The theory behind the Atkins diet is that by strictly limiting your intake of carbohydrates, you can force your body into burning stored fat for energy, resulting in weight loss. Followers of the plan move through four phases. The first phase, known as the Induction phase, is the most restrictive. Medical experts like Dr. Lawrence Cheskin of the Johns Hopkins Weight Management Center caution that high-protein, low-carbohydrate programs such as the Atkins diet may not be healthy or lead to sustainable weight loss.
Amount of Weight Loss
The Induction phase typically lasts two weeks. During this time, proponents claim that the average dieter may be able to lose up to 15 pounds if he adheres to the plan's rules. These include consuming 18 to 22 grams of carbohydrates each day, with 12 to 15 grams supplied by nonstarchy vegetables. No grains, fruit or sugars are allowed during Induction. Instead, the phase emphasizes plant- and animal-based proteins, vegetables and cheese.
Length of Induction Phase
Dieters may choose to remain in the Induction phase for more than two weeks if they prefer to continue losing weight at a rapid pace, says Atkins. After the initial weeks, these dieters are advised to add nuts and seeds to the foods allowed in Induction. The amount of weight lost during this lengthened phase will vary depending on how long the dieter chooses to limit her carbohydrate intake to 20 grams. If she wishes, she can continue to follow the Induction guidelines until she is 15 pounds from her goal weight.
A study published in "The British Medical Journal" in 2006 determined that Atkins dieters following the basic plan -- including a two-week Induction phase -- lost an average of 10 pounds in four weeks, more than was lost by other dieters on low-fat, low-calorie or meal-replacement plans. However, after four weeks, the Atkins dieters did not lose weight more rapidly than dieters following other programs.
During the Induction phase, Atkins dieters do not consume the recommended daily amount of fiber or carbohydrates while eating a large amount of fat. Yale Prevention Research Center Director Dr. David Katz says this type of eating pattern may increase your risk of high blood cholesterol and heart disease. The lack of fruit and milk in the Induction phase may also cause deficiencies in nutrients like calcium and vitamin C. A slow, steady weight loss of 1 to 2 pounds a week is recommended as healthier than the rapid weight loss that may occur during Induction.