Every three months I like to summarize the latest low-carb research and how it relates to the principles of Atkins and low-carb diets in general. In this edition of the Research Update, I highlight several recent studies that demonstrate the benefits of consuming adequate protein, healthy fats, how diet and lifestyle impact such conditions as Impaired Glucose Tolerance, Type 2 Diabetes, Epilepsy, Inflammation, and how lowering carbohydrate consumption can improve health markers.
Here’s what has happened in the last three months:
1. Quantitative Analysis of Dietary Protein Intake and Stroke Risk.
Authors: Z. Zhang, G. Xu, F. Yang, W. Zhu, X.
Neurology, June 2014
BACKGROUND: Stroke is a major cause of death and permanent disability worldwide. Therefore, primary prevention of stroke is of utmost importance. Lifestyle factors have important roles in stroke prevention, and dietary protein intake has received great interest.
METHODS: The meta-analysis included seven prospective studies involving 254,489 participants. The authors conducted the literature search on PubMed and Embase through November 2013 using the key words “protein intake” combined with “stroke,” “cerebrovascular disease,” “cerebrovascular disorder” and “cerebrovascular accident.”
CONCLUSION: The findings suggest that moderate dietary protein intake may lower the risk of stroke.
What does this mean to you? Consuming adequate levels of protein is one of the main nutritional principles of the Atkins Diet and Lifestyle approach. Protein provides satiety, keeps blood sugar levels consistent, preserves and builds muscle, and it helps the body burn more calories. And as this study shows, protein intake may also lower your risk of stroke.
2. Retrospective Study on the Efficacy of a Low-Carbohydrate Diet for Impaired Glucose Tolerance
S. Maekwa, T. Kawahara, R. Nomura, et al. http://www.dovepress.com/retrospective-study-on-the-efficacy-of-a-low-carbohydrate-diet-for-imp-a17206
Diabetes, Metabolic Syndrome and Obesity: Targets and Therapy; June 13, 2014
BACKGROUND: In recent years, the number of people with impaired glucose tolerance (IGT) has increased steadily worldwide. It is clear that diabetes prevention is important from the perspective of public health, medical care and economics. It was recently reported that a low-carbohydrate diet (LCD) is useful for achieving weight loss and glycemic control, but there is no information about the effects of the LCD on IGT (impaired glucose tolerance).
METHODS: Researchers designed a seven-day in-hospital educational program focused on the LCD for IGT. The subjects were 72 patients with IGT who were enrolled from April 2007 through March 2012, and they were followed for 12 months.
CONCLUSION: The LCD is effective for normalizing blood glucose and preventing progression to type-2 diabetes in patients with IGT.
What does this means to you? Even with conservative reduction of carbohydrates (approximately 100 grams per day), you can stabilize blood glucose levels and prevent the progression into type-2 diabetes.
3. Advice to Follow a Low-Carbohydrate Diet Has a Favourable Impact on Low-Grade Inflammation in Type 2 Diabetes Compared With Advice to Follow a Low-Fat Diet.
Authors: Lena Jonasson, Hans Guldbrand, Anna K. Lundberg & Fredrik H. Nystrom
Ann Med. May 2014
BACKGROUND: Inflammation may play an important role in type-2 diabetes. It has been proposed that dietary strategies can help control inflammation, which can increase the risk of many conditions, such as heart disease.
METHODS: The authors investigated the effects of diet on type-2 diabetes patients, who followed either a traditional low-fat diet (LFD) or a low-carbohydrate diet (LCD). The authors studied the impact on inflammation by tracking various biomarkers.
CONCLUSION: The effect on weight loss was the same for the patients following the LCD or LFD. However, only the LCD was found to significantly improve inflammation in type-2 diabetes patients.
What does this mean to you? This study shows that following a low-carbohydrate diet can have other beneficial health benefits beyond weight loss such as reducing inflammation in the body.
4. A Randomized Pilot Trial of a Moderate Carbohydrate Diet Compared to a Very Low Carbohydrate Diet in Overweight or Obese Individuals with Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus or Prediabetes.
Authors: Laura R. Saslow, Sarah Kim, Jennifer J. Daubenmier, Judith T. Moskowitz, Stephen D. Phinney, et al.
PLOSOne, April 2014
BACKGROUND: Research has shown that cutting back on carbs may help control symptoms of diabetes.
