The Atkins Nutritional Approach was researched by Dr. Robert Atkins as a way of resolving his own weight problem and today is a popular dieting method for severe and drastic weight loss. The diet is categorized as a low-carb diet as it limits the intake of carbohydrates and trains the body to convert fat as a primary source of fuel.
The diet is split into a number of phases, the most important being the induction phase and takes the form of a ketogenic diet. These diets eat very few carbs and rely on the hormonal response to blood glucose. When no carbohydrates are present, the insulin response is not present and the hormones change within the body to encourage stored fat to be used as the source of energy. The hormones that are released tell the liver to convert glycogen (stored body fat) into glucose. It is from this theory that the weight loss effect on the body can be found.
Following the starting phase, the diet moves to one of ongoing weight loss and involves adding very small amounts of carbohydrates to the diet in incremental amounts each week. The goal of this phase is to find the optimum level of carb intake while continuing to lose weight. Atkins developed a carbohydrate “ladder” that includes different food types to be stepped up to each week until the optimum level is found. The maximum level of carbs that can be consumed without gaining weight forms the next step and allows the diet to be maintained, potentially, over a lifetime.
Atkins Diet severely limits what can be eaten and often requires a huge change in people’s attitudes towards their diet. Protein rich foods such as meat and seafood are a major source of energy and vitamins for the body as are vegetables. Vegetables actually form the carbohydrate aspect of the diet that can be consumed. Fats and oils that are in moderation are again allowed as these will help avoid hunger and cravings (cravings lead to snacking which is typically satisfied via carbohydrates). Finally water is the beverage of choice.
The main benefit of the Atkins Diet is the rapid weight loss that can be achieved. During the first few weeks the amount of weight that can be lost is often vast, several pounds is very common and more in extreme cases. The attraction of this is one of the major factors in attracting people to the Atkins Diet. Because the diet encourages the consumption of vitamin and mineral rich foods there is also an added benefit of general well-being and good health as well as preventing certain diseases.
The early 2000’s saw the popularity of the diet rise very quickly; particularly in western countries across Europe and the Americas. The popularity increased so rapidly that global sales of carbohydrate rich foods like pasta and rice declined by as much as 7%.
The Atkins Diet, while having lost its popularity from the last decade, is still a choice for many people who seek extreme measures to weight loss. For people whose weight has impacted their health extreme measures are often the only way to get the improvements that are required. Major lifestyle and eating changes are required but it is a proven method of losing body fat on a mass scale and often over a short period time.
However, as is the case of every “diet,” you should be extremely cautious of implementing these extreme diets. You also must ask yourself if you can eat this way for the rest of your life. For most people, this would be a resounding, “no.”