The principle of the Atkins diet
Getting started with the Atkins diet
Basically, the whole concept behind Atkins is that a low-carbohydrate diet can increase the metabolism and speed-up the process of fat burning. A high-carbohydrate diet can be quite often in charge with weight intake and other health issues. Carbohydrates, usually found in sweets and pastry products, are digested by the body and conveyed into glucose, or sugar, which enters the circulatory system.
Why decrease the carbohydrate intake?
A high intake of carbs will produce a higher glucose level to enter the blood stream, leading quite frequently to blood sugar fluctuation. But that's not the only danger which comes with a high intake of carbohydrates. A high level of sugar in the blood will trigger the production of a hormone called insulin, which is in charge of leveling the glucose form the body. What insulin (often referred to as the "fat hormone") really does is it turns the glucose into fat, in order to deal with the high levels of sugar in the body. This process of "fat production" happens in several steps: firstly, the insulin is produced into the pancreas. The amount of insulin produced will be directly proportional with the amount of sugar intake. Then, the liver reacts to the high levels of insulin, and in response, it produces triglycerides. The triglycerides, which are basically fat in the blood, will inevitably cause the storage of the fat on the body, forming fat tissue.
When following the Atkins diet, the main principle is to avoid foods with high values of carbohydrates, so that the body would resort to burning fat, instead of carbs, to get the necessary energy for the day. The Atkins diet contains 4 consecutive steps (Induction, OWL, Pre-maintenance and Maintenance) which should be followed in order to get maximal effects. All these steps are defined by a switch in the food pyramid, as illustrated in the pictures. Traditionally the grains, beans, and seeds, which are particularly rich in carbohydrates, would take the first step of the pyramid, followed by fruits and vegetables, meat and cheese and ultimately sweets and oils; but the Atkins diet partially inverses the picture, starting with rich protein food like different types of meat and eggs as the primary source of nutrients, followed by green vegetables and fruits. Seed oils, dairy products and nuts, followed by whole grain cereals would only appear at the top of the Atkins food pyramid.
The Atkin Diet Steps
Induction: also called Phase 1, induction is the less liberal phase of the program, as it aims to kick up the metabolism, and switch the main energy source from carbs to body fat. During induction, people can lose up to 15 pounds and the medium duration of this phase is two weeks. However the duration can vary according to each person's response to the diet and to the overall weight loss aim. When doing the induction, a recommended 20 grams of net carbohydrates his to be eaten daily, 12 to 15 grams out of which should come from foundation vegetables. Foods such as meet (poultry, fish, pork, beef etc.), eggs (any kind of preparation), fiber-rich vegetables, oils and butter should be the core nutrients in this phase.
OWL (ongoing weight loss) is the second Phase of Atkins. At this stage, the choice of food broadens, as the recommended intake of daily carbohydrates increases with 5 grams, every week. Forest fruits, seeds, nuts and "white" dairy (cottage, mozzarella) products can be gradually introduced into the diet in moderate amounts. Depending on the chosen duration of OWL, a person can advance from 25 net carbs per week to 60 net carbs per week; this transition would take approximatively 8 weeks. One of the dangers which often set people off at this stage is the decrease in weight loss. Basically, the body tends to reach a plateau of weight loss, and compared to the induction, when pounds varnish quickly, in OWL a medium weight loss would be of 2 - 3 pounds per week. Dieters should bear in mind that "less is more" in OWL and it is normal for the weight loss process to slow down in Phase 2.
Pre-maintenance: dieters should move on to Phase 3, when they have 10 pounds left to lose until the established weight-goal. This phase allows the introduction of some new categories of food, such as starchy vegetables, beans and sweeter fruits (bananas, grapes, peaches). At this stage, the process of losing pounds is getting slower and slower, but the results tend to be permanent. Phase 3 should set the way towards a permanent way of eating and the aim is to find the personal carbohydrate level of losing. Of course, this levels differ according to everyone's body and, while some can go up to 100 grams of net carbs per week and continue losing weight, some should keep the levels lower (50-60 gr.). To find out the personal carbohydrate level of losing, 10 grams of carbs should be added to the net carb intake each week, until weight loss stops. This means that the carbohydrate level of losing is about to be exceeded and dieters should cut back 10 grams of carbohydrates to continue losing weight. Once the weight loss goal has been achieved, people should focus on maintaining the weight for approximatively four weeks. Being able to maintain the weight means that the body has reached the Atkins carbohydrate equilibrium.
Maintenance: the fourth phase is more like a life-time approach to eating healthy. Once here, people should try to continue a low-carb lifestyle, relying on proteins and fats for body fuel. Carbohydrates should continue to come mainly from vegetables and exceptions should occur on rare events. Also, the maintenance phase should never allow the gaining of more than 5 pounds. Maintenance should be seen more like a healthy approach of the eating habits.
To check out Atkins diet recipes, please visit our Atkins Diet Recipes category.