Atkins Diet Review


Written by Jolyne Babineau

Jolyne has a Master's degree in clinical nutrition. She has a true passion for the field and enjoys doing research on any topics related to dietetics.

In my introduction to Diets, I asked myself, what is the best diet for life? To a lot of people, the answer doesn’t seem obvious because of the many diets out there. As stated in my first article, too often, diets are for short-term results and are unrealistic. So for the next few articles I will take some of the most popular diets and see what’s good and bad about them.  

In this review I decided to take an in-depth look at the popular Atkins Diet or I should say the “Atkins Nutritional Approach (ANA)”. They state that Atkins is not a diet but rather a four-phase lifetime eating plan.  

Phase 1: the induction focuses on “dramatic reduction of carbohydrate intake”. They say it’s the most “restrictive” phase of the program and also results in a rapid weight loss. This is due to the fact that the body will begin burning fat for energy because there aren’t enough carbohydrates to support the energy needs, a process also known as ketosis.  So what does it entail?

-           Limit your net carbohydrate intake to 20g/day.

-           Satisfy your appetite with proteins and healthy fats.

-           Drink 8 glasses of water per day.

-            Exercise Regularly.

-           Take nutritional supplements such as a multivitamin.

That means no fruits, breads, pastas, grains, starchy vegetables nor dairy products. In addition, legumes, gravies, dressings, sauces, coffee, tea, and soft drinks are not allowed.  You have to stay on this phase for at least two weeks or more if you have a lot of weight to lose.


Phase 2: Ongoing weight loss (OWL)

This will slow down your weight loss to about 1-2lbs per week. In this phase, you increase your daily carbohydrates intake by about 5g per week (the equivalent of 1/3 slice of bread or 20 calories!). However, you must follow a specific list of food to eat. If one food makes you gain weight, stop eating it right away. You follow this phase until you’re about 5-10lbs shy of your goal weight.

Phase 3: The pre-maintenance phase lets you increase your daily carbohydrate intake by about 10g per week. As long as you continue losing weight you can gradually introduce foods such as legumes, fruits, starchy vegetables and whole grain. They state that when you hit your goal weight and maintain it for at least one month, you’ve found the level of carbohydrate intake you can have without gaining or losing weight.


Phase 4: The lifetime maintenance is designed to help you stay healthy throughout your life. The average number of net carbohydrates in this phase is 40 to 120 g per day.

Why does this diet work?

  • When you initially decrease your carbohydrate intake, your body burns glycogen. Glycogen contains large amounts of water so you lose a lot of water weight. 

  •  Because this diet is high in fat, you will feel fuller for longer because fat takes a long time to digest.

  •  The Atkins diet also reduces your overall calorie intake because they strictly limit the foods you eat.

 So the big question is: “Is this a good diet?”

The good thing about this diet is that they recommend that you drink water and exercise regularly. However, carbohydrates are an important part of a healthy diet because they provide fiber and the fuel it needs for physical activity and for proper organ function.

While there is some evidence that a low-carbohydrate diet may help people lose weight more quickly than a low-fat diet, no one knows the long-term effects of eating fewer carbohydrates. In addition, the institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences recommends a minimum of 130 grams of carbohydrates per day for proper brain function.



 The Atkins Diet doesn’t even fill this recommendation in phase four of the program. Another flaw of this diet is that it omits a lot of food and is very restrictive. The Atkins Diet is not easy to stay on for life. That means that you will never be able to eat anything that is high in starches. In addition, you will miss out on a lot of important nutrients, which is why they recommend you take a multivitamin. In reality, if you would follow the recommendations of healthy eating based on the Food Guide there is no need to take a multivitamin because it is supplied through diet.


The bottom line is that it all comes down to calories when you’re trying to lose weight.  Carbohydrates aren’t the culprits, calories are. To lose weight, eat smaller portions of any food group and get more exercise. All foods can be part of a healthy diet, as long as it is in moderate amounts. The only way to lose weight is to spend more calories every day than the calories consumed.


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