This article will take you through the Atkins diet for weight loss, what to eat and what to avoid on Atkins diet, how it works for weight loss and why you should go for this kind of diet.
The recognition of obesity as a disease was in theory established in 1948 by the WHO (World Health Organization) and formally recognized it as a global epidemic through consultations in 1997. Since then, nutritionists and dieticians have been coming up with different weight loss diets and among these is the Atkins diet for weight loss.
What is the Atkins diet?
The Atkins Diet for weight loss is a low-carb eating plan that was created by an American cardiologist, Dr. Robert Atkins in the early 1970s.
According to Dr. Atkins, the major cause of weight gain is the consumption of carbs, especially sugar, high fructose corn syrup, and flour.
Dr. Atkins claimed that; you can lose weight by eating as much protein and fat as you want while avoiding foods high in carbs. This prompted him to design a diet that significantly reduces the intake of carbohydrates.
Dr. Atkins designed this diet based on 4 main principles namely; to lose weight, to maintain weight loss, to achieve good health, and to lay a foundation for disease prevention. The diet has evolved over time and recent; it encourages the eating of more high fiber vegetables and regular exercise than it did in the past.
Is the Atkins diet good for weight loss?
The Atkins diet may aid weight loss because a reduction in carbs and an increase in protein intake reduces appetite, hence eating fewer calories.
A number of studies have come out in support of the low-carb diet as one of the diets that improve health as well as aiding weight loss.
Thorough studies have shown that the low-carb diet may lead to more weight loss and greater improvements in blood sugar, “good” HDL cholesterol, triglycerides, and other health markers compared to low-fat diets.
How does the Atkins diet work for weight loss?
On the Atkins diet, glucose levels are low and insulin levels are also low. When glucose levels are low, the body burns its fat stores, as well as dietary fat for energy instead of glucose or sugar; a process known as ketosis. Burning the fat instead of carbs helps to lose body fat and weight.
During ketosis, the body will breakdown fat stores in the cells to create ketones. It is these ketones that the body uses as a source of energy.
With the Atkins diet for weight loss, you may also shed off some pounds because the proteins and the fats keep you feeling full longer; which reduces appetite and food intake.
The Atkins Diet has four phases. An individual can start from any of the first 3 phases basing on his or her weight loss goals. Let us look at the phases of the Atkins diet below.
Stage 1: Induction
This is a strict phase where a person cuts out almost all carbs from the diet, eating less than 20 grams each day. The carbs mainly come from vegetables that are low in starch. During this phase, one eats high-fat foods and high protein foods. Depending on the weight loss goals, one can stay at this stage for at least 2 weeks.
Stage 2: Balance
At this stage, we slowly introduce nutrient-dense and fiber-rich foods as additional carbs sources. 12 to 15 grams of carbs are maintained as you continue to lose weight; up to when you are 5-10 pounds close to your goal weight. This phase helps us to tell how many carbs one can eat while he/she continues to lose weight.
Stage 3: Fine-tuning
At this stage, you can add about 10grams of carbs to your diet every week, but you can cut back when your weight loss goal is reached.
Stage 4: Maintenance
Here we add as many healthy carbs as we can while monitoring the weight to ensure that we do not regain any pounds.
The above phases may not be easy to carefully follow for most people; however, you may decide to stay at the first stage indefinitely and still lose weight, which is a form of a ketogenic diet.
So, what foods do we eat on the Atkins diet for weight loss?
The Atkins diet for weight loss emphasizes less than 20% of low-carb foods, high protein, and high-fat foods. These include;
- Meat such as pork, lamb, chicken, pork and more
- Fatty fish and seafood
- Low-carb vegetables: kale, broccoli, spinach, and others
- High-fat foods like Butter, cheese, cream, and full-fat yogurt
- Nuts and seeds: Walnuts, sunflower seeds, etc.
- Healthy fats like coconut oil, avocado, olive oil, and avocado oil
- Beverages: green tea, water, and coffee. Water is good for weight loss.
What are the foods to avoid on the Atkins diet for weight loss?
The foods to avoid on the Atkins diet include;
- Sugar like soft drinks, fruits juices, cakes, candy, and ice creams
- Grains: wheat, rye, rice and barley
- Legumes like lentils, beans, and chickpeas at the induction stage
- Starch foods like potatoes and sweet potatoes during the first stage
- Vegetable oils: corn oil, cottonseed, canola oil and more
- High-carb fruits like apples, bananas grapes only at the induction stage
- Low-fat foods
- High-carb vegetables such as carrots and turnips only at the induction stage
How long does it take and how much weight can you lose on the Atkins diet for weight loss?
According to the mayo clinic, you can lose 15 pounds in two weeks’ time during the first phase (induction stage) of the Atkins diet. But also states that initially, part of this weight loss may be water weight.
One can still achieve weight loss in phases 2 and 3 provided he/she does not eat more carbohydrates than what the body can expend.
Studies show that over the long term, low-carb diets like the Atkins Diet may not be effective for weight loss compared to other standard weight-loss diets and that people tend to regain weight regardless of diet plan.
What are other health benefits of the Atkins diet other than weight loss?
Other than weight loss, the Atkins diet a number of health benefits. These include;
1. Improved sleep quality
With a variety of nutrients, healthy fats, proteins, and stable blood sugar, the body is less stressed, healthier, and energetic. The time spent fighting insomnia is less, meaning that you will have enough time to rest.
