Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Wisdom Wednesday: The Atkins Diet

The thrust of the Atkins Nutritional Approach is to significantly reduce one’s carbohydrate (carbs) intake. The craze for low carbs comes mainly from the popularity of the Atkins’ books. The Atkins diet is a four-phase eating program, combined with vitamin and mineral supplements, as well as regular exercise.

Dr. Atkins said the main factor that causes us to put on weight is our consumption of refined carbs, especially sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, and flour.

The goal of the diet is to force the body into ketosis. In ketosis the metabolism switches from burning glucose as fuel to burning its own stored body fat. When glucose levels are low and our insulin levels are low, ketosis kicks in as the body switches to stored fat as a source of energy.

Phase 1: Induction
Calorie consumption from carbs is limited to 20 grams per day. Carb sources are mainly from salad and low starch vegetables. The urine is monitored with a “keto-stick” for ketosis. The is the most difficult portion of the diet but it lasts only two weeks.

Phase 2: OWL (Ongoing Weight loss)
Nutrient-dense and fiber rich foods are added as additional carb sources, at an increased rate of 25 grams during the first week of this phase, 30 grams during the second week, and 30 grams for each subsequent week until your weight stops going down. At that point – when weight loss stops – you take away 5 grams of carbs from your daily intake until you are starting to lose weight slowly.

Phase 3: Pre-Maintenance
Increase your carb intake by 10 grams each week until your weight loss is very gradual.

Phase 4: Lifetime Maintenance
Start adding a wider range of carb sources, while carefully monitoring your weight does not go up. Your sense of well-being must continue. If your weight starts to go up, ease back on two things – the amount of carbs you consume each day, and any of the new carbs you have been introducing. Dr. Atkins says that “this lifestyle is the foundation for a lifetime of better health”.

The Bottom Line:
If you stick to it, this diet is effective. The first two weeks, the induction is the most difficult. The problem with this diet is compliance. During the early part of this decade approximately 10% of adults in the U.S. were on the Atkins diet. However, obesity continued to rise rampantly during this time. Study after study found that after two or three years, the vast majority of people who started well on Atkins did not continue long term. If you want to use Atkins diet to lose weight, I recommend you then transition to one of the other plans for maintenance.

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