The Atkins Diet Review

The Atkins Diet is one of the most popular diet programs to date. It is also one that has been around longer than most, created in 1972 by renowned cardiologist Dr. Robert Atkins.

It has received both positive and negative reviews along the way. If you have tried any diets in the past, the Atkins is probably one of them since it promises fast, efficient weight loss without any calorie counting involved.

So, if you are not counting calories than how are you losing weight? Read on for an in depth look at one of the most controversial diets around.

About the Author

The mastermind behind the well-known Atkins Diet is Dr. Robert Atkins. He created the infamous diet plan after reading research found in the Journal of the American Medical Association that helped him shed his own unwanted weight. Years after reading the paper and shedding excess pounds himself, Dr. Atkins wrote the first of a series of Atkins books titled Dr. Atkins' Diet Revolution.

The book instantly became a best seller and was not modified until 30 years later in 2002. Although the book was slightly modified, the main portion of the diet remained the same. Most of the additions to the book were meal and snack options from the Atkins line of bars, shakes and nutritional supplements. In addition to the diet book, a cookbook was also published to help with recipes when doing the diet.

Eating low carb can be difficult since many foods are eliminated while on the plan, but the recipe book helps expand your options.

How the Atkins Diet Works

The Atkins Diet is a low carbohydrate diet that increases the consumption of protein and fats in order to produce quick weight loss and fat loss. The idea behind limiting carbohydrates is that you are changing the way the body's metabolism works and forcing it to burn fat for fuel instead of glucose.

When you eat too many carbohydrates and do not burn them, they turn into fat that is stored in the body. If you stop eating carbohydrates or limit them severely, your body starts looking for other fuel sources to use as energy. After about one to two days, the body goes into what is called ketosis and turns to burning fat for fuel instead.

When on the Atkins Diet, you will be restricting net carbohydrates. Net carbohydrates in a food are often calculated by looking at the total number of carbohydrates per serving and subtracting fiber and sugar alcohols from that number. Sugar alcohols and fiber have little to no effect on blood sugar levels, so most low carb diets, such as Atkins, do not consider them carbohydrates at all.

The American Diabetes Association, however, counts them but considers each gram of sugar alcohols to have a half gram of carbohydrates. They do not completely subtract them from the carbohydrate count but attribute only have of them towards the total net carb count.

About the Atkins Diet Phases

The Atkins Diet consists of four phases, each lasting different lengths of time. The length of time you remain on each phase will depend on how strict you want to be, how fast you want to lose weight and how much weight you have to lose. The four phases are titled:

First Phase: Induction

The first phase is the strictest of the four and also the one that will produce the fastest weight loss results. If the diet is followed accordingly, you can lose up to 15 pounds in as little as two weeks.

This phase is intended to put your body into a ketogenic state as soon as possible and kick start your weight loss program. All too often, dieters start the induction phase and remain on it longer than the recommended two week period because of the results it gives.

This phase is not intended to last longer than two weeks but, unfortunately, it is often what most people that are not familiar with the Atkins diet do. The purpose of moving onto the next phase is to learn how to eat the right carbohydrates in order to lose weight and keep it off permanently.

If you decide to start the Atkins Diet, be sure to follow the two week Induction phase accordingly and move on to the next phase as soon as the first 14 days have passed. If you do not have very much weight to lose and/or find the Induction phase too restrictive, you can move onto the next phase in less than the recommended 14 days.

Diet in the Induction Phase

During the Induction phase, you are limited to only 20 net carbs per day. Your diet consists of proteins, healthy fats and non-starchy vegetables.

This means you are not allowed to eat any fruits, breads, sugars or starches of any kind. Your diet will consist primarily of vegetables and lean protein during the two week period and will prepare your body for ongoing weight loss. When it comes to calories per day, the Atkins Diet does not designate a specific number since many foods have little to no carbohydrates and can be eaten freely until you are full.

