Atkins Diet Basics
The Atkins diet is not a new phenomenon. The diet first appeared in the late 1970s and has grown popularity in recent years in response to the low-fat diet craze. As dieters had trouble with low-fat plans, they searched for a new solution and Dr. Atkins’ New Diet Revolution book found a new audience.
A lot of people have jumped on the Atkins bandwagon and there has been a lot of hype as a result. But what are the basic principles of the Atkins diet?
The Atkins diet is based on a theory of why we get fat. According to Dr. Atkins, the over-consumption of carbohydrates and simple sugars leads to weight gain. The way your body processes the carbohydrates you eat have more to do with your waistline than the amount of fat or calories that you consume. In his book, Atkins outlines a phenomenon called “insulin resistance.” He theorizes that many overweight people have cells that do not work correctly.
When you eat excess carbohydrates and sugar, your body notices that sugar levels are elevated. Insulin is released from the pancreas in order to store sugar as glycogen in the liver and muscle cells for extra energy later on. However, your body can only store so much glycogen at once. As soon as your body reaches its limit for glycogen storage, the excess carbohydrates are stored as fat. This happens to everyone who eats too many carbohydrates.
However, insulin resistant individuals have an even harder time of using and storing excess carbohydrates. The more insulin that your body is exposed to, the more resistant it becomes. Overtime, the pancreas releases more insulin and cells become insulin resistant. The cells are trying to protect themselves from the toxic effects of high insulin. They create less glycogen and more fat.
As a result, insulin resistant individuals gain extra weight. The carbohydrates get converted into fat instead of energy. Other side effects include fatigue, brain “fog” (the inability to focus, poor memory, loss of creativity), low blood sugar (which can leads to hypoglycemia), intestinal bloating, sleepiness, depression and increased blood sugar. There is much more than weight at stake when you are insulin resistant.
The remedy for people who are insulin resistant is a diet restricted in carbohydrates. The crux of the Atkins diet is a limitation of carbohydrates in all of its forms. The foods restricted on the Atkins plan include simple sugars (like cookies, sodas and sweets) and complex carbohydrates (like bread, rice and grains). Even carbohydrates that are considered healthy, such as oatmeal, brown rice and whole wheat bread, are restricted on the program.
The diet has you restrict your carbohydrate intake to less than 40 grams a day. This will put your body in a state of ketosis. While in ketosis, your body will burn fat as fuel. According to Dr. Atkins’ research, the ketosis state will also affect insulin production and it will prevent more fat from being formed. Your body will begin using your stored fat as an efficient form of fuel, and you’ll lose weight.
Another benefit of the Atkins plan is that ketosis will end your cravings for carbohydrates. If you’ve been living on a carb-heavy diet, you may have found that you simply cannot get enough carbohydrates. With carbohydrate restriction and ketosis comes a reduction in carbohydrate cravings. People who have been on the Atkins diet for some time report that they do not crave carbohydrates as they once did.
Although the initial phases of the Atkins diet are rather strict, the program teaches you to restore balance to your diet in the long run. People who use the diet slowly reintroduce minimal amounts of carbohydrate into their eating until they find a comfortable balance between their health and carbohydrate use.
The basic principles of the Atkins diet have been adapted to many other low-carb diet plans. However, Atkins popularity still remains strong as one of the most effective low-carbohydrate solutions for those who are insulin resistant.
Planning for Atkins
When it comes to the Atkins diet, your success will lie in your planning. Making sure you have the proper foods on hand when you begin your diet will go a long way toward your ongoing weight loss. There are many suggestions for Atkins diet meals in the Atkins books, and there are plenty of resources online for Atkins and low-carb recipes.Planning your meals and snacks will be an important part of your life when you are on this diet. That advice really goes for any diet. When you eat whatever you like, you gain weight. Your current weight and health problems are a direct result of letting your eating habits go unchecke
d for so long.As with all diet plans, becoming used to the Atkins way of eating is going to take some time and adjustment. The standard American diet relies heavily on carbohydrates and other restricted foods. Many people grew up on carbohydrate heavy favorites like spaghetti and meatballs, meat and potatoes and pasta casserole. It is going to take some effort and patience to get used to eating in an entirely new way.
