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What Is Atkins Diet? How Does This Low Carb Weight Loss Plan Work?

High protein roast beef salad

Permissible food for Atkins diet form of eating.

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Watch Dr Atkins' weight loss diet story full documentary with interviews with the late Dr Robert Atkins himself. Both the positive and the negative aspects of the diet were meaningfully and truthfully discussed.

The 4 Phases Of Atkins Diet Eating Plan

This is a typical Atkins diet food plan chart

atkins diet meals and food plan infographic

Frequently Asked Questions and Answers (Q&A)

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Here are two Kalahari warriors hunting for food. These tribesmen live mainly on animals that they have successfully hunted down which are high in fat and protein and almost devoid of carbohydrate. Yet the hunters are strong, lean, fit and healthy. Do you know the reasons why they are so? Is it because of the elements of the Atkin's diet in their meals?

If you are looking up on how to lose your excess body weight and is trying to find out which weight loss diet plan that can help you to slim down fast and which one can be suitable for you, then you will have probably have come across about the famous or infamous (depending on whose perspective we are talking about), the Atkins' Diet or The Atkins Nutritional Approach weight loss formula, haven't you?

This diet strategy swept across the weight loss dieting world way back in the early nineteen seventies with the publication of a book by cardiologist named Dr Robert Atkins called "Dr. Atkins Diet Revolution". The book was later updated and edited as "Dr Atkins' New Diet Revolution" both of which sold tens of millions of copies. Why were the books such successful best sellers? Because the diet simply works, that's why.

In the beginning of the first book launch, there were many reviews and opinions from laymen as well as experts from the health industry, both positive and negative about this particular low carb weight loss dieting strategy.

The important things are, do the Atkins Diet actually work in helping overweight people to reduce their body weight? Are there any negative side effects? If so, what are they? Is the diet healthy? What is the Atkins diet all about and how do you get started? This article serves to answer all the questions, so read on.

The Atkins diet is a low carbohydrate diet plan or some may call it a ketogenic diet (diets which elicit the production of ketones) meant for folks who want to lose weight. Dieters can eat all the protein and dietary fat that they want but to avoid or limit carbohydrate consumption until they achieve their desired weight goals.

Fervent advocates of the diet pointed to the examples of the African Maasai warriorsKalahari desert hunters and the Arctic Eskimos who used to live almost exclusively on animal meats, fats and innards and yet had slender bodies, were very healthy and fit compared to the people living in the western industrialized world at that time.

Those people ate protein almost exclusively without any carbs or sugar since carbohydrates were almost inaccessible to them because they had lived in very harsh desert and arctic environments making agriculture and cultivation for food almost impossible to them and so the only resort is to hunt for animal food.

This was until the last couple of decades when the fast food and packaged processed food industry moved into their neighborhoods and from there on, the relatively unheard of diseases of the modern world such as heart attack, stroke, high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes became much more prevalent to those folks. So in other words, human beings can live very healthily without consuming any carbohydrates at all.

Furthermore, since the Atkins diet is based primarily on the control of insulin levels (blood sugar) and as such the dieters can do away with the cumbersome chore of calorie counting and long grueling cardio exercises in order to lose weight, making the diet much more easier to abide by, don't you think so?

In the early days of its introduction, this diet plan was viciously and vehemently challenged by almost all the mainstream health community mainly due to the high fat and protein content advocated in the meals and so the diet is deemed to be unbalanced and thus not good for the body. The detractors further declared that because the diet encourages eating a high amount of red meat and cheese containing saturated fats, dieters could run the risks of getting high cholesterol and high triglycerides blood levels, kidney failures, stroke and even cardiac diseases and condescendingly calling Dr Atkins as Dr Quack.

Others feared that expecting mothers who are on the diet are exposing their fetus' health at risk as the developing babies will be deprived of essential nutrients in the womb and may give rise to the risks of them suffering from heart diseases, diabetes and strokes when they become adults in later life. 

However, through the passage of time, these fears begun to diminish as more and more people had successfully lost weight on the diet without coming down with the so called "risks factors". Conversely, many Atkins dieters gave testimonies that they are much healthier and fitter in comparison to before when they started on the diet and are full of praise for it.

