People have been using low-carb diets to lose weight for over 150 years. However, the Atkins weight-loss diet may be one of the most popular and well-known low-carb weight-loss plans.
Like many commercial weight-loss diets, the Atkins Diet has changed over the years. Not too long ago, the diet focused around one plan divided into four phases, including what was referred to as the induction phase. Now, you have three programs to choose from, including the original four-phase plan.
Though the induction phase of the original Atkins Diet is meant to help jump-start your weight-loss efforts, even the official Atkins website notes that the rate of weight loss differs from person to person. You may want to speed up your weight loss when following the Atkins induction phase, but you shouldn't beat yourself up if you're not losing as quickly as you'd like.
Atkins Diet Details
According to the Mayo Clinic, the Atkins Diet was developed in the 1960s by Robert C. Atkins, a cardiologist. The popular weight-loss diet focuses on the distribution of macronutrients to help you drop those unwanted pounds. More specifically, the diet restricts your intake of carbohydrates and encourages you to eat more protein and fat.
The theory is that limiting the number of grams of carbohydrates you consume helps lower your insulin levels. Insulin is a hormone involved in building fat stores in your body, according to an article published in the November 2018 issue of the BMJ.
Though low-carb diets like the Atkins Diet help people lose weight quickly, it's more likely due to the satiating effects of the protein and fat, which leads to a reduction in total calorie intake, then changes in your body's insulin levels, notes a December 2015 study published in Nutrition, Metabolism & Cardiovascular Diseases. Like most weight-loss diets, low-carb diets like the Atkins Diet work because they help you eat fewer calories.
To help you reach your weight-loss goals, the Atkins Diet offers three weight-loss plans, including:
- Atkins 20 (original four-phase Atkins Diet)
- Atkins 40
- Atkins 100
When it comes to losing weight and keeping it off, you need to find a plan you can follow for life. If you prefer foods high in protein and fat to foods high in carbohydrates, then the Atkins Diet may make a good choice for you. However, talk to your health care provider first for individualized guidance.
Read more: Healthy Low-Carb Eating Plan
The Induction Phase of Atkins
According to the official Atkins website, the Atkins 20 is the original low-carb keto diet divided into four phases. The induction is the first phase of the Atkins 20 program, and it's designed to stimulate fat-burning and kickstart your weight loss. During this phase, Atkins recommends you limit your total carbohydrate intake to about 20 grams of net carbs a day.
When following the Atkins Diet, you count net carbs not total carbs. Net carbs include the total carbs minus the fiber and sugar alcohols.
For perspective, the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine sets the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) and adequate intake (AI) for carbohydrates at 130 grams a day. The RDA and AI for carbohydrates means the amount sufficient enough to meet most people's needs.
Your body turns the carbohydrates you get from food into glucose, which is the primary source of energy for all the cells in your body. When carbohydrates are restricted to 20 grams a day, your body is forced to burn its fat stores to create ketones, which are used for energy in place of glucose.
During the induction phase of your Atkins weight-loss diet you're advised to:
- Eat regularly, going no more than six hours during the day without a meal or snack.
- Aim for 20 grams of net carbs daily.
- Make sure 12 to 15 grams of your net carbs come from low-carb veggies.
- Consume 4 to 6 ounces of protein at each meal.
- Include 3 tablespoons of added fat daily.
- Drink eight glasses of water.
According to the official Atkins Diet, you should stay in the induction phase of the diet program until you're within 15 pounds of your goal weight.
Read more: Negative Side Effects of a Low-Carb Diet
Atkins Weight-Loss Expectations
When it comes to Atkins Diet results, you need to keep your goals realistic. According to the Mayo Clinic, you may lose up to 15 pounds during the first two weeks of the induction phase. However, note that these results aren't typical, and much of your initial weight loss may be water loss and not actual fat.
After the first two weeks, you may continue to lose at a rate of 2 to 3 pounds a week, says the Mayo Clinic. However, the rate of weight loss differs from person to person.
Though you may be anxious to lose weight as quickly as possible, the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases says that a good weight-loss program promotes a slow and steady rate of weight loss of 1 to 2 pounds a week. However, it's not unusual to drop larger amounts of weight at the start of a program, which may help keep you motivated.
According to a November 2016 study published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, immediate rewards help people stick with their long-term health goals. With the induction phase of the Atkins Diet, dropping some unwanted pounds quickly may give you the motivation you need to stick with the program until you reach your goal weight.
Atkins Diet and Exercise
According to the official Atkins website, when following the Atkins Diet, exercise during induction isn't necessary, and you can lose weight without adding physical activity. However, the website further notes that it's a good idea to include exercise for other reasons.
Though Atkins doesn't provide reasons why it's a good idea to include exercise when trying to lose weight, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says it's important to include exercise in your weight-loss plan to help your body burn off extra calories. The CDC further notes that the only way to keep the weight you've lost from coming back is to remain physically active.
In addition to helping you get to and stay at your goal weight, exercise also improves heart health, muscle strength and bone health. It may also reduce your risk of developing chronic health issues such as depression, diabetes, heart disease, arthritis and several types of cancer.
To lose weight, the CDC says you need a high amount of physical activity a week. The general recommendation is 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise — like a brisk walk or light yard work.
- Atkins: "Low Carb Diet Expectations"
- Mayo Clinic: "Atkins Diet: What's Behind the Claims"
- Atkins: "Atkins 20: The Original Low-Carb, Keto Diet Plan"
- Atkins: "Atkins 20, Phase 1: Induction"
- Diabetes Spectrum: "'Low Carbohydrate' Food Facts and Fallacies"
- National Academy of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine: "Dietary Reference Intakes: Macronutrients"
- National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases: "Choosing a Safe and Effective Weight-Loss Program"
- Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin: "Immediate Rewards Predict Adherence to Long-Term Goals"
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: "Physical Activity for a Healthy Weight"
- The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association: "Are Low-Carbohydrate Diets Safe and Effective?"
- The BMJ: "Effects of a Low Carbohydrate Diet on Energy Expenditure During Weight Loss Maintenance: Randomized Trial"
- Nutrition, Metabolism & Cardiovascular Diseases: "The Effects of a Low-Carbohydrate Diet on Appetite: A Randomized Controlled Trial: