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The Atkins Diet

What is the Atkins Diet?

The Atkins diet is a low carbohydrate diet devised by Dr Robert C Atkins in the 1960s. The Atkins diet is now one of the most popular Western diets and millions of people have achieved weight loss following his method. The Atkins diet first boosts your metabolic rate and, once the metabolic rate has changed, your body adjusts to a new way of burning fat. The diet also claims further benefits, including health and anti-ageing advantages. Doctor Atkins recommends restricting carbohydrate, and processed and refined foods (sugar, white flour, milk, white rice). Atkins states, "The Atkins diet isn't a peculiar, exotic diet. It's the human diet raised to it's healthiest pitch and stripped of 20th century food inventions."

How the Atkins Diet Works

The body uses insulin to control the use, distribution and storage of energy; insulin governs the processing of blood sugar. After the consumption of carbohydrate, your blood sugar rises and this prompts your pancreas to secrete insulin. Insulin converts some of the glucose from the carbohydrates to glycogen (starch stored in your muscles and liver for energy use). However, if your glycogen stores are already full, insulin converts the glucose to triglyceride - excess fatty tissue. After years of over-consuming carbohydrates, your body's insulin response can start to work less effectively. As a result, you produce excess insulin, which diminishes blood-sugar levels and leaves you feeling shaky, headachy and hungry.

Many people believe that carbohydrates are your body's sole source of energy. However, when we reduce carbohydrates, our bodies begin to burn fat for fuel. This "fat metabolism", or lipolysis/ketosis is not like the metabolic state of starvation, when the body begins to cannibalise both lean body mass and fat. This does not happen on the Atkins diet, as you consume sufficient amounts of fat and protein. Despite this, The Atkins diet and other low-carb diets have come under much criticism by sceptics who claim that the diet's fat burning state is unhealthy and the restriction of carbohydrates is too severe.

The ketones (a by-product of burning fat) your body produces are evidence that you are burning fat for energy. When you are in lipolysis/ketosis your body will not store fat, so you are able to eat a substantial amount of fat when following the Atkins lifestyle without the risk of cardiovascular disease.

The Four-phase Eating Plan of the Atkins Diet

The Atkins diet is broken down in to four key stages, which consist of eating plans, and vitamin and mineral supplements. The four-phase eating plans are devised to equip you with the knowledge to select foods based on your need to achieve weight loss and weight maintenance, enjoy good health, and prevent disease.

Phase 1: Induction

Restrict carbohydrate consumption to 20 grams each day. In the Induction phase, you need to obtain carbohydrate primarily from salad and other non-starchy vegetables.

Phase 2: Ongoing Weight Loss (OWL)

Add carbohydrate, in the form of nutrient-dense and fibre-rich foods. Increase your carbohydrate intake to 25 grams daily in week 1 of this phase and 30 grams a day in week 2. Increase by 5 grams each week until weight loss ceases. Once you have reached a plateau, subtract 5 grams of carbohydrate from your daily intake to continue sustained, moderate weight loss.

Phase 3: Pre-Maintenance

You can make the transition from weight loss to weight maintenance by increasing your daily carbohydrate intake by 10 grams each week, as long as very gradual weight loss is maintained.

Phase 4: Lifetime Maintenance

For the Lifetime Maintenance phase you need to control your carbohydrate intake to ensure weight maintenance and a sense of well-being. During this phase, you adopt the Atkins' nutritional approach in your lifestyle. Your diet will now focus on the consumption of nutrient-dense, unprocessed foods and "vitanutrient" supplementation (a full-spectrum multivitamin and an essential oils/fatty acid formula). The Atkins approach restricts processed and refined carbohydrates (which make up more than 50 per cent of many people's diets), such as high-sugar foods, breads, pasta, cereal and starchy vegetables.

The four stages above have been paraphrased from information taken from The Atkins Center website.

For further information on The Atkins Diet go to The Atkins Center