This could very well be the reason why the Atkins diet is still such a rave today. As a matter of fact, the Atkins diet had proven to be so much more effective for weight loss than most conventional caloric restriction and low fat run of the mill diet plans in so much that the traditional low fat low calorie diets are going the way of the dinosaurs. Extinction.

Some thought that the reason for this diet plan to be so effective is because when you cut off the carbohydrates from your meals and eating more protein, your appetite is quickly satiated and naturally ending up consuming less calories and thus as a consequence, losing body fat naturally. However, getting great results from the Atkins diet is much more than just eating less calories alone. In fact, there is no calorie restrictions at all and as such, no one ever needs to count the calories when they are on this eating plan. The restriction is only on the carbohydrates that you eat. So how much more simpler can the diet get?

The downside is that some people can and do experience negative symptoms when undergoing this diet plan such as dizziness, mild tremors, some irritability, lethargy, minor headaches and also sometimes constipation. The good news is that these negative side effects usually occurs as a reaction to carbohydrate withdrawal and the symptoms will usually go away on its own in a couple of days when your body adapts to the low carb intake situation.

So if you are susceptible to or are experiencing these negative side effects, then you may want to check out this alternative weight loss program.


This diet plan has 4 phases to it. In a made simple nutshell, they are as follows :-

Phase 1 The Induction (2 weeks) - During the induction phase, the carbohydrate intake is restricted to under 20 grams each day. Strictly speaking, it should be zero carbo intake as the 20 grams that are allowed for usually come from creeping carbohydrates such as sugar from meat seasoning or marination, sauces and food condiments. Besides the carbs, you can eat anything else, such as meat, seafood and leafy vegetables (although vegetables are carbs, they are high in fiber and thus making the absorption of the carbs by the body more difficult). 

It is during this phase that people may suffer from side effects due to carb and sugar withdrawal symptoms such as carbohydrate cravings, lightheadedness, temperamental mood swings and mild tremors. Most of us are carb and sugar addicts without even knowing it anyway. However, for most people, these symptoms will go away in just a matter of days as the body adapts to the new form of food consumption. 





 Phase 2 The Balancing - After 2 weeks (the duration can be longer if you wish to continue losing weight rapidly), you can gradually add some carbohydrates to your meals such as some nuts, legumes and a little bit of fruits to your meals in what is called as the balancing phase of the diet. However, keep these additions to just the barest minimum so that you will continue losing weight albeit a tad slower than in the induction phase one.

You can also increase your carbohydrate intake incrementally to about 40 to 60 grams, depending on your comfort level or how fast you still want to lose weight. The bright side is that you will now have a slightly wider choice of food to choose from. This phase is sometimes described as experiencing and understanding the transition from a low carb weight loss diet plan into a lifestyle eating habit. You may stay on in this phase as long as you want until you are approaching your desired weight.


 Phase 3 The Tweaking  - The tweaking phase kicks in when you are approaching close to your desired weight. You can now add some good and healthy carbs to your meals. Preferably between 50 to 70 grams of carbs from the low glycemic index range (carbs that take a longer time to digest such as brown rice instead of white rice). Your weight loss will slow down further when you are at this stage. Do this until you reach your weight loss goal then you can proceed to the maintenance phase.

 Phase 4 The Maintenance  - Now that you have reached your desired ideal weight, you can gradually add more carbs from about 80 to 100 grams until you neither lose nor gain weight. This shall be the amount of carbohydrates you will be eating as long as you want to maintain this weight and so this is the reason why it is called the maintenance phase.

Now that you know about the four phases of the Atkins' diet, let me read your mind. You will probably have this question in mind, "how much weight can I lose per week", right?  

Well, it all depends on how strict you are sticking to the diet plan, what is your natural genetic predisposition and on which phase of the diet you are in. However, most people when conforming to the above plan will lose about 4-6 pounds (2-3 kg) of body fat on the very first week and 2-4 pounds (1-2.5 kg) per week subsequently and then the weight loss will decrease gradually when you move into the latter phases of the diet. The faster weight loss at the beginning is due to the depletion of stored carbohydrates (glycogen) in the liver and muscles and the almost or complete abstinence from carbohydrate consumption.

