ANSWERS FROM THE ATKINS CENTER
The following information has been borrowed from the official
Atkins Center website.
This is not meant to be a primer on the Atkins diet. You will find here the "official" responses to many rumors and controversies that have been in the press. You will also find lots of great advice for those who are already convinced that this is a sound, healthy approach to weight loss.
Click on the Links Below
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Low Carb Dieting
I've heard that Atkins is unhealthy
and unsafe. How do you respond?
There is a large body of scientific research showing
that a controlled carbohydrate nutritional approach, such as Atkins,
can help people significantly decrease their risk of developing heart
disease, diabetes, and obesity. Following Atkins correctly will lower
clinical parameters in the blood that are known to contribute to these
conditions. We at the Atkins Health and Medical Information Services
continually explain the scientific rationale of the benefits of the
Atkins Nutritional Approach to health care professionals at medical
conferences, in articles, and in the media. Please browse our Web site
or read Dr.
Atkins New Diet Revolution or Atkins
Essentials for a more comprehensive discussion of the safety and
efficacy of Atkins.
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On Using the Word "Diet"
I see you don't use the term "The Atkins Diet" anymore. Why not?
The word diet has several meanings, the most basic one referring to the food we regularly eat. But in our culture, the word has become entwined with weight loss and implies a limited period during which intake is limited in order to lose weight. No matter how successful they are in losing weight, most people then go off their "diet" and return to their normal way of eating - and then regain the weight they have lost.
In contrast, the Atkins Nutritional Approach refers to a lifestyle and four graduated phases that encompass weight loss and weight maintenance as well as overall health and well-being and the reduction of risk factors for heart disease, diabetes and other illnesses. Depending upon your weight and health, you can personalize the Atkins Nutritional Approach to suit your individual needs and move from one phase of the program to another as your needs change. In sum, Atkins is more than a diet - it is a healthful approach to eating that will serve you for the rest of your life.
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On High Fat Intake
What is the Atkins position on studies that state fat intake is detrimental to
A diet high in both fats and carbohydrates can cause cardiovascular problems. The Atkins Nutritional approach restricts carbohydrates, thereby putting your body into lipolysis. In this metabolic state, the body burns both the fat that you consume along with your stored body fat, and will not allow plaque to clog your arteries. Natural dietary fats such as olives, avocados, olive oil, butter and fat from red meat and poultry are not the culprits in heart disease. Fats that should be avoided, however, are trans fats (food labels refer to them as hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils). Found in packaged products such as crackers, bread, margarine and commercially baked desserts and snacks, these fats have been found to pose a serious risk of cardiac disease, according to several studies.
Selected reference: New England Journal of Medicine
1997; 337: 1491-1499.
Why do you allow "fried foods"? They are a known health risk.
Fried foods allow you to enjoy Atkins more and do not adversely affect the metabolic state of lipolysis, or "fat burning." However, we do agree that given a choice, broiling or roasting meat is preferable; both of these two ways of cooking eliminate the "trans fats" that are created by the ultra-high heat of frying.
I have elevated cholesterol and have been told to watch my fat intake. How can the Atkins Nutritional Approach, which is so high in fat, be safe for me?
It's only a diet high in fats and carbohydrates that can cause cardiovascular problems. The Atkins Nutritional Approach restricts carbohydrates, thereby putting your body into "ketosis." In this metabolic state, the body burns both the fat that you consume and your stored body fat, and will not allow plaque to clog your arteries.
Natural dietary fats such as olives, avocado, olive oil, butter and fat from red meat and poultry are not the culprits in heart disease. There are many studies that show that sugar is the real ingredient that triggers heart problems. The fats that should be avoided, however, are trans fats (food labels refer to them as hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils). Found in packaged products such as crackers, bread, margarine and commercially baked desserts and snacks, these fats have been found to pose a serious risk of cardiac disease, according to several studies.
Selected reference: New England Journal of Medicine
1997; 337: 1491-1499
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On Using Supplements
Do you recommend a lot of supplements because the Atkins Nutritional Approach is unbalanced and doesn't provide enough nutrition on its own?
On the contrary, a computer analysis using the
software program most widely accepted by nutritionists shows that even a
sample menu appropriate for the Induction phase of Atkins -- the one that
can certainly be considered the most restrictive -- far exceeds the recommended
daily intake requirements set for adults for most vitamins, minerals and
antioxidants. We and many other nutrition-oriented doctors recommend
additional supplements because of our polluted environment, our own lifestyles,
and the degraded quality of the food supply. In an ideal world, we could
depend on whole foods grown organically in nutrient-rich soils, free from
pesticides and pollution. However, our depleted soils, the over-processing
of foods and other chemical assaults to the environment leach vital nutrients
from foods. By the time a meal arrives at our table, a lot of the nutrients
have been lost. In addition, the chemical overload from antibiotics and
other drugs, cigarettes, pesticides and pollution, as well as work-related
stresses, all combine to strain our immune systems. Supplemental nutrients
help neutralize the harmful effects of these insults to our bodies and prevent
further breakdown of our health. Moreover, supplements are even more important
when your body is under stress from weight loss or disease management.
This 2,000-calorie daily menu is nutrient-rich and suitable
for the Induction phase of Atkins:
- Breakfast: Avocado, mozzarella and tomato
omelet and two slices of bacon.
- Lunch: Beef patty and a spinach, endive and
romaine salad garnished with mushrooms, onions, celery and Parmesan cheese.
- Dinner: Broiled salmon; asparagus and garlic sautéed
in safflower oil and topped with lemon juice and sesame seeds.
The recommended daily intake of vitamins and minerals
found in this menu include:
|Vitamin A: 164%
|| Potassium: 115%
|Vitamin C: 145%
|| Sodium: 64%
|Vitamin D: 339%
|Vitamin E: 102%
|Vitamin K: 558%
Every time I take supplements, I get
sick to my stomach.
Don't stop taking your nutrients; change the way
you take them. Your nausea almost certainly is an absorption problem. Supplements
only occasionally cause side effects. When they do, symptoms tend to appear
before absorption into the bloodstream. That's quite unlike drugs; the side
effects of which usually appear only after the medications are surging through
The solution involves technique and timing. First, gather
up all the supplements you would normally take for the day, put them in
a food processor or blender, and pulverize them. Divide the powder in half
or into quarters. Take each portion over the course of the day during the
middle of your meals, not at the start. This is important, because you need
some food in your stomach to stir the flow of gastric juices and better
digest the nutrients.
You can mix the powdered supplements with anything you'd like
-- you might stir it into a bowl of soup or mix it in a glass of water,
for example. We usually recommend adding it to the Atkins Shake Mix.
The technique works for most people we know who have complained
of stomach upset upon taking supplements. If it doesn't work for you, try
dividing the powder into even smaller portions.
There is also the possibility that a certain supplement brand
is behind your nausea. Through a process of elimination, you probably could
find out which one. If you do identify a certain supplement, don't eliminate
it from your program; switch to another manufacturer.
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On Counting Calories
Is it true that Atkins works
because it's a low-calorie diet?
Ask anyone doing Atkins and they will tell you
this is completely false. While some Atkins followers eat fewer calories
than before, it's not because Atkins is restrictive or unduly limiting of
food intake (as is true for every low-fat nutritional philosophy), it's
because people are generally less hungry and are less obsessed with food
while doing Atkins. This occurs for two reasons:
- Stable blood sugar throughout the day ensures that you
will have fewer food cravings or false hunger pains.
- The food you eat on Atkins (meat, fish, cheese, nuts,
eggs, low sugar/starch vegetables and fruit...etc.) is less processed
and more nutritious than you were previously eating. Give your body fewer
empty calories, providing it with more nutrient-dense alternatives, and
your body will logically be satisfied sooner and require less food.
For those who need further
convincing, try this 500 calorie test:
- Day 1 breakfast: 500 low-fat calories, including
cereal (maybe one of the high-sugar versions endorsed by the American
Heart Association), skim milk, orange juice and a bagel.
- Day 2 breakfast: 500 Atkins calories, including
a Cheese/broccoli omelet, bacon and/or sausage. (Make sure each breakfast
measures out to 500 calories.)
If you're like most people, the low-fat breakfast will
cause your body to scream for more food well before lunch, while the Atkins
breakfast will keep your mind off food so long you'll be shocked when lunch
time comes around.
I'm used to counting calories. How many
calories am I allowed during Induction?
