We all want to be healthy and establish good eating habits, but the world is full of junk food that’s grown, processed and packaged with the aid of harmful chemicals. These chemical-laden processed foods can be harmful to your health, and not only for their chemical additives, but also because they’re typically fatty and barren of nutrition.
There are all kinds of diet plans that offer suggestions on the food you should eat, the food you should avoid, and meal timing. One of the more popular and enduring is the Atkins Diet–a diet plan that focuses on very specifically on carbohydrates.
What is the Atkins Diet?
Dr. Robert Atkins, the nutritionist who pioneered this diet, developed this diet plan based on the theory that the body is an engine and carbs are the (typical) fuel. While that may sound like common knowledge, it’s what this diet does through carb-manipulation that truly makes it unique.
The Atkins diet is a low-carbohydrate diet which works by limiting carbohydrates (sugar) so the body adapts to burning fat as a primary source of fuel.
Limiting carbohydrate intake “trains” the body to start burning fat for energy instead of glycogen. The result is loss of body fat, often without significantly reducing calories.
Limiting carbohydrates causes your body to switch from metabolizing glucose as energy to converting stored body fat for energy. Sugars and “simple starches” like potatoes, white bread, and rice are all but eliminated by this diet, making way for proteins and fats derived from animal sources such as chicken, meat, and dairy.
The Atkins diet is praised for its superiority to typical calorie counting diet routines, as it has the ability to adapt your body’s fuel preference, resulting in significant body fat loss.
The Four Phases of the Atkins Diet
This diet has four primary phases.
Phase 1: Limit carbohydrates to no more than 20 grams per day
This is the core rule of this diet. Foods that are high in fat and proteins but low in carbohydrates form the basis of this diet plan. Even then, the carbohydrates suggested are nutrient rich vegetables, particularly leafy green vegetables which can help kick-start your body’s fat-burning.
This phase is typically followed for two weeks before proceeding to the next phase.
Phase 2: Gradually increase carbohydrate intake
Slowly start adding more carbohydrates back into your diet, but add them using low-carb sources such as cruciferous vegetables, berries, nuts, and seeds. After the two weeks of limited carb intake in phase 1, your body should now have adapted to burning more fat for energy.
You can now increase carbohydrate intake. Phase 2 is the the longest and most pivotal phase of the Atkins diet. This phase should be maintained until you lose 10 pounds and your body establishes a balance between carbs and fat (while still relying on fat as a PRIMARY source of fuel).
Phase 3: Fine-Tuning
In this phase you once again start in carbohydrates to your daily intake. Add 10 grams to your meals per week once you get close to your weight loss goal. Starchy vegetables (carrots, peas, potatoes) and whole grains are the recommended food group in this phase. Brown rice is also a good choice.
This phase will gradually slow down your weight loss. If your weight loss comes to a halt, you can once again carbohydrates in order to keep your body using fat as the primary source of energy.
Phase 4: Maintenance
Once you’ve achieved your target weight, you can re-establish a normal amount of carbohydrates (typically 50 percent of your caloric intake). Remember that eating carb-heavy food on a daily basis will revert your body back to prioritizing carbs as its primary source of fuel, so maintaining a good balance between carb-dense and fatty food is the recommended way to keep moving forward with your weight loss maintenance.
Foods to Avoid When Starting Out
- GRAINS: barely, rice wheat, rye
- VEGETABLE OILS: cottonseed oil, canola oil, soybean oil, corn oil
- SUGAR: fruit juices, soft drinks, cakes, candy, ice-cream
- HIGH-CARB VEGETABLES: carrots, turnips, etc. (during the first phase only)
- TRANS FATS: found in processed foods labeled as ‘hydrogenated’ on the ingredients list
- STARCHES: potatoes, sweet potatoes (during the first phase only)
- LEGUMES: beans, lentils, chickpeas, etc
Foods to Eat
Good choices for your daily meal plan:
- FATTY FISH, SEAFOOD: trout, sardines, salmon, shrimp, tuna, etc.
