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The Atkins Diet: Everything You Need To Know
The world is full of different diets, each claiming to be the miracle solution to weight loss. Some are more effective than others, and some can be outright harmful. Most experts agree that a balance of nutrients and regular exercise are the best way to live well, but there is always a temptation to look for an easier way. The Atkins diet is one of the most well-known alternatives.
History of the Atkins Diet
Robert Atkins was a doctor who designed the diet that would take his name in the 1970s. The first book describing the Atkins diet was published in 1972. Atkins based his work on the research of Alfred W. Pennington, which was conducted during the Second World War. The diet would later be accompanied by a medical center and a range of Atkins-branded products.
Originally known as Complementary Formulations, Atkins Nutritionals continues to sell shakes, bars and other low-carb snacks. At its height in the early 2000s, Atkins was one of the most popular diets in the world, followed by millions of people. Although its popularity has waned since Atkins died, it still attracts widespread interest - and controversy.
What exactly is the Atkins Diet?
At its most basic, the Atkins diet focuses on removing carbohydrates (sugar and starch) from the menu. That means no bread, pasta, rice, potatoes or cereal. Unlike other diets, there are no restrictions on any other food groups. That means you can eat unlimited amounts of protein or fat, including butter, cheese, eggs and meat. It may mean using substitutes such as Zero Noodles Fettuccine.
Carbohydrates are our primary source of energy. We also get energy from fat. If we are not taking in carbohydrates, the body will start burning its fat stores instead, causing us to lose weight. Meanwhile, eating more protein will theoretically cause us to become full more quickly, which means we are less hungry and will eat less.
There are similarities between Atkins and the ketogenic diet, which is also high in fat and low in carbohydrates.
The Atkins diet is divided into four stages:
1. Induction - This involves eating less than 20g of carbohydrates every day. Vegetables allowed include leafy greens, which are low in carbs but high in other nutrients. Eat plenty of fat and protein. This stage should last around two weeks.
2. Balancing - You can go up to between 25g and 45g of daily carbs. This may include adding different fruit and vegetables, along with nuts. It’s about balancing the reintroduction of carbs with continuing weight loss.
3. Fine-tuning/pre-maintenance - Weight loss slows to a more maintainable level as more carbs are added.
4. Maintenance - Eat as many carbs as you want as long as you don’t start regaining the weight you lost in earlier stages.
Atkins primarily exists as a weight loss diet, and some people experience benefits in this regard, particularly in the short term. It may also be easier to maintain than more restrictive diets that try to remove fatty foods and other food groups from your diet as well, or those that require rigid counting of calories. You also do not have to cut carbohydrates out completely. While the first stages of the diet do remove all carbs, you can gradually restore some once you start experiencing progress. There was criticism of the high amounts of saturated fat in the Atkins diet in the past, but more recent research suggests saturated fat may not be as harmful as previously thought.
Some people have criticized the science behind the Atkins diet and have raised concerns that it may actually be damaging to health. A lack of carbohydrates can lead to dizziness and fatigue because it means you have less energy. It may also lead to digestive and bowel issues because you may not be eating enough fiber. Meanwhile, an overconsumption of fat has been associated with health problems of its own, including heart attacks and strokes (which can be caused when fat blocks the arteries). This is why the advice from the Atkins diet has been modified to suggest you avoid trans fats in particular.
To summarize, the Atkins diet only restricts the amount of carbohydrates you eat while allowing you to continue to eat fat and protein. The science behind it has been disputed, but it has still become one of the most popular ways to lose weight in the world. As with all diets, you still need to be careful about your own health when removing important nutrients from your diet.