By Nick Nilsson
Author of The Starting Monday Diet
The Atkins Diet (i.e. Low-Carb Diet) has been in existence for more than 50 years and has enjoyed a surge in popularity over the last few years.
Pioneered by Dr. Robert Atkins, the theory behind the Atkins Diet is simple. Your body prefers to utilize carbohydrates (such as in grains, cereals, breads, etc.) for energy and will burn them first prior to body fat. By cutting down dramatically on carbohydrates in your diet, you force your body to burn fat for energy.
Reducing the carbohydrates in your diet puts your body into a state called "ketosis." This word is derived from the "ketones" that are used by your body for energy when sugars/carbs aren't available. When you are in this state of ketosis, your body is producing ketones from your fat that is being burned for energy. Ketones are essentially the leftovers from this process and are used in place of sugar in the body.
One of the major misconceptions about the Atkins Diet that has been widely reported is that you can or should eat extremely unhealthy, fatty foods all the time. This is not actually true. Dr. Atkins recommends that you limit your intake of these types of foods (e.g. butter, sausage, bacon, etc.) and instead focus on healthy fats such as olive oil, fish oil, nuts, etc.
The Atkins Diet has many positives and negatives that have been associated with it.
Some of the positives include:
- Rapid Weight Loss - though the first couple of days the majority of weight lost is water, your body does become more efficient at fat burning and you do lose fat.
- Reduced Mood or Energy Swings - eating carbohydrates (especially sugary ones) can lead to mood and energy swings. This is often seen as the post-lunchtime or afternoon energy crash. When you eliminate the carbs, you eliminate the source of this problem.
- Reduced Consumption of Refined Foods - highly refined foods are the source of many health problems. The more processed a food is, the less nutrients are generally in it. The Atkins Diet encourages a focus on the consumption of more natural state foods such as vegetables, lean meats, fish, eggs and healthy oils.
Some of the negatives that have been associated with the Atkins Diet include:
- Rapid Regaining of Lost Weight - this can happen when a person comes off the Atkins Diet. They regain all the weight they lost. One of the major reasons for this is that when you eliminate the carbs from your diet for a long period of time, your body becomes more sensitive to them.
When you go back to your regular eating habits (which may not have been great to begin with), your body reacts more strongly to the sugar and carbs in foods, leading to weight gain. This weight gain can be reduced by easing off the Atkins Diet gradually rather than by feasting on carbohydrates.
- Lack of Food Choices - it can be difficult to find things to eat that are low carb. Most grocery stores are primarily stocked with carbohydrate-laden foods and it can get boring eating the same things over and over again. Luckily, with the popularity of the Atkins diet and other low carb diets, there are many delicious recipes available to help alleviate this boredom.
The Atkins Diet may not be for you but by incorporating some of the principles in it, such as lowering your carbohydrate intake and eating more natural-state foods, you may find that you can achieve great results without ever having to restrict yourself. It may take a little longer but the results will be more permanent as it is more of a lifestyle change than a diet.
Getting Enough Nutrition on the Atkins Diet
One thing I always do recommend when using a low-carb diet, like the Atkins Diet, is taking additional nutrients either via multivitamin or "greens" powder. The one that I use is called "Athletic Greens." I recommend it very highly...I've been using it myself for more than 5 years. It covers all my nutritional bases very effectively.
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