METHODS: The authors compared the effects of moderate carbohydrate diet (MCD) and very low carbohydrate Diet (VLCD) on health-related outcomes in overweight or obese adults with type-2 diabetes or prediabetes. Participants were also taught diet information and psychological skills to promote behavior change and maintenance.
CONCLUSION: The VLCD participants had improved blood glucose biomarker (HbA1c), and 44% of them discontinued one or more diabetes medications. In the MCD group, 11% of participants discontinued one or more diabetes medications. The VLCD group also lost more weight than the MCD group.
What does this mean to you? These results suggest that a very-low-carbohydrate diet, plus learning skills to promote behavior change, may improve glycemic control in type-2 diabetes and decrease the use of diabetes medications.
5. Use of the Modified Atkins Diet in Lennox Gastaut Syndrome.
Authors: S. Sharma, P. Jain, S. Guloti, et al.
J. Child Neruol., March 2014
BACKGROUND: There is scanty data regarding the efficacy and tolerability of the Modified Atkins Diet in children with Lennox-Gastaut syndrome.
METHODS: This study was a retrospective review of children with Lennox-Gastaut syndrome treated with the Modified Atkins Diet from May 2009 to March 2011.
CONCLUSION: The Modified Atkins Diet was found to be effective and well tolerated in children with Lennox-Gastaut syndrome. All nine children studied had a >50% reduction in seizure frequency.
What does this mean to you? The Modified Atkins Diet can be used as a therapeutic diet for patients suffering from epilepsy and other related illnesses, such as Lennox-Gastaut syndrome. (a rare and often debilitating form of childhood-onset epilepsy)
6. The Modified Atkins Diet in Refractory Epilepsy.
Authors: S. Sharma, P. Jain
Epilepsy Res. Treat., January 2014
BACKGROUND: Recent studies have shown good efficacy and tolerability of the Modified Atkins Diet (MAD) in the treatment of refractory epilepsy.
METHODS: In this review, authors discuss the use of the MAD in refractory epilepsy.
CONCLUSION: MAD is an effective therapy for patients with refractory epilepsy. It is less restrictive and more palatable than the classic ketogenic diet. MAD is a prudent therapeutic option, especially for older children and adolescents, as it is a more “liberalized” diet as compared to classic ketogenic diet.
What does this mean to you? The Modified Atkins Diet can be used as a therapeutic diet for patients suffering from epilepsy and other related illnesses.
You don’t have to go far to see the term “gluten-free” on store shelves or restaurant menus. Gluten is the protein in wheat that gives dough its elasticity, and many people now claim to feel healthier and better (and even lose weight) when they don’t eat gluten or cut back on it. For those with celiac disease (about 1% of the population), eating foods containing gluten can cause everything from irritability and depression or abdominal pain, bloating and diarrhea. About 6% of the population has been diagnosed with gluten intolerance, and, most likely due to a higher understanding of and bigger emphasis on food allergies, digestive health and genetic modification of grains, a quarter of Americans are cutting down on gluten or going gluten-free. When you avoid or cut back on gluten, you are naturally eliminating a highly processed grain, which explains why Atkins can be a gluten-free-friendly weight-loss program.
In early Phases, the whole foods recommended on Atkins have always been gluten free. You may even discover your sensitivity to carbohydrates and gluten when you first start Atkins and eliminate carbohydrate dense foods during Induction. If you start to feel worse once you reintroduce grains or flour in later Phases, you may have a reduced ability to process them, a kind of carb intolerance. And you may be sensitive to gluten. If you are sensitive to gluten, even complex carbs like whole-grain wheat could wreak havoc on your ability to lose weight and lead to a variety of other health woes. Although gluten free and low-carb are not one and the same, you can follow Atkins and be completely gluten free. As you progress through the Phases, once you hit Phases 3 and 4, closely watch your body’s reaction to whole grains. If you start experiencing discomfort or you are unable to continue to lose weight or maintain your weight loss, slowly cut back on the new carbs you have introduced until you start feeling better.
