Losing weight by giving up carbohydrates and eating as much protein and fat as you like – that’s what the Atkins diet promises. What exactly is behind this diet and what you should keep in mind, read here.
Lots of protein, low carbohydrates and let the pounds tumble: The low carb principle is on everyone’s lips today. But the protein-rich nutritional form is not really that new and fresh – as early as the 1970s, Dr. Ing. Atkins his pioneering book on the Atkins diet. With lasting success: until the mid-80s, the diet was able to hold the first place among the willing customers.
But does the Atkins diet still meet today’s scientific findings? We’ve kept an eye on the classic diet and tell you in this article how dehydrating the Atkins diet really is.
What is the Atkins diet?
There are people who claim that they can eat and lose so much protein and fat as long as they just give up carbohydrates. It is postulated by the American cardiologist Dr. Robert Atkins in the 1970s ( 1 ). And his words are followed by thousands of people over many years to today. Weight loss seems to be preprogrammed in the Atkins diet, considering the long-term successes of the diet.
But what does it mean to eat the Atkins principle? Since fat and protein in the Atkins diet are allowed without measure, meat, fish, cheese, and eggs can continue to land on the plate without a guilty conscience. Things are different with carbohydrate-containing foods. Bread, potatoes, pasta, and rice are therefore taboo. But also on sweets, cakes and fruit must be waived.
If one follows the ideas of dr. Atkins, the total calorie intake one day should consist of 15-20 percent carbohydrates, 40-45 percent fat and 40 percent protein. The increased protein intake leads to loss of appetite, which in total fewer calories are absorbed without thinking about it. What the Atkins diet looks like in practice and what is meant by the 4-phase model is explained in the following sections ( 2 ).
The classic Atkins diet promises large customer success by consuming a lot of fat and protein and abstaining from carbohydrate-containing foods.
How does the Atkins diet work? – The 4-phase plan
The Atkins diet takes advantage of the basic principle of human metabolism. Our body derives its energy mainly from the carbohydrates we absorb through our food. If we refrain from carbohydrates for a long time while eating, our body first needs the existing carbohydrate storage. This is in the form of glycogen storage in our muscles and liver ( 3 ).
When these glycogen stores are also emptied, our body uses energy to obtain fats and proteins that are stored in our body. However, since fat cannot be used immediately as an energy source, it must first be converted into so-called keto-bodies in the liver. Therefore, the Atkins diet is also counted as a “ketogenic diet”. The phase described here is carried out in the Atkins diet as Phase 1.
But to get a better idea of what that means for you, we have put together the 4 stages of the Atkins Diet:
Phase 1 (introductory diet)
In this part of the diet, as described above, the fat burning should be cranked and the ketosis is initiated. At this stage, a maximum of 20 grams of carbs should be consumed per day. As a staple food for a total of 14 days salad, eggs, and meat on the nutrition plan.
Phase 2 (reduction diet)
In this phase, the carbohydrate content is increased weekly: 5 grams per day, so you can consume 40-60 grams of carbohydrates again after Phase 2. In addition, you may gradually incorporate more nuts, berries and also some types of beans into your diet.
Phase 3 (pre-maintenance diet)
The third phase of the Atkins Diet aims to get the body back to getting more carbohydrates until it does not diminish but has reached its target weight.
Phase 4 (Lifetime Maintenance Diet)
The actual diet is over now. However, this phase should remain as long as possible for a lifetime so that the target weight can be maintained. Finally, the four phases result in a kind of low-carb diet, focusing on fruits, vegetables, meat, and healthy fats. Carbohydrates such as noodles or potatoes will continue to be dispensed with or they should be consumed in moderation ( 4 ).
The Atkins diet consists of four phases, which regularly increase the level of carbohydrates and end in a “lifelong maintenance phase” to maintain the target weight.
Which foods are “allowed”?
Especially in the Atkins diet is often spoken of good and bad fats and vegetables with high and low carbohydrate content. So you do not have to look up every food, we have created a small overview of foods that are “allowed” or better avoided according to the Atkins diet plan.
Recommended foods in the Atkins diet:
- Meat: beef, pork, lamb, chicken, bacon
- Fish: particularly fatty fish, such as salmon, trout, and sardines
- Eggs: The best way to enjoy organic eggs, where the chickens have received a lot of fresh food
- Low carbohydrate vegetables: kale, spinach, broccoli, asparagus
- Full-fat dairy products: butter, cheese, cream, and full-fat yogurt
- Nuts and seeds: almonds, macadamia nuts, walnuts, sunflower seeds etc.
- Healthy fats: olive oil, coconut oil, avocados, and avocado oil
Foods that you should avoid in the Atkins diet
- Sugar: soft drinks, fruit juices, cakes, sweets, ice cream etc.
- Grains: wheat, spelled, rye, barley, and rice
- Vegetable oils: soybean oil, corn oil, rapeseed oil
- Transfats: found in processed foods and especially in fried products
- Diet and reduced fat products: these often contain a very high proportion of sugar
- Vegetables with many carbohydrates: these include, for example, carrots and turnips
- Fruit with many carbohydrates: bananas, apples, orange, pears, and grapes
- Legumes: lentils, beans, and chickpeas
- Starch: potatoes and sweet potatoes
The Atkins diet recommends abstaining from some foods during the diet (especially carbohydrate-containing products). Fatty products and any kind of meat and fish are allowed during the diet.
