Atkins diet forces your body to utilize its already stored fat deposits and makes your body a fat burning engine rather than a carbohydrate-processing engine. According to Dr. Atkins, carbohydrate is the main culprit in depositing body fat. A typical Atkins diet focuses on drastically reducing the amount of carbohydrate intake initially and then gradually re-introducing it back in small quantities. This approach forces a body to derive its energy by burning its own fat deposits. This also makes a body shift in its metabolism from metabolizing glucose as energy to fat as energy. This process called as ketosis, helps you to eat fat-rich foods without gaining weight. As the production of glucose and release of insulin are kept under control, Atkins diet prevents diabetes.
The four phase process
Atkins diet starts with ketogenic diet, which is high in fat and protein, and low in carbohydrates. Normally when there are enough carbohydrates in your diet, they are converted to glucose and transported all over the body, most importantly to fuel your brain. When a diet has hardly any carbohydrates, then the liver takes the responsibility of providing energy by converting the already stored body fat into fatty acids and ketones. Now, brain depends on ketones as energy source instead of glucose from carbohydrates. To be on Atkins diet, you will have to consume foods that are fat-rich and protein-rich, while drastically reducing high-carbohydrate foods such as bread, pasta, sugar, starchy fruits, and rice.
Atkins diet consists of four important phases. The first phase, the most restrictive phase, is called induction phase. This phase, usually extends up to two weeks, tunes your body to enter into ketosis state by cutting down the amount of carbohydrate intake drastically to 20 net grams per day. If you experience a metallic taste in your mouth, then it could be an indication that your body is in ketosis state. Dieters usually observe good deal of weight loss during this phase, losing almost 5 to 10 pounds per week.
The next phase is ongoing weight loss phase, which aims at finding your body’s critical carbohydrate level for losing weight. In this phase, you increase your carbohydrate intake each week by five net grams and maintain at a level where weight loss still occurs. This phase lasts until you have reached within 10 pounds of your target weight.
Third phase is pre-maintenance phase. During this phase, your intake of carbohydrate is again increased each week by 10 gms until you find your body’s critical carbohydrate level for maintenance. This level indicates the maximum amount of carbohydrates you can regularly include in your diet.
The fourth phase called as lifetime maintenance phase is intended to carry on the habits learned in previous phases and prevents you from falling back into end-of-diet eating habits. When you reach this phase, your body would have got used to processing right amount of carbohydrates without making you gain weight.
Popular all around the world
Unlike other diet programs, Atkins diet’s popularity hasn’t faded yet, and continues to grow despite few health concerns. The diet was highly popular between 2003 and 2004 and people all over the world were crazy of Atkins diet, switching from low-fat foods to high-fat foods.
However, health experts are still wary of its side effects as the diet recommends high amount of fat intake as opposed to the recommendations by various health organizations around the world. High fat could be a problem for people with heart disease and high ketones in the body could lead to formation of kidney stones. If we are to go by the statistics of Dr. Atkins’ diet book sales, then the diet is still highly popular and widely followed all around the world.
Easy and adaptive nature
All it takes to follow Atkins diet is to stick to the recommended food pyramid mentioned in Dr. Atkins’ Diet Revolution book. Atkins diet has broken the myth that high-fat diet could lead to weight gain. By following Atkins diet, you can enjoy all fat-rich foods that were only dreamed by dieters. Moreover, in order to prevent you getting bored with the same type of foods, Atkins recommends extremely low-carb foods only in the induction phase. In the later phases, you can gradually start to include few carbohydrate foods. This type of diet with enough flexibility will never make you feel bored, as you will keep making little changes to your food menu throughout your diet program.
Long term and short term effects
Human body instantly reacts to the food we eat daily and adapts to the changes accordingly. In Atkins diet, we are altering the way our body metabolizes and produces energy. By making our body switch from metabolizing carbohydrate to fat, we are making use of fats that are already stored in our body. Compared to other diet programs, you can notice a considerable amount of change within a short time, especially during the induction phase. Over a period, Atkins diet prepares your body for the metabolic shift by helping you find the right level of carbohydrates you can include in your diet without gaining weight.
According to health experts, Atkins diet does have some long-term health effects. As the diet recommends high intake of fat and low glucose, it could lead to a range of problems in the long term including formation of kidney stones.
Fat-rich diet may not be beneficial for everyone, as the high protein intake could increase the blood thickness even more and could lead to blood clots. Hence, Atkins diet could be detrimental for people with heart diseases as the additional fat could easily block arteries and create congestion. Moreover, studies have shown that lack of recommended level of nutrients could result in conditions like osteoporosis and renal diseases.
Best benefit: Ongoing weight loss
A diet that can help you keep losing weight without giving away fat-rich foods is a boon for all dieters. One of the major benefits of Atkins diet is that it helps you shed weight as long as you follow the diet strictly. During the ongoing weight loss phase, you gradually increase your carbohydrate intake by still maintaining it within the level where weight loss still occurs.
Once you find the right level of carbohydrate intake that your body can process without accumulating fat, all you need to do is stay within that limit to keep losing weight. Additionally, you should stick to the diet rules learned during different phases of Atkins diet. As Dr. Atkins has provided a carbohydrate food ladder in his book, it is better to stick to the foods mentioned in the ladder, though you can skip foods which you are not comfortable with.