Atkins Diet: The Good and the Bad

The Atkins Diet is possibly the most popular diet in the world, and has been popular for longer than most people reading this have been alive.  It represents a totally new way of looking at nutrition and dieting, and at the same time offers you a truly staggering choice of nutritional bars, powders, shakes, supplements and snacks to help you spend away the pounds.

In all seriousness, though, the Atkins diet has at once been hailed as a revolution in weight loss, and as a complete and utter waste of time. Atkins himself used it to solve his own obesity problem, and hundreds of celebrities and professional athletes have claimed that it was the sole secret to their weight loss or fitness successes.

Unfortunately getting onto and sticking with the Atkins diet is no small feat of willpower, as it requires you to eat some things which we’re just not programmed to want to enjoy at certain times of the day.  Some people find it easier than others…

The Basics

The basic idea is that the body’s natural process called ketosis, which is when it uses fat for energy, can be turned on and off by modifying diet. The Atkins diet helps you to control this process, turning your body into a ‘fat burning machine’.

In essence it is a diet that severely restricts ‘net carbohydrates’, or those carbohydrates which would immediately be broken down into sugar and used as energy, and would trigger an insulin response.  By restricting or eliminating these carbohydrates, Atkins argued, you can control how your body burns fat.

The Atkins Diet system has evolved a lot since its inception in the 1970s.  It is now adopted in four phases, and you can choose any of the first three phases to start your induction into the ‘Atkins Nutritional System’.  The first phase is pretty much a shock treatment to get you eating almost entirely protein for breakfast, for example.

The second phase helps you reintroduce some of your guilty pleasures into your diet.  The third phase helps you to bring your diet back into line with a diet that can be maintained for the rest of your life, and the fourth phase is exactly that – an Atkins-inspired diet that can be maintained forever.

What We Like

The Atkins system is complete, well thought out and based on some pretty solid science. Millions of people have used it, and they all claim that it works wonders.  It’s been the golden diet of celebrities, professional athletes and doctors for nearly four decades, and it has received mostly positive critical feedback for most of that time.

There is a lot of evidence to suggest that the Atkins diet improves cholesterol and reduces the risk of diabetes, and this is due in no small part to the emphasis the Atkins system puts on knowing what goes into your food, and knowing how your body deals with food.  More education means healthier dieters!

The Atkins system is also designed to be a lifetime commitment, so there is no end-of-diet weight gain – as long as you never go off it!

What We Don’t Like

Despite nearly 40 years of rampant success, something still smells a little bit odd about the Atkins diet. There has been so much research into the diet, and so much medical controversy around it, that scientific consensus on the subject is very difficult to come by.

There is evidence to suggest that, on the whole, low-carb diets can dramatically increase your risk of heart disease and sudden death as a result of various cardiac complications.  However, a different study showed that the opposite is true for pre-menopausal women, and that the Atkins diet tends to address most of the problems that plague other low-carb diets by including a lot of foods rich in Omega-3 oils.

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