Overview of the Atkins Diet
The Atkins diet has a stated value of providing people with a lifetime of nutritional philosophy which restricts their intake of processed and refined carbohydrates and encourages consumption of nutrient-rich unprocessed foods such as meat while promoting the use of "vita-nutrient" supplements.
Atkins provides a series of dietary phases, which most people pass through sequentially. Additional diets are provided for those who can't follow the path of the majority, such as those with food intolerances and a high metabolic resistance. The first two weeks of Atkins is the "induction" phase. During these 14 days, dieters are cautioned to follow detailed instructions exactly. The point of induction is to kick-start the body into lipolysis/ketosis, during which the metabolism can be "switched" to one that primarily burns fat for energy.
During the next phase of the plan, the diet becomes less restrictive and more palatable, mainly by increasing the permitted vegetables and raising carbohydrate levels. Upon approaching their weight goal, dieters establish their "critical carbohydrate level" for maintenance, which is the highest number of grams of carbohydrates per day they can ingest without beginning to gain the lost weight back.
What to eat on The Atkins Diet
Atkins followers can eat all of the meat, cheese, eggs and fats (like butter and oils) that they like, without counting calories.
What not to eat on The Atkins Diet
Carbohydrates are restricted to around 20 grams per day in the first two weeks of Atkins; a weekly five-gram incremental gain is followed until the dieter establishes their "critical carbohydrate level" for maintenance. For the most part, successful followers of the Atkins diet must fundamentally change the way they eat on a long-term basis. This means eliminating foods like cake, potatoes, pasta, pancakes and pie from their diets, permanently. Fruit and dairy products are also extremely limited.
Eating options with the Atkins diet
The Atkins diet places no limit on the amount of saturated-fat-laden products one can have each day. Large portions of foods like butter, red meat and bacon are advocated and encouraged. A limited amount of carbohydrates can be introduced in the maintenance phase.
Exercise recommendations on the Atkins diet?
For the most part, exercise is not strongly emphasized in the Atkins diet. See Fitness:General Info for The Diet Channel's take on setting up your own fitness program.
Number of Dieters
The last five years have seen an explosion in the number of people following the Atkins diet. In fact, many restaurants are now offering no- or low-carb options to suit patrons who opt to eat out while on Atkins. Anecdotal evidence suggests that this diet is one of the most popular diets around.
Success of the Atkins Diet
Precise numbers are difficult to come by, but recent studies have shown that after a few months of Atkins, people tend to lose about twice as much weight as they would on the standard low-fat, high-carbohydrate approach recommended by most health organizations. These studies seem to show that these dieters lose weight without seeming to drive up their risk of heart disease and that their cholesterol, triglycerides and blood pressure generally improve. Additionally, Atkins followers appear to lose more weight -- even while actually consuming more calories -- than people on other high-carb diets.
Post Diet weight maintenence plans
The "pre-maintenance" phase of the Atkins diet increases the daily carbohydrate intake in 10-gram increments each week so long as gradual weight loss is maintained. Upon achieving their goal weight, dieters move to the "lifetime maintenance" phase, which urges followers to make choices from Atkins recipes and foods while controlling carbohydrate intake indefinitely.
For a review of this diet and 3 other diets by the American Cancer Institute see the following article by TheDietChannel: Popular Diets Versus Dietary Guidelines.