All you need to know to master the basics of the Atkins Diet.
Believe it or not, Atkins isn’t primarily about losing weight. Instead, it’s a lifestyle that enables you to take control of your weight—and your health—for good. Nor is Atkins all about eating beef and bacon. You’ll find you can eat a variety of delicious whole foods, including lots of vegetables. (The typical Western diet, in contrast, is full of sugar, white flour and other refined carbohydrates.) And Atkins is remarkably flexible, so you can tailor it to your needs.
Bottom line: You’ll love your meals and you’ll love your results.
How does Atkins work? Your body burns both glucose (sugar), from carbohydrates, and fat for energy. Glucose is its “preferred” fuel, but only because it converts quickly to energy. Fat, your backup fuel, does the job just as well. Controlling carbs means that you burn fat, including your own body fat, which kick-starts weight loss.
Is Atkins safe? Atkins has always been about limiting—not eliminating—carbs, and choosing those with the most fiber, vitamins, minerals and a host of other nutrients. The Atkins principles are firmly grounded in science. At least 50 research studies published in peer-reviewed journals confirm the safety and efficacy of Atkins. In fact, emerging science consistently shows that compared to low-fat diets, low-carb diets produce greater weight loss and better compliance.* Plus, when people followed a low-carb diet, or specifically the Atkins protocols, certain risk factors for a host of conditions improved. These include heart disease, elevated blood sugar and elevated insulin levels.
* New England Journal of Medicine, July 2008: Two-year study reports 50% greater weight loss and improved cholesterol on a low-carb vs. low-fat diet.
Four Phases for a Lifetime of Healthy Eating
In all four phases, you’ll savor protein foods such as fish, poultry, meat and tofu and healthy fats such as olive oil and avocado, plus “good” carbohydrates. In Induction, these healthy carbs are primarily vegetables. You’ll add a greater variety of whole food carbs in subsequent phases. As you increase your carb intake in each phase, you’ll gradually rebalance your intake of the three major food groups.
First you’ll shed pounds on Atkins, and then you’ll learn how to maintain your healthy goal weight—for good. Here’s how you’ll do it.
Induction: Phase 1 lasts for a minimum of two weeks. Feel free to remain here longer if you have lots of weight to lose. Consume 20 grams of net carbs (total grams of carbs minus grams of fiber) daily, primarily as veggies. In addition to at least 12 grams of veggies (five or more servings), you’ll eat protein and healthy, natural fats. Avoid foods made with sugar or flour and other refined grains.
Ongoing Weight Loss (OWL): In Phase 2, slowly add back more veggies and then foods such as berries and nuts. Increase your daily carb intake in 5-gram increments each week as long as you continue to lose weight. When it stops, you’ve found your tolerance for consuming carbs, known as your carbohydrate level for losing (CLL). As you add carbs, you’ll gradually decrease your fat intake. Most people remain in OWL until they’re about 10 pounds from their goal weight.
Pre-Maintenance: In Phase 3, continue to reduce fat intake as you add more healthy carbs. They’ll include still more vegetables—including starchy ones—plus fruits other than berries, legumes and whole grains. As long as you continue to lose, increase your daily carb intake by 10 grams of net carbs each week until you reach your goal weight. Then, find your Atkins carb equilibrium (ACE), the highest carb intake that lets you maintain your weight. Stay in Pre-Maintenance until your weight is stable for a month and re-introducing new foods doesn’t provoke cravings.
Lifetime Maintenance: Phase 4 isn’t really a phase. It’s the rest of your life. Continue to consume the varied whole-foods diet of Pre-Maintenance, remaining at your ACE. Monitor your weight and measurements regularly. Continue to reintroduce carbohydrate foods—as long as they don’t cause weight gain or stimulate cravings. By this time, most people can handle an occasional indulgence, with the emphasis on occasional. Correct any small weight gain—fast—by returning to an earlier phase.
(continued on next page)
A Dozen Tips for Success
1. Have three meals and two snacks a day. Eating every few hours maintains your blood sugar and energy levels and keeps your appetite under control. Eat until you’re satisfied but not stuffed.
2. Include protein in every meal. Have at least 4 to 6 ounces of protein at breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Enjoy both lean protein such as chicken breast and fatty fish such as salmon; even marbled cuts of beef are fine. When you eat leaner cuts, be sure to use plenty of olive oil or other healthy oils on your salads and cooked veggies.
3. Enjoy foods with good fats. Fat makes food taste good and is good for you. It’s also filling so you eat less. In fact, dietary fat is key to the Atkins program, and to overall good health. All fats except manufactured trans fats (hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils) are healthy fats. Aim for a balance of monounsaturated, polyunsaturated and saturated fats.
4. Count your net carbs. Net carbs are basically grams of total carbohydrates minus grams of fiber. Unlike other carbs, fiber doesn’t impact your blood sugar level. And estimating just doesn’t cut it. Print out the carb gram counter on www.atkins.com, download it to your BlackBerry or pick up the pocketsize Dr. Atkins’ New Carbohydrate Gram Counter.
5. Steer clear of sugar. Added, or processed, sugar comes in many forms. All are high in carbs and calories and empty of other nutrients. High-fructose corn syrup is a highly processed sugar found in most soft drinks and countless other foods. You can sweeten beverages with sucrolose, marketed as Splenda™. Count each packet as 1 gram of net carbs and don’t exceed three a day.
6. Eat your veggies. Be sure to consume at least 12 to 15 grams of carbohydrates in the form of vegetables each day. Even in Phase 1, you’ll comply with the USDA’s recommended intake of at least five servings of vegetables a day. You’ll also be getting plenty of fiber, which plays a key role in blood sugar management, and, of course, regularity. Fiber also “scrubs” your arteries and, because it makes you feel full, helps with weight control.
7. Drink up. Pure water flushes toxins out of your body, helps you metabolize fat, and minimizes the likelihood of constipation and bad breath, among a host of other benefits. Aim for eight 8-ounce glasses each day.
8. Take daily supplements. In addition to a whole-foods diet, a multivitamin/mineral and an omega-3 supplement ensure you’re getting all the nutrients you need for good health.
9. Get moving. Activity is a natural partner to any weight-control program. Brisk walking, swimming and other fun activities are an integral component of Atkins. It’s a win-win situation. The more active you are, the faster you’ll lose body fat. And the more muscle you build, the more calories you’ll burn.
10. Use three helpful tools. A scale and a tape measure are both essential to track your progress. Weigh yourself and take your measurements at the chest, waist and hips twice a week. Also, keep a journal of your food and water intake, as well as your feelings, challenges and victories. Numerous studies indicate journal keepers are more successful at weight management than others.
11. Don’t go it alone. Alert your friends and family so they can support your weight-loss efforts. An Atkins buddy can share the ups and downs of you journey. Also, be sure to join the Community Forum on atkins.com
12. Plan ahead. Stock your kitchen with the right food and snacks. And decide on your meals before you go grocery shopping so you don’t fall back on your old food choices.
For more specifics on how to do all four phases of Atkins, as well as meal plans and
hundreds of delicious recipes, visit atkins.com.