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Atkins diet: how it works –

by Josephine Andrews
Published: Last Updated on 286 views

Eggs, meat and fish instead of pasta, potatoes and bread: With the Atkins diet there are no limits to your protein and fat consumption. With carbohydrate-rich foods, however, restraint is required. Read here how the Atkins diet plan works and whether you can really lose weight in a healthy way.

What is the Atkins Diet?

The Atkins diet is a low-carbohydrate diet recommended for weight loss . According to American cardiologist Dr. Robert Atkins, high-fat, high-protein meals with lots of meat, fish, cheese and eggs promote weight loss. Foods containing carbohydrates, on the other hand, should rarely end up on the plate. These include, for example, bread, potatoes, pasta and numerous types of vegetables and fruit.

There is no calorie limit on the Atkins diet. Snacking is also allowed, as long as it is high-protein morsels. The goal of the Atkins diet is a diet in which fats make up 40 to 45 percent, proteins around 40 percent and carbohydrates between 15 and 20 percent of the total calorie intake.

Over the past few years, more than 20 studies have shown that low-carb diets help you lose weight. They also have a positive effect on blood sugar levels, good HDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels. However, there is also a risk of nutrient deficiencies.

The basis of the Atkins diet is a ketogenic diet, in which the body obtains energy from fat deposits.

Learn more about the keto diet here .

This is how the Atkins diet works

The Atkins diet takes advantage of a simple principle of human metabolism: its preferred source of energy is carbohydrates from food. If the body has no carbohydrates available, it first burns its reserves – the glycogen stores in the muscles and liver.

Because glycogen binds water in the body , you will be losing a lot of water when you first start the Atkins diet. This is quickly reflected on the scales – and many people mistakenly consider it the first success in losing weight.

Only when the glycogen stores are empty does the body resort to muscle protein and then to fat stored in the body to generate energy.

However, the body cannot use fat directly as an energy source. Instead, the fatty acids are converted into so-called ketone bodies in the liver. Acetone is formed as a by-product – outsiders notice this as unpleasant mouth and body odor.

Because the very one-sided nutrition of the Atkins diet can quickly lead to vitamin and mineral deficiencies, the Atkins diet plan recommends appropriate nutrient supplements. Those who want to lose weight should also drink plenty of water to flush the resulting ketone bodies out of the body.

There are four phases of the Atkins diet:

Stage 1 – Introduction

The first phase lasts two weeks and involves the most restrictions. Meanwhile, you may consume a maximum of 20 grams of carbohydrates per day. Instead, high-fat, high-protein, and low-carb foods are on the menu — like lean meat, eggs, and green salad.

For example, there are 20 grams of carbohydrates in 120 grams of potatoes or 75 grams of pasta or rice. The body uses fat stores to generate energy. As a rule, you already lose weight in the first phase.

This first phase is similar to a typical ketogenic diet .

Phase 2 – reduction phase

In this second phase, you can now slowly eat a little more carbohydrates – about five grams more per week. During this phase, you find out how much carbohydrate you can eat without gaining weight. To do this, increase the amount slightly from week to week until the weight no longer changes.

Give priority to nuts, low-carbohydrate vegetables such as lettuce, tomatoes or spinach and small amounts of fruit such as berries. How long this phase lasts depends on how quickly your weight stagnates. As a rule, you will have an orientation after eight weeks at the latest.

Some people choose to skip the first phase and eat lots of vegetables and fruits from the start. This approach can also be very effective.

Stage 3 – fine-tuning

If you are very close to your goal weight, add higher energy density foods to your diet. For example sausage, butter or cheese. Foods with complex carbohydrates are also possible. These include potatoes, lentils or millet. Sugary foods, pasta, baked goods and sweet drinks are still taboo.

Overall, the amount of carbohydrates determined in phase 2 must not be exceeded. The phase lasts until you have reached your desired weight.

Stage 4 – Conservation

In this last phase, you are allowed to eat as many healthy carbohydrates as your body can tolerate without gaining weight again.