- MEAT: pork, beef, lamb, chicken; anti-biotic free is best, go for grass fed beef and free range chicken
- EGGS: Omega-3 enriched or pastured eggs
- FULL-FAT DAIRY: cheese, butter, full-fat yogurt, sour cream
- LOW-CARB VEGETABLES: spinach, broccoli, kale, asparagus, cauliflower
- NUTS, SEEDS: nuts, walnuts, almonds, sunflower seeds, macadamia nuts… peanuts are NOT nuts!
- HEALTY FATS: coconut oil, avocado and avocado oil, extra virgin oil
Base your meals around fatty protein sources and include low-carb vegetables and nuts.
Healthy fats are essential as they help you burn fat more efficiently which helps you reach your weight goal faster.
Sample Atkins Diet Weekly Meal Plan
- Breakfast: eggs and low-carb vegetables fried in healthy oils
- Lunch: leafy-green chicken salad with chicken breast slices drizzled in healthy oil with a side of nuts
- Dinner: steak and low-carb veggies
- Breakfast: bacon and eggs
- Lunch: leafy green salad with chicken breast slices with a side of dimmed low-carb vegetables
- Dinner: homemade hamburger with a side of nuts
- Breakfast: organic Greek yogurt with berries mixed in
- Lunch: leafy green salad with chicken breast slices with a side of low-carb vegetables
- Dinner: homemade hamburger with a side of nuts
- Breakfast: omelet with low-carb veggies fried in healthy oil
- Lunch: shrimp salad drizzled in olive oil
- Dinner: ground beef stir fry with low-carb veggies
- Breakfast: eggs and low-carb veggies
- Lunch: pork chops with a side of low-carb vegetables
- Dinner: leafy green salad with slices of chicken breast drizzled with olive oil
- Breakfast: omelet with low-carb vegetables fried in butter
- Lunch: beef steak with cheese including a side of low-carb veggies
- Dinner: chicken chops with low-carb veggies
- Breakfast: omelet with bacon
- Lunch: pork chops with low-carb veggies
- Dinner: grilled chicken wings with salsa and some dimmed low-carb veggies
What Foods to Buy for the Atkins Diet
You need to include different varieties of vegetables in your meals. When you’re at a restaurant try to abide by these golden rules: instead of bread, get extra veggies, extra butter or olive oil with your meals. Try to order meals based on fatty meats or fish.
Eating organic is not necessary, but best. Try to keep to the least-processed products.
Here’s a sample shopping list made for people trying the Atkins diet:
- Meat (beef, chicken, lamb, pork, bacon)
- Shrimp and shellfish
- Fatty fish (swordfish, tuna, salmon, sardines, mackerel)
- Dairy (whole milk, Greek yogurt, cheese)
- Nuts (walnuts, almonds, pistachios, Macadamia nuts)
- Veggies (broccoli, cauliflower, string beans, cabbage)
- Berries (strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, black berries)
- Seeds (sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds)
- Fruit (apples, oranges)
- Oils (olive oil)
- Dark chocolate
What to Drink
Water should be your first choice whether you’re dieting or not!
Alcohol is okay to consume so long as it’s a responsible amount. No more than one serving a day and stick to dry wines or spirits and avoid beer.
Coffee s a great choice. Coffee is high in antioxidants and healthier than most people assume.
Green tea is also a great beverage of choice, especially if you don’t drink coffee.
Yes, you can do diet drinks, but I don’t recommend them.
What to Snack On
If you find yourself hungry between meals, try snacking on some cheese, a few slices of meat, a handful of nuts, berries or a single piece of fruit. These foods will provide you with the energy you need to go throughout your day while satisfying your hunger.
Diets like this are more effective for short-term dieters trying to reach a weight loss goal. It may prove difficult to stick to this diet due to the low-carbohydrate count.
For the person hitting the gym and wanting to lose body fat while maintaining muscle, this diet shines.Share!