These foods include most fish, meats and poultry, as long as they are not coated in marinades and/or sauces. In addition to an ample supply of protein, you should also consume about 12 to 15 grams of net carbs from vegetables. This will provide your body with the necessary fiber it needs to process the increased protein you are consuming.

During the Induction Phase, you will be able to eat foods from the lists below. When starting the diet, it is a good idea to purchase a pocket carbohydrate count book in order to keep on hand for easy reference. It will tell you if a food or dish you want to eat is acceptable during this phase and how many net carbohydrates it has.

You can also download an app on your mobile phone or tablet and look up foods individually. Some apps that offer carbohydrate counts, in addition to fat, calorie and protein count, are My Fitness Pal and Fat Secret.

Atkins Diet Foods List of Items Allowed During the Induction Phase

When consuming meat, make sure that it is not cured with sugar or marinated with sugary sauces such as teriyaki or barbecue sauce. Ideally, the lean protein you consume should be grilled with a dry spice rub and a splash of lemon juice only.

Eggs in any style
*Eggs are unlimited on the Atkins Diet but cheeses tend to have approximately 1 gram per serving so eat them in moderation.

Romaine lettuce
Iceberg lettuce
Swiss chard
Hearts of palm

When consuming vegetables, you will have to look up the individual carb count for each one to know exactly how much you can consume to stay within the daily recommended 12-15 net carb count. For the most part, the green vegetables tend to be very low in carbohydrates and can be eaten at liberty.

The higher carbohydrate, starchy vegetables, such as carrots, corn, potatoes, yams, pumpkin, string beans and brussell sprouts, should be avoided all together during the Induction phase but can be reintroduced in the latter phases.

Condiments, Fats and Oils
Sour cream
Blue cheese
Oil and vinegar
Vegetable oils

Artificial Sweeteners (each contains approximately 1 gram of net carbs per serving)
Sweet N' Low

Club soda
Unsweetened tea
Diet soda
Unflavored soy or almond milk
*It is essential to consume at least 64 ounces of water per day, more if you are exercising, while on the Atkins Diet in order to keep your digestive system working properly and avoid constipation. Constipation can occur due to an increase in protein intake and a decrease in whole grains, but drinking plenty of water can alleviate that.

Banned Foods During Induction Phase

Baked goods

Sample Induction Phase Daily Menu

Breakfast: Omelet with 3 eggs, bacon, mushrooms and American cheese served with coffee.
Lunch: Greek chicken salad with tomato, black olives, feta cheese, cucumbers and grilled chicken breast
Dinner: Grilled salmon fillet topped with butter served with steamed broccoli.
Snacks: String cheese, sugar free jello, nitrate free lunch meats

Second Phase: Ongoing Weight Loss Phase

The purpose of this phase is to gradually increase the carbohydrates you are consuming and keep your appetite under control by slowly adding the right carbs back into your diet. While in the Ongoing Weight Loss phase, your weight loss will drastically slow down and it will be up to you to judge how many carbohydrates you can consume per day in order to continue losing weight.

Some can still lose weight even while consuming the high end of 45 carbohydrates per day. Others will have to stick to the minimum count of 25 to 35 carbohydrates per day because they have a more stubborn metabolism and weight loss ceases once carb intake is increased to 45 per day or more.

Diet in the Ongoing Weight Loss Phase

After completing the most difficult part of the Atkins Diet, the Induction phase, you will move onto the Ongoing Weight Loss phase. This phase is slightly easier because it incorporates some of the foods that were previously prohibited and expands the options for snacks and meals.

During the Ongoing Weight Loss phase, you are allowed 25 to 45 net carbohydrates per day. You can eat all of the foods you ate during the first phase, as well as nuts, berries and low sugar yogurts.

Allowed Foods During the Ongoing Weight Loss Phase

This phase makes it easier to stick to the Atkins Diet because many diet staples are reintroduced. During the Ongoing Weight Loss phase, you can eat all of the foods allowed in the Induction phase as well as the added foods below.