There is no need to count calories. The Atkins
Nutritional Approach counts grams of carbohydrates instead of calories.
At the beginning of Induction, you are allowed 20 grams of carbohydrates,
gradually adding them in 5-gram increments as you progress from Ongoing
Weight Loss to Pre-Maintenance, and finally to the Lifetime Maintenance
phase of Atkins. Although there is no need to count calories, they do count.
Gaining weight results from taking in more calories than you expend through
exercise, thermogenesis (the body's own heat production), and other metabolic
functions. Research has shown that on a controlled carbohydrate program,
more calories are burned than in a mixed diet, so there is a certain metabolic
advantage to the controlled carb approach. But understand that this does
not give you a license to gorge.
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Is it true that Advantage
bars are higher in carbs than it says on the label because the glycerine
is not counted?
Our main concern for Atkins followers is the
impact of carbohydrates on blood sugar and insulin levels. Glycerine
does not metabolize like a carbohydrate. Instead, it actually has the
same effect on blood sugar that protein does. Therefore, it has not
been included on the label.
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At what age can a child start
Babies, if showing signs of obesity, could be
moved in the direction of the Atkins Nutritional Approach as soon as the
tendency is noted (no sugar, less fruit and juice, and more protein). If
this fails, the carbohydrates should be increasingly restricted. Please
do not do this without the guidance of a knowledgeable pediatrician.
My 6-year-old is overweight. Can
I put him or her on Atkins?
We don't recommend Atkins for children under
12 without supervision by a pediatrician. (Losing weight too quickly
could stunt growth at this age.) But remember, young children tend to
eat like their parents do. That's why it's important that the whole
family eat healthy, balanced meals. We suggest that you cut out sugar,
processed food, junk food and other refined carbohydrates.
The single most important thing you can do for an overweight
child is wean him or her off of sugar. Children can certainly eat low
carbohydrate foods such as chicken, meat and seafood and low carbohydrate
products that do not contain sugar alcohols along with recognized safe
sugar substitutes (Splenda, Xylitol, Whey Low, Erythritol and Stevia.
What usually makes children overweight is a diet high in refined carbs,
sugary treats and sodas, and the trans fats (hydrogenated oils) found
in manufactured foods. If you put your entire family on a whole foods
eating plan, your son or daughter will probably lose weight. That means
no bread, bagels, pasta, crackers, potato chips, pretzels, soda, fruit
juice or any food not in its natural state. Instead, offer nuts, cheese,
fruit, raisins and other healthy snacks. The earlier parents instill
good nutrition, the healthier their children will be as they get older.
If your son or daughter is a couch potato and eats a lot
of high-carb and junk foods, he or she is heading for a lifetime of weight
and health problems. Limit the amount of time kids spend in front of the
television or the computer. Encourage them to get involved with sports and
plan regular physical activities the family can enjoy together, such as
hiking, biking and swimming. Again, the sooner you instill the habit of
exercise, the better. The biggest problem for most overweight people is
simply that they're inactive. Our culture's bad diet wouldn't cause as many
health problems if people were more active.
Note: When you talk to your kids about eating habits,
it's important not to focus on weight or body fat. You don't want to set
the stage for a future eating disorder. Instead, talk to them about how
healthy eating will make them feel better.
Tip: Don't restock the fridge, empty the pantry, and insist
on a family hike all in one day. Make changes slowly, and you'll encounter
less resistance from the younger set.
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On Atkins for
My teenager wants to do Atkins.
Is it safe for someone her age?
Yes, controlling carbohydrate intake is appropriate
for adolescents and children over the age of 12. (Younger children should
follow the program only under the advice and supervision of a physician.)
There are, however, certain things parents should be aware of when an adolescent
restricts carbs without expert supervision:
- Although appetite is usually decreased, teens should
be encouraged not to skip meals.
- Like adults, they should consume at least eight glasses
of water per day. If your child experiences constipation, add fiber, such
as wheat bran, psyllium husks or flaxseed, to his or her diet.
- Adolescents should take a multivitamin/mineral supplement
while restricting carbohydrates.
Recent research at Schneider Children's Hospital in
New Hyde Park, N.Y., confirms the effectiveness of a controlled carbohydrate
program for teens. Marc S. Jacobson, M.D., lead researcher and director
of the Center for Atherosclerosis Prevention at New York Hospital, reported
that 22 adolescents consuming a high-protein, high-fat carbohydrate-restricted
diet were more successful at losing weight than those consuming a low-fat,
high-carbohydrate one. Teens who restricted their carb intake also had
improved cardiovascular risk factors and other clinical health markers.
Participants were 12 to 18 years old and 20 to 100 pounds
overweight. Those following a controlled carb program lost 19 pounds
in 12 weeks, while the low-fat group lost less than half that amount,
8.5 pounds. The research showed that the controlled carb group also
showed a greater decrease in overall cholesterol levels, with triglycerides
dropping 33 percent as compared to a 17 percent drop for the low-fat
group. Kidney and liver functions were unaffected by the high-protein,
high-fat diet. The high-protein group ate 66 percent more calories than
the low-fat group (1,830 calories vs. 1,100 calories per day). After
three months on a weight-loss regimen, the participants followed a weight
maintenance program that included additional carbohydrates. Nutritionist
Nancy Copperman, M.S., R.D., who designed both regimens, says that six
to 12 months later, most members of the controlled carbohydrate group
had maintained their weight loss.
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Can a vegetarian follow
the Atkins Nutritional Approach?
Animal proteins are a vital component of Atkins.
Atkins cannot be done as successfully without them. They contain many
essential fatty acids that cannot be found in any other sources. There
are patients at The Atkins Center for Complementary Medicine, however,
for whom we derived a modified ovo-lacto vegetarian diet; they can eat
eggs, cheese and tofu for their protein (although it is usually necessary
for a person to be able to also eat fish for Atkins to be enjoyable).
Many low carbohydrate food products such as Protein
Bars and Shakes can also be used as occasional meal replacements.
A vegan cannot follow Atkins. A pure vegan diet could never
be low enough in carbohydrates, because there are no plants that are carbohydrate
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On Atkins for Slender
Can I join my partner on Atkins?
My partner is overweight, but I am slim. Will I lose weight or mess up my
Atkins is recommended for more
than weight loss. It is your ticket to weight maintenance, good health and
disease prevention. Anyone can experience the health benefits associated
with controlled carbohydrate nutrition. Use your husband's Induction-level
menu as a base, then add liberal amounts of vegetables low in carbs and
some higher-carb ones such as yams, carrots and peas. Also add fruits such
as melons and berries, as well as legumes and whole grains. While consuming
a regular amount of protein, add as much of these foods as you wish at levels
that allow you to maintain your normal weight. Do, however, avoid empty
carbs in the form of packaged or processed foods.
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Do I need to exercise to lose
weight on Atkins?
Exercise will not only speed up your weight loss
(or help you maintain your weight) and enhance muscle tone, but also offers
cardiovascular conditioning that is essential for continued good health.
Many studies have shown that inactivity is the greatest
risk factor leading to heart disease, more so than the usual indicators
such as high cholesterol. Regular aerobic exercise strengthens the heart
muscle and widens the arteries called collaterals that supply extra oxygen-rich
blood to weaker areas of the heart. Patients treated in the cardiology division
of our clinical practice receive a prescription that includes a lifestyle
change in nutrition, supplementation and exercise. Select a form of exercise
that you enjoy, whether walking, running, swimming or bicycling. You actually
need to engage regularly in two kinds of exercise. Isometric, or dynamic,
exercise is aerobic, meaning it increases the heart rate and the blood pressure;
swimming or brisk walking are good examples. Isotonic, or static, exercise,
such as weight lifting, involves the muscles, but does not significantly
increase the heart rate.
How long does it take to see results
Be patient. Two weeks is not enough time to effect
changes in your body from exercise. Some people, especially those who are
flabby, may even gain a little weight. That's because muscle mass increases
as you get stronger, and muscle weighs more than fat. As we start to age,
from our 30s on, we begin to lose muscle mass. That's one reason your metabolic
rate slows down. The more muscle you have, the more oxygen you take in;
oxygen burns fat, so you in turn burn more fat. If you follow an exercise
program five days a week you should see results within a month.
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Exactly what is ketosis, and
can it be dangerous?
There are two fuels your body
burns for energy. Glucose, the primary fuel, comes from eating carbohydrates.
When your body runs out of glucose, it turns to its secondary fuel source:
your own body fat. When you reduce your intake of carbohydrates, your body
must convert fat into energy, and this metabolic state is called "ketosis."