There are two different approaches you can take in adjusting your diet. You can find replacements for your favorite foods with “mock” carbohydrates. For example, lasagna made with eggplant or zucchini instead of pasta is much more carb-friendly than the regular variety. Spaghetti squash noodles make a good substitute for spaghetti noodles. There are also many low-carb or carb-free replacements for bread, pasta and sugar products.
The second approach is to find out how to make new recipes that center around meats and other low-carb foods. There are a wide variety of meats that are acceptable on the Atkins plan. If you are used to just eating ground beef or chicken on a weekly basis, you’ll be surprised by the variety of meats that are out there. Try incorporating pork, lamb and ham into your weekly routine. You can also experiment with game fowl like Cornish hen, quail and pheasant. If you’ve never been a fan of fish, try a different variety. Some people who don’t like trout find they have a love of salmon or another fish. Don’t forget shellfish like mussels, clams and shrimp. These foods are all acceptable and can add variety to your diet.
Make sure to have some easy to prepare foods on hand for snacks and quick meals. For example, thin sliced cucumbers, radishes and celery mixed with lemon mayonnaise makes a great low-carb meal or dinner salad. Fried peppers, mushrooms and garlic served on arugula with feta cheese is another good option.
Research and try out different low-carb recipes so you have a good base of knowledge of what to prepare for meals. The most important step you can take in losing weight is planning. Getting a good arsenal of easy to prepare meals will prevent you from hitting the drive through or going to a restaurant and breaking your diet.
If you have delicious food to look forward to everyday, you’ll be less bored with your diet. Even during the restrictive induction phase, there are many food combinations that you can use. At first glance, the vegetable and meat options may seem restrictive. But this is only in comparison to what you have been used to eating. With a little planning and creativity, you can find something interesting to eat everyday.
Is Atkins right for you
The Atkins diet is very popular, but is it right for you? Before you start down the low carb road, you should take some time to decide whether low carb is the right way for you to lose weight. Just because it has been effective for others doesn’t mean it will be right for you. No specific diet works for everyone, and you may even find that a type of low carb diet that works better for you than another. There are many things to consider before you start the Atkins diet.
First, evaluate your past dieting history. If you’ve been trying to lose weight for a long period of time, you’ve no doubt tried a wide variety of diets. Take note of the different diets you’ve tried over the years. Write down the basics of each diet, what worked and what didn’t. Also, write down why you didn’t stay on the particular diet. Evaluate your experience with high carbohydrate diets. These types of diets include most low-fat and calorie controlled diets. How did you feel while on these types of diets? Were you hungry, obsessed with food or experiencing negative reactions? Or did you feel full of energy and generally good?
If you’ve had experience with low carb diets, write that down as well. Past the negative effects of the first week, how did eating low carb make you feel? Why did you stop using the low carb diet?
The answers to these questions will help you decide whether Atkins is right for you or not. If you’ve had good experiences with low-fat diets and bad experiences with other low carb diets, then Atkins is probably not for you. If other low-carb diets have worked but not without difficulty, then you may have been on the wrong type of low-carb diet and Atkins might work better. If you’ve had bad experiences with both types of diets, then you may have better success with a modified Atkins diet.
Your food and eating behaviors can also give you a clue to whether or not Atkins is a good choice for your weight loss efforts. Carb sensitivities are indicated by a certain set of behaviors. You may be carb sensitive if you feel like eating right after you’ve finished a meal. You will also feel strong urges to eat throughout the day. You may feel dizzy, fuzzyheaded and fatigued without getting a boost from sugar or another carbohydrate. Carb sensitivity is also shown when you feel sluggish after eating. This occurs especially after you eat a meal rich in sugars and carbohydrates. If you experience these symptoms frequently, you may have carb sensitivities. Try paying close attention to how carbohydrates affect you and if you continue to experience these symptoms, try doing a low carb diet.