Those who of you who include a high intensive interval training (HIIT) program will get even faster result. For even more spectacular weight loss result, combine Atkins diet strategy with Intermittent Fasting. It is also recommended that you take multi-vitamin and minerals supplements during the diet so as to compensate for any vitamins and minerals you may be missing out from your meals.

Now, losing weight is just one part of your total fitness goal. It is recommended that you throw in a regular exercise program not just to maintain your weight but to build up some muscles so that you will look well toned and becoming stronger.

You see, losing weight is primarily for health purpose, but you will also want to look good aesthetically, don't you? So if you are having a large pear shaped body when you were obese, you will end up just being a smaller pear after losing your unwanted body fat, isn't it? So get in great shape physically with a good exercise routine. 

Furthermore, having more muscle means that your metabolism will be chugging along at a higher rate and this will lead to burning more calories because muscle cells will need to be fed and thus making you a natural fat burner for your ideal weight maintenance and management, don't you think so?

So does the Atkins' Diet work for losing weight? The hard evidence through the years showed a resounding thumping Yes!

Now let's deal with some commonly asked questions and myths about this strategy of eating.



1) Is the restriction of carbohydrate calories that is the main cause for the weight loss?

This is a very common myth that can be found all over the internet. Although it may be true that some people may consume less calories because they eat less carbs, the thrust is that the Atkins' diet is not about curbing calories.

However, after a few days into the diet, people may be eating less because they are not feeling as hungry as before due to the declining insulin levels in their bloodstream and as such, are naturally eating less food. This is because the stable blood sugar level all day long stabilizes and curbs the feeling of hunger. As such, since eating less calories naturally is a further bonus to the diet.

2) Is the diet is nutritionally unbalanced? If not, why? 

Many people have the misconception that the diet is all about the Induction Phase where carbohydrate intake is restricted to merely under 20 grams and thus the notion that the dieter may be eating nutritionally unbalanced meals. Even if so,the permissible 20 grams of food comes from green leafy vegetables and can also include very nutrient dense vegetables like spinach, broccoli, eggplant and asparagus which are rich in vitamins and minerals.

Several research were done on the menu and it was found that the diet even exceed the Reference Daily Intake (RDI ) requirements for most vitamins, minerals and trace elements. RDI is the daily consumption level of a nutrient sufficient to meet the requirements of up to 98% of healthy people.

3) Why is it that some people say that is not possible to maintain or sustain the weight loss from the diet on a long term basis?

How do people come to this conclusion is certainly very perplexing. Since the diet is about controlling carbohydrate intake and after going through it, dieters will know how it feels like and how to do it all over again whenever necessary and that is assuming that they had regained the extra weight after stopping the diet. Even if so, the weight gain is rather unlikely since the Maintenance Phase of the diet prevents weight gain from happening, don't you think so?

4) Besides losing weight, are there any other health benefits?

There were several studies done on the health benefits of the Atkins' diet and the consensus is that people on the diet have reduced risks of cardiovascular diseases and diabetes. Furthermore, research had also shown that people in the high risk state of having cardiac diseases who went on low carb diet had improvements shown in their cholesterol level profiles thus decreasing their risk of getting heart diseases. 

Generally speaking, this diet can possibly prevent or even make improvements on medical conditions such as metabolic syndrome, diabetes, hypertension and various heart diseases. Anyway, if you were obese before and have lost weight until a healthy level, the risk of you contracting these diseases automatically diminish, right?


The diet helps to improve and regulate blood cholesterol, blood sugar and triglycerides levels.

5) The article mentioned that phase 1 induction period is 2 weeks. Can I stay longer than that to lose more body weight before I shift to the other phases? 

You can certainly stay on the induction phase for more than 14 days if you are clearly overweight and want to lose them quickly to get the slender body you want. The issue is that some people fear that staying in this phase for too long may result in some micro-nutrient deficiencies. In this case, you may want supplement your diet with some multi-vitamins and minerals. 