Your Guide to Gluten
Gluten is found in wheat, rye, barley and any foods made with these grains. These include but are not limited to:
Whole Wheat Flour
Common foods that are usually made with wheat include:
You may not expect it, but the following foods can also contain gluten:
Breadcrumbs and croutons
Some lunch meats and hot dogs
Modified food starch
Seasoned chips and other seasoned snack foods
Seasoned rice and pasta mixes
In Bryan Walsh’s article “Eat Butter (Don’t Blame Fat)”, published in the June 23rd issue of Time, he covers the history of low-fat diets vs. low-carb diets, how the science evolved and why flawed studies wrongly vilified saturated fat. This “flawed” science started the fat-free trend; soon people were avoiding foods containing fat , feeling hungry all the time, and eating more low-fat products that contained refined sugars such as high-fructose corn syrup, trans fat and refined grains. Meanwhile, obesity, diabetes and heart disease levels continued to rise. Walsh contends that the effect fat, even saturated fat, has on the body is more complex—and harmless—than originally thought, and cholesterol’s relationship with carbs (as compared to saturated and unsaturated fat) is much more complicated. In other words, fat does not have the harmful effects on us as originally thought, but over consumption of carbohydrates, especially those with refined sugars, absolutely does.
As you know, those of us at Atkins have been way ahead of our time when it comes to healthy fats. Just a few months ago, I published a blog on a research roundup of studies highlighting the studies referenced in the Time article, showing that saturated fat, when consumed on a low-carb diet, does not raise the risk for heart disease, but is actually burned for energy. While I love digging deep into the science behind Atkins and sharing it with you (that’s my job!), it’s always encouraging when the mainstream media starts to realize the validity behind these studies and starts publishing articles that support the science.
If you’re doing Atkins, you’re following a plan that incorporates a balance of healthy fats (including monounsaturated, polyunsaturated, and saturated fats), fresh vegetables, a variety protein, and you are limiting refined carbs, and added sugar. And according to the science, and finally some of the mainstream media, that’s exactly what you should be doing.
If you did not get a chance to read my previous blog on all the great saturated fat research, you can find it here:
You may still be wondering, and what you really want to know is, how can fat make you thin? Along with protein, fat helps increase satiety (the sense of being full). And because fat carries flavor, it makes food more satisfying. It takes about twice as many calories from refined carbs than from fats to provide the same level of satiety, making fat a better choice if you want to lose weight. Fat in your diet also slows the entry of glucose into your bloodstream, moderating the highs and lows of blood sugar that can lead to your renewed hunger soon after you eat carbs. Bottom line: Eat fats in place of carbs, and you’re less likely to overeat. These entwined properties are essential to the processes of both losing weight and then keeping it off.
Even as you’re getting comfortable with your new way of eating and feeling that the struggles with your weight is finally history, don’t forget this important point: the only constant in life is change. Some new occurrences may make it easier to maintain your weight loss or weight maintenance efforts; others will require renewed dedication. In all likelihood, at some point, you’ll need to make your adjustments to your Atkins lifestyle. As long as you know how to do so, you’ll do just fine.
Many people discover a new interest in physical fitness while losing weight on Atkins. Perhaps you join a swim team or start regularly jogging, playing tennis or engaging in another activity. Or maybe you leave your desk job for one that involves more physical labor or move from the suburbs to the city and walking becomes your usual mode of transportation. In any of these scenarios, it’s likely that you’ll increase your daily energy use, enabling you to eat a bit more—either as whole food carbs or as healthy, natural fats—to stay or achieve your current weight goal.
Let’s say that you experience other changes. Perhaps you suffer from an injury and spend several months in a cast. Or you have a new baby in the house and find yourself stressed and sleep-deprived. Maybe your doctor prescribes antidepressants to help you deal with a family crisis. Or a new job requires frequent travel, interfering with your fitness regimen. Chances are that any of the above will reduce your daily energy use, meaning you'll need to adjust your carbohydrate intake.
The Longer View
If you’re 40 years old, exercise regularly and have no health issues, you may be able to continue to manage your weight by staying at your current level of carb intake for years to come. But numerous factors—some in your control and others not (including your genes)—influence your metabolism, which in turn determines your carbohydrate intake. Aging tends to slow your metabolism; so can certain drugs and hormonal changes. As long as you’re attuned to the implications of such changes, you can stay in charge of your weight by either eating fewer carbs, upping your activity level (which works for most people) or both.
Abide by these ten tips, and you’ll make your goal weight your lifetime weight.
