Atkins Diet – Overview
The Atkins diet involves limited consumption of carbohydrates to switch the body’s metabolism from metabolizing glucose as energy over to converting stored body fat to energy. This process, called ketosis, begins when insulin levels are low; in normal humans, insulin is lowest when blood glucose levels are low (mostly before eating). Reduced insulin levels induces lipolysis which consumes fat to produce ketone bodies. On the other hand, caloric carbohydrates (for example, glucose or starch, the latter made of chains of glucose) affect the body by increasing blood sugar after consumption (in the treatment of diabetes, blood sugar levels are used) Fiber, because of its low digestibility, provides little or no food energy and does not significantly affect glucose and insulin levels.
The Four Phases of Atkins Diet
There are four phases of the Atkins diet: induction, ongoing weight loss, pre-maintenance and lifetime maintenance.
Induction is the first phase of the Atkins Diet and is meant to last for two weeks. It is highly restrictive, limiting food choices mainly to proteins and low-carb vegetables. A maximum of 20 grams of net carbs is allowed.
No more than 20 grams of Carbs. per day. This includes eating 2 to 3 cups salad vegetables a day or other low carb vegetables. The focus of your meals should be on protein and fats. Examples, Meat, nuts, cheese, olives, cream, sour cream and other low carb foods. Do not skip meals. During the Atkins Induction Phase you should not consume fruit, bread, pasta, grains, starchy vegetables, flour, sugar or legumes. It is preferable that you do not eat nuts or seeds during induction. It is preferable that most of the 20 grams of carbs. that you eat during the induction phase come from salad greens and other non starchy vegetables. Never assume that a food is low in carbs. Always check the carb count on the package or use a carbohydrate counter.
Ongoing Weight Loss
Phase 2 of Atkins diet is called Ongoing Weight Loss or OWL. Most people spend the majority of their weight loss time in this phase. Initially the differences between Induction and OWL are very small. In OWL, the idea is that you gradually reintroduce other carbohydrate foods bit by bit, while continuing to lose weight.
- Gradually add carbohydrates in the form of nutrient-dense foods, increasing to 25 grams of Net Carbs per day the first week, and moving up each week or every several weeks by 5-gram increments until weight loss stops.
- Continue to stay in control of your appetite and lose weight.
At the Atkins diet phase 3, add 10 grams of carbohydrates per week, and continue doing so until you lose less than half a kilogram (about a pound) per week. The carbohydrate intake at this point is the amount that the body needs to maintain its weight. The aim of the third phase is to find the ideal balance between your target weight and the quantity of carbohydrate consumed.
The final step in the Atkins diet is Lifetime Maintenance, also called the Nutritional Approach.
By this stage of the diet you have discovered the foods that work best for you and the amount of carbs you can consume daily in order to maintain your weight, also known as your ACE (Atkins Carbohydrate Equilibrium), introduced in phase 3. Your ACE will be the most important number to you as long as you are committed to keeping the weight off. Sticking to this number will ensure that you stay at or around your goal weight, give or take 5 pounds, which is the objective of Lifetime Maintenance.
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