The Atkins diet is a low-carb diet to help people achieve and maintain a healthy weight. This diet, which has been around since the 1970s, cuts out almost all sources of carbohydrates, such as breads, pasta, rice, muffins, breakfast cereals, granola bars, potatoes, corn, fruits, milk, yogurts, sugar and desserts. The Atkins diet is based on non-starchy vegetables, meat, chicken, fish, eggs, cheese and fats.
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The induction phase is the first of four phases of the Atkins diet. This phase restricts the daily carbohydrate intake to less than 20 g a day. The objective of this phase is to help your body start burning your body fat for fuel instead of using carbohydrates, in addition to getting rid of your carbohydrate cravings as quickly as possible.
The Atkins induction flu is a term used to describe the side effects sometimes experienced by Atkins dieters when they start restricting their carbohydrate intake to very low amounts. The symptoms of the Atkins induction flu include fatigue, weakness, dizziness, headaches, irritability and nausea.
There are two main causes of the side effects sometimes experienced when starting on a low-carb diet. The first is carbohydrate withdrawal. Most people are used to eating about 50 percent of their calories as carbohydrates, so drastically switching to a low-carb diet comprising less than 5 percent to 10 percent of the calories as carbohydrates is a big dietary change. When you eat a diet rich in carbs, your body retains a store of glycogen -- a type of carbohydrate -- to use in the future for fuel. When you start to eat a low-carb diet, your body begins to burn this glycogen for energy. This eventually depletes your glycogen stores, and your body begins to burn fat for energy as it enters ketosis. This switch can cause flu-like symptoms.
The second cause is dehydration. Low-carbohydrate diets tend to be diuretic and help you get rid of unwanted extra water in your body, but if you do not properly replenish the lost fluids and electrolytes, dehydration and the accompanying side effects can occur.
Atkins dieters can start experiencing induction flu symptoms in as little as 12 hours after cutting their carbohydrate intake. The symptoms usually disappear within four to five days, although they might last up to a week for some dieters.
If the symptoms of Atkins induction flu are caused by carbohydrate withdrawal, patience is your only strategy. If you let your body adjust to this new way of eating, you will soon feel like you have more energy. To eliminate the diuretic effect of the Atkins diet, ensure that you stay properly hydrated by drinking plenty of water. Taking 1/2 tsp. of salt, 2 tbsp. of soy sauce or 2 cups of broth a day also is recommended to replenish the lost electrolytes. Talk to your doctor about this recommendation if you have been told to limit your sodium intake.
- "The New Atkins for a New You"; Eric C. Westman et al; 2010
- Atkins: General Trouble Shooting