1. Rely on satisfying foods. Protein, healthy fats, and lots of fiber .
2. Don’t skimp too much on calories. Starvation will lead to a slower metabolism.
3. Remember the magic number. Never, ever let yourself gain more than 5 pounds without taking action to restore your goal weight.
4. Keep sipping. Drink plenty of fluids. Don't confuse thirst with hunger.
5. Steer clear of trigger foods. You know which are your personal trigger foods.
6. Keep moving. Staying active with some sort of exercise will increase the likelihood that you’ll keep your weight under control. Build more muscle and you will burn more calories.
7. Eat before you go. will take the edge off your hunger and make you more able to resist inappropriate items on the buffet table.
8. Take it with you. When at work, on the road, or even at a movie, pack snacks .
9. Compromise when necessary (and learn from the experience). When there are no good options, make the best choice available.
10. Prepare, prepare, prepare. If you’re eating out check the menu online beforehand.
If you are on the road, pack some hand held food like nuts to keep you fortified.
You’ll find many opportunities to customize the Atkins Diet to your needs, but the first decision you need to make—after deciding that Atkins is for you, of course—is which Phase you would like to start in. For many people, Phase 1, Induction, is a brief kick start Phase to get you off on the right foot before moving on. Others may remain there longer to lose more weight before transitioning to the next Phase. If you have more pounds to lose or certain health issues, start in Induction; otherwise you can start in Phase 2, Ongoing Weight Loss, or even Phase 3, Pre-Maintenance, if you prefer. Obviously, the more grams of carbs you’re consuming—and you’ll add progressively more in each Phase—the more slowly you will lose the excess weight. But some folks don’t mind a slower steadier weight loss pattern if it means having more variety and food options.
The following considerations should guide you in your decision about where to begin:
Amount of Weight to Lose
• If you have less than 40 pounds to lose, or your waist measurements are less than 35 inches for women or 40 inches for men, you can start in Phase 2, Ongoing Weight Loss (OWL) at 40 grams of Net Carbs, On the other hand, if you’re older, you might chose to start in Induction, as you will lose weight more slowly in Phase 2 (OWL).
• If you have more than 40 pounds to lose, you’ll probably want to start in Induction, but feel free to start in OWL if you want more variety in food options in exchange for slower weight loss.
• If you don’t have any weight to lose, and you simply want to feel better and have more energy, you can start in Pre-Maintenance at 60 grams of Net Carbs and work up from there until you find your optimal carb intake to maintain a healthy weight.
• If you’re over 50, your metabolism has probably slowed with the passage of years. Start in Induction and move to OWL after two weeks or more if the you’re losing weight easily, and you feel ready to move on.
• If you lead a sedentary lifestyle, you should probably start in Induction unless you have less than 30 pounds to lose; in which case you could start in OWL and lose more slowly.
• If you gained and lost and regained weight for years (yo-yo dieting), you may have become resistant to weight loss. Start in Induction to get off on the right foot.
• If you have type-2 diabetes, we strongly suggest that you start in Induction and remain there or at least in the first few rungs in OWL until you get your blood sugar and insulin levels under control. (adding nuts is a convenient snack for diabetics, and they won’t have a profound impact on blood sugar). You will need to work closely with your doctor if you are on blood-sugar-lowering meds because your need for meds changes or diminishes dramatically while on Atkins.
• If your doctor has diagnosed you with Metabolic Syndrome—or if your waist measures more than 40 inches (if you’re a guy) or is it larger than your hips (if you’re a gal), and if you have high blood pressure, high triglycerides and low HDL (“good”) cholesterol, chances are that you have this condition, also known as pre-diabetes. Have your doctor check your blood sugar, blood pressure and insulin levels. Start in Induction, and remain there until you get your blood sugar and insulin levels under control.
• If you have high triglycerides, starting in Induction will help you improve your triglyceride level more quickly.
• If you’re a vegetarian, we strongly suggest that you begin in OWL at 30 grams of Net Carbs so that you can consume nuts and seeds from the start.
• If you’re a vegan, start in OWL at about 50 grams of Net Carbs to ensure adequate protein intake by including legumes.
Even if you decide to start in a later phase, be sure to read the information on earlier Phases to understand what foods you can eat and what to expect in your first few weeks on Atkins. And no matter where you decide to start, if your results don’t meet your expectations, you can always go back and begin at an earlier Phase.