So being in ketosis simply means living off your fat stores. Assuming you're
overweight, this process is not only safe - it's desirable!
One reason why people become overweight
in the first place is that their bodies have great difficulty in using this
backup fuel system. Almost 50 years ago, scientists demonstrated that obese
and overweight people differed dramatically from people of normal weight
in that they were very resistant to developing ketosis. The Atkins Nutritional
Approach helps your body activate its fat-burning system by restricting
its primary source of fuel - glucose.
Ketosis is absolutely safe, unless you happen
to have no excess body fat. So, why do so many people think ketosis is dangerous?
Perhaps because the term is often confused with another K-word. Ketoacidosis
is a potentially dangerous condition that occurs in a diabetic whose blood
sugar levels are out of control. Ketoacidosis is not experienced on Atkins.
We have diabetic patients at The Atkins Center for Complementary Medicine
in ketosis whose blood sugar is under control, and they are burning fat
and losing weight.
Anyone who is diabetic and wishes to do Atkins (or any weight-loss
program) should seek a physician's supervision.
Selected reference: Bloom, W., "Fasting Ketosis in Obese
Men and Women." J. Lab. & Clin. Med. 606, 1962; 784.
Why am I unable to get into ketosis even
with a very low amount of carbohydrates? What should I do?
You are either metabolically resistant to weight
loss or else you don't know all sources of the carbohydrates you may
be eating. If you are losing weight and doing well, there is no need
to do anything differently. If you are not doing well or losing weight,
you may benefit from additional nutritional supplementation Vita-Nutrients,
including L-Carnitine, HCA and chromium may prove helpful. To stimulate
ketosis, the best diet is high in fat (cream cheese, macadamias, deviled
eggs, etc.), moderate amounts of protein and a very low level of carbohydrates.
You may also need to increase exercise from three times per week, to
four or five times per week. If all else fails, you need to see a M.D.
trained in the Atkins Nutritional Approach. To really understand what
is occurring in your body, we strongly suggest you read Dr.
Atkins New Diet Revolution
What shade of purple should my Lipolysis
Testing Strips be?
Lipolysis is an indicator of whether a person
is adhering to the Atkins Nutritional Approach. Ketones are formed when
the body breaks down fat. If you are restricting the amount of carbohydrates
you eat, then the body's preferred source of energy, fat, is used for metabolism.
There are many reasons why a person's lipolysis test strip
would be varying shades of purple. Each person's metabolism level is different
and therefore will turn the sticks a varying degree of purple. In addition,
the time of the day, whether or not you exercise, and what you had at your
last meal will all affect the ketone test strips. It also does not necessarily
matter whether you are turning the strips a dark or light color. The important
thing is you are in ketosis and are burning fat for energy. However, keep
in mind that every individual's metabolism is different, and as a result,
there are people who never even get into ketosis, yet lose all the weight
In summary, don't worry about the exact level of ketosis
you will find on the strip. The important thing is to worry about the restrictions
of the Atkins Nutritional Approach, how your clothes are fitting and what
the scale says. Because of this, we sometimes do not even use the strips,
nor do we encourage you to weigh yourself every day. This should be done
once per week. Don't make the common mistake of eating less fat to get into
ketosis; the opposite is actually true.
No matter what I do, I can't get into
ketosis, or the shade of purple on the sticks is very light. What am I doing
The first question to ask yourself is, "Am I seeing
success with Atkins?" (loss of weight/inches, improved mental/physical energy,
etc.). If you are, then don't focus on ketosis as a success gauge. If you
are not seeing success, please review the question on our Web site concerning
slow weight loss and plateaus for additional help.
In either case, please remember not to over test yourself.
We recommend that you test your ketosis level no more than once a week.
Since starting Atkins, I have bad breath.
Can I use Tic Tacs or other breath mints? Any other suggestions?
Lipolysis (the process during which your body
primarily burns fat as fuel rather than glucose), causes ketosis, which
generates ketones, the by-products of fat breakdown. During lipolysis, ketones
are released in your breath and your urine. While this can be annoying,
the good news is that ketone breath is chemical proof that you're burning
stored body fat. The more ketones you release, the more fat you've burned.
Drinking plenty of water helps dilute the concentration of ketones. Parsley,
too, is a natural breath freshener, as is oil of peppermint (drops are available
at natural food stores. (Read the label to ensure that it contains no sugar.)
Chewing fresh parsley or taking capsules such as Breath-a-Sure, which can
be found in any health food or drug store, will also help. As long as you
drink enough water, the bad breath caused by ketones usually lasts only
a few weeks.
We discourage the use of breath mints while doing Atkins
because they may contain either sugar or artificial sweeteners. Even so-called
"sugar-free" products are often full of carbs. Check the number of grams
of carbohydrates on the label of any product before using it.
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Are there any medical conditions
that can interfere with a person's ability
to do Atkins?
Yes, and they include far advanced kidney
disease, gout, urate kidney stones, or unmanageable constipation or
allergy to the primary foods on the Atkins Nutritional Approach, such
as meat and cheese. The absence of digestive enzymes needed to digest
fat and protein also make the Atkins Nutritional Approach difficult
to handle, but this can usually be corrected. People who are underweight
or of normal weight should not use the Induction phase of Atkins, but
rather begin with the Ongoing Weight Loss (OWL), Pre-Maintenance or
Maintenance phase. For more information, read Dr.
Atkins New Diet Revolution.
What medical conditions should be monitored
by an M.D. during the Atkins Nutritional Approach?
All medical conditions requiring prescriptions,
and even some that don't -- like diet controlled diabetes mellitus -- need
to be monitored by a physician. This is necessary because the Atkins Nutritional
Approach and nutritional supplements improve so many conditions that the
prescriptions often become an overdose or unnecessarily strong.
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I know I'm allowed up to 20
grams of carbohydrates a day during the two weeks of Induction. But if I
stay under 20 grams of carbs a day, why can't I have some in the form of
a slice of whole grain bread or even a peanut butter cup, which has 20 grams
There are two reasons this approach won't work.
For one, all carbohydrates are not created equal. The Atkins Nutritional
Approach is designed to prevent blood sugar levels from spiking and causing
the overproduction of insulin - a hormone that helps convert carbohydrates
to body fat. The first carbohydrates you need to add back to your eating
plan are more vegetables, then seeds and nuts, then berries and then - if
you are still losing - grains. Even bread made from 100 percent whole-wheat
flour contains enough refined carbs to produce the insulin-raising, fat-storing
effect in many people. Later, if your weight loss is progressing well and
you have increased your daily carb intake, you may eat an occasional slice
of whole grain bread. As for the 20-gram peanut butter cup, it contains
a lot of sugar - not to mention artery-clogging hydrogenated fat - and sugar
is the worst kind of carbohydrate.
Second, Atkins is not just about rapid weight loss -
it's about learning to eat only nutrient-dense carbohydrates for the rest
of your life. These are foods that are packed with the most antioxidant
vitamins and healthful phytochemicals relative to the amount of carbohydrates
- so you're getting the most bang for your carbohydrate buck. Once you've
reached your goal weight and established your personal carbohydrate level
for maintenance, you can enjoy whole-grain bread, fruit and even the occasional
plate of french fries. Unfortunately, that peanut butter cup just doesn't
make the grade!
Can I eat Advantage Bars and Shakes during
the Induction phase?
An Advantage Bar can serve as either a snack
or an occasional meal replacement. Feel free to eat them during
Induction as long as you continue to lose weight. (We generally recommend
no more than one bar a day during Induction.) But keep in mind that
neither shakes nor bars were formulated to be total meal replacements.
Atkins does not recommend the use of meal replacements; instead, it
is important to eat whole, unprocessed foods to learn wholesome eating
I have been experiencing dizziness since beginning
Why and what should I do?
First, check with your physician to make sure you
don't have a medical condition. Once your doctor has ruled out any conditions
that require medical intervention, the possibility exists that you may be
going through carbohydrate withdrawal. When your body becomes accustomed
to burning fat for fuel, these symptoms should dissipate, usually within
a week. You might alleviate them by adding more vegetables that are low
in carbohydrates, such as leafy green vegetables. Then bring the quantities
back down once your body adjusts to the controlled carb routine. You may
find it helpful to eat protein snacks throughout the day, such as a slice
of turkey or cream cheese in celery. Try a few days of eating every 3-4
hours and make sure you drink plenty of water.
