When it comes to counting carbs, Atkins reigns as king. Formally known as the Atkins Diet, this plan focuses more on protein and healthy fats while
Potential Benefits of Atkins
The biggest attraction to Atkins is the ability to lose a lot of weight and fast. The body relies on three major nutrients for energy: carbohydrates, protein and fat. Carbohydrates are the main source, which explains why runners and other endurance athletes load on carbs before a big event. The idea behind Atkins is to switch the body’s primary energy source in order to lose weight. This way, your body might burn off fat instead of stored carbs. Ultimately, restricting carbohydrates can cause rapid weight loss within the first few weeks of dieting. On top of that, the Mayo Clinic reports that the diet now acknowledges exercise as an integral part of the success of the program.
Some Atkins followers find other benefits aside from rapid weight loss. First, counting and focusing on carbs may be easier than watching fat, calories and sugar all at once. Although not a self-proclaimed medical cure, Atkins claims it may be able to help with patients with:
- Type 2 diabetes
- High cholesterol
- Blood sugar regulation
- High blood pressure
- Cardiovascular disease
- Metabolic syndrome
Cons of the Atkins Diet
Aside from potential weight loss benefits, there are also a lot of cons associated with the Atkins Diet. There are four phases in the diet, with the first two being the most restrictive. In fact, according to the Mayo Clinic, you are instructed to eat as few as 12 to 15 grams of carbs per day once you enter Phase 2. Once you reach your goals, the primary principles of the Atkins Diet remain, though you can add in more carbs. However, not everyone reaches the fourth “Lifetime Maintenance” phase because they can’t get through the restrictions from the first three phases. The changes in lifestyle are tough with any diet, but the extreme carbohydrate deprivation of Atkins may be too unbearable for some adults.
Cutting out carbs can cause immediate side effects, such as fatigue, irritability and headaches. For some people, this adjustment may be too uncomfortable to stick with the diet. Also, there’s a risk that you may not get enough fiber if you cut out all carbs. A lack of fiber can result in gastrointestinal problems, such as:
- Abdominal pain
Perhaps an even greater drawback than minor side effects is the fact that there is a chance you’ll gain weight again after all of the work you put into restricting carbs. Extra weight may return after going off of the diet because your metabolism may process carbs differently. According to the Mayo Clinic, there is no proof that Atkins works better than any other diet, as far as weight loss is concerned. You may also need to take a supplement, such as a multivitamin, to make up for lost nutrients during dieting.
Ironically, despite the claims to help reduce the risk for chronic illnesses, the eating habits associated with Atkins may cause more problems. According to the Mayo Clinic, eating less than 20 grams of carbohydrates per day can lead to excess ketones in the body. Also called ketosis, this is a common ailment among type 1 diabetics who have problems with low blood sugar. Ketosis causes bad breath, fatigue, nausea and headaches, and may even lead to further health complications.
Depending on what you eat while on Atkins, you may inadvertently worsen cholesterol problems. This occurs if you eat too much saturated fat from meat, as well as cholesterol from eggs. Not everyone on Atkins has this problem, especially if they choose lean meats and plant-based proteins. It’s important to be mindful of your protein and fat choices, and to use caution with meats and eggs if you already have high cholesterol.
Over the long-term, Atkins can also pose problems in nursing women, as well as lead to kidney problems.
As long as your doctor gives the go-ahead, Atkins may be a temporary solution to excess weight gain. However, this diet is not safe or effective over the long-term because of its nutritional restrictions. It’s important to ask your doctor for dietary recommendations to find the safest, most effective approach tailored to your health history and personal weight loss goals.