Now that the weather’s warmer and school is almost out, it’s time for all those fun summer activities, like road trips, bike rides, hikes, days at the beach and more. I’ve put together a quick “how-to-eat” guide of some of my favorite tips that will help you stay fueled and on track with your weight-loss goals during each situation:
You’ll want portable food that’s high enough in protein, fiber, and healthy fats, and low in sugar to keep your energy high and your hunger satisfied. Bring along a few cans of sardines, tuna, or pink salmon—they are high in healthy fat and protein and adequate in calories, they’re portable and can be eaten out of the can. Also: Smear stalks of celery with peanut or almond butter and pack them in Tupperware. Throw in some homemade trail mix (see the recipe below) and bottled water to round out the traveling menu.
Long bike rides:
You need fluids with vitamins, minerals, and protein, in an easy-to-carry container that fits neatly on your bike for long bike rides. Atkins Advantage shakes are the perfect solution—pour a chilled shake in a thermos bottle to take with you, and don’t forget to bring water, too. The homemade trail mix below is the perfect option for a convenient hand held snack.
Sightseeing requires easy-to-carry portable low-carb snacks that will sustain your energy and enthusiasm through a long day of low-intensity exercise. The perfect solution: Pack a high-protein sandwich of chicken breast, with lycopene-rich tomatoes on fiber-rich whole-grain bread and season with mustard. If you are still on the early weight loss phases of Atkins use a lettuce wrap instead of bread. Take along Atkins Advantage bars for on-the-go nutritious snacks.
Keeping up with your kids:
You’re going to be tempted to eat kid food, so create snacks that satisfy your sweet tooth without sacrificing good nutrition. You can enjoy frozen berries which are rich in antioxidants, with a splash of Greek yogurt. Top with slivered almonds and you’ve got good fat, fiber and protein in one terrific energy-giving snack. Your kids will like it, too!
Homemade trail mix is the way to go: Cut an Atkins Advantage bar into small pieces, and mix with ½ cup almonds, ¼ cup flaked coconut .½ cup unsweetened dried berries, and if you are beyond early phases of weight loss, add ¼ cup dried apples, and 1/8 cup raw oats. Toss together in a bowl, then throw the mix into a sandwich bag and you’re good to go!
Getting in swimsuit shape:
Midriff bulge—also known as the dreaded muffin top—is usually the result of eating too much sugar and processed carbs. Go for a higher protein, higher fiber, low-sugar eating plan for a couple of weeks prior to hitting the beach. For beach snacks, try cold chicken breasts, nuts, olives and tomatoes. Be sure to bring along an Atkins Advantage nutrition bar for the car ride or a between-meal snack.
Long plane rides:
The two biggest tips here are to avoid airplane food and to stay hydrated. You can do both by packing a carry-on with water, trail mix, Atkins bars and some high-protein snacks like sliced turkey roll ups. A fabulous tip for keeping skin from becoming dehydrated while flying is to cut an avocado in two, and eat it out of the shell with a spoon. It’s loaded with fiber and healthy monounsaturated fat!
Working out outdoors:
A protein shake is the way to go. Try making your own with whey or soy protein powder blended with frozen berries, or try a ready-made Atkins Advantage creamy vanilla shake with a piece of fruit like fiber and antioxidant-rich berries. The 15 grams of protein is just enough to fuel you for your workout without filling you up.
Fighting the summer heat:
The perfect solution: Slice some lemons, oranges and cucumbers and put them in a gallon jug of water. Drink this all day long. And carry a bag of frozen berries with you which are especially rich in antioxidants!
At the beach:
You’ll want high-water fruits like watermelon and cantaloupe. Cut into bite-sized pieces, mix with blueberries and grapes, and freeze. Take the frozen mix to the beach; they’ll taste great as they slowly defrost during the day. Bonus: Mix in some macadamia nuts for fiber, minerals and good fat. And don’t forget to bring plenty of bottled water.
I enjoy reading the blogs written by the many Community members on Atkins.com, as well as the Forums. It gives me valuable insight into what topics are trending and what people are talking about. Recently, there has been a lot of talk about the “Fat Fast” or just plain fasting in general. Community members are recommending them to jumpstart weight loss on Atkins or to overcome a plateau. I am not an expert on fasting, but I can share my own observations from my own experience as well as observations from private practice regarding the Fat Fast.