This is how you get started right
Good preparation is everything
For most people, the Atkins diet means a significant diet change. Try to make the transition of your habits as comfortable as possible:
- How much do you want to lose weight and in what time frame? Set yourself a healthy and realistic goal
- Use grocery lists and tables/apps to count carbohydrates
- Talk to a doctor you trust before starting your diet
Get involved with the diet
When choosing a diet, you should be aware of why you chose this diet and what to expect:
- Find out more about the Atkins diet
- Inform yourself about the 4 phases of the diet so that you can implement them later
Learn to buy the right products:
- Refer to the nutrient information on the product labels to select the right few carbohydrate products
- Before shopping, make a list of what you need for your meals and even buy only those products
- Do not go shopping hungry, otherwise, it will be even harder for you to resist all the temptations in the supermarket
Survive the first 10-14 days
The change in diet can cause symptoms such as headache, dizziness, weakness, tiredness, and constipation, especially in the early days:
- Drink enough water to provide your body with enough sodium and potassium
- Do not overwork and take a break if your body needs rest
- Do not rush, start the diet slowly and set yourself realistic goals
Think through phase changes well
- When would you like to move to Phase 2? Consider whether you are ready for a phase change, otherwise, you can extend your entry phase.
Prepare well for the Atkins diet. Use aids, grocery lists & Co. to start the Atkins diet as pleasantly as possible.
The pros and cons of the Atkins diet
The Atkins Diet has fallen into disrepute in recent years. The reasons for this are lack of innovation and little involvement of scientific findings. Therefore, here are some of the risks and disadvantages as well as the benefits of the Atkins diet that you should be aware of before choosing this diet.
Too much animal fat and protein
The high levels of fat and protein consumed throughout the diet may be attractive to many dietetic starters. And the weight loss despite a large amount of fat is also undisputed. However, the high level of animal fats can also increase blood cholesterol, which can lead to increased blood lipid levels. This risks serious cardiovascular disease and gout ( 5 ).
Strain on the kidneys
It is also criticized that the high protein content in the diet is a permanent burden for the kidneys. In particular, the keto bodies, which are increasingly formed in the first phase of the diet, can lead to hyperacidity in diabetics and kidney patients.
Too little fiber
In addition, only a minimal amount of fiber is consumed in the Atkins diet. Especially in ketosis (Phase 1 of the diet), the lack of mineral and fiber substances can lead to side effects such as bad breath, headaches, and constipation. This point was countered by the creators of the diet with a new “version”: the “modified” or “new Atkins diet”. This recommends compensating for the lack of nutrients with dietary supplements. These are also available directly from Atkins, but very expensive ( 6 ).
Proper introduction of the diet
Many people also make the mistake of not doing the Atkins diet properly and believe that ketosis (phase 1) causes the most weight loss and persists. However, this is anything but healthy in the long run and brings the famous yo-yo effect after stopping the diet.
Finally, it should be noted that you should not start the Atkins diet “from one day to the next” and get informed in advance about the course of the diet.
The benefits of the Atkins diet
With all the disadvantages, the Atkins diet has the advantage that most people lose weight very fast and the protein-rich diet has a subjective, earlier saturation effect, so there should be fewer cravings, less hungry and thus automatically less food,
It is a diet where you can lose weight without starving. On dishes such as eggs with bacon, vegetables with butter or steak must not be waived. Plus, you do not need to count calories and you can eat as much and when you want, provided you eat the right foods for that diet. Another plus point: The preparation of meals is not very expensive. The ingredients are everywhere.
The Atkins diet has some criticisms that can be bad for your health. But you can lose weight fast with this diet.
For whom is the Atkins diet not suitable?
- People with gout, kidney or liver problems
- People whose weight is less than the minimum weight for each size
- People with eating disorders
- People with other health problems
- People who regularly take medication (consultation with the doctor)
- Children and adolescents who are still growing
- Pregnant and lactating women
- For vegetarians and vegans, the diet is difficult to implement and the risk for deficiency symptoms is very high
Insofar as everything is in order, this diet is suitable for women and men of all ages, including working people. However, you should always discuss such a form of diet with a doctor of your confidence and pay attention to the correct implementation.
Smart tips for everyday life
- Drink enough
- Avoid overexerting and give your body breaks
- Eating in the restaurant: Despite a diet, you can also eat out. Of course, you are more limited, but most restaurants are happy to accommodate special requests. Try to order a soup or salad as an appetizer to quench your first hunger. Avoid foods high in carbohydrates, and ask if the ingredients of a dish are not clear on the card before you order something wrong
- Pay attention not only to your weight but also to your desire. If you notice more cravings after eating a particular food or are starving faster, try replacing it with another
- Do not put your goals too high: After the initial phase, a targeted weight loss of one or two pounds a week is a healthy goal
You can keep a few things in mind that will help you integrate the Atkins diet into your daily routine.
Knowledge to take away
The Atkins diet has already passed its successful years. In the 70s and 80s, the diet was groundbreaking and celebrated corresponding successes. Of course also because the weight loss promises have been adhered to and many people with the Atkins diet have achieved their desired weight.
However, the Atkins diet in its classical form no longer corresponds to our current scientific findings. In addition, the diet is relatively complicated in design and requires some knowledge about food. Ample preparation and reading time should, therefore, be scheduled.
Overall, a low-carb diet can be made much more balanced and also lead to customer success. The health risks of the Atkins diet cannot be denied. Nevertheless, behind the Atkins diet is a simple principle, which in any case leads to weight loss.