The Atkins Diet Revolution
Unlike the Zone diet which states specific proportions of carbohydrate, protein and fat (40%-30%-30%), the Atkins diet simply limits carbohydrate intake to between 20 and 60 grams per day. Elevated levels of protein and fat consumption are both encouraged.
The Atkins diet is similar to other low carb diets in that it splits the diet into phases which the dieter will adhere to as they progress through the diet. The Atkins phases are summarized as follows:
Atkins Diet Phase 1 - Induction
This lasts for 14 days (2 weeks). This phase of Atkins is designed to induce a state of "ketosis." This means that the body is producing ketones from fat, to be used as a fuel source instead of carbohydrates. Followers of the Atkins diet will use "Ketostix" strips (available from a chemist or health store) to detect when their body is in a state of Ketosis. When the body is in this state, weight loss is very rapid.
In this stage carbohydrates are restricted to no more than 20 grams a day. All fruit is off the menu, as well as the majority of carbohydrate containing vegetables.
Atkins Diet Phase 2 - Ongoing Weight Loss
In this phase the dieter will slowly increase their consumption of carbohydrates, whilst monitoring the rate at which they're still losing weight. Typically the increase will stretch to about 40 to 50 grams of carbohydrate a day. The dieter is encouraged to monitor how their body is reacting to the diet as they increase the levels of carbohydrates.
The amount of carbohydrates consumed at this stage of the Atkins diet have increased, and as such, the food options are more varied than in the first phase.
Atkins Diet Phase 3 - Pre-Maintenance Diet
The dieter will enter this phase of the Atkins diet when they are 5 to 10 pounds away from their target weight. Again carbohydrates are being increased to a level called the "Critical Carbohydrate Level for Maintenance" which is determined whilst in Atkins Phase 2. In this phase, weight loss is slowed right down in preparation for the final phase. Less than 1 pound of weight per week is being lost at the end of this phase.
Atkins Diet Phase 4 - Maintenance Diet
This phase of Atkins aims to keep the dieter at their target weight for the rest of their life. The dieter will keep carbohydrate intake at a level that they have now learnt will maintain their target weight.
Many people find that by increasing the levels of protein in their diet, they experience lesser craving for food throughout the day. Indeed people often favor the Atkins diet because the food options are vast compared to more traditional low calorie diets.
It's clear that the Atkins diet has worked for so many people. However, I personally prefer diets that are more selective over what "types" of carbohydrates are consumed, such as the South Beach Diet. The Atkins diet has received a bad rap as it encourages dieters to increase their consumption of animal products including red meats which contain saturated fats. These fats can increase the risk of heart disease and circulatory problems, amongst other things. In comparison to Atkins, diets such as the Zone diet and the South Beach Diet opt for the "good carbs" (complex carbohydrates) and the "good fats" (unsaturated).
The Atkins, unlike many other low carb diets, quite heavily restricts what can and can't be eaten - especially in terms of fruit and veg. The Atkins diet therefore recommends the use of dietary nutritional supplements in an attempt to combat this problem as well as aiding the dietary process.
Due to the focus on animal products, which normally only contain minute amounts of carbohydrate, vegetarians may find the Atkins diet hard to follow.