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Protein Powders & Flours
What is the difference between
soy powder, soy protein isolate, soy flour, protein powder, and whey protein?
Soy (also called soya) powder (or soy protein
isolate) and soy flour are both made from the same source: the soy bean.
The physical difference between the two is that soy powder is ground finer
than soy flour. You can use both when doing Atkins. However, soy flour has
more carbs, so you need to keep this in mind when counting your carb intake.
For best results, especially during Induction, use Atkins Bake Mix, which
has a very low carb count.
Protein powder is a pure source of protein, usually an egg
protein powder or vegetable-based protein powder that is very low in carbohydrate.
Keep in mind that many protein powders may contain certain fillers and hidden
sugars. Make sure you read the label to check carbohydrate and sugar amounts.
Whey Protein Isolate (WPI) is considered the highest quality
protein available in terms of the body's ability to utilize it. It is extremely
low in carbohydrate, high in protein, and contains virtually no fat. It
has also been shown to possess immune boosting capabilities by increasing
the body's cellular levels of glutathione, an important anti-oxidant. WPI
is an ingredient in the Atkins Bake Mix.
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What are some healthful snacks
kids will enjoy?
Try blueberries or other fresh fruit with
whole-milk cottage cheese or whipped cream. Serving fruit with a source
of protein moderates blood sugar swings. Or try a mix of nuts, seeds
and raisins. Other ideas include: whole grain bread or crackers with
cheese or peanut butter; celery sticks with peanut or another nut butter;
popcorn made in an air popper and drizzled with melted butter; deviled
eggs; or rolled up slices of turkey or ham. Instead of soda or fruit
juice, offer kids flavored seltzers or iced herbal teas. If they're
hooked on fruit juice, offer the whole fruit instead - which causes
a less dramatic rise in blood sugar. In the winter, you can make hot
chocolate using Splenda instead of sugar. Also, keep a supply of Protein
Bars handy for snacking, along with many of our low carb Muffin,
Cake and Cookie Mixes.
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On Alcohol Consumption
Why can't I consume alcohol
while doing Atkins?
You should not drink alcohol during Induction,
but you can drink moderate amounts of alcohol during the Ongoing Weight
Loss, Pre-Maintenance and Lifetime Maintenance phases of the Atkins Nutritional
Approach. When given the choice, your body will burn alcohol for energy
before it burns fat. But alcohol does not act as a carbohydrate so it will
not interfere with burning fat in the same way that sugars and other carbohydrates
Alcohol consumption may also increase yeast-related symptoms,
such as bloating, gas and cravings for sweets, and can therefore interfere
with weight loss. Beer, which contains yeast, probably has the most yeast-forming
components of any alcohol. An occasional glass of wine or vodka is the best
choice. Scotch and other grain-based spirits are more likely to promote
Note: Use only mixers that contain no sugar or fruit
juices. Even tonic water contains carbs and regular soda is made with sugar.
Seltzer, club soda, mineral water and non-aspartame diet sodas are better
How many carbs does alcohol contain?
It varies by type of alcoholic drink. In the case
of beer, read the label. For wine and spirits, refer to a carb counter.
Wine usually contains about 2 grams of carbs per 3-ounce serving.
Is it OK to drink light beer, which is
lower in grams of carbohydrates?
If you have yeast-related problems, such as bloating,
gas, a coated tongue and cravings for sugar, you should eliminate beer or
limit your beer intake. Otherwise, after the Induction phase, you can drink
light beer as long as it does not make you gain weight or stall your weight-loss
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What kind of sweeteners do
A main goal of the Atkins Nutritional Approach
is to stabilize blood sugar (glucose) and insulin levels through the restriction
of carbohydrates. Sugar is a carbohydrate, so it is strictly limited. Controlling
carb content naturally curbs sugar cravings. However, if you still crave
sweets, we suggest you use a sugar substitute. The prudent, moderate use
of artificial sweeteners is usually acceptable. But be aware that not all
sugar substitutes are created equal. We recommend specific sweeteners that
will not interfere with weight loss. Some people experience negative reactions
to certain sweeteners, and the risk increases with the amount used. With
all artificial sweeteners, the less used, the better.
We carry a number of Low
Carbohydrate Sweeteners. One of them, sucralose, is marketed under
the name Splenda®.
Derived from sugar, it is non-caloric, contains less than 1 gram of
carbs per serving and it doesn't raise blood sugar. It has been used
in other countries since 1991 and has been tested for safety and efficacy.
In 1998, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved sucralose
for sale in the United States after reviewing more than 100 studies
conducted during the past 20 years.
Sucralose is approximately 600 times sweeter than sugar.
Unlike aspartame, it is inert in the body's digestive system, quickly
passing through without accumulating in tissues. In addition, it does
not lose its sweetness when heated, so it can be used in cooking and
baking. (For more information about Splenda, go to www.splenda.com.)
If Xylitol, Whey Low, Erythritol, Stevia, or Splenda
is not available, saccharin is the next best thing. The FDA recently
removed saccharin from its list of carcinogens, basing its decision
upon a thorough review of the medical literature and the National Institute
of Environmental Health Sciences' statement that "there is no clear
association between saccharin and human cancer." It can be safely consumed
in moderate amounts -- no more than three packets a day. Sugar poses
a greater threat to good health than saccharin does. Saccharin is marketed
as Sweet 'n Low®.
Acesulfame potassium, also known as acesulfame K, another
non-caloric sweetener, is approximately 200 times sweeter than sugar. Because
it cannot be metabolized, it passes through the body without elevating blood
sugar. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has authorized the use
of acesulfame K after evaluating numerous studies and determining its safety.
It is sold under the brand name Sunett™.
We do not recommend the use of aspartame -- sold under
the brand names of Equal® and NutraSweet® -- because of questions about
its safety. Aspertame also has been shown in laboratory tests to "spike"
insulin levels, making it unsuitable for diabetics and for those who
are looking to control their insulin levels through low carbohydrate,
sugar free dieting.
Note: During Induction, avoid sorbitol and mannitol
(both fermented sugars), and natural sweeteners such as fructose, lactose
or maltose. Tip: Sugar substitutes have a
synergistic sweetness. Mixing together tiny amounts of each mimics the sweetness
of sugar better than a larger amount of any single one.
I used artificial sweetener in a recipe
and the finished product tasted bitter. What did I do wrong?
Certain artificial sweeteners lose their effect
when heated. This is especially true of aspartame, which you should avoid
in any case because it can raise insulin levels and encourage fat storage.
Try switching to a heat-proof sweetener, such as Splenda®.
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On Drinking Lots
How much water should a person
doing Atkins be drinking?
A minimum of eight (8) glasses is the usual recommendation.
Coffee, tea and diet sodas do not apply to this minimum.
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Why is caffeine unacceptable while doing
Excess caffeine stimulates insulin production,
which will drop blood sugar levels and leave you hungry for sweets. I you're
addicted to caffeine, you must give it up. The best way to do this is to
segue from the high-octane stuff to decaf by gradually adding decaf to your
full-force brew until you are drinking straight decaf, which you can enjoy
with cream. Water-processed decaf is preferable because it was not produced
using chemicals, as some decafs are. Caffeine is found not just in coffee
and tea but also in chocolate and many soft drinks. Switch to decaffeinated
coffee and tea, experiment with flavorful herbal teas or stick to plain,
pure water. You may miss caffeine or even experience withdrawal symptoms
at first, but we often see weight loss start up again as soon as patients
remove caffeine and aspartame from their diet.
Can I drink flavored coffees?
Some flavored coffees contain hidden carbohydrates.
Hazelnut, almond or other nut- or grain-extracted flavors are fine, but
do check labels for the carb count. You can also add a low-carb syrup to
decaf coffee if you're looking for more flavor without added sugar. Some
of these syrups are also good in decaffeinated tea.
I just started Atkins and I have a severe
headache. What can I do to alleviate this symptom?
Don't worry; your headache will likely go away after
the third day. Sometimes people will get withdrawal headaches from all the
caffeine and all the sugar they are used to eating. Usually this resolves
in the first three days and then your body will be able to start on its
new efficient fat burning self. Make sure you are drinking enough water,
as dehydration can aggregate this condition. If these symptoms do not resolve,
you should contact your local physician. This usually convinces people of
the addiction they may have had to either caffeine or sugar or both.
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On Processed Meats
How can I find bacon, sausage
and other meats without nitrates and/or sugar?
