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Atkins Diet: Should You Do It?

Yiwen Lu, MS, RD, CPT
July 22, 2023
December 14, 2023

Are you familiar with the Atkins Diet? Since the release of Dr. Atkins' book, 'Dr. Atkins' Diet Revolution,' in 1972, this low-carbohydrate eating plan has gained substantial popularity. Dr. Atkins' findings on low-carb dieting have sparked extensive research and ongoing debates on whether low-carb diets yield better weight loss results compared to low-fat diets.

So what is the Atkins Diet composed of? What does the research say? What are the pros and cons? Does it promise sustainable weight loss? Will it affect my cholesterol? And what about the cost? Let’s get these pressing questions answered.

What Is the Atkins Diet?

The Atkins diet is primarily designed for individuals looking to lose weight. The Atkins Diet believes that a low carb diet should focus on limiting carbohydrates to help the body burn fat instead of sugar for fuel.

First Off, Let’s Learn About Net Carbs

When browsing the Atkins website, you'll notice the frequent mention of the term "net carbs." But what is It and why use It? Net carbs is a commonly used term in low-carb diets. They are often considered a more accurate measure of the carbohydrates that have a significant impact on blood sugar levels.

To determine the "net carbs" in specific foods, subtract the total grams of carbs by the grams of fiber and sugar alcohols.

The Atkins Diet places emphasis on net carbs. By prioritizing carbs, the Atkins diet allows followers to choose foods with a lower impact on their carbohydrate intake while still maintaining a nutritionally balanced diet. By focusing on net carbs, individuals can make informed food choices that align with their goals.

Now, Let’s Delve Into the Types of Atkins Low Carb Diets

The Atkins diet offers three options to choose from based on individual preferences and goals:

Atkins 20

Atkins 20 is made for people who:

  • Have 40+ pounds to lose
  • Have a waist size of 35+ (women) or 40+ (men)
  • Are pre- diabetic or diabetic

The Atkins 20 diet plan is divided into four phases. Initially, during the first phase, carbohydrate consumption is limited to 20 grams of net carbs per day. In phase 2, the daily net carb intake gradually increases to a range of 25 to 20 grams. Phase 3 allows for a higher intake, ranging from 50 to 80 grams of daily net carbs. Finally, in phase 4, the net carb intake increases further to a range of 80 to 100 grams per day.

Atkins 40

Atkins 20 is made for people who:

  • Have less than 40 pounds to lose
  • Need a wider variety of food choices
  • Are breastfeeding with the goal of losing weight

Atkins 40 allows for a slightly higher carbohydrate intake, with a starting point of 40 grams of net carbs per day. It emphasizes on a balanced diet so consuming 4 to 6 servings of protein and 2 to 4 servings of fat per day is also suggested. And as you get closer to achieving your weight loss goals, the plan encourages you to slowly increase your carbohydrate portion size.

Atkins 100

Atkins 100 is made for people who:

  • Are living a low carb lifestyle and want to maintain their weight
  • Need the widest variety of food choices
  • Are breastfeeding with goal of maintaining weight
  • Are pregnant

Atkins 100, also referred to as the Atkins Maintenance plan, is designed for long-term weight maintenance and promotes a sustainable low-carb lifestyle. This approach encourages individuals to start the program by consuming 100 grams of net carbs per day, spread between three meals and two snacks.

Pros & Cons

Pros

  1. Weight loss: The Atkins diet has shown to be effective in promoting short term weight loss. Following a low-carbohydrate diet aims to induce the body to utilize stored fat as an energy source in order to promote weight loss.
  2. Appetite control: Protein and fat tend to provide a greater sense of satiety or fullness compared to carbohydrates, which might lead to better appetite control.
  3. Improved metabolic markers: Some research shows improvements in blood triglyceride levels, HDL (good) cholesterol, and insulin sensitivity when following the Atkins diet.
  4. Easy to follow: The Atkins diet provides meal plans and resources that provide structured meal ideas and recipes. This can be particularly helpful for individuals who prefer a more structured approach or have no time to plan meals.

Cons

  1. Nutrient deficiencies: Restricting carbohydrates may limit the intake of certain nutrients found in carbohydrate-rich foods, such as fiber, vitamins, and minerals.
  2. Potential health risks: While the short-term effects of the Atkins diet appear positive, the long-term impact on overall health is still being studied. High intake of saturated fats and limited intake of certain carbohydrates might lead to increase in LDL (bad) cholesterol levels and potential cardiovascular concerns.
  3. Sustainability and adherence: A low-carb lifestyle might be hard to sustain, and adherence to the Atkins diet may vary among individuals.
  4. Social limitations: The strict carbohydrate limitations of the Atkins diet can make it challenging to eat out or socialize, as many foods and dishes may be off-limits. This can impact social interactions and overall enjoyment of meals.

What About the Cost?

The price of Atkins products can be flexible depending on the frequency of use. If you're interested in giving it a try, Atkins offers numerous online resources to explore. You can visit their website, engage with their online communities and forums, connect through social media platforms, and access their books and literature. This way, you can get a glimpse of what Atkins has to offer without making a full commitment. Within the Atikins meal plan, frozen meals typically range from $3 to $5 each. If you prefer a quick and easy snack or meal replacement, Atkins bars and shakes are available at prices ranging from $1 to $2 per serving.

However, if you want a more personalized approach with a structured program, such as personalized meal plans tailored to your specific needs, expert support and guidance from registered dietitians or nutritionists, and exclusive resources like a wide range of recipes, cooking tips, and educational materials, additional fees apply. The cost of these extra services will vary based on the specific plan you choose.

Takeaways

When considering whether to adopt the Atkins diet, it is important to thoroughly evaluate its appropriateness, advantages, and possible drawbacks. Although studies have shown that the Atkins diet can lead to short-term weight loss and metabolic enhancements, more research is needed to establish its long-term effectiveness and feasibility. It is highly recommended that you seek guidance from a healthcare professional or a registered dietitian who can evaluate your unique requirements and assist you in making an informed decision about the Atkins diet or any other dietary plan.

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