Since low-carb diets are more effective at reducing inflammation, a study from Harvard medical school shows that following an anti-inflammatory diet fights off inflammation for good; since inflammation is the major cause of chronic diseases like cancer.
3. Improves digestion
The increased intake of fiber by the Atkins diet will guarantee you a smooth and healthy digestive system. This is because fiber helps constipation, bloating, and more.
4. Decreases inflammation
Inflammation is part of the body’s defense system. However, chronic inflammation can lead to conditions such as heart disease. With low-carb diets, insulin spikes that come from eating processed foods are reduced. Therefore, eating foods recommended by the Atkins diet can reduce inflammation.
5. Atkins diet is nutrient-dense
The fast foods you normally grab along the way; like pizza, sandwich and more will not give you the nutrient base that your body needs. However, focusing your diet on unprocessed foods guarantees you a great number of nutrients like vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
6. Improves heart health
According to researchers who examined 17 different studies of overweight people, it was established that individuals who followed a low-carb diet had a 98% higher chance of lowering the risk of heart attack than those who followed a low-fat diet.
7. Improves blood sugar levels
Blood sugar levels that are not in check are major risk factors to heart diseases and obesity. However, the Atkins diet significantly reduces carb foods in the induction stage. This improves the body’s ability to process glucose.
The Atkins diet is rich in antioxidants which are good for your skin. They protect the skin by reducing and counteracting the production of free radicals that damage skin cells.
What are the disadvantages of the Atkins diet?
The disadvantages of Atkins diet include;
1. Health risks
High protein foods tend to be high in fat which may increase bad cholesterol. Also, the limiting of fruits and vegetables may lead to chronic bowel diseases like ulcers
2. Counting carbs
Although we don’t count calories on the Atkins diet, we do count net carbs. Most people find carb counting complicated and tedious especially when someone is eating out
3. Mineral deprivation
Since the diet restricts the intake of some fruits and vegetables; it deprives people of certain minerals and vitamins. This leads to a deficiency of these minerals and vitamins in the body.
4. Regaining weight
During the maintenance stage or the last phase of the Atkins diet, people normally fail to maintain their final weight through constant body activity and instead gain weight.
What are the possible side effects of using the Atkins diet for weight loss?
Because of the significant decrease in the carb intake, many dieters experience fatigue as the body adjusts to using fat as a source of fuel. Others include;
- Low mood
Why am I not losing weight on the low-carb diet (Atkins diet)?
As a matter of fact, low-carb diets are very effective for weight loss. But, on many occasions, people give up or fail to reach their weight loss goals even when they are following the Atkins diet. This may be attributed to the reasons below
1. Medical condition
Sometimes if we happen to have any kind of an underlying medical condition, we may instead gain weight even when following the Atkins diet. Hormonal disorders can hinder your weight loss goals. In case you find yourself in this kind of docket, consider visiting a physician.
2. You are eating too many calories
The best weight loss strategy is to burn more calories than you consume. Regardless of the type of food you eat, whether proteins or fats, when you eat too many calories than what you can burn; weight loss becomes very hard to attain.
3. Cheating too often
When you cheat the diet on many occasions, getting back on board may be very hard. This is common in people with food addictions. You find yourself going back to unhealthy foods hence weight gain.
4. You don’t set realistic goals
Some people expect weight loss to happen overnight on the Atkins diet. These end up being disappointed. Weight loss is a gradual process that requires patience, commitment, and consistency.
5. Eating too many healthy sugars
When you are on the Atkins diet, healthy sugars such as raw cane sugar, and coconut sugar are as harmful as plain sugar.
6. You are not exercising regularly
A healthy diet and regular body exercise go hand in hand. That side, in order to lose weight, you have to create a calorie deficit where you burn more calories than you consume. In instances where people eat too much but exercise less, weight loss becomes practically impossible.
7. Not having enough sleep
Sleep is crucial when it comes to weight loss and general body health. Research shows that sleep deprivation is linked to weight gain and obesity. Sleeplessness creates feelings of hunger which leads to overeating.
8. You are always stressed
A healthy diet and exercise alone may not be the only factors affecting weight loss. Stress for example; may lead to weight gain even though you may be on the Atkins diet. Stress elevates the stress hormone called cortisol. Cortisol increases hunger and craving for unhealthy foods, which may lead to overweight.
Atkins diet vs keto diet; what is the difference?
Although the keto diet and Atkins diet may seem closely related, they are totally different. One of the main differences is that; while there is no restriction on protein intake in the Atkins diet, the keto diet limits protein intake to about 20% of the daily intake.
While you get more calories from proteins in the Atkins diet, the keto diet gets more calories from healthy fats.
Another difference is that; with the keto diet, the body stays in ketosis during the entire period of the diet. On the other hand, During the Atkins diet, ketosis only plays a role in the first and second phases of the diet.
We wrote a detailed interesting article about the Keto diet for weight loss. Find out the foods to eat, the foods to avoid, and the benefits of the keto diet over other weight-loss diets.
Although the Atkins diet may help weight loss and suppress the risk of type 2diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and more, it may not be effective in the long run. In fact, research shows that people who follow the Atkins diet for long regain their weight.
People with medical conditions such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes and more should first visit the doctor before starting on this form of diet.