Supporting You During this Phase
Here you'll find the most-often asked questions about Phase 1 of the Atkins Diet—along with answers. Also check out FAQs about Phase 2, Ongoing Weight Loss and FAQs for Phase 3, Pre-Maintenance.
As long as I have no more than 20 daily grams of Net Carbs in Induction, why does it matter what carb foods I eat?
There are two reasons this won't work. First, Atkins is designed to prevent blood sugar levels from spiking and overproducing insulin, which helps convert carbs to body fat. Second, Atkins stresses the consumption of nutrient-dense carbs. So eating foods like a slice of bread or even a peanut butter cup as long as you stay at 20 grams of Net Carbs means that you’ll miss out on key vitamins and minerals in vegetables. And the roughly 12 grams of Net Carbs in a slice of whole-wheat bread will likely spike your blood sugar. Once you're close to or at your goal weight, you may be able to occasionally enjoy whole-grain bread, but that peanut butter cup just doesn't make the grade.
Why can't I lose all my excess weight in Induction?
Too many people confuse Induction, which kick-starts weight loss, with the entire Atkins program. There's no health risk posed by staying in Induction until you reach your goal weight. The real risk is that you may win the battle of quick weight loss, rather than the war of permanent weight control. You may also become bored with the food choices, which could also diminish your commitment to stay with Atkins.
Tip: If you find Induction too restrictive and your weight-loss goals are minimal or you don't mind a slower rate of weight loss, you can start in Phase 2: Ongoing Weight Loss (OWL).
The four phases of Atkins are designed to enable you to gradually increase your intake of carbs and find your personal tolerance for them. That way, you'll learn which whole foods and how much of them you can eat while continuing to lose weight—and ultimately maintain your new weight. Unless you learn what your limits are, you're almost certainly doomed to an on-again, off-again battle with your weight.
Why can't I eat nuts and seeds in Induction?
Even though most nuts and seeds are low in Net Carbs, most people have trouble controlling portions, which can easily lead to overconsumption. Until you gain control of your appetite, steer clear of nuts. They're usually the first new food you add when you move to OWL.
Can I drink milk in Induction?
Milk is too high in carbs to include in Induction. Instead, dilute cream or half-and-half with water or use soymilk or other low-carb dairy alternatives. Check the Nutrition Facts panel and Ingredients list on the package to ensure they have no added sugar and that an 8-ounce serving contains no more than 3 grams of Net Carbs.
Why can't I drink alcohol in Induction?
You should avoid alcoholic beverages in Induction for two reasons. First, although spirits have zero carbs (dry wine and light beer have some; regular beer has lots), your body will burn alcohol before fat. This means that weight loss stops until alcohol leaves your system. Second, alcohol can affect both your judgment and your willpower. Once you're in OWL, you can probably have modest servings of suitable low-carb alcoholic beverages.
How do I avoid fatigue and weakness on Atkins?
It can take a few weeks in Induction for your body to adjust to burning primarily fat instead of primarily glucose (sugar) for energy. In the transition, you might encounter a few symptoms such as headaches, dizziness, weakness, fatigue—sometimes collectively referred to as Atkins flu—leg cramps and constipation.
Fortunately, all are pretty easy to avoid. Consuming lots of carbs makes you retain water, but shifting over to fat burning has a diuretic effect, meaning you excrete electrolytes and salt along with fluid.
If you used to feel bloated and no longer do, that's good. Or if you have high blood pressure, your numbers should come down nicely in the first few days or weeks. But for many of us, fluid loss can be too much of a good thing. To manage this problem, simply drink plenty of water and have either a couple of cups of broth (not the low-sodium kind), ½ teaspoon of salt or 2 tablespoons of soy sauce each day. Have one cup of broth mid-morning, one mid-afternoon; measure out the salt and sprinkle it on food throughout the day; or season foods with the soy sauce. Follow this regimen from Day 1, and you should be spared any problematic symptoms. And no, this doesn’t make Atkins a high-salt diet.
Tip: If you take diuretic medication for hypertension or other health issues, don't follow this regimen until your doctor has told you that you no longer need to take your diuretic medication. Instead, consume the recommended amounts of water, increase your intake of leafy greens and/or add some nuts or even half a cup of tomato juice until you feel better.
What sugars can I have?
