The Atkins Diet: Everything You Need to Know

The Atkins diet is a dietary model that proposes to limit carbohydrate intake as much as possible. Although it has several benefits, it also has its risks. In this article, we'll tell you more about what it consists of and what aspects you should focus on.
The Atkins Diet: Everything You Need to Know

Last update: 21 May, 2021

The Atkins diet was created in the 1960s by a cardiologist. It’s mainly based on limiting carbohydrate intake and prioritizes the consumption of proteins and fats.

This dietary pattern promises not only that you’ll lose weight, but also have a reduced risk of suffering from some type of cardiovascular disease.

The importance of limiting carbohydrates

This doctor, based on scientific articles, argued that high carbohydrate intake was related to excess weight and to the appearance of diseases in the medium term. An example here is diabetes, which also conditions the development of other more severe pathologies.

Although this type of health issue is highly associated with the consumption of simple sugars, this cardiologist also advised against the intake of whole grains. These have a significant amount of fiber. Nowadays, doctors recommend supplementation to meet the needs of this nutrient.

A plate with chicken.
In this type of diet, doctors suggest limiting carbohydrates, and, instead, opting for more protein and fat sources.

No need to count calories

Another main feature of this diet is that it doesn’t focus on calorie balance. Since fats and carbohydrates play an important role in promoting satiety, this doctor assumed that it’s difficult to exceed daily energy needs by eating only these macronutrients.

For this reason, the doctor suggested only counting carbohydrates. Since vegetables and fruits contain a certain amount of sugars in their composition, the doctor devised a system to count the carbohydrates in them so as not to exceed the recommended maximums.

Exercise is essential

Atkins also relies on the practice of regular exercise to complement the diet. He argues that regular exercise is one of the best methods to control body weight. This statement is also supported by scientific literature.

It doesn’t recommend any particular type of exercise. However, we now know that muscle strength training can have a significant impact on daily caloric expenditure. Thus, it’s an effective method to lose weight and to avoid gaining it back in the medium and long term.

Risks of the Atkins diet

This type of diet with such a strict limitation of carbohydrates can bring with it a series of side effects. In the early stages of it, when the body begins to go into ketosis, the following symptoms may occur:

  • Headache
  • Weakness
  • Dizziness
  • Constipation
  • Fatigue

These situations will reverse as time passes. However, a large number of patients are unable to overcome these side effects. Ketogenic diets are contraindicated in people who suffer from these effects.

Ketogenic diet.
The Atkins diet isn’t suitable for everyone. In addition, it can cause certain side effects.

Health benefits of the Atkins diet

We now know that ketogenic diets that restrict carbohydrates can bring health benefits. Doctors recommend it, for example, in cases of refractory epilepsy, as they help to reduce the number of seizures in more than 50% of cases.

In addition, in healthy people they can help prevent the development of type 2 diabetes and other issues associated with excess weight. It hasn’t been scientifically proven that a low-carbohydrate diet produces a greater weight loss than a low-fat diet, as long as the caloric balance is similar.

However, for many people it’s easier to follow a plan that limits sugar intake. This allows them to be less rigorous in counting the amount of food they can eat. This is a plus in regulating the appetite-satiety mechanism.

Atkins diet: the main points

The Atkins diet is based on carbohydrate restriction and brings certain health benefits in the medium and long term. Despite this, not all people adapt to this dietary plan due to the side effects that appear during the first few days.

In any case, specialists recommend regular exercise along with the diet to maximize weight loss and to improve body composition.

Despite this, we must state that a varied, balanced, and well-structured diet can be perfectly valid to lose weight and promote health without the need for restrictions. Just by limiting the intake of certain foods we can achieve great benefits.

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  • Stephenson EJ., Smiles W., Hawley JA., The relationship between exercise, nutrition and type 2 diabetes. Med Sport Sci, 2014. 60: 1-10.
  • Swift DL., McGee JE., Earnest CP., Carlisle E., Nygard M., Johannsen NM., The effects of exercise and physical activity on weight los and maintenance. Prog Cardiovasc Dis, 2018. 61 (2): 206-213.