Chances are you have heard the term “Atkins Diet” bandied around many times. Being on Atkins Diet is almost as a cool as having an iPhone these days; there is a style factor in it yes, but what exactly is it? Does it work and is it healthy? The Atkins Diet is a low-carb diet. It works on the basic principle of cutting down the glucose that reaches your bloodstream by restricting the amount of carbohydrates you eat. Dr. Atkins, after whom the diet is named, was a firm believer that carbohydrates are the root cause of all evil, aka weight gain, and cutting them out fully or at least in part is an excellent solution to all our weight problems.

The basic principle of the diet is that when you cut down your carbs intake, the body will reach out to existing fat reserves to fulfill its energy requirements. This in in turn results in weight loss.

So what does this mean for you? Does this mean you have to give up carbs of all forms? That you can never eat bread or rice again? Will the diet leave you feeling hungry? The short answer for all these questions is NO.

While on the Atkins diet, you might actually end up eating more than normal. The only difference will be what you eat.

Atkins works in phases. Phase one, or the initiation or induction phase, is the toughest phase. Your total carb intake can go down to as low as 20gm. In this phase the bulk of your meal should be compromised of proteins (meat, seafood, eggs for non-vegetarians and paneer, tofu for vegetarians). The second biggest component is vegetables; this is where the bulk of the carbohydrate in the diet should come from. Just remember that the total count of carbs still has to stay below 20 grams, so no starchy vegetables like potatoes are allowed yet. Fats and cheeses are also a part of this phase. Fat is especially critical; the biggest mistake many people make is to reduce their fat intake to zero. To the contrary a decent fat intake is critical for a low carb diet to work, so stock up on good fats like extra virgin olive oil.

Ideally you will stay in Phase One for at least two weeks, some choose to stay there longer for rapid weight loss.

In phase two, which is the balancing phase of the diet, the carb intake is slowly increased but you are still not permitted to eat direct carbs yet. The foods added in this phase are nuts, berries and melons (but no other fruit yet), milk, yoghurt and legumes. Your carbohydrate intake should be about 50 grams a day.

You will be ready to move on when you are about 5 kilograms from your goal weight, or when you have been on the diet for more than a month. This is when you move to phase 3, the fine tuning phase.

In phase 3 you can start including some direct carbs back into your diet, such as whole grains and starchy vegetables. Slowly you can start balancing your eating and easing back into your daily lifestyle. Just be sure to eat a healthy balanced diet to avoid dramatic weight increase.

Like all fad diets, the Atkins Diet is not intended to be an eating plan for life. There are some medical disadvantages to the Atkins Diet as well. It can cause bad breath, you may not be receiving enough nutrients such as fibre, calcium, potassium and magnesium, which will in turn may impact other aspects of your health. The diet is also specifically not recommended for anyone with kidney disease.

For quick weight loss though, the Atkins Diet has known to be effective, but quick fixes and fad diets are no match for a healthy lifestyle in the long run. Embark on it if you must, but do consult your doctor to make sure that it is right for you.

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