Your success on the Atkins diet can also be determined by your medical and family history. If you have any pre-diabetic symptoms, or diabetes itself, a reduced carb diet like Atkins may be right for you. Significant weight gain can also be helped by the Atkins diet. Normally, the more overweight you are, the more likely you are to have high blood pressure, high triglycerides and high blood glucose.
If any member of your family has diabetes or is significantly overweight, this can also put you at risk for these conditions. Your tendency toward these conditions on a genetic level can mark a necessity for a low carbohydrate diet like Atkins. The Atkins plan has been shown to improve weight and control blood sugar issues. If these are problems in your family history, then you may want to consider the Atkins diet.
There are a lot of good reasons to try the Atkins diet. Whether you have responded well to other low carb diets in the past or you have a medical history that warrants a controlled carbohydrate diet, the Atkins diet can meet your needs.
Pros and cons of the Atkins diet
The Atkins diet is one of the most popular low carbohydrate diets on the market today. Its popularity has sparked dozens of look-a-like diets who center on the same principles of high-protein, low-carbohydrate eating. There are a lot of fish in the sea when it comes to choosing a low-carbohydrate plan.
Studies have shown that low-carbohydrate eating has many benefits. There have been scientific results that low-carbohydrate diets like Atkins do create significant weight loss without having to restrict calories. People who use the Atkins diet have also reported this. There are studies that show that low-carb eating improves triclycerides, reduces blood glucose for diabetics and pre-diabetics and increases good cholesterol (HDL). Low-carbohydrate dieting has been scientifically proven to improve insulin sensitivity, decrease blood pressure and lower blood insulin levels. When compared with low-fat diets, low-carb dieters lose less muscle mass.
Although not scientifically proven, there are many common benefits reported by Atkins dieters and other low-carb dieters. These include an increase in energy, a reduced craving for sweets, better concentration, improved mood and an lessening of depression type symptoms.
However, there are also some benefits that are specific to the Atkins diet. If you have been a low fat dieter in previous years, you’ll enjoy eating all of those “forbidden foods” that you once had to go without. Steak, butter and cream are a regular part of Atkins dieters’ meals. There is a certain pleasure that goes along with eating foods that were once off limits. Atkins dieters are encouraged to eat their full of rich meats, cheeses and fats and oils.
Atkins is also simple to use, compared with some other low-carb diets on the market. There are some basic food carbohydrate counts that you’ll need to learn, but after that, you are free to eat from the acceptable food lists.
Dr. Atkins also emphasized finding your own personal carbohydrate level. Different people have different levels of carbohydrate tolerance. While some gain weight on just 90 carbohydrate grams a day, others can live comfortably at 120 carbohydrate grams. During the ongoing weight loss phase and pre-maintenance phase of the diet, you will learn your personal carbohydrate count that will help determine your carbohydrate goal for life.
The popularity of Atkins is a double-edged sword for dieters. There is a lot of information available on the diet, which makes it easy to find resources and support. There have been many, many Atkins books written and there are endless amounts of websites that offer tips and group support. However, everyone has heard of Atkins and probably has an opinion on it. There are some big misconceptions out there about the nature of the diet, and you’ll no doubt have to defend your new way of eating from time to time.
There are some other minimal downsides to using the Atkins program. You do need to count carbohydrates in everything you eat to make sure that you are staying within your personal carbohydrate range. There is also the issue of Induction, the most hotly debate aspect of the plan. Induction can be difficult to get through if you’ve had a diet that centers on carbs and sugar. Also, many people try Induction and mistakenly believe that this is the way that the whole diet is going to be. They end up quitting before they get into the actual Atkins plan.
Sometimes, although it is not common, people will experience a carb crash on the 3rd to 5th day of the diet. This reaction is a result of their body finally experiencing ketosis, or running on fat instead of carbohydrates. The effects are transient, but many people have sworn off low-carb diets entirely because of this happenstance.
Overall, with the minor drawbacks considered, Atkins is one of the most popular low-carb diets for a reason. It works. Thousands of people have had success with the Atkins approach to the low-carb way of living.