Atkins Diet Review
The Atkins Diet is a high-protein, low-cab diet that is also quite high in fat. Formulated by Dr. Robert C. Atkins to help overweight cardiac patients lose weight and improve their cardiovascular status, the diet has been around for more than 40 years. The diet theories put forward by Dr. Atkins went against the conventional nutritional theories of that time, but it became popular when he published his diet book in 1972.
When low-fat diets were the norm for weight loss, Atkins diet recommended plenty of meat and full-fat dairy to compensate for the carbohydrates eliminated from the diet. It received plenty of attention from nutritionists and medical practitioners who immediately condemned it as dangerous. However, rapid weight loss resulting from the diet endeared it to many dieters who had found it impossible to lose weight by other diet and exercise regimes.
How the Atkins Diet Works
Cutting out carbohydrates almost completely is the mainstay of the Atkins Diet. In the initial phase of the diet, people are expected to have no more than 20grams of carbs altogether, vegetables and fruit included. Carbohydrates are the primary energy source of the body, so cutting them out forces the body to consume fat stores in the body to derive energy for regular metabolic functions and activities. Removing carbohydrates solves the problem of blood glucose spikes and dips and resultant cravings. Meat and other high protein foods are highly satiating. They are digested slowly, so they help keep hunger pangs at bay for much longer. More importantly, it puts the body into a state called ketosis.
Ketosis is a metabolic state in which body burns fat instead of carbohydrates. This is a less efficient mechanism energy wise, so a lot of calories get burned in the process of releasing sufficient amount of energy for bodily functions and regular activities. This increased fat burning naturally translates to rapid weight loss.
Normally, ketosis results from long-term illnesses and starving for extended periods. It also precipitates severe side effects such as nausea, headache, kidney stones, bone fractures, and bad breath. Diabetic people who cannot absorb carbohydrates from the food due to lack of insulin sometimes fall into this condition which can be life threatening in them. A ketogenic diet is sometimes administered in a clinical setting for treating certain types of epilepsy in children, but it is continuously monitored for serious problems.
The Atkins Diet has 4 phases:
Phase 1: This first phase called “Induction” which lasts for 2 weeks or more is the hardest because you are allowed only 20 grams of carbohydrates a day. This kick-starts rapid weight loss by putting the body into ketosis. Meat, eggs and seafood form the bulk of the diet, and they are to be prepared with coconut oil, olive oil, or butter.
Phase 2 is a “Balancing” phase in which a few low-carb foods such as vegetables, fruits, nuts and pulses are introduced.
Phase 3 starts when you are almost at your target weight. It is for “Fine-Tuning” the body to including more carbohydrates in the diet.
Phase 4 is the final “Maintenance” stage in which you find your threshold for carbohydrates by introducing more carbs while continuously monitoring your weight.
Is exercise involved?
The Atkins Diet is a nutritional diet program. It does not recommend any particular kind of exercise or activity. There’s no restriction on combining mild exercise with the diet, though, but care should be taken to avoid injuries. The breakdown of proteins creates an acidic environment in the body which increases calcium loss from the bones, making them brittle. That can result in severe exercise-associated injuries.
The Atkins Diet is calorie-rich and nutritious, thanks to the freedom to choose any kind of foods from meats, fish, seafood, eggs, butter, cheese and milk cream. You get a good supply of essential amino acids and fatty acids as well as many major minerals and fat soluble vitamins. But the same cannot be said about water soluble vitamins such as Vitamin C and B-compound vitamins and several micronutrients that we normally get from fruits and vegetables. Nutritional supplements may be required to prevent deficiencies.
High amount of dietary cholesterol from this pre-dominantly animal protein-based diet has always been a concern. However, contrary to common belief, it does not seem to lead to hypercholesterolemia. In fact, it has been found to increase the level of HDL cholesterol in most people while showing a corresponding drop in bad cholesterol. However, not all people exhibit this beneficial response. Frequent testing may be necessary to monitor your lipid profile.
The Cost Factor
The Atkins Diet need not be prohibitively expensive if one sticks to preparing meals from the allowed ingredients. It is always healthier to make your own meals from quality ingredients even if it costs a little extra. However, it may not always be convenient. Since it is hard to get diet-complaint convenience foods outside, the diet company has made many ready-to-eat meals available.
Needles to say, the diet can work out to be quite expensive if you rely on their pre-packaged products like ‘Easy Peasy Meal Kit,’ ‘Frozen Foodie Meal Kit’ ‘Evening Chef Meal Kit’ etc. None of them come cheap. Add to that the cost of medical checkups and blood tests to make sure you’re in the safe zone, and, of course, the cost of nutritional supplements that may be required.
Do Dieters Lose Weight on the Atkins Diet?
Dieters following the Atkins Diet will certainly lose weight, especially in the initial few weeks because of eliminating all carbohydrates. Weight loss may be quite rapid too But, it is usually a short-term effect. Sustainability may be a problem because people often find it hard to follow the food restrictions. As the program moves to the second and third phases, weight loss drastically reduces and finally tapers off. Reintroduction of carbohydrates often results in weight gain unless strict control is practiced.
Level of Effort
People who have previously followed calorie restrictive low-fat diets often feel excited at the prospect of eating plenty of meat and dairy. Relief from hunger pangs and cravings and rapid weight loss are quite encouraging, but the euphoria often wears off two to three weeks into the diet. Although the diet is not calorie-restrictive as many other diets, it is very food-restrictive––as in limiting the types of foods one is allowed to have.
Monotony of meals is one of the common reasons for people quitting the Atkins Diet. Having to give up carbohydrate-rich comfort foods and not being able to eat fruits and vegetables eventually make people miserable. Dieters are often troubled by constipation as a result of not having enough fiber in the diet. Moreover, the side effects of the ketogenic diet, especially nausea, make it hard to enjoy even the permitted foods. It takes lot of effort to stick with the diet despite all these side effects.
High-protein, high-fat diets are taxing on the kidneys and the liver, so frequent medical checkups are necessary to avoid potential health problems.
One has to complete many different phases of the diet to reach the final maintenance stage where normal healthy and balanced meals can be enjoyed. However, most dieters fall off the wagon out of boredom or due to the side effects of ketosis. Even those who managed to stick with the diet, the final outcome at the end of a one year period is not significantly different from those who adopted less drastic weight loss measures. So it’s not a risk worth taking unless you’re left with no other option.
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