 1 has been known to cause bad breath and constipation for some people. Other side effects include headache, nausea, diarrhea, muscle weakness, cramps, and constipation.

Many experts agree the side effects are the result of carbohydrate deficiency. The brain and muscles are not getting enough sugar from carbs to maintain normal functions. Many nutritionists are against the Atkins diet and recommend eating a well balanced diet consisting of fats, proteins and carbohydrates including plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables.


For most people, the weight loss aspect of the Atkins diet works very well. Although the Atkins diet plan remains unproven, many people who start on the plan continue to remain on the plan due to the dramatic weight loss.

Dieters are urged to include a regular exercise program along with the diet. Vitamin supplements are also encouraged.