No. The Atkins low carb approach is a natural, effective way to take control of your weight and wellbeing. On the diet you eat a healthy balance of protein, healthy fats and fibrous vegetables whilst limiting your intake of refined, sugary carbohydrates.
The Atkins diet is higher in fat. Can this lead to increased cholesterol levels or heart disease?
No, because the fats you are consuming are good fats. These not only help your body to switch to burning fat instead of carbs but could have other health benefits too, such as reducing inflammation, improving metabolic factors and decreasing the risk of depression.
On a low carb diet like Atkins, you’re less likely to store body fat – even saturated fat is used by your body for energy. Recent research has also shown that the fat you eat has little bearing on cholesterol levels. Instead it’s the mix of other nutrients – especially refined carbs – which can increase ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol.
Even when you’re not limiting the amount of saturated fat you’re eating, blood triglyceride levels of saturated fats decline more on a low carb diet than on a low fat weight loss diet. Both LDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels are major factors in heart disease.
Does the body need carbohydrates for energy?
No. The body uses two primary sources of energy – fat and carbohydrate. When carbs are reduced, the body switches to fat burning. This is called ketosis. Some people may feel a slight dip in energy over the first few days while the body is adapting, yet this can be remedied by adding a little salt to your foods or drinking a salty broth drink.
Do I need carbohydrates if I exercise?
On Atkins, the body adapts to using fat for fuel which is a more efficient source of energy – so there’s no need to carb load before exercise. We have thousands of calories worth of energy from fat, with only a few hundred from glycogen (carbs), and many athletes have found their endurance levels are better on a low carb diet.
Allow a week or two for your body’s metabolism to adjust to fat burning and once you’re fully in the low carb zone, you’ll find you’re less likely to ‘hit the wall’ during workouts.
Is the majority of the weight lost on Atkins from water weight?
Whilst it’s true that a portion of weight loss on any diet is initially from water, it’s doesn’t mean that you aren’t losing fat too.
Most people tend to lose some water weight in the first week on Atkins. You see, carbs make the body retain water, which is why you feel bloated when you eat them. So when you cut carbs you do lose the water weight first. However, after the first week, your body switches to burning fat with little loss of water weight or muscle mass.
Will I get symptoms of headache, lethargy and fatigue?
This is true for some people, but it can be easily remedied. Carbohydrates make the body retain water. By reducing carb your intake, you’ll lose the excess water you’ve been retaining. With this, you may also lose salt too which can cause the mentioned symptoms. Adding a little salt to your meals can help, and don’t worry about your salt intake – Atkins is naturally low in salt as it’s low in processed foods.
Atkins is high in protein, can this lead to kidney problems?
It’s a myth that Atkins is a ‘high’ protein diet. The amount of protein we recommend comes well within the healthy range set by nutritional guidelines. Currently, there is no scientific research that links high protein with kidney disease, but if you do have kidney problems, it’s best to discuss any change of diet first with your doctor.
How can I get rid of sugar cravings?
Once you’ve followed Atkins for a few days your body will switch to burning fat for energy. This stabilises blood sugar levels and cravings do go away. By eating complex carbohydrates, from foods such as vegetables, berries, nuts, seeds and pulses, your insulin levels don’t spike several times a day as they would on a high sugar diet.
Once you have steady energy throughout the day, and a feeling of fullness from the protein and dietary fat, hunger and cravings become things of the past.
How much protein should I eat per day?
There’s no need to count grams of protein on Atkins, only carbs. Atkins isn’t a high protein diet and the amount of protein we recommend is moderate. Aim for 115-175g of protein with each meal (in weight) or 225g if you’re a bigger man.
How much fat should I eat per day?
There’s no need to count grams of fat on Atkins, only carbs. Although Atkins is higher in fat than other macronutrients, you can’t eat unlimited amounts of it. Aim to add 1-2 servings of dietary fat to meals, such as 1 tbsp oil, butter or full fat mayonnaise, ½ avocado or some olives, or have a serving of fattier meat or fish, such as chicken thigh or salmon.
Do I need to count calories?
There’s no need to count calories on Atkins, just make sure you eat enough at mealtimes to feel satisfied but not overly full. Caloric intake tends to settle once your blood sugar is stabilised and your sugar cravings are gone. Plus meals on the Atkins diet are naturally satisfying, so you’re less likely to overeat.
For a general guideline, we recommend 1500-1800 calories for women and 1800-2000 calories for men for weight loss.
What are the appropriate nutritional ratios for Phase 1?
Although there’s no need to count fat or protein, some people prefer to use a fitness tracker and input their ratios for protein, fat and carbs. During Phase 1, the optimal ratio is 25% protein, 70% fat and 5% carbs.
Can I eat as much cheese and cream as I like?
You can’t eat as much as you like, but both cream and cheese are fine in all phases of our low carb diet. Cream should be limited to 45ml per day and cheese to 115g per day.
Can I drink alcohol?
Yes, but we don’t recommend it for Phase 1. Alcohol, even low carb drinks, can slow weight loss as alcohol is processed before other macronutrients. It can also lead to cravings for high carb foods.
From Phase 2 onwards, you can have moderate amounts of low carb alcoholic drinks. Wine and spirits, such as gin, vodka and whisky are all acceptable, but be sure to use diet mixers.
What happens if I start to gain weight?
Noone’s perfect and there might be times you fall off the wagon. Don’t worry, simply return to your low carb eating habits as soon as you can.
You can either go back to Phase 1 for a week or two if you want to lose the weight and get rid of any sugar or carb cravings. Alternatively, you can try dropping your daily carb intake by 5g-10g per day until you’re back where you want to be.
Is ketosis dangerous?
Ketosis is a natural, biological process. When your body makes the switch to burning fat for energy instead of carbs, your liver produces ketone bodies. This process is called ketosis.
However, this should not be confused with ketoacidosis which is a serious blood condition that usually affects Type 1 diabetics and alcoholics.
Can I follow Atkins if I’m pregnant or breastfeeding?
Weight loss in not recommended when pregnant or breastfeeding, yet it’s advisable to cut out sugary/refined carbohydrates for the health of yourself and your baby.
Refined carbohydrates provide little nutritional benefit to you or your baby so there’s no harm in reducing. Protein is an important nutrient whilst pregnant, so aim to have some with every meal or snack.
Start in Phase 3 so you get a greater range of nutrients from fruits, pulses, nuts and seeds, full fat yoghurt and whole grains.
Can I follow Atkins if I’m on medication?
Yes, but some medications may slow the pace of your weight loss. Don’t make any changes to your medication or dosage without consulting your GP. If you’re taking any of the following, please consult your GP before starting Atkins:
Diuretics (water pills)
Psychotropic drugs, including Prozac, Zoloft, lithium etc.
Hormones and steroids, including oestrogen (premarin), prednisone and birth control pills
Arthritis drugs, especially NSAIDS (Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs)
Cholesterol lowering drugs
All anti-diabetic medications, including insulin (with the exception of Glucophage)