What Is The Atkins Diet?

If you hear the term “Atkins diet” and you think of unlimited amounts of steaks, bacon, butter, and cheese, you’re not alone. But there’s a lot more to this diet than just meat and fat. The science behind the Atkins diet, and behind any low-carbohydrate diet, is sound – the way people have interpreted the diet is another thing altogether.

There are three phases to the Atkins diet – induction, ongoing weight loss, and maintenance, which is sometimes separated into pre-maintenance and lifetime maintenance. Most people are familiar with only the induction phase. During induction, your intake of carbohydrates is limited to 20 net grams per day, which are determined by subtracting the grams of fiber from the total grams of carbohydrate. Instead of using carbs, your body will burn fat to get the energy you need.

This results in weight loss, but also makes some people feel sick as their bodies switch over to using fat stores as energy. Your food choices during this phase of the diet are limited, but include eggs, meat and fish, leafy green vegetables, low carbohydrate vegetables, some dairy and healthy fats. This is the phase of the diet that results in most people’s mischaracterization of the diet as an unlimited feast of meats and fats – the diet actually encourages as varied a diet as is allowed.

During the next phase of the diet – ongoing weight loss – you begin to expand your food choices, and can increase your carbohydrate intake by five grams per week, as long as you continue to lose weight. The idea is still to eat a wide as variety of foods as you can while still losing weight, including healthy carbohydrate sources. Those expanded food choices include more vegetables, more fruits, and nuts and seeds.

As you begin to approach the maintenance phase of the diet, you’ll also begin to add whole grain products to your diet and increase your healthy carbohydrate intake to the point where you’re maintaining your weight loss goal. However, at every phase of the diet, highly processed foods and starches are always discouraged.

If you take the time to read and understand the different phases of the Atkins diet, it’s easy to see that it’s ultimately a healthy diet that encourages a broad variety of food choices, healthy proteins, non-starchy vegetables and fruits, nuts and seeds, healthy fats, dairy, and whole grains. In fact, those are exactly the foods you’ll find on the USDA food pyramid, only in differing amounts. However, adherents of the low-carb lifestyle are quick to point out that since the adoption of that food pyramid; Americans have become more overweight and developed higher incidences of heart disease and diabetes.

Detractors of the diet warn that the plan can cause ketosis – however, ketosis is simply the state that occurs when your body is burning fat is fuel, and it isn’t inherently dangerous. Ketoacidosis, on the other hand, is a serious medical condition. Atkins experts are quick to point out that achieving a state of ketosis isn’t the goal of the diet, but a side effect of properly following the eating plan. A high level of ketosis, as demonstrated through the use of urine test strips, is generally an indication of mild dehydration and isn’t encouraged by the plan.

When properly followed, the Atkins diet can be a healthy and effective way to lose weight and maintain that weight loss for good. However, given some of the concerns surrounding ketoacidosis and the diet, it’s best to consult with your doctor before beginning the diet if you have any serious pre-existing medical condition.