The Fat Fast is a low-calorie, high-fat program (1,000 calories/day and 80% fat). Dr. Atkins rarely and only recommended this approach with medical supervision in his private practice with severely metabolic resistant individuals for short periods in obese individuals who hit a plateau after months on Induction. However, doing such a low- calorie diet for an extended period of time may wreak havoc with your metabolism. When you follow very a low-calorie diet, your basal metabolic rate will slow down to compensate for the low caloric intake. This is your body's survival response to preserve its internal organs and muscle mass. If you are following the Atkins protocol correctly, you should not be taking in fewer than 1,500 to 1,800 calories daily. This energy supply should not cause a drop in your metabolic rate, but rather maintain the rate and preserve muscle while primarily burning fat (instead of carbohydrate) as a fuel for needed energy.
So I do not recommend the Fat Fast without medical supervision. All it does is shift water balance. You will see the scale move, but as soon as you start eating normally again, the weight will creep back to the same starting point. There are times when the body simply needs a break from weight loss. It has its own system, its own agenda and its own timetable. In the long run, it nearly always responds to sensible management by the person in charge—you. But in the short run, your body may decide to go its own way, for its own reasons, which perhaps we don't understand. The best way to deal with a stall is to wait it out and stick closely to the Atkins Diet protocol. If you are in a later phase of Atkins you can, however, drop back to a lower level of carbohydrate intake to see if that helps, but I would not recommend doing the fat fast. You risk creating a yo-yo dieting scenario.
If you are still in Induction when you hit a plateau, try climbing the carb ladder and add carbs in 5 net carb increments. I know it seem counterintuitive, but it actually works for some people. Once you get up to about 40 net carbs (assuming you are still maintaining and not gaining), then drop back to Induction level again. Sometimes that can work as well, because adding carbs will allow the body to relax a little rather than hold on tight to fat stores.
There was a time, before Atkins, when I was a vegetarian; I was a firm believer in fasting. I would do a vegetable juice fast one week a year, and an intermittent fast (IF) one day a week. I felt great being off all those carbs, and I attributed the well being to fasting and detox. I did, however, lose muscle mass every time, which I did not appreciate since I worked so hard in building it.
Then I got my master’s degree in nutrition, and I began to understand physiology and biochemistry better. What I came to realize is that the feel-good feeling from fasting was actually ketosis, not detox. So I began to do an Induction-type “Paleo” or, as some of you call it, “Primal Atkins” diet, during my experimental “detox" periods, and I never felt better. That was the beginning of my Atkins journey. There I remained, and here I am today 25 years later. There are times when I am too busy to prepare every meal and snack and depend on convenience foods, but then I do my own detox, which is a clean Induction, and I am back to feeling great. No fasting necessary.
As you can see I don't believe the Fat Fast or Intermittent Fasting (IF) is necessary if you are on a fat-burning metabolism. If you don't have a lot of weight to lose, and you are on a good exercise program, just because you are not losing weight, does not mean you are not burning fat. Your body is learning how to burn a new fuel. Once you are keto-adapted, which can take several weeks or several months, depending on the individual, this way of eating will take you to your natural weight. You may stall when you hit a set point, but eventually the scale will start moving again.
Just remember, on Atkins, if you do a very clean whole foods approach, your body will detox, and you will preserve muscle. Sure, you may lose a little weight on an IF, but it is mainly the shift in water balance. Once you start eating food again, the pounds will come back. With all this being said, although I don’t advocate fasting as a weight-loss technique, it is certainly acceptable if you are doing it for religious reasons. It is also acceptable to eat nothing after dinner and get a 12-hour fast in every night to give the digestion a break. Nothing wrong with that as long as you are meeting calorie requirements during the day.
Don’t forget loss of pounds is not the only way to measure success. Look at the other markers. Are you feeling better than you used to? Do you have the energy to do things you want to do? If so, then something is happening to your body. Do your clothes feel loser? Have you tried on those clothes that “felt a little too tight” just a few weeks ago? I hope you've followed my advice about measuring your chest, waist, hips, thighs and upper arms. If you're losing inches, the scale will eventually catch up.