Bacon and many other cured meats,
including ham are cured with sugar. However, most lose the sugar in the
curing process and the sugar does not become a factor when determining sugar
and carbohydrate contents. There are many name brands not cured with sugar
that may be available in your area. We would suggest contacting a local
butcher who should be able to provide you with the information you need.
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I really miss eating fruit.
Which ones are relatively low in carbs?
You should avoid fruit completely during Induction,
because for most people it interferes with lipolysis/ketosis. When you
move to Ongoing Weight Loss, you can try introducing berries, which are
relatively low in carbohydrates, as long as they don't slow or stop your
weight loss. Recent research shows blueberries are loaded with antioxidants
and other phytochemical nutrients. A quarter of a cup of strawberries, blueberries,
raspberries or blackberries contains approximately 5 grams of carbs (check
a Carbohydrate Gram Counter for exact numbers).
When you reach Pre-Maintenance, most people can also enjoy
low-glycemic fruits such as plums, nectarines, green apples, kiwi and cherries
in moderate amounts. Again, continue to count carbs and refer to a Carb
Counter. You can also eat up to one cup of berries each day. Have high-sugar
citrus fruits only occasionally - grapefruit is lowest - and bananas only
once in a while. Avoid fruit juices, which provide huge doses of sugar (a
splash to flavor seltzer is okay). Choose whole, fiber-rich fruit instead.
As a general rule, limit your fruit servings to two or a maximum of three
a day. After you have tested your tolerance to fruit sugar and are still
able to gradually lose or maintain your weight, depending upon your phase
of the program, you can try the higher glycemic fruits such as pears, mangos,
pineapple and so forth.
Eating fruit with nuts will slow down the release of the
sugars into the blood stream. Eating fruit with animal protein may cause
flatulence in some individuals.
Most nutritional recommendations lump together fruits and
vegetables. While there is no question that fruits are loaded with phytonutrients
and fiber, you cannot ignore the impact they have on blood sugar and insulin
levels. Ounce for ounce, veggies - and the greener the better - can offer
more of the same benefits with less of a blood sugar spike. Research has
shown that a diet that includes sufficient vegetables can reduce the risk
of colon and rectal cancer.
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Nuts have carbohydrates, but
you include them in the Atkins Nutritional Approach. Why? And when can I
Different nuts and seeds have different percentages
of fats, protein, and carbohydrates. We don't recommend eating them during
the Induction phase of Atkins, the initial period of greatest carbohydrate
restriction and, as a result, greatest weight loss. But you can certainly
eat them during the other phases, when you won't have to count carbs so
closely because you'll be nearing or have reached you desired weight.
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On Cheating &
of doing Atkins, I started cheating and fell off the wagon.
What's the best way to get back on?
When someone "cheats," they often experience carbohydrate
cravings caused by unstable blood sugar levels. The first thing you need
to do is get back on Induction for a week or so to get your blood sugar
level under control. When you are no longer craving foods high in carbohydrates
and your energy level feels stable, you can move beyond Induction again.
Pay careful attention to what happened that led you to "fall off the wagon"
and make sure not to let it happen again. But don't fall into the trap of
being too strict and denying yourself completely; this could lead to more
cheating. Giving yourself an occasional treat - within your carbohydrate
threshold - is part of the Atkins approach.
What is "carb creep" and how can I avoid
When you start adding carbohydrates
back into your meals as you move from Induction into the progressively less
restrictive phases of the Atkins Nutritional Approach, you may begin to
lose track of how many grams of carbs you're eating. When that happens,
you are likely to regain the pounds you lost. That is why it is very important
to increase your daily carb intake by only 5 grams each week and to introduce
only one new food at a time. That way, you'll also immediately notice if
a new food is causing you to experience cravings that lead to over-eating.
Another way to stay in control is to keep a food diary so you can spot troublesome
foods before they set up a pattern of cravings and gorging. For example,
if you find that after eating nuts you are hungry again in a few hours,
cut out the nuts and see if the hunger disappears.
I always eat too much during the holidays
and inevitably leave the table overstuffed. How can I avoid this situation?
Most of us spend hours at the dinner table during
the holidays. It's easy to overdo it, and combining protein and fats with
too many carbohydrates can lead to indigestion. The key to feeling well
after holiday meals is to create an eating strategy.
- Stick to fats and protein-rich foods: They are far more
satiating than carbohydrates, and can help you avoid overeating. Sugary
foods and other refined carbs are more apt to cause indigestion. So load
up on turkey - but pass on the stuffing; or if you simply can't resist
it, have a small portion. Instead, focus on the nutrient-dense carbs such
as leafy green veggies.
- Odd as it sounds, a good strategy is to eat a small meal
before attending holiday dinners or other parties. All too often, people
skip lunch because they know they will be sitting down to a big dinner.
But you're much better off having a meal or a filling snack so you can
get your blood sugar under control before you face an array of tempting
carbohydrates. And drink plenty of water: Not only will drinking water
help you feel full, it also helps you flush toxins from your body.
- Don't deny yourself completely: Giving yourself an occasional
treat - within your carbohydrate threshold - is part of the Atkins approach.
- If you do feel an attack of indigestion, avoid antacids
- they can interfere with protein digestion. Instead, try a digestive
enzyme formula, available in most health food stores. (Be sure you use
one that contains proteases and lipases.)
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I lost weight nicely on Induction
and for the first few months of the Ongoing Weight Loss phase, but now the
scale just won't budge. How do I get off this plateau?
First, before you assume there is a problem, ask
yourself some questions: Are you feeling better? Are your clothes fitting
better? (You may be losing inches, not pounds, because muscle weighs more
than fat.) Are you still losing, but at a slower rate? You may just need
to go a bit longer, making slight modifications.
However, if you are truly stalled, you can usually get yourself
off a plateau by going back to Induction, the strictest level of the plan.
This level of the Atkins program serves several purposes, one of which is
much like the way the starter in an old-fashioned automobile works. It gets
the weight-loss reaction started because it throws your body into ketosis,
making it burn fat for energy. You may need to be even stricter, consuming
only meat, fish, fowl and eggs. You need not do this very long, just enough
time to see your weight loss begin. Then, make sure you add new foods more
gradually than you did before. Another way to lose faster is to increase
the amount of fat and decrease protein.
I think I'm doing Atkins correctly, yet
I'm not losing weight or my weight loss has plateaued. What are some of
the factors that could make that happen?
First, recognize that there may not be a problem
at all. Different people will respond to Atkins differently; some consistently
lose weight while others do so in stages. Don't watch the scale and become
overly concerned with short-term results. Also, make sure your expectations
of weight loss are realistic. Atkins is designed to lead you to your natural
ideal weight. For many people, that may still be more than they wish to
weigh. We strongly recommend that you manage your expectations in a real
and healthy way. Second, remember that success on Atkins should always
be measured by more than just the scale. Consider the following questions
and think about how they apply to your experience on Atkins:
- Are you experiencing more energy and vitality throughout
- Are your clothes fitting you better? Are you experiencing
less between meal cravings and hunger?
- Have your blood tests improved? Are you still losing
weight, but just at a much slower pace?
- Have you lost inches in your body measurements?
If you answered "yes" to any of the above, then you
have the right plan for the rest of your life. Continue to stick with it,
modifying it as you go along to make it work for you, and you will continue
to see suitable health enhancing results. Given all of the above, there
are a number of key factors that may inhibit a person's ability to have
success on a controlled carb program like Atkins.
Listed below are the difficulties people experience most
Consuming Too Many Carbohydrates
It's amazing how frequently this is the
source of most people's problems. Some people can get away with higher
carb consumption and still experience success on Atkins, but many (especially
those who are overweight to begin with), need to be more vigilant in keeping
carbs contolled. Check to make sure you
are completely aware of all the sources of carbohydrates you may be eating.
For example, lemon juice, excess vegetables, and low fat substitute products
can contain those few carbs that could disrupt your success. Keep a complete
food diary for a few days to see exactly what you are consuming. You may
be surprised! Also, even if you think you've caught every carbohydrate,
check the ingredients on any processed food you are eating (if a serving
size contains less than 1 gram of carbs, it can be listed as 0 carbs.
If you are consuming a lot of this product, the hidden carbs can add up
If you've done a full investigation and believe you've
caught all the carbs, try a week at a lower carb level (e.g. If you're
on an Ongoing Weight Loss Level, go back to Induction) to see if that
might restart your success.