When eating the added foods below, it is essential not to overdo it and eat too many servings of each item. Ideally, you should consume approximately 5 grams of net carbs per serving.

Cottage cheese
Heavy cream
Whole milk plain yogurt

Sunflower seeds

Fruits & Juices
Lemon juice
Lime juice
Tomato juice
*The above fruits and juices are lowest on the glycemic index but still have natural sugars. A serving of ¼ cup should be the maximum daily allowance of each.

In addition to the above foods, during the Ongoing Weight Loss phase, you can also enjoy any of the Atkins bars and shakes. They are convenient to grab and eat on the go and they are all allowed during this phase.

The net carbohydrate count is printed on each one so it makes it easy to keep tabs on your daily carbohydrate intake. The bars and shakes are a great idea for a breakfast on the go or a mid-day snack.

Sample Ongoing Weight Loss Phase Daily Men

Breakfast: Scrambled eggs topped with shredded cheese of your choice served with ½ cup of cottage cheese
Lunch: Sirloin beef burger wrapped in lettuce with American cheese, tomato and slice of onion.
Dinner: Green salad topped with grilled shrimp, avocado, bacon bits and egg with ranch dressing
Snacks: almonds, berries, Atkins bar.

Third Phase: Pre-Maintenance Phase

By the time you have reached the Pre-Maintenance phase, you should be about 10 pounds away from your goal weight. If you have not yet reached this point, you should remain in the Ongoing Weight Loss phase until you do.

The purpose of the Pre-Maintenance phase is to continue to incorporate additional foods into your diet to help you lose weight at a very gradual place. During this phase, you will need to learn by trial and error what your body's overall tolerance for carbohydrates is.

When eating new foods during this phase, you need to be observant of your weight and how your body reacts. Each week or every few weeks, you should raise your carbohydrate intake by about 10 net grams. If you notice that you have plateaud and/or are gaining weight back, cut back 10 grams again and decide what your ideal net carbohydrate intake is in order to lose weight and to maintain.

Diet in the Pre-Maintenance Phase

During this phase, you have the liberty to reintroduce all of the foods that were previously banned. It is important to reintroduce these foods slowly in order to see how your body reacts to them. The last three food groups you will be adding are as follows:

All fruits except dried fruits and juices

Higher Carb Vegetables

Whole Grains
Brown rice
Whole grain crackers

When adding each of the above foods, it is essential to do it slowly and only one food at a time. This will help you judge how your body reacts to the food and how much of it you can consume while still losing weight gradually.

Sample Pre-Maintenance Phase Daily Menu

Breakfast: Greek yogurt topped with fresh berries.
Lunch: Turkey wrap in a low carb tortilla with avocado, tomato, lettuce, mayonnaise and mozzarella cheese
Dinner: Grilled chicken breast served with baked asparagus.
Snacks: Atkins shake, sugar free gelatin, string cheese, cashews

Fourth Phase: Lifetime Maintenance

By the time you enter the fourth and final phase of the Atkins Diet, you should be at your goal weight and you should know exactly how many carbohydrates you can consume daily in order to lose weight and to maintain your weight as well. If you ever notice your weight creeping up again, revert back to the previous phases by cutting your carb intake and return to the Lifetime Phase again when you are back at your goal weight.

Ideally, you should have learned how to eat the right carbs so the weight never creeps back. You should also have established an exercise plan by now that helps you burn any excess carbohydrates you consume so they are not converted to stored fat.

One aspect that is not covered much in the Atkins Diet is exercise, but it is still a necessary component to any weight loss plan. Exercise will help you balance your carbohydrate intake and offset the days that you eat more carbohydrates than you should.

Ideally, you should try and consume most of the higher carbohydrate foods earlier in the day, before 2pm, so you have plenty of time left in the day to burn them off. Fruits should be eaten at breakfast or as a mid-morning snack. Whole grains and starchy vegetables should not be eaten past lunch time.