Many Induction-acceptable carbohydrate foods, such as foundation vegetables, include some natural sugars. As long as you're consuming only 20 grams of Net Carbs, the tiny amounts of natural sugar in these foods are fine. On the other hand, you do want to avoid table sugar, honey or molasses by themselves or in other foods. Other natural sugars include maple syrup, brown sugar, turbinado sugar and cane syrup.
Manufactured sugars include, but are hardly limited to, high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS), corn sweetener, corn syrup, invert sugar, corn syrup solids, fruit juice concentrate and malt syrup. Your objective is to eliminate all added sugars from your diet. An added sugar is any form of sugar, natural or manufactured, that is not integral to a food. To figure out if a sugar in integral or added, look at the Ingredients list on any packaged food. If you see any of the names above, don't buy the product.
What sugar substitutes can I have?
You can have up to three packets a day of any of the following sweeteners: saccharin (Sweet 'N Low), sucralose (Splenda) or xylitol. A natural alternative is stevia (Truvia or SweetLeaf). Count 1 gram of Net Carbs for each packet. The sweeteners have no carbs but their anti-clumping agents contain about 1 gram per serving. You can also drink sodas sweetened with sucralose or saccharin.
Can I drink caffeinated coffee in Induction?
There's no reason to avoid caffeinated coffee (or tea), but don't overdo it. Research associates moderate caffeine intake with improved long-term health and weight control. Coffee is full of antioxidants and mildly enhances fat burning. Add cream (not milk) and any of the acceptable sweeteners above.
You can include up to two cups of coffee or as part of your daily eight cups of fluid. Caffeinated sodas are also fine in moderation as long as they're sweetened with acceptable sweeteners and you don't exceed two cups of any caffeinated drinks in a day. If you're cutting back on caffeine, you'll probably notice some withdrawal signs such as a mild headache. This reaction is normal and unrelated to doing Atkins.
Can I have dessert in Induction?
While you must stay away from sugar, you can enjoy desserts made with acceptable sweeteners. Plan for them in your daily carb count and make sure they don't contain more than 3 grams of Net Carbs and/or any unacceptable ingredients. An Atkins Advantage bar or Day Break bar makes a great dessert—hold off on Endulge bars until you're in OWL—as does sugar-free gelatin with whipped cream. Also check out our Recipe Database.
How many calories can I consume in Induction?
You count grams of Net Carbs, not calories, in all phases of Atkins. But that's not to say that calories don't count. Gaining weight results from taking in more calories than you expend for activity, thermogenesis (the body's own heat production) and other metabolic functions.
If you don't eat sufficient fat (or protein) in a misguided effort to cut calories, you'll feel tired—and ravenous, which will sooner or later undermine your weight-loss efforts. On the other hand, consuming too many calories clearly hampers weight loss.
Tip: Consider the first two weeks as a period of total commitment, during which you give yourself over completely to this new way of eating. Seek support wherever you can, including the Atkins Community forums.
A daily minimum for women losing weight on Atkins typically ranges from 1,500 to 1,800 calories; for men, the minimum range is 1,800 to 2,000 calories. Research has shown that on a low-carb program, more calories are burned than on a low-fat diet, and that people eating the Atkins way tend to naturally consume fewer calories than those on a low-fat program. But understand that this does not give you a license to gorge.
There's no need to count calories unless you don't start (or stop) losing weight, in which case you're probably consuming too many; or if you feel tired all the time, in which case, you're not consuming enough.
What can I eat for breakfast other than eggs?
Even if you get "egg-cited" about the myriad of ways in which eggs can be prepared, breakfast can be a bit of a challenge in the first few weeks on Atkins. Your goal is not just to control carbs, but to also get sufficient protein at every meal, including breakfast.
For starters, you can always have an Atkins Day Break bar, Advantage bar or Advantage shake as part of a meal. Smoothies are another eggless option. Or try some Induction-phase recipes such as Corned Beef Hash or Smoked Salmon Rollups. Or wrap asparagus spears or other veggies with slices of ham, turkey or roast beef and some mayo and/or avocado. Smoked herring is a favorite breakfast in Scandinavia. Last night's leftovers somehow always taste better reheated. You can also make muffins and pancakes from ground flaxseeds. Check out our Recipe Database for more ideas.
When you move on to OWL, the addition of nuts, seeds and berries expands your breakfast options.