If you're confusing about how much protein, fat & carbs to eat on Atkins, this blog should help!

Many people are aware that, on Atkins, you reduce intake of refined/sugary carbs and; in Phase one; reduce carbs to 20g per day. However, there is often confusion about how much protein and fat to have. Atkins is sometimes thought of as a 'high protein' plan but really it's an optimal level of protein we recommend. So ideally consume a moderate amount of protein foods - such poultry, meat, fish or eggs - in each meal and that equates to 115-175g (in weight) or 4-6oz. Don't confuse the 115-175g with the protein content of the food. For instance, a 115g palm-sized chicken breast contains about 20g protein.

 The ideal amount of protein should fill you up after your meal without leaving you feeling stuffed. This level of protein is ideal for all 4 phases of Atkins and never changes. If you do find that you're at the high end of the range and aren't losing weight as quickly as you'd like, in which case you might want to cut your protein intake slightly and see if this makes a difference.

Protein helps you lose weight while on Atkins for a few reasons:

  • Protein helps keep you fuller for longer. When you include it with a serving or two of vegetables and healthy fats, you have a delicious meal that will fill you up. A meal of grilled salmon with cauliflower cheese & broccoli, topped with a tbsp of butter will keep your hunger at bay until your next meal or snack.
  • Protein stabilises your blood sugar levels. When you include protein with your meals or snacks, you’re less likely to experience fluctuating energy levels, and you’re able to rein in your cravings for sweets or salt when you’re not experiencing blood sugar highs and lows.
  • Eating protein helps you burn more calories because digesting and metabolising protein burns twice the calories than when you eat carbohydrates. This is called the 'thermic' effect of food.

When it comes to fat, Atkins does recommend a slightly higher fat intake but it's not a 'fast fest' and dietary fat shouldn't be eaten excessively. Consume three 1-tablespoon servings of added fats a day, in the form of butter, full fat mayo, olive oil, etc. This is in addition to the fat you will be getting that is naturally occurring in foods such as protein foods, eggs, dairy, nuts, and avocado. It's fine to have a mackerel salad with 1/2 sliced avocado added and mixed with 1 tbsp mayonnaise; for instance.

Here are some good reasons to eat fat: 

  • When you increase your consumption of fat, instead of carbs, you experience more stable energy levels
  • Fat, like protein, keeps you full for longer and gives flavour and texture to meals
  • Fat also slows the entry of glucose into your bloodstream, controlling your blood sugar highs and lows, your appetite and your cravings

While it might have been drummed into us that 'fat is bad', it really isn't and is the vital key to losing weight successfully so don't skimp on this macronutrient! 

Lastly, carbs are important too so don't be misled into thinking that a zero carb diet is healthy. From day one include lots of vegetables which are full of fibre and other nutrients. In phase one, this is where most of your carbs will come from, in fact 12-15g of your 20g total. Then in phase two and beyond, you would start to add back good carbs such as fruit, nuts, pulses, more starchier veg etc. 

I hope this explains the recommended food intake. If you're looking for ratios, in phase one aim for 70% fat, 25% protein and 5% carbs. You can also get access to the food lists here: Food Guide

Posted by Linda O'Byrne
Atkins Nutritionist