Dinner should consist of lean protein, low carbohydrate vegetables and healthy fats since you will be doing very little calorie burning activity after dinner time. These are all habits you should have learned prior to entering the Lifetime Maintenance phase that will help you remain at your goal weight while also allowing you to enjoy the foods you love.

Diet in the Lifetime Maintenance

In this phase, there are no restrictions to what you can and cannot eat. With that said, you still need to use what you learned in the previous three phases and stick to mostly low carbohydrate foods most of the time and most days of the week. If you are going to add starchy vegetables, high glycemic fruits, carb laden whole grains, baked goods or alcoholic beverages, be sure to offset them with additional exercise and/or eat low carbohydrate foods for the remainder of your meals.

Sample Lifetime Maintenance Daily Menu

Breakfast: Whole grain toast topped with butter and sugar free preserves served with egg white omelet
Lunch: Cobb salad topped with ham, turkey, cheese, bacon bits, egg and blue cheese dressing.
Dinner: Sashimi salad with miso soup and edamame
Snacks: Apple with peanut butter, Laughing cow cheese, Atkins bar, ½ cup of cottage cheese

Atkins Diet Recipes

Incorporating new recipes and meals into your diet are essential in succeeding while doing the Atkins Diet. So many people revolve their diets around white foods such as rice, bread, potatoes, flour and crackers that, when these items are removed, they have no idea how to eat. They end up eating chicken, eggs and vegetables day in and day out and eventually give up due to diet boredom.

The Atkins Cookbook provides hundreds of recipes tailored specifically to each of the four phases of the diet. There are also thousands of free Atkins recipes available online on the Atkins website. Plan your meals ahead so you have an Atkins friendly meal ready to eat at all times. This will help avoid cheating and giving in to cravings.

Atkins Diet Review

The Atkins Diet has received high acclaims, as well as harsh criticism, during its 30 plus years in existence. The bottom line is that it certainly does lead to rapid weight loss during the first two weeks and helps you continue to lose weight at a gradual pace without the need to count calories.

In addition, because there is no limit to how much lean protein and low carbohydrate vegetables you can eat, you never go hungry. The difficult part come sin cutting out the white products, such as rice, potatoes, pasta, baked goods and sugar, that so many people rely on as comfort foods.

The payoff is worth it though because, after just two weeks, you will have lost weight and will feel a lot less bloated. Your cravings for the processed foods you have cut out will have subsided and you will learn an entirely new way of eating.

By the time you reach the final phase of the diet, you can reintroduce these foods in moderation and enjoy them on treat days. The bottom line is that the Atkins diet does lead to efficient weight loss and it does promote a balanced diet. It promotes a diet that includes lean protein, vegetables, fruits, nuts, whole grains and healthy and teaches you how to eat the right foods, in the right amounts at the right time during the day.


"Before I started the Atkins diet, I had tried virtually every diet known to man. What kept me from trying Atkins is that so many people said it was unhealthy because all you ate was fat and protein. I bought the book, read it and realized it is exactly the opposite.

It teaches you how to eat the right foods and incorporate all carbohydrates in moderation. In the first two weeks, I lost 18 pounds. It was tough cutting out my daily bagel in the morning and my club sandwich at lunch but, after a few weeks, I did not crave them like I did the first few days on the plan. I am not in the Ongoing Weight Loss stage and have lost an additional 4 pounds in a little over a week. I plan on continuing with the plan until I reach my goal weight and will remain in the Atkins Lifetime Maintenance phase forever."
Kendra W.

"As a guy, I am no used to cutting out beer, hot dogs and chips but my belly was getting bigger by the day and my wedding day was approaching. I needed to lose weight fast and a friend suggested the Atkins diet. I was hesitant but, after the first two weeks, I lost 15 pounds and most of my belly had disappeared.

The best part was that after I cut out those foods, I did not crave them as much and decided to cut carbohydrates permanently. I have since leaned up a lot and am in the best shape of my life. My fiancé is now on board and we plan on eating the Atkins way in order to keep our weight in check."
Anthony H.