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All About the Atkins Diet

Jan 24, 2008
Dr. Robert Atkins originally created the Atkins diet in the 1970's. The popularity of this low-carb diet reached its zenith about ten years ago, but it is believed that today as many as twenty-five million Americans may be on low-carb diets at any given time.

How Does a Low-Carb Diet Work?

The Atkins diet is based on Dr. Atkins' theory that the over-consumption of carbohydrates is the root of most people's problems with weight gain. The body is fueled by sugar, whether it is the natural sugar found in foods or the processed sugar added to many foods. When your body runs out of sugar to use as fuel, it uses carbohydrates instead. Carbohydrates are long chains of sugars, which the body breaks down into sugar. Atkins believes that when people limit the carbohydrates available, they force the body to use its fat reserves as fuel.

Atkins believes that our body adjusts to having too many carbohydrates in an unhealthy way by affecting our insulin responses, essentially a precursor of diabetes. On the low-carb-high-protein diet the body's insulin response regulates itself, and the result is a smaller appetite and easier weight loss. An active lifestyle is also a key component of the Atkins diet, since no calories of any kind can be burned without exercise.

The Atkins Diet in Stages

The Atkins diet progresses in stages. The basic stages are induction, ongoing weight loss, pre-maintenance, and maintenance.

The induction lasts for 14 days and involves rapid weight loss by limiting carb intake to only 20 grams a day, as compared to the 300 grams of carbs in the average daily diet. During this period, a person only consumes carbs through green vegetables and salad leaves. Fruit, other vegetables, yogurts, potatoes, rice, bread, alcohol and pasta are all forbidden.

During the ongoing weight loss stage, the carb intake is increased to 25 grams a day. After, the weight loss will eventually stabilize and the carb intake will need to be adjusted again. However, the Atkins diet does not eliminate meal variety. You can still indulge in lean meats, poultry, nut butters, salad greens and other such foods.

In the pre-maintenance stage, the weight loss is less obvious and certain foods are tested back into the diet to see if they can be safely added without causing weight gain. If you gain weight, however, you must go back a phase or two until you are stable again. This is because every person's body reacts differently to different foods. Some people may do fine on Atkins with diet drinks, for example, while others bloat with the artificial sweeteners. Keeping a journal to record what you ate the week you lost the most weight can help monitor the foods that react well with your body.

The basics of the last stage of the Atkins diet, the maintenance stage, are simple. The goal weight is reached and one food is re-introduced into the diet at a time so that you can safely judge what foods will cause weight gain and need to be removed again. The Atkins diet primarily allows the consumption of plenty of meat, poultry, fish, and eggs, and gradually allows the consumption of additional vegetables and fruit as well.

The Safety of the Atkins Diet

Some researchers believe that there are health risks that can result from following the Atkins diet. For example, certain experts say that the high protein diet leads to high cholesterol. Others advise that 150 grams of carbs daily are necessary for proper body and brain function. Weight loss experts feel that the Atkins diet is not for people with a risk of heart disease, and that the restriction of fruits and vegetables is counter-productive to good nutrition. They stress that all reduction of calories, coupled with exercise, results in the burning of fat.

There is very little doubt in the minds of most that adhering to the Atkins diet will help you to successfully lose weight. There are so many motivational stories today about people who have reached their weight loss goals by following the high-protein-low-carb diet that Dr. Atkins created and recommends. Those who have lost weight fast on the Atkins diet are pleased with the results and support the diet program. Your doctor can help you determine whether this diet program is indeed the best choice for your weight loss goals.
About the Author
Steve Dolan is a diet specialist who has spent years helping people achieve their dieting goals. Find out more about the Atkins diet at Atkins Diet and for more health tips try Healthy Living
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