If you are struggling with a weight-loss plateau on Atkins, check out this blog I wrote previously on the topic:
Now that the weather is getting warmer, and you are shedding layers of clothes, it’s natural to start thinking about new weight-loss goals. It’s easy just to resolve to eat less and exercise more. But a vague statement like that does not always work. It’s important to set goals and a timeline and plan ahead to improve your chances of success. Your goal is not to start on a crazy regimen of militaristic low-carb eating and intense exercise that will be impossible to maintain. Start by committing to an Atkins way of eating that’s realistic. By realistic, I’m referring to eating foods you enjoy while paying attention to the right carbs in the right amounts to allow your body to burn the fat that may have accumulated over the winter months. This will set the stage for a enjoyable way of eating that you can continue to stick with all summer long and beyond, while still achieving results.
Here’s how you can get started:
Do your meals need a makeover? Now that the weather is nicer, you can start grilling outside. What’s more delicious than a perfectly grilled steak seasoned to perfection, accompanied by a generous salad topped with an olive oil or creamy Italian dressing? And speaking of vegetables, it’s time to take advantage of all the spring vegetables coming in season, including artichokes, asparagus, broccoli, spinach, snow peas, Swiss chard, radicchio and more.
Don’t forget to spice up your snacks. Healthy snacks will keep your metabolism moving and your hunger at bay. Keep cut-up fresh vegetables on hand and enjoy with 1 tablespoon of ranch, blue cheese, Italian or homemade low-carb dressing. Roll up sliced ham, turkey, roast beef or smoked salmon with asparagus, cucumber or avocado and spread with aioli, mayo, cream cheese or egg salad. And speaking of eggs, cook up a batch of hard-boiled eggs for a protein-packed on-the-go snack or as deviled eggs or egg salad. Make snacking even more convenient by keeping some of your favorite flavors of Atkins bars and shakes on hand.
Now that the weather is warmer, it’s time to get moving. If you’re new to exercise, start slowly. Take the dog for a walk, hit the park with your kids, skip the elevator or escalator in favor of the stairs and park farther from your destination. Keep in mind that exercise is not a requirement of Atkins; you are losing weight because you are changing the way you eat—by burning fat for fuel, instead of carbs. But exercise does have many other health benefits. It can help you sleep better, improve your mood, boost your endurance, make you feel more energetic and can help manage or even improve a variety of health conditions, including heart disease, depression and diabetes.
Cardiovascular exercise is often considered a mainstay, but studies show that weight training is beneficial as well. It helps reshape your body more efficiently than just cardio because it helps build muscle, which is more metabolically active than fat. This means that you burn more calories, even when you’re not exercising. Weight training also helps increase bone density and maintain joint flexibility. In addition to all these benefits, a regular exercise routine will help you maintain the weight loss you’ve experienced with Atkins. You can squeeze cardio in just by taking a walk or brisk jog, jumping rope, running stairs or doing an exercise video or using a stair-stepper, stationary bike or treadmill. As far as weight training, you can buy an inexpensive set of resistance bands and get a full-body workout. Even push-ups and pull-ups are considered weight training because you are using your own body weight.
You can try these tips, and don’t forget to check out the forums in the Community for more great advice as you get started on your springtime slim-down. Remember not to try to make too many drastic changes at once or you may get overwhelmed or lose motivation. Start with your improving your eating habits, slowly add exercise to the mix, and enjoy the results!
Protein is a very important part of Atkins, and it plays a key role in your weight loss. When you combine it with healthy dietary fat and fiber from vegetables, it makes it easier to decrease your carbohydrate intake without feeling hungry. Protein also protects lean muscle mass, so you lose fat, and it moderates your blood sugar, which helps control your appetite for several hours. Think of it this way: You could enjoy a spinach salad with sliced tomatoes, and you might feel hungry a lot sooner than if you top your spinach salad with a serving of grilled salmon drizzled with balsamic vinegar and olive oil and sprinkled with an ounce of feta cheese. Suddenly you have a delicious and satisfying meal that will keep your appetite in check and your metabolism humming along.