6) I heard that it is unhealthy to lose weight too quickly, is it true in the case of Atkins' diet? 

You will experience relatively dramatic weight loss during the first phase of the diet plan called the induction phase. This is especially so during the first few days as you will be losing some water weight as well as glycogen (stored carbohydrates in the liver and muscles).


Losing weight too quickly is unhealthy when you starve yourself and are not getting enough of the nutrients required from your meals. So do not starve yourself to speed up the weight loss process. If you think that you are losing weight too fast, then move on to phase 2 of the diet and your weight loss will slow down. In the meantime, you can also take multivitamins and minerals supplements.

7) Can I drink alcohol while on the diet?

You see, our bodies burn alcohol for energy whenever it is available. That goes to say that when your body is burning alcohol, it does not burn fat and as such, stalling the fat burning process for a couple of hours after you stopped drinking the alcoholic beverage. Therefore the fat burning process is postponed until the alcohol is out of your system.

You can test it out for yourself and if you are still losing weight steadily, then an occasional drink now and then should be justifiable. So let me not be a wet blanket. Only just be mindful that most alcoholic drinks contain sugar and other forms of carbohydrates and these types of alcoholic beverages should be avoided at all costs. Also do not use mixers that contain sugar or artificial sweeteners, so mixing your alcohol with only water and ice will be just great.

I do drink Scotch Whisky with ice and water now and then when I was on the diet. This is because the whisky do not have sugar and other carbohydrates added to it. The drink just contains sheer alcohol empty calories.

8) My friend told me that this diet strategy is very unhealthy that even Dr Atkins himself died when he was on the diet. Is this true?

First of all, if the diet is so unhealthy, then the FDA and/or governmental health agencies in any developed country would have issued health warnings to the public, isn't it? Why was there none at all?  

Secondly, the cause of Dr Atkins death was the result of being on the diet was a malicious and vicious lie spread by his detractors and by people jealous of the phenomenal success of the diet. How the rumor even managed to survive till this day is absolutely intriguing since millions of people all over the world had already found success in this weight loss diet and no death toll from it was ever reported. So the rumor is ridiculous, isn't it?

This lie was so vicious that following the demise of Dr Atkins, the popularity of the diet plummeted like a rock and due to the severe and drastic drop in the demand for all Atkin's products, Atkins Nutritionals Inc. filed for bankruptcy protection on July 31 of 2005 after severe business losses of up to the tune of $340 million. The company was later acquired by North Castle Partners and again changed hands to Roark Capital Group in 2010. You can see what drastic harm petty jealousies in spreading baseless rumors can cause.

So how did Dr Atkins die? Well, in the year 2000, Dr. Atkins was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy through a virus infection which was an incurable heart disease. His personal physician stated publicly that there was no evidence of any kind of linkage to his diet.

Cardiomyopathy makes it more susceptible for the patients to develop cardiac arrests and this was what happened to Dr. Atkins some two years after he was diagnosed with the disease. Again, the heart attack was not as a result of the diet because his coronary arteries were clear and was not clogged up in any way. His cardiologist even stated that besides the cardiomyopathy problem, Dr Atkins had "an extraordinarily healthy cardiovascular system."

Then subsequently in April 8th of 2003, Dr. Atkins slipped on slippery thawing ice along the way to his office and severely thumped his head on the ground resulting in severe bleeding in his brain. Dr Atkins was then whisked right away to the emergency intensive care unit before he subsequently succumbed to his head injuries a fortnight later. His death certificate unambiguously stated that the reason for his death was as a result of a blunt impact injury of the head with epidural hematoma (a hoarding of blood between the inner table of the skull and the dural membrane) and had absolutely nothing to do with his diet. Dr Atkins was then at 72 years of age.

The cause his death was as a consequence of the bad fall and not because of the Atkins diet, period. I hope this revelation can at least help to give the final death knell (pun is intended) to the lie that the man's death was caused by the Atkins diet and to give back the glorious honor to Dr Atkins posthumously that the man so rightly deserves.


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