Are you looking for answers about the Atkins Nutritional Approach or Atkins products?How do I know when to move from one phase of Atkins to the next? Is it dangerous to lose weight very quickly? Once I've reached my goal weight, what kinds of foods are allowed and not allowed on Lifetime Maintenance? Can I drink alcohol now that I am in OWL? I have been able to do Atkins successfully but now that I am in Pre-Maintenance, my appetite increased. Why and what can I do to manage it? How long can I stay on Induction?
Like a lot of things involved with our program, it all depends on what you want. If you have only a few pounds to lose, you can move through the phases quickly or start at a later phase, get to your goal and progress to Phase 4: Lifetime Maintenance.
On the other hand, say you have a lot of weight to lose. You may want to stay in a certain phase for a longer period of time. Or slow down and enjoy more variety in your diet. Let's look at some examples, shall we?
1) You have 20 pounds to lose. You have these options.
a) To jumpstart your weight loss (everyone wants to do this!), start with the Induction Phase and stay there for two weeks. You could lose 7 to 15 pounds depending on your age, gender, activity level and individual metabolic rate. You could then skip Phase Two: Ongoing Weight Loss and start Pre-Maintenance, since you'll be 10 pounds from your goal weight. Here, you'll add 10 grams of Net Carbs each week, find your ACE (Atkins Carbohydrate Equilibrium) and lose your remaining 10 pounds in four to five weeks. Once again, results will depend on your age, gender, activity level and metabolic rate.
b) Or, you could start with OWL and set your carb intake at 25 Net Carbs per day for the first week, adding additional carbohydrates in 5 gram increments. If you were to do this, your goal could be to lose up to 10 pounds in 4 to 5 weeks, then move to Pre-Maintenance, find your ACE number while losing the remaining weight, then enter Lifetime Maintenance.
2) Okay, you have 40 pounds to lose.
a) You'd likely start with Induction and stay there until you lose between 20 to 30 pounds. Then, switch to OWL for 4 to 6 weeks, targeting a weight loss of 10 pounds (if you lost 20 pounds in Induction). Then, move on to lose the rest of your weight with Pre-Maintenance, find your ACE and move on to Lifetime Maintenance.
b) If you lost 30 pounds in Induction, you could move right to Pre-Maintenance by adding additional nutrient dense carbohydrates in 10 Net Carb increments and lose those last 10 pounds.
So really, the key to moving to the next phase is always up to you. Think about these three things:
- How much do you want to lose?
- How fast do you want to get there?
- Are you willing to trade speed for more variety in your diet?
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When you start the Induction phase of Atkins, you may experience rapid weight loss for the first time in your life. Don't worry. What makes the initial drop dramatic is that you lose a good bit of water weight in the first 3 to 4 days. That's because eating fewer grams of carbohydrate results in fewer spikes in blood sugar, resulting in less insulin output. Insulin makes the body retain sodium, which, as you probably know, makes your body retain water. When you're not producing as much insulin, this cycle slows and the effect is like taking a diuretic. After four days or so, however, you will also begin to lose body fat. Young men and people who have a lot of weight to lose are more likely to lose weight more rapidly at the start of the Atkins program.
Losing weight too fast is an issue only if:
1) You're not eating enough, which could make you lose lean muscle mass. To lose only body fat, be sure to eat regular meals and take in adequate calories. If you aren't hungry at meal times, have a small snack with your supplements. Also, drink at least 64 ounces of water every day.
2) You feel sick, weak, dizzy or fatigued. If you lose too fast, especially at the beginning of the program, you may be experiencing an extreme diuretic effect. This could deplete you of water and also some electrolytes, which contain sodium, potassium, calcium and magnesium. Signs of electrolyte depletion are muscle cramps and heaviness in your legs when climbing steps. You may need to add more vegetables to your meals to slow down weight loss and add a mineral supplement to replace lost minerals.
But if you feel well and aren't starving yourself, you're probably not losing too quickly. If you have just a few pounds to lose, you might slow the pace so that you can continue to learn good eating habits before progressing through the phases to Lifetime Maintenance. Simply move to Ongoing Weight Loss and increase your daily intake of carbohydrates by 5 grams. If you are within five to 10 pounds of your target weight, move into the Pre-Maintenance phase and increase your intake gradually, in 10-gram increments, until weight loss slows to about a pound or two a month. However, if you still have a lot to lose and you feel full of energy, simply feel good that you are dropping pounds easily.
If I stay at 20 grams of Net 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 of carbs?
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 diet when you move beyond Induction are more vegetables, then seeds and nuts, then berries and then—if you are still losing—legumes and grains. Even bread made from 100 percent whole-wheat flour contains enough refined carbs to produce this 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.
Secondly, the Atkins approach is not about rapid weight loss—it's about learning to eat a variety of 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 Atkins Carbohydrate Equilibrium (ACE), most people can enjoy whole-grain bread, fruit and even the occasional plate of french fries. Unfortunately, that conventional peanut butter cup just doesn't make the grade!
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- Your blood chemistry, lipid values, blood pressure or blood sugar levels continue to improve or remain stable and within normal limits. (You will have to visit your doctor to have these levels tested.)
- You feel well and are experiencing a high energy level, normal sleep patterns and stable moods.
- You are not bored. Boredom could lead to cheating and undermine your efforts.
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However, it is important to understand the entire Atkins Nutritional Approach. The ultimate goal of the program is to advance from the Induction phase through Ongoing Weight Loss and Pre-Maintenance, culminating in Lifetime Maintenance, which should become your permanent way of eating. By following these steps, you can find your Critical Carbohydrate Level for Losing (CCLL), also known as your carbohydrate threshold for losing, and ultimately your Atkins Carbohydrate Equilibrium (ACE), also known as your carbohydrate threshold for maintaining. Segueing from one phase to another will help you maintain a healthful weight, feel good and decrease your risk factors for chronic diseases such as heart disease, hypertension and diabetes.
That being said, if you have a great deal of weight to lose, you can certainly stay on Induction for six months or even more. When you switch to Ongoing Weight Loss, your rate of loss will naturally diminish. On the other hand, if you have a modest weight loss goal, say 20 pounds, and lose the first pounds rapidly, it is important to move through the more liberal phases so you can establish the good eating habits that will become part of your ongoing lifestyle and end yo-yo dieting.