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<May 2012>
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colette_heimowitz's Blog
Who’s Counting? Net Carbs vs. Total Carbs


There has been a flurry of activity lately on the Forums concerning whether to count net carbs or total carbs. Every practitioner will have their own take on things and it will vary depending on the situation. For example, Dr. Westman uses total carbs in his practice because he is following the old version of the Atkins diet and he thinks it is easier for his patient population to use cups vs. counting net carbs. However, when he wrote The New Atkins for a New You, he recommended net carbs for the general public because he thought that was a better idea to insure adequate fiber for those who are not under medical supervision.


My take on it is that since fiber is not digested, and we need to get in 25 grams of fiber daily, why should you only count total carbs? Plus, I believe vegetables are an important aspect of Atkins. Controlled carbohydrate nutritional practices are now more than ever being studied for efficacy and long-term safety, as well as in connection with a variety of health and disease modalities. The vast majority of nutrition experts agree that the real challenge in the war against obesity is not weight loss, but maintenance of a healthy weight and a healthy way of eating. One by one studies comparing low-fat and low carbohydrate regimens show a significantly greater rate of long-term compliance among the controlled-carbohydrate subjects.  Various studies are presently exploring the possible reasons for this.  But at the end of the day, we may find overwhelming evidence that over the long term, many Americans find it easier to follow controlled carbohydrate regimens rather than low-fat ones and it may be due to better appetite control. Protein, fat, and adequate fiber from vegetables will produce the fullness factor.
I will say this again, every practitioner will have his or her own take on it. Here is my rational for the recommendation of 12 net carbs from veggies:

1. Avoids the issues of constipation reported by some individuals when vegetable consumption was lower than 12 net carbs.

2. Provides a feeling of fullness, or satiety, because vegetables are full of fiber, making it easier to stick with Atkins.

3. Supplies the needed alkalinity to avoid the minor trend toward acidity in the first week. (It is never outside of normal range but there is a trend in the first week.)
4. Provides and replenishes the minerals and electrolytes that are lost in the first two weeks when water loss is most prominent.
Even Dr Phinney described foods and nutrients we should eat to help lower our risks of inflammation in the body. The nutrients he found most important were:

1. Omega 3 fish fats EPA and DHA.

2. Polyphenols, found in tea, wine and cocoa.
3. Gamma-tocopherol (not to be confused with alpha-tocopherol/Vitamin E), found in olive oil and canola oil.
4. Fiber from nuts and fruits and vegetables.
With this being said, Dr. Atkins did use cups and total carbs for years in his practice for years before he started using net carbs in 2002, and it was fine because the nutritionists, nurses, and doctors at the Center managed any issues that arose from lack of fiber and/or electrolytes with nutritional supplements. So if someone is insisting on following Dr. Atkins’ original approach, then “to each his own.” Whatever works as long as it is within certain boundaries. I don’t believe counting total carb vs. net carbs is out of boundaries.


The main point is that the Atkins Nutritional Approach should not be followed as a quick way to shed a few pounds. The approach is meant for those who seek a lifestyle change that involves better eating habits, ultimately leading to better health and a sense of well-being. Make the most of your carbohydrate grams, and “spend” them wisely. Choose vegetables that provide the most antioxidant protection in combination with the fewest grams of net carbs.

