The Atkins diet, probably the best known of all low-carb plans, boasts great successes on its website, including some followers who lost more than 100 pounds. However, your weight-loss success really depends on you – your adherence to the plan, the food and beverage choices you make and the inclusion of exercise. You are likely to see the speediest weight loss during induction or Phase One, as your body adjusts to taking in more protein and fewer carbs.
Atkins Induction Basics
The traditional Atkins diet is now called Atkins 20. In the induction phase, which lasts two weeks or more, you consume ample lean protein and healthy fats, but only 20 to 25 grams of "net" carbohydrates a day. You calculate "net" carbs by subtracting the grams of fiber in a food from its total grams of carbohydrate.
Your carbs should ideally come from what Atkins calls "foundation vegetables," which includes all leafy greens, broccoli, cauliflower and related cruciferous vegetables, bell peppers, summer squash, onions, leeks and garlic. These veggies are all very low in net carbs, many having fewer than 3 grams per serving; they're also low calorie.
The induction phase also allows carbs from small amounts of nuts, as long as you get at least 12 grams of net carbs from the foundation veggies. However, avoiding nuts during the first two weeks may benefit your results.
Carb Choices and Weight Loss
How strictly you adhere to the suggested carbs could speed up or slow down your weight loss during induction. You may be tempted to sneak in a piece of fruit or a serving of legumes, but leave them for the later phases of the diet, after you're closing in on your desired weight. Your best bet for speedy weight loss during induction is to adhere to the list of suggested foundation vegetables. Don't worry; you'll have plenty to eat – 12 to 15 grams of net carbs amounts to about 6 cups of leafy greens and 2 cups of cooked veggies daily, according to Atkins.
You should also pay attention to the carb counts and serving sizes of the foundation vegetables, because some will be significantly higher in carbs than others. For example, a half-cup of greens will yield 1 to 3 net grams of carbs, while the same serving of cooked tomato contains almost 9 grams. You'll quickly be over your limit of net carbs if you don't watch where they are coming from.
Protein and Fat on Atkins
In all phases of Atkins, you're permitted liberal amounts of protein foods, which fill you up so you feel satiated after eating. Daily protein intake higher than the government-recommended amount promotes greater weight loss, according to a study published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition in 2004; the researchers suggested 1.5 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight during a weight-loss program, with a kilogram equaling 2.2 pounds. Protein helps your body burn fat while also preserving muscle.
However, some protein choices, like cheese, are higher in saturated fat and calories and, if eaten in excess, may stall your weight-loss efforts and also contribute to cardiovascular issues. To speed up weight loss and eat a healthful diet, too, get 4 to 6 ounces of lean proteins at each meal, like fish, seafood, poultry, lamb, beef and eggs. Leaner cuts of beef include round and sirloin. Avoid prepared fish and meat from the deli section of the store, which may include sugary marinades or breading.
You also need fat in your diet to promote fat-burning and speed your weight loss. Choose heart-healthy fats from foods like fish, nuts, avocado and olives.
Alcohol During Induction
If you are accustomed to drinking alcoholic beverages with meals, continuing the practice during the induction phase may impede your weight loss. The Atkins plan recommends no alcohol until Phase Two or later. During induction, you are training your body to burn fat for fuel, but if alcohol is present in your system, your body will burn that instead. This process can put a halt to weight loss until the alcohol leaves your system. To speed up weight loss during the induction phase, refrain from drinking alcohol and choose regular or sparkling water, coffee or tea or unflavored almond or soy milk.
Exercise to Speed Up Weight Loss
You'll have the greatest success on Atkins – or any diet – if you incorporate exercise along with your nutrition plan. The National Weight Loss Registry, which tracks people who have lost weight and kept it off for at least a year, reports that 89 percent of those listed combine diet and exercise; only 10 percent have had long-term success with diet only.
To speed up your weight loss during induction, incorporate an exercise program from day one. At a minimum, get 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise every week – brisk walking, biking, dancing, jogging – and perform strength training that works all muscle groups two days a week. Boosting the intensity of the exercise or increasing your amount of exercise time may be necessary to speed up your results.
- Atkins: Atkins 20 Diet Plan
- Atkins: Phase One List of Acceptable Foods
- Atkins: The Rules of Induction
- Atkins: How to Do Atkins Right
- Journal of the American College of Nutrition: Protein Quantity and Quality at Levels above the RDA Improves Adult Weight Loss
- CalBeef.org: 29 Ways to Love Lean Beef
- Atkins: Atkins 20 FAQs
- American Council on Exercise: Weight Loss: Diet vs. Exercise
- CDC: Finding a Balance