While it is true that calorie counting is not
necessary on Atkins, this is not a license to gorge yourself at every
meal. The Atkins Nutritional Approach is most effective when you eat until
you are satisfied, not until you can't eat another bite or you'll explode.
Also, try eating slower to allow your body to signal when it is full before
you overeat. Think about this over the next week and see if it helps you
to start/restart your weight loss.
Just as overeating can cause your body to resist
weight loss, so can undereating. If you're hungry, eat; if you're starving,
you should have eaten 30 minutes ago.
Trying To Do A "Low-Fat" Version of
the Atkins Nutritional Approach
Some people with very fast metabolisms can get
away with this and experience success on Atkins. However, for most, it
will inhibit your weight loss and keep you hungrier throughout the day
and thus more susceptible to sugar/carb cravings.
Nutritional Deficiencies Caused By Previous Diets
Many people who have been on a diet high in
sugar and other refined carbohydrates, as well as low in fat (which is
almost everybody) prior to beginning Atkins, will have nutritional deficiencies
that may not be fully addressed by the Atkins Nutritional Approach. Readers
of Dr. Atkins' books know that he is a firm believer in nutritional supplementation.
His key recommendations for everyone include a broad-based multi-vitamin
program (preferably not a "one-a-day", but one consumed through the day
for optimal absorption) and an essential fatty acid formula (which can
boost your metabolism and enhance fat burning). For additional supplementation,
refer to Dr. Atkins' books to develop a program that meets your specific
Virtually all medications will inhibit weight
loss to some degree, with prescription medications being the most problematic.
For more information on this subject, please review the questions concerning
Yeast Overgrowth/Candida Condition
Re-read the yeast chapter in Dr.
Atkins New Diet Revolution, and go on a yeast/fermentation-free version
of Atkins (e.g. no cheese, vinegar, mushrooms, etc.) for two weeks to
see if that precipitates weight loss.
Re-read the chapter on food intolerances in
Dr. Atkins New
Lack of Exercise
While Atkins doesn't require you to kill yourself
on the treadmill or in an aerobic class everyday to see results, the importance
of regular exercise can't be overlooked. Make sure you are engaged in
some form of exercise at least three times a week, or as directed by your
doctor. If you can increase that to four or five times a week, all the
better. You will definitely see the results on Atkins if you increase
your exercise routine.
Lack of Proper Water Consumption
If you're not drinking enough
water, your body is operating inefficiently. An inefficient body will
not respond as well to weight loss efforts. Basically, by the time you
feel thirsty, you are already dehydrated. Do yourself and your body a
favor and drink at least 8 glasses of water a day (preferably filtered),
and more if possible. You may go to the bathroom more, but your body will
love you for it. Note: This means water, not decaf coffee, tea, diet soda
or anything else that may include water but is not water.
Low Body Temperature
This would indicate a possible sluggish thyroid.
Refer to Dr. Atkins
New Diet Revolution for how this can impact weight loss and how you
can test for this condition in your own home.
Consumption of Artificial Sweeteners
For many people, products such as aspartame
and saccharin are not a problem, especially when consumed at low to moderate
levels (remember that all sweetener packets contain a gram of carbs).
However, some people can experience a weight loss impasse from these products.
For many Atkins followers, these products have been a "necessary evil",
since they are better than giving into sugar cravings.
Our advice: If you are
having trouble losing weight on Atkins, refrain from these artificial
sweeteners for a week to see if it helps. Consider trying Stevia, a natural
product that people use as a sweetener. Sucralose, recently approved by
the FDA and used safely for years in countries throughout the world (many
of which ban the use of aspartame), may solve the problem for all Atkins
followers. We do not believe it will cause weight loss impasses for any
Atkins followers, and are now using it as the sweetener in all Advantage
Bars, cheesecakes and other Atkins food products.
If you have reviewed all of the above and are still having
problems, consider coming to The Atkins Center for Complementary Medicine
as a patient or schedule a Telephone Nutritional Consultation (TNC), For
information please call 1-888-ATKINS-8 and ask for the New Patients Department.
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On Eating Away from
Do you have any tips for eating away from
Think "big picture." Don't use your trip as an
excuse to go off the program. Remember, if you continually take "detours"
from your planned route, you'll never reach your destination.
Take it with you. Pack some controlled-carb snack
foods like 1-ounce portions of cheese in plastic wrap. If you're traveling
by car, pack a cooler with cold cuts and cheese or salad. Or stow away a
few Atkins bars and some shake mix to use as meal replacements.
Eat first. Start out on the right foot by eating
a well-planned, satisfying meal before you depart.
Go a little nuts. Snack on nuts and seeds, which
are high in protein and fat. You'll feel more satisfied and in control of
your appetite after eating a handful. Go easy on these snack options if
you are in the Induction phase, particularly if you find it difficult to
No skipping allowed. Tempted
to pass on lunch to make better time? Don't do it. Omitting a meal could
make you ravenous, out of control and more likely to grab anything edible.
Fly right. If you're on a flight where a meal will
be served, call ahead and ask what's on the menu. You can probably find
a seafood or chicken salad or another dish you can "remodel."
Drink up. Consume lots of water,
which will help you feel satisfyingly full. But stay away from caffeine
and diet sodas full of aspartame, which increase carbohydrate cravings.
Pack your pills. Once one element of your routine
gets upset, other good habits tend to slide as well. Even if you make some
mistakes with your food choices, staying on your supplements will help you
focus on getting back to eating properly.
Speed counts. If you do slip off the program for
a day or more, get back on ASAP. The longer you're derailed, the harder
it may be to get back on track.
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On Fast Food Restaurants
What can I eat in a fast food
restaurant when I'm in a hurry?
Sandwich Shops: Chicken or
tuna salad is a good choice. Just be sure to pick out any carrots. In sub
shops, bring on the turkey, roast beef, cheese and sausage, but try to steer
clear of salami, bologna and other meat products preserved with nitrates.
Ask for your selection on a plate instead of on a roll, and you're ready
Burger Chains: Sandwiches are usually a good bet.
Yes, even the bacon cheeseburger! Just toss the bun. Mayo and mustard are
permissible but beware of ketchup, which often contains a lot of sugar.
Watch out too for special sauces, as they also often have sugar in them.
Tomato slices and lettuce are fine. Steer clear of anything advertised as
"low fat," a label that often translates to "high carb."
Fried Chicken Places: Avoid anything barbecued or
breaded. Barbecue sauce is typically full of sugar and even if you remove
the skin, the sugar has probably seeped into the meat. Dry-rubbed meats
are fine, as are roasted chicken and allowed side dishes such as salad.
If there's a grilled chicken filet sandwich available, grab it! Discard
the bun, and you've got a pretty good selection. Or scrape the breading
off a fried chicken breast and dig in!
Salad Bars: Here you'll find
the choices you need for a nutritious meal. Use olive oil and regular red
or white wine vinegar instead of a prepared dressing. Commercial dressings
and balsamic vinegars often contain sugar. Baked stuffed potatoes are an
Unless you're starving, avoid Mexican-style restaurants,
pizza parlors, doughnut shops and yogurt/ice cream parlors.
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Back to the Top
Is it true that eating too
much protein can damage your kidneys?
Studies show that the glomerular filtration rate
(GFR) goes up with a high protein intake. The GFR is a measure of how efficiently
the kidneys are filtering protein and other byproducts of metabolism from
the blood. A high GFR may seem bad to some dietitians but, in fact, it is
actually a sign of excellent kidney function. It simply means the kidneys
are capable of doing a job beyond their usual requirements. Think of this
analogy: Aerobic exercise raises your heart rate, yet everyone acknowledges
that, because aerobic exercise raises the heart rate, it strengthens the
heart. In our clinical practice, we have seen thousands of patients over
three decades, and we have never seen a single case of a high-protein eating
program causing kidney damage.
Can a person with kidney problems do
Atkins? If so, how is the Atkins Nutritional Approach adjusted?
The Atkins Nutritional Approach can be used safely
by any kidney patient whose creatinine level is under 3.0. However, monitoring
creatine levels every 2 weeks is required. Creatinine levels above 3 require
a doctor's management.
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On Muscle Mass
Doesn't ketosis lead to loss
of muscle mass?
The notion that the Atkins Nutritional Approach
-- high in protein, which builds muscle, and fat, which is used for energy
-- will force your body to break down muscle is incorrect. Only dieters
on very low calorie diets can lose muscle mass, because they have an inadequate
protein intake. Atkins, however, is not calorie restricted (this isn't an
invitation for gorging, but a recommendation to eat until you are no longer
hungry) and the high protein intake required offsets any possible loss of
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I suspect I may have an underactive thyroid.
