The Atkins diet is a four step nutritional plan that promotes weight loss by restricting consumption of refined and processed carbohydrates while increasing amounts of protein and fat. This diet focuses on eating nutrient-dense and unprocessed foods, vitamin supplementation, and restricting breads, pasta, cereal, starchy vegetables and high sugar foods.
The Atkins principle points the finger at carbohydrates and high carbohydrate diets as the main culprit of weight gain and fat accumulation. Excess carbohydrates not used by the body for energy are stored as fat. The more carbohydrates a person eats, the greater the excess calories and weight gain. In the Atkins diet, carbohydrate consumption is sufficiently restricted, forcing the body to convert from the principle metabolic pathway of burning carbohydrate for energy to burning fat, resulting in weight loss.
The four phases of the Atkins diet include:
Phase 1: Induction
In the primary phase of the Atkins diet, carbohydrate consumption is reduced to 20 grams per day. This encourages the body to stop burning carbohydrate and to begin burning fat. The recommended source of carbohydrate is principally from salad, fruits and other non-starchy vegetables. No refined breads, pasta, cereal or high sugar foods are allowed.
Phase 2: Ongoing Weight Loss
Every individual has what Atkins calls a “carbohydrate threshold,” a point where the body burns either carbohydrate or fat for energy based upon the amount of carbohydrate consumed. If a person’s carbohydrate consumption is below this threshold fat burning and weight loss take place; however, if the individual’s carbohydrate intake is above this threshold the body burns carbohydrate, allowing fat to accumulate and weight to increase.
In the second phase, after sufficient weight has been lost, the program adds carbohydrate in the form of nutrient-dense fiber rich foods to determine the person’s carbohydrate threshold. Carbohydrates are increased to 25 grams daily the first week, 30 grams daily the next week, and so on until weight loss subsides. At this point the dieter subtracts 5 grams of carbohydrate to begin sustained moderate weight loss.
Phase 3: Pre-Maintenance
In the third phase of the plan, the dieter transitions from weight loss to weight maintenance. Daily carbohydrate is increased in 10 gram increments each week as long as gradual weight loss is maintained. Exercise also becomes an important part of weight maintenance, helping to energize the body and promote weight loss.
Phase 4: Lifetime Maintenance
The final phase focuses on maintaining a healthy diet while controlling carbohydrate intake to ensure weight maintenance and well being.