The Atkins Diet

Choosing Your Custom Diet Plan

There are two methods with the Atkins diet plan: the fast track, and slow and steady. The fast track is designed for those who will lose most of their weight in the first phase (kick-start) of the program. The slow and steady method is for those who will move quickly through the first phase and lose most of their weight in the second phase, where there is more variety in the foods you eat.
Those on the fast track will stay in the first phase for more than two weeks. This method results in quicker weight loss, more structure, and supposedly fewer opportunities for temptation.
If you are more comfortable with a steady weight loss, then you stay on the first phase for two weeks and then start adding in more carbs. This method allows for more variety in what you eat, although some may find it too tempting to pick foods that may not be part of the plan.
Regardless of which plan you choose, the Atkins diet consists of four phases, which include:
  • Phase 1: Kick-start phase
  • Phase 2: Balancing
  • Phase 3: Fine-tuning
  • Phase 4: Lifetime maintenance.
The first phase is called "induction," and it is designed to kick-start your weight loss. During these two weeks, some people may lose up to 15 pounds. While many people believe that this phase is the whole Atkins diet, the key to this plan over the long run is to find the maximum number of grams of carbs you can eat while continuing to lose (and later maintain) weight.
There is a minimum time of two weeks for this phase, but you can stay on it longer if you have excess weight to lose. In general, you want to stay in this phase until you're 15 pounds from your goal weight. During this induction phase, you are shifting your body from burning carbs to burning fat. This involves dropping your daily carb intake to around 20 grams.
Phase 1 consists of having three meals and two snacks each day. It's important to eat sufficient protein at each meal, as this helps protect lean muscle mass so your body is only losing fat and not muscle. Some other tips for the induction phase include:
  • Don't restrict fats (especially healthy fats)
  • Drink at least eight 8-ounce glasses of water each day
  • Avoid electrolyte imbalance by consuming sufficient salt
  • Watch for hidden carbs, particularly in condiments or when you are eating at a restaurant
  • Use no more than three packets of sugar substitutes each day
  • Use Atkins low-carb products.
Phase 2 includes slowly adding different foods, such as nuts, seeds, strawberries, cottage cheese, and yogurt. You will slowly start adding in some more carbs during this phase. In general, you will probably increase your carbs in five-gram increments at weekly intervals, depending on what works best for you. 
In phase 3, you will likely be around 10 pounds from your goal weight. This phase includes determining how much you can raise your daily carb intake and still lose weight (or maintain it).
Once you reach phase 4, you have made it to the level of lifetime maintenance. This isn't really a phase, but more of a permanent lifestyle. During this maintenance, you can experiment with various foods to determine the best ones to eat while keeping your weight under control. The goal of the Atkins diet is to get you to this final phase, which becomes a lifestyle choice -- meaning you won't ever have to "diet" again.
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