Could that be why it is so difficult for me to lose weight?
Your thyroid gland's main function is to regulate
the speed of your metabolism. So it is not difficult to understand that
if it is underactive - the medical word is hypothyroid - your slowed metabolism
makes you more resistant to weight loss.
Whenever a patient at The Atkins Center has real trouble
losing weight, the physicians always check for a sluggish thyroid gland.
As you age, it's not unusual for your thyroid to stop producing enough of
the hormones that control the speed of your metabolism. When that happens,
your whole body slows down; you gain weight and can't get it off. Hypothyroidism,
or underactive thyroid, is easy to diagnose, even though it doesn't always
show up on standard lab tests.
To ascertain whether you have hypothyroidism, your doctor
will do blood tests to evaluate your production of thyroid hormones T4 (also
known as thyroxine) and T3 (your body converts T4 to T3), as well as another
hormone called TSH. However, these clinical tests do not catch all cases.
First think about whether you are experiencing any of the signs of an underactive
thyroid. These include sensitivity to cold, weight gain, hair loss, sleep
disturbances, fatigue and lethargy, depression, dry skin, chronic constipation,
poor nails, poor memory and elevated cholesterol levels. If so, there is
a simple way - the Barnes technique of basal metabolism - to ascertain if
you are hypthyroid.
Simply take your temperature orally four times a day
(before each meal and before you go to bed) for four days. Average your
temperature each day, and if it is consistently below 98 degrees Fahrenheit,
you are likely to have a sluggish thyroid. If it is significantly lower
such as below 97.6, you almost definitely have hypothyroidism, and you should
bring this information to the attention of your physician, who will likely
prescribe thyroid hormone replacement therapy. (Do be aware that not all
doctors take basal metabolism as seriously as they should.)
The treatment for hypothyroidism is straightforward. As
Dr. Atkins explains, "I use the therapeutic trial for thyroid. After examining
blood test results, I start patients with a very low dose of a prescription
thyroid hormone replacement and build up gradually and very carefully. In
most cases, when we reach the right dose patients start to feel dramatically
better. They have a much better sense of overall well-being, with much more
energy and vitality. Best of all, they start to lose weight again."
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On Yeast Overgrowth
Will a low carb approach help
clear up my yeast problem?
After years of eating a high-sugar diet, it's
quite possible that your digestive tract has an overgrowth of an organism
known as Candida albicans. When that happens, the beneficial bacteria in
your intestines get crowded out. Candida (also known as yeast) overgrowth
also provokes food intolerances, headaches and immune-system weakness, and
keeps you from losing weight by causing unstable blood sugar and major carbohydrate
Once your practitioner has diagnosed a yeast overgrowth,
you'll need to eliminate some foods from your diet until it clears up. Typically,
the first food to go is sugar. Candida thrives on sugar - so a sugar-free,
controlled carb approach will starve it out. It's also important to eliminate
yeast and fermented foods such as sourdough breads, pickles, beer, wine,
vinegar and many cheeses. Also omit nuts, which can contain mold.
What blood tests should my physician
perform to check for yeast infection?
The appropriate blood tests to check for yeast infections
are Candida Antibody lgG, lgM, and lgA.
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Could my medications be interfering
with my weight loss?
Weight-loss plateaus are often caused not by what
you eat but by prescription drugs. Drugs for high blood pressure, especially
diuretics and the drugs known as beta blockers, can make your body extremely
resistant to weight loss." As a cardiologist, I see a lot of patients who
come to me taking these drugs," says Patrick Fratellone, M.D., medical director
of The Atkins Center. "They can't lose weight while they're on them, but
being overweight is a big reason for their high blood pressure."
At The Center, the solution to this circular problem,
he explains, is to gradually taper patients off blood-pressure medications
and replace them with herbs and dietary supplements. As patients lose weight
and improve other aspects of their health, their blood pressure often returns
to normal, eliminating the need for any treatment. Always discuss any change
in medications with your health-care practitioner.
The same chicken and egg situation applies to patients
who are taking selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) antidepressants.
Common side effects of SSRIs, such as anxiety, sleeplessness, nervousness
and headaches, actually create carbohydrate cravings. For example, about
10 percent of people on Prozac® have appetite loss, but about a third experience
increased appetite. "It's surprising how quickly patients start to lose
weight when they stop these drugs," Dr. Fratellone notes.
Natural substitutes for SSRI drugs include the herbs St.
John's wort and kava kava or inositol hexanicotinate, a B vitamin. Dr. Fratellone
warns, however, against stopping antidepressants on your own - you need
to taper off these drugs slowly - and that there can be interactions with
alternative remedies. Don't forget to consult your doctor.
When it comes to the cholesterol-lowering statin drugs,
Dr. Fratellone is emphatic. "These drugs keep you from losing weight and
they're potentially dangerous as well. At The Atkins Center, we stop statin
drugs immediately. Our low-carbohydrate eating plan alone will improve blood
Are You a Diabetic? The most fattening of all
the hormones is insulin. Diabetics who have to inject insulin find it almost
impossible to lose weight. Oral drugs are almost as bad. According to Dr.
Atkins, "The majority of oral medications for diabetes have a weight-gain
effect. Even drugs that don't stimulate insulin have this effect. The one
drug that does help diabetics control their blood sugar and lose weight
is metformin, marketed under the brand name Glucophage®. I often prescribe
this for my diabetic patients when they start the Atkins program. Once they've
been following it for a while, their need for the drug almost invariably
After insulin, Dr. Atkins believes that hormone replacement
therapy (HRT) is a leading offender in terms of inhibited weight loss. Menopausal
women who take estrogen or estrogen/progesterone have a lot of trouble shedding
pounds. In fact, weight gain, water retention and skyrocketing triglyceride
levels are well-known side effects of HRT. "There are better, more natural
ways to treat menopause symptoms," Dr. Atkins says. "Folic acid in prescription-strength
doses, for example, helps minimize many symptoms, as do other nutrients,
such as boron, soy isoflavones and herbs such as agnus cactus and dong quai."
Also consume moderate amounts of soy products.
What medications interfere with or need
adjustment once you are committed to the Atkins Nutritional Approach?
Virtually all medications will inhibit weight
loss. The most incompatible medications are:
- Diuretics (water pills).
- Psychotropic drugs, including prozac, zoloft, lithium,
- Hormones and steroids, including estrogen (premarin),
birth control pills and prednisone.
- Arthritic drugs, especially NSAIDS (Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory
- Cholesterol-lowering drugs.
- All anti-diabetic medications, including insulin with
the exception of glucophage.
- Seizure medications.
Doctors who work with the Atkins Nutritional Approach
can usually use it and certain supplements to help you get off most
of the above or taper you to minimal doses. Please DO NOT COME OFF MEDICATIONS
BY YOURSELF without medical supervision. Please read Dr.
Atkins New Diet Revolution or Dr. Atkins Vita-Nutrient Solution
for further information.
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On Food Allergies
What if I'm allergic to something that's
a mainstay of the Atkins nutritional plan?
Unsuspected food intolerances can be a major roadblock
to weight loss. Many patients at The Atkins Center, for example, turn out
to be allergic to wheat and wheat products. Other common allergens include
soy, milk, cheese and eggs. People with food intolerances often have gastrointestinal
problems, along with joint pain, anxiety or depression and other symptoms.
Your practitioner will use a process of elimination to uncover any food
allergies. It takes time, but it will be worth it when your weight loss
picks up and your overall health improves.
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On Carbs for Athletes
As a runner, I'm used to carb loading
before competitive events. Will following the Atkins Nutritional Approach
impact my endurance?
It is a misconception that carb-loading is the
best way to prepare yourself for endurance exercise. Although an overabundance
of carbs might give you an initial burst of energy, that surge can then
lead to a sharp drop in your blood sugar - and, therefore, fatigue - later
in your workout. This isn't to say that you should eliminate carbs, but
endurance athletes will do better by consuming moderate amounts of healthy,
unrefined carbohydrates, found in foods such as kale, spinach and broccoli,
to ensure stable blood sugar throughout a workout.
A 1994 study of well-trained cyclists demonstrated the principle
that a low-carb eating program contributes to improved endurance. Subjects
on a 7 percent carbohydrate program were able to pedal nearly twice as long
as those whose diet consisted of 74 percent carbs.
