Eliminating carbs: is Atkins diet a good idea?

Most popular diets would make you believe that a particular type of food is bad, so you have to cut it out. Atkins diet suggest to cut out most carbs. It' been widely popular for the past 40 years, but is it really worth giving up the carbs?

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Why carbs?

Different dieticians have different opinions on how to shed extra pounds. Physics dictates that people lose weight when they burn more calories than they eat. That can be achieved by regular intense exercise, but for quick weight loss diets are usually necessary.

Creators of low carb diets claim that you can eat as many calories as you like and still lose weight – as long as you get rid of “bad” carbs, such as sugar, bread, and pasta. In this theory, carbs are the culprits of diabetes, cancer, high cholesterol, heart disease, etc. Instead, you can eat as much protein and fat as you want  – at least on Atkins diet.

Stages of Atkins diet

The diet was created in the 70’s and was the first low carb diet. It includes four stages:

  1. Induction – you have to eat less than 20 grams of carbs a day, and those should come from leafy vegetables. However, you can eat steaks, cheese, bacon, dairy, olive oil, etc. This stage usually lasts 2 weeks.
  2. Balancing – once you are 5 kg above your goal, you can add some non-starchy fruit, other vegetables, and nuts. You can eat some Atkins-friendly snacks, such as special granola bars and shakes.
  3. Pre-maintenance – once you have almost reached your desired weight, you can add some more “good” carbs (even bananas, apples and other starchy fruit).
  4. Maintenance – you are supposed to remain at this stage for life. You can add more good carbs, as long as you don’t gain weight. All kinds of fruit and vegetables are ok, as well as some whole grains, but you shouldn’t eat cakes, sugar, pasta, and such.

How hard is Atkins diet?

Of course, the prospect of giving up croissants and pasta forever can be bleak. However, proponents of the diet claim that carb addicitions go away with time and that you generally feel less hungry and eat less.

It may be much more difficult for vegetarians and vegans to follow the Atkins diet. However, the diet has evolved, and whole Atkins cookbooks are now available for vegans, mostly relying on soy products.

The Atkins diet is perhaps easier to follow than low fat diets: after all, there are so many delicious foods you can eat almost without limitations, including cheese, bacon, avocados, cream… A good steak with cheesy sauce is a great example of an Atkins-friendly dish.

Every diet has its issues

While the Atkins diet is not as extreme or weird as many other fad diets, it should be considered a fad nonetheless. Here are the main problems:

  1. Atkins diet includes a lot of saturated fats (found in cheese and meat), long associated with higher risks of heart disease, stroke, and cholesterol. Atkins and his supporters claim that saturated fat is not bad at all (compared to carbs), but many researchers disagree.
  2. There is no real proof that carbohydrates are the main cause of obesity, diabetes, and other diseases. In fact, humans have relied on carbs for millennia as the main source of calories.
  3. There is little data that the Atkins diet leads to long-term weight loss (find out why here). Very few on it for life, and most others eventually regain weight.

Should you try the Atkins diet? If you are after quick weight loss, then it can be a good solution, as long as you follow it carefully. However, if you want to remain slim in the long term, a varied and intense workout routine will be much better choice. Eat less, exercise more – that’s the real secret.

References:

Atkins Diet – How it works – Atkins.com
Is There Something to Low Carb Diets like Atkins? – Mcgill.ca
Low Carb Diets -Louisville.edu

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