To be clear, Atkins is not a high-protein diet. I suggest eating 4 to 6 ounces (cooked weight) of protein at each meal. If you’re a petite woman and you’re not very active, you may be satisfied with 4 ounces of protein. If you’re an active guy, 6 ounces should do the trick, and a very big guy may even want 8 ounces. On an average day, your protein intake will range between 12 and 18 ounces (cooked weight) a day. But don’t worry. I don’t expect you to weigh your food or count your calories. You can easily eyeball your protein portions using these guidelines:
4 ounces meat, poultry, tofu, etc. = Smartphone
6 ounces meat, poultry, tofu, etc. = Hockey puck
8 ounces meat, poultry, tofu, etc. = Slim paperback book
3 ounces fish = Checkbook
1 ounce hard cheese = Four dice or the size of an individually wrapped slice
The Truth About Red Meat
Red meat is a very popular (and delicious) protein source, although it has been vilified in the past, due to its casual association with a higher incidence of heart disease and diabetes. Such a sweeping judgment, however, ignores a significant difference between distinct subtypes of saturated fatty acids (SFAs). Foods like red meat, butter, cheese, poultry, eggs, pork and fish are primarily composed of palmitic and stearic SFAs, which have virtually no effect on “bad” (LDL) cholesterol, i.e., it is considered “neutral”. While studies to date have found no association with the consumption of fresh meats, there have been positive trends in risk when consuming cured and blackened meat, so it is best to eat fresh meats and limit processed meats. And when you consume saturated fat on Atkins, where your body is burning primarily fat for fuel, published research has shown that the level of saturated fat in the blood does not increase.
Picking Your Protein
For a full list of protein sources, click here:
And here are some guidelines for picking your protein:
I recommend selecting organically raised, free-range meat, poultry and eggs whenever possible. Not only are they more flavorful, they're also more healthful, because they don't contain harmful hormones including growth hormone, estrogens, and antibiotics. Follow these additional guidelines when picking your protein:
Eggs: Free-range eggs are about 20 times higher in beneficial omega-3 fatty acids. You can also get omega-3-enriched eggs.
Cold cuts and hot dogs: Read your labels. Less expensive brands may be full of added sugars and other hidden carbohydrates. Processed meats such as hot dogs, bologna, salami, olive loaf and the like usually contain nitrates and nitrites. Whenever possible, choose nitrite- and nitrate-free deli meats. For a delicious (and budget-friendly) alternative, roast a whole ham, roast beef or turkey breast and slice and freeze portions that you can defrost as you need.
Bacon, sausages and more: Most sausages, bacon and aged hams also contain nitrates and nitrites. Once again, read your labels and look for preservative-free brands. Just remember that what you do 90% of the time really counts. If you can’t find nitrate-free meats, just make sure you don’t eat them on a daily basis and remember that fresh is always best.
It can be a full-time job to keep up on the latest developments in clinical research on controlled-carbohydrate nutritional practices and the Atkins Diet’s reduced carbohydrate way of eating. This is why I thought it may be a good idea to post a research update every few months that summarizes the latest research for you and how it relates to Atkins.
Here’s what has happened in just the last three months:
1. Association of Dietary, Circulating, and Supplement Fatty Acids with Coronary Risk
Authors: Rajiv Chowdhury, MD, PhD; Samantha Warnakula, MPhil; Setor Kunutsor, MD, et al
Ann Intern Med. 2014; 160(6):398-406-406. doi: 10.7326/M13-1788
Background: Current guidelines suggest consuming more omega-6 polyunsaturated fat and less saturated fat is better for cardiovascular health.
Purpose: Review multiple studies (a meta-analysis) to analyze the connection between fat consumption and heart disease.
Conclusion: The results of this meta-analysis show no connection between saturated fat consumption and heart disease risk. The evidence does not support the current recommended guidelines.
What does this mean to you? This meta-analysis supports Atkins’ recommendations for fat consumption. Especially in the context of a low-carb eating program, the fat consumed on Atkins is burned for energy and does not raise the risk of heart disease.
2. The Cardiometabolic Consequences of Replacing Saturated Fats with Carbohydrates or Ω-6 Polyunsaturated Fats: Do the Dietary Guidelines Have it Wrong?
Author: James J DiNicolantonio
Open Heart 2014; 1:e000032. doi: 10.1136/openhrt-2013- 000032
Background: Dietary Goals for Americans, published in 1977, proposed increasing carbohydrates and decreasing saturated fat and cholesterol in the diet. This increase in consumption paralleled an increase in the incidence of diabetes and obesity in the U.S.
Purpose: Are saturated fats as bad as we have lead to believe? This editorial discusses the data.
Conclusion: There is no conclusive proof that a low-fat diet has any positive effects on health; when carbohydrates replace saturated fat, it actually increases your LