Even though it has been several decades since the late Dr. Robert Atkins created his self-named low carbohydrate diet, it was only in the late 1990s and early 2000s that the Atkins diet took the weight loss world by storm. Millions of people rode on the low carb bandwagon and nutrition experts were appalled. The uproar over the diet is understandable; after all, it went against all the principles of the medically accepted and traditional low fat regimen, which had been the norm for years.
Simply put, going on the Atkins diet – or “doing Atkins” – means that a person has to drastically cut down on his or her intake of carbohydrates, especially those found in starchy foods. People find that this can be difficult, especially those who have become accustomed to consuming food like bread, potatoes, cakes, cereals, and pasta regularly for years. On the up side, protein-rich foods are not only allowed on this low carb diet, they are actually encouraged. So there’s no need to give up mayonnaise, butter, pork, beef, fried food, and many others that are off-limits in low fat diets.
There are four phases in this diet. The first stage, called Induction, requires the dieter to reduce his or her carb intake to 20 grams per day for two weeks. Carbohydrates should be acquired from vegetables, so the usual starchy baked products and fruits are forbidden during this period. After Induction, you are allowed to gradually increase your intake of carbohydrates until you reach your carb threshold, or the amount of carbs you can safely eat without gaining weight. For many adults, 60 to 90 grams of carbs per day is the limit. With this diet, you count carbs, not calories.
The Atkins premise is that carbohydrates, which our bodies use for fuel, are the culprits responsible for weight gain. Excess carbohydrates increase blood sugar levels, which in turn make us feel hungry in a short amount of time after a meal. An increase in your blood sugar can also trigger the pancreas to create more insulin, which in turn influences how the body converts carbs to fats, which are manifested in that paunch or those love handles. This extra weight can lead to many health problems, including diabetes and heart disease.
In addition to helping a person lose a significant amount of weight in a short period of time, a number of clinical studies have shown the Atkins diet to be beneficial in the reduction of the so-called “bad cholesterol” that can lead to heart disease. In addition, other studies suggest that the diet has at least a positive short-term effect on diabetics, and anecdotal evidence states that it is also instrumental in relieving the symptoms of disorders such as polycystic ovarian syndrome.
One thing that the critics praise about the Atkins low carb diet is its education of people about being picky about foods; to avoid junk food and those that contain nothing but sugar and empty calories. Another aspect of the diet that meets with expert approval is its encouragement of exercise. It still follows the basic tenet that if you take in more than you burn, you will still gain weight, no matter what diet you are on.
One relative difficulty that reduced-carbohydrate dieters complain about is food boredom. Perhaps this was a problem in the early days, but not so anymore. Today, there are plenty of “mock” foods patterned after regular dishes like pancakes, mashed potatoes, cheesecake, muffins, and the like – but without the carbohydrates and sugar. If you have a craving for something sweet, you can still eat candy bars, cakes, and chocolate products that are sweetened not with sugar but with sucralose.
Weight loss on this low carb diet is quicker than that observed on low-fat diets, but remember that you should not shed pounds too rapidly – 2 to four pounds a week is the average. And to make sure to take the necessary dietary supplements to make sure that you are getting all the nutrients you need to stay healthy while losing weight. You should also remember to drink plenty of water. This will help flush waste from your body and assist it in the burning of fat as the major source of fuel.
Going on the Atkins diet can help you in your weight loss efforts if you follow the basic tenets: don’t overeat (eat only until you feel satisfied); don’t under-eat (eat whenever you feel hungry); exercise; be realistic. You should not aspire to be razor thin. Rather, aim for your ideal body weight and stay healthy on your way there.
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