Published Monday, May 07, 2012 04:57 PM by colette_heimowitz
Filed Under: Induction, Personal observations & lessons learned
TheChiTownGal said:
Thank you for this blog. I think this is huge for many of us doing the Atkins way of life. And especially for those of us who remember back to the original way.... THANK YOU!
May 07, 2012 05:08 PM EST
lisabe said:
Thank you for making the point that ANA is meant for a lifestyle change rather than quick weight loss. I have seen so many come to this site expecting to lose 15 pounds in 2 weeks, not get those results and then bad-mouth Atkins saying it doesn't work. I feel it takes a commitment of at least 4 weeks of "doing Atkins" correctly before saying it doesn't work for them.
May 07, 2012 05:15 PM EST
sweetspirit96 said:
Ditto on what ChiTownGal and lisabe said!
May 07, 2012 05:43 PM EST
Momma_Novak said:
I chose this "diet" because it COULD BE a way of life for me. I have to make a lifetime change, or I will just go back to being fat and unhealthy... which is NOT what I want from a diet!
May 07, 2012 07:51 PM EST
ebergstrom said:
One of the positive things to come out of our diabetes epidemic is that people are starting to be aware that sugar kills and so there are a wealth of products that meet the Atkins lifestyle from ultra high fiber bread to sugar free catsup and salad dressings to BBQ sauce. Now Atkins has become a way of life that I can stay on forever and, after nearly two years of maintenance, I intend to stay with it forever.
May 08, 2012 08:51 AM EST
Ranaye said:
Wonderful post, I'm new to this diet (sorry new way of life) I already know that for me carb's are the enemy -- your post was very helpful. I'm one of those people who have to track every morsel I put in my mouth -- too many carb's and I'm at a complete stop with the weight loss. Thank you for clarifying! Although, I have not posted my diet on the page here -- I still have to learn the way around it. I have a spreadsheet that lists calories, carb's, protein, sugar, fat, sodium, cholesterol, etc. While counting carb's I'm also trying to cut sodium and cholesterol -- it's a matter of life and death at this point. Again, thanks for the post!
May 09, 2012 06:30 PM EST
Esta02 said:
Awesome informatin. Thank you.
May 10, 2012 10:19 AM EST
nolamaman said:
The previous comments sum it up so very well - what a great post! My own experience is that good amounts of fat, particularly coconut oil, help keep things moving. I don't aim for a particular fiber number, just eat what appeals to me, but I never have the aforementioned problems, even when I have consistently low fiber intake for a few days.
May 22, 2012 07:30 PM EST
Ziggyfan said:
Good information here, so thank you. I hate to say it, but you could benefit from either proof-reading your posts, or having someone edit them for you. It really does matter.
May 30, 2012 09:06 PM EST
iCheryl said:
Excellent article. Now that I've added more leafy greens and a few berries or a small apple things are just more interesting. And besides, it's summer berry season! My weight is still coming off because I pay attention to the total net carbs going in. For instance I know that if I have a small apple with my lunch, I'll have a salad and tuna with it but also plan a no-carb egg breakfast. Or if I have a homemade berry smoothie for breakfast (adding a T of ground flax seed, one serving of plain greek yogurt, 1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk, ice cubes, and of course 1/4 cup frozen berries) for lunch I'll have half a sliced avocado with sugar-free hot salsa with a sprinkling of shredded cheese. Who needs a potato when I can have cauliflower?
June 18, 2012 02:42 PM EST
35moretogo said:
My question is what is the difference in net carbs and digestable carbs.
February 07, 2013 04:23 PM EST
ivytoo said:
Still Confused... I understand that Net Carbs are Carbs minus Fiber = Net Carbs. But using the Atkins Chocolate Coconut Bar (which are very good btw) as an example: the Total Carbs are 19g, the Fiber is 9g which would equal 10 Net Carbs by the formula above. But the box advertises that it only has 3 Net Carbs. What am I missing? I'm a newbie so I want to make sure I can calculate this correctly when I am reading boxes at the store. Where did I go wrong? Thanks!
February 22, 2013 11:51 PM EST
ncc1701atkins said:
By examination of the nutrition info on the back, and net carbs count on the front of the packages, all of the Atkins brand shakes and bars adhere to this formula: net carbs (grams) = total carbs (grams) - fiber (grams) - sugar alchohols (grams) Note: Not sugar grams, but sugar alchohols grams. There's a difference. Example, their Caramel Chocolate Nut Roll light meal bar, has the following: 3g Net Carbs (printed on the front) = 20g total carbs - 8g fibers - 9g sugar alchohols (as listed on the back) I have checked this formula for their chocolate (dark and milk choc.) and strawberry (and strawberry bananna) shakes and four of their snack and light meal bars. All works out with the above formula. While this forumula may not be 100% correct for all foods, it is fairly obvious this is true of the Atkins product line. I've seen so many people writing on the internet all around this topic, with various thoughts and opionions, but this information seems rare, so there you go.
June 27, 2013 08:40 AM EST
chrissyb1955 said:
I'm having trouble understanding this diet I read that the first phase is 20 carbs total in one day now I see its higher.Then I don't know what carbs they mean net carbs or total carbs. I'm not a cooker anymore so ive been buying the shakes bars treats and frozen food so what carbs do I count.?I don't no where to go for answers ive bought to Atkins books but cant find the answers.answer me back email is thanks
September 20, 2013 01:30 PM EST
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