If you are contemplating switching to a lower-carb eating
plan, do so during training, never right before a race. It should take your
body about two weeks to adjust, so don't worry if you don't experience extra
energy immediately. The amount of carbohydrates you should consume also
relates to your percentage of body fat.
If you are an overweight runner, stay on the lowest level
of carb consumption that suits your needs while still allowing you to lose
weight. On the other hand, if your weight is normal, simply stick to vegetables,
whole grains, berries and other fruits low in sugar and other healthful
complex carbs, avoiding junk foods and sugar.
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On Attention Deficit Disorder
My child has ADD/ADHD. Can Atkins help?
Does it help with other diet-related conditions?
It's important to remember that diet impacts not
only weight, but also a number of other medical issues. There is a clear
connection between what kids eat and such conditions as attention deficit
disorder (ADD), moodiness, difficulty with learning, chronic ear infections,
colic, and gastrointestinal problems. These diet-related disorders are often
signs of food sensitivities, and the culprits are likely to be sugar and
refined carbs. Children also may often have sensitivities to milk or other
dairy products. Yeast, wheat and gluten are considered other common culprits.
You've probably heard that breakfast is vitally important
for kids. Consider that most children start their days off with a bowl of
sugary cereal and a glass of orange juice - perhaps some white toast with
jelly, too. With nothing but sugar and refined carbohydrates coursing through
their systems, it's no wonder so many have trouble sitting still and focusing.
The typical American, high-carb, junk-food-laden diet, which is leading
to greater numbers of obese people in this country every year, is putting
our children at serious risk. A controlled carbohydrate lifestyle can
help stabilize blood sugar, thereby increasing attention span and focus
even when weight loss is not an issue.
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On Giving Blood
What can I drink and eat after
giving blood instead of the usual OJ and cookies?
After donating blood, your fluid volume is reduced,
which can make you lightheaded or dizzy. You will be offered something to
drink to replace the fluid, which also decreases the volume of blood sugar
available. Instead of sugary fruit drinks, consume water or other non-carbohydrate
beverages and instead of a cookie, have a piece of cheese or a slice of
turkey. If you are beyond Induction, you can combine whole fruit with nuts.
It's a good idea to plan ahead and bring with you some of your allowable
foods and beverages.
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Since I have been on Atkins, my cholesterol
has gone up. Why? What can I do about it?
First, look at what you've been eating. Have you
been following Atkins correctly? If you are just starting the Induction
phase, be sure you stay below 20 grams of carbohydrates a day as recommended.
You may also want to consider a couple of other things that could be happening.
First, the increase might be temporary. When a person loses
weight, cholesterol usually rises because the body must break down stored
fat for energy. Your total cholesterol should drop within two months. Look
at your HDL (known as "good" cholesterol) levels. A rise in total cholesterol
levels could even be a good thing, if it's all attributed to HDL cholesterol.
Total cholesterol may temporarily go up due to the rise in HDL. If you've
been following the Atkins Nutritional Approach for some time and your cholesterol
levels have not come down, something else is going on.
You may also need to look at a third component of your blood
tests: triglycerides. Cholesterol rises in some people when triglycerides
drop significantly. If that drop is greater than the LDL increase, your
lipid profile may, again, be improved.
High cholesterol that has a genetic component usually
responds to changes in diet, but may be difficult to address with diet
alone. You may still need to take supplements such as pantethine, essential
oils, garlic and fiber. Exercise is also an important component, as
is cutting back on processed meats, such as bacon, sausage and cold
cuts and limiting intake of hard cheese.
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Constipation & Diarrhea
I never suffered from constipation
until I started doing Atkins. What should I do?
When you change your eating habits, you may experience
constipation until your body adapts. The Atkins Nutritional Approach contains
enough vegetables, which are rich in soluble fiber, to usually prevent constipation.
But some constipation is not uncommon during the first week of the Induction
phase. Be sure you are taking in at least 3 cups of salad vegetables and
not using your carb allotment on other foods. After the first few days,
your body should adjust and constipation shouldn't be a problem. And when
you begin to add more carbohydrates, your first choices should be more vegetables,
followed by berries.
However, during Induction, there are several remedies. It
is critically important to drink eight or more glasses of water daily. Inadequate
hydration is the main reason for constipation. Most people, especially women,
don't drink enough water and are slightly dehydrated almost always. Exercise
also stimulates the bowel, so step up your activity level.
If you still find yourself constipated, increase your consumption
of insoluble fiber by sprinkling wheat bran on your salad or stirring a
tablespoon of psyllium husks into a glass of water each day. The amount
needed to stay regular varies from person to person. Start with a tablespoon
and increase the amount gradually until you achieve results.
I have been experiencing diarrhea since
beginning Atkins. Why is this happening and how can I control it?
It is not normal to experience diarrhea while
doing Atkins. Several things should be considered: Are you eating more dairy
than you did before? Are you allergic to any foods you are eating? Are you
gorging yourself? Try adding 1 tablespoon of unsweetened Metamucil or psyllium
daily. It acts as a sponge and forms a healthy stool. If you have been on
a very low-fat diet prior to starting Atkins, it could be an adjustment
period. Try cutting back on the amount of fat for a little while if that
is the case. If the diarrhea continues for any length of time you should
see your doctor.
Why is the Atkins Nutritional Approach
so low in fiber? Will this be a risk for my colon?
The Atkins Nutritional Approach is low in
fiber because most fiber-containing foods are also high in carbohydrates.
Don't forget to eat salads as leafy greens provide an important source
of fiber on Atkins. There is a colon risk only if you get quite constipated.
We suggest adding GG
Brancispbread to your diet or use 2 tablespoons of psyllium husks
in 2 glasses of water every morning and/or 2 tablespoons of unprocessed
Miller's bran if this is a concern.Using a product that contains 50%
soluable and 50% insoluable fiber helps to maintain colon health and
prevent constipation while adding fiber to the diet which helps to "reduce"
your daily carbohydrate intake. If constipation persists, magnesium
oxide may be helpful as well as an herbal laxative tea.
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I've noticed that I have fewer
asthma problems when I adhere to a controlled carbohydrate nutritional approach.
Is there a connection?
Yes, they are related. There is evidence that asthma
attacks can be linked to food allergies and mold and yeast exposure. While
doing Atkins, you eliminate a lot of common allergens such as grains and
moldy substances such as beans, fruit and bread. When you reduce the load
of allergens to which your immune system is exposed, you can reduce the
incidence of asthma attacks.
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Can Type I and Type II Diabetics
both do Atkins?
For a type II diabetic, the Atkins Nutritional Approach
is a godsend. In fact, it is usually "curative", allowing for normal blood
sugar without medication. For type I, it usually helps reduce the insulin
requirements, but this can only be done if managed by a doctor extremely
familiar with treating type I with the Atkins Nutritional Approach.
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Can I follow the Atkins Nutritional
Approach while I'm pregnant?
Weight loss is not recommended while you are pregnant
or breastfeeding, so the Atkins weight-maintenance phase is ideal during
this time. As with all phases of the Atkins Nutritional Approach, build
your diet around protein, including meat, poultry and seafood, and healthy
natural fats such as olive and flaxseed oil and avocados. Eat plenty of
vegetables and one serving of fruit such as strawberries, blueberries or
grapefruit daily. Instead of hydrogenated oils, consume healthy fats, seeds
and nuts. Cook meat well but don't burn it -- heavily charred meats can
be unhealthy. Be sure to drink plenty of water. Try to walk 30 minutes a
day at a comfortable pace. Avoid getting overheated during exercise and
be sure to get plenty of rest. And have fun, this is a very special time!
Expect to gain at least 27 pounds over the full nine months
- which will include baby, placenta and fluid. The weight should all come
off a few weeks after delivery. Nursing your baby burns more calories and
contracts your uterus, so it's good for both of you.
When pregnant or nursing, supplement your diet with the following
- Atkins Basic #1 Multivitamin: 1 tablet x 3
- Atkins Essential Oils: 1 soft-gel tablet x 3
- Calcium: 1,000 mg
- Magnesium: 500 mg
- Zinc: 50 mg
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NutraSweet and Equal are registered trademarks of The
NutraSweet Company. Splenda is a trademark of McNeill PPC, Inc. Sweet 'n
Low is a registered trademark of Cumberland Packing. Prozac is a registered
trademark of Eli Lilly & Co. Glucophage is a registered trademark of Bristol-Meyers