Atkins High Protein Diet - Overview

The Atkins high protein diet, a weight loss program, emphasizes the benefits of high protein foods and the dangers of carbohydrates.

Protein serves as an essential nutrient to build and maintain muscle, bones and organs, and allows the body to function efficiently. Meat, fish, and other animal products have complete proteins, meaning that they have a wealth of essential amino acids. Nuts and legumes also contain protein; however, they do not contain all the essential amino acids.

The classic program has four phases, detailed below. Atkins Essentials, the companion bestseller to Dr. Atkin's Diet Revolution, condenses the program to two weeks, in order to "jump-start" the promised weight loss.

Essentially, followers praise the program for rapid weight loss without calorie counting, the ability to control appetite and cravings effectively, the capability to enjoy unprocessed nutrient dense foods (as opposed to fillers like crackers and pastries), and the luxury of consuming "naughty" foods like bacon, butter, and creamy rich dressings.

The early Induction phase of the Atkins high protein diet lasts 2 weeks and drastically reduces carbohydrate consumption. During Induction, carbohydrate intake must be limited to 20g a day.

Keep in mind that the average American consumes approximately 250g a day. Therefore, to maintain this restriction, you have to cut more than the obvious sources of carbohydrates such as biscuits, pastries, and other baked goods, but also most fruits and vegetables.

To compensate, you can eat unlimited portions of protein-rich red meat, chicken, fish, cheese, eggs, mayo, cream and butter. During this radical Induction phase of the Atkins high protein diet, the body switches from burning carbohydrates as the main source of energy, to burning fat and blood sugar levels in an effort to stabilize. Happily for many people, more carbohydrates can be returned to the menu in later phases, though certain carb-heavy foods, such as white breads, white potatoes, and white rice, must be avoided for life.

The second phase of the Atkins high protein diet, termed Ongoing Weight Loss, allows you to slightly increase your carb intake by 5g daily for a week at a time until you discover your Critical Carbohydrate Level for Losing Weight.

According to Atkins, this represents the maximum amount of carbohydrates you can eat each day while still losing between 1 and 3 pounds per week. This number varies, and can be dependant on metabolism and other genetic factors, as well as environmental ones and how you have structured your diet. For some it can be as high as 50g, though many must restrict themselves to half that amount.

This level still falls considerably lower than most diets and really only allows for the introduction of selected fruits, nuts and seeds. All breads, potatoes, rice, pasta and breakfast cereals have far too many carbohydrates to be included.

Phase three of the Atkins high protein diet, called Pre-maintenance, can be entered into when you have only 5 to 10 pounds left to lose. During this phase, carbohydrate intake increases by 10g each day for a week at a time, so that the body loses no more than 1 pound per week. The final phase, weight maintenance, can thus be entered into smoothly. In this final phase, occasional carbohydrate or starchy treats such as bread and pasta can be included, but never more than once per week.

The fourth and final phase of the Atkins high protein diet, Lifetime Maintenance, aims to help you maintain your goal weight. Carbohydrate intake must still be restricted to approximately 90g a day, which represents one third of the typical American diet.

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