You can eat these foods on the Atkins diet

The Atkins diet allows foods that are high in healthy fats and protein. This includes:

  • Meat such as beef, pork, lamb, chicken, turkey or bacon
  • fatty fish and seafood such as salmon, trout, sardines and shrimp
  • Owner
  • Low-carb vegetables like kale, spinach, broccoli , asparagus, and lettuce
  • low-carb fruits like berries and avocado
  • Whole milk products such as butter, cheese, cream and full-fat yoghurt
  • Nuts and seeds such as almonds, macadamia nuts, walnuts and sunflower seeds
  • Healthy fats like extra virgin olive oil , coconut oil, and avocado oil
  • Beverages such as water, coffee, unsweetened tea

For a healthy diet, make sure that you consume a lot of unsaturated fatty acids, such as those found in avocados, nuts and seeds.

These are the foods to avoid on the Atkins diet

Basically, foods with carbohydrates are on the taboo list. For example, if you cannot do without baked goods at all, special low-carb bread is a suitable substitute for bread. It comes without flour. Instead, it often contains nuts, seeds and kernels.

In the first phase, most fruits (grapes, pears, apples, bananas) and some vegetables (potatoes, potatoes) are prohibited. Lettuce is an exception. It has hardly any carbohydrates and consists primarily of water – so you can eat as much of it as you want.

Legumes are also not allowed in the first phase. These include lentils, beans and chickpeas.

During all phases, the following are on the prohibited list:

  • sugary foods such as candy, cakes, ice cream, sodas and fruit juices
  • Grain products such as wheat, spelt, rye and barley
  • Reis
  • Trans fats like those found in croissants, chips and fries
  • “Diet” and “low-fat” foods
  • Alcohol

Our tip for the Atkins diet if you’re having a hard time giving up chocolate and alcohol completely: occasionally reach for dry wines and dark chocolate with a high cocoa content.

That brings the Atkins diet

The Atkins diet allows you to eat without counting calories. This also applies to high-fat foods, which normally count as fattening foods.

The protein contained in fish, meat or eggs and the ketones produced by the body in the course of burning fat make the feeling of hunger disappear for a long time. Weight loss is most likely to occur in the first two phases of the Atkins diet.

The Atkins diet allows you to eat without counting calories. This also applies to high-fat foods that normally pass for fattening .

The protein contained in fish, meat or eggs and the ketones produced by the body in the course of burning fat make the feeling of hunger disappear for a long time.

It was also shown that a low-carbohydrate diet can have positive effects on

  • body fat
  • HDL cholesterol
  • blood pressure
  • blood sugar

Risks of the Atkins Diet

The Atkins diet distinguishes between “forbidden” and “allowed” foods and therefore calls for rigid eating habits, which in turn can promote alternating dieting phases and uncontrollable cravings.

A meaningful long-term change in diet can often not be achieved in this way. The so-called yo-yo effect is often the result.

Other negative effects attributed to the Atkins diet include:

  • The high protein intake puts a strain on the kidneys.
  • The high number of ketone bodies promotes the development of gout.
  • Foods with unsaturated fatty acids can increase blood lipid levels. In the long term, this can promote cardiovascular disease.

In the meantime, however, there are a number of studies that have not been able to clearly confirm these criticisms. Carbohydrate-reduced diets such as the Atkins diet are therefore again included in some guidelines that recommend diets for obesity and diabetes.

Is the Atinks diet also suitable for vegetarians and vegans?

In general, it is more difficult for vegetarians and vegans to get the fats they need if they avoid fish, meat and possibly also dairy products and eggs. Alternatively, soy-based foods (tofu, tempeh , soy milk) and lots of nuts and seeds are good choices. Olive oil and coconut oil are also good sources of vegetable fat.

Lacto-ovo vegetarians can also eat eggs, cheese, butter, whipped cream, and other high-fat dairy products.

However, always talk to a doctor or a nutritionist before starting an Atkins diet to avoid risking nutrient deficiencies. Dietary supplements may be necessary.

Atkins Diet: Conclusion

The Atkins diet is controversial among nutrition experts and is considered unbalanced and potentially harmful to health. Nutritional science suggests that low-carb diets may cause various health disorders and harms, including kidney failure, liver damage, acne , and constipation.

However, other studies also show various positive effects. To avoid nutrient deficiencies, grab too many vegetables and vitamin-rich foods. Make sure that foods contain primarily unsaturated fatty acids.

It is best to do the diet in consultation or under the supervision of an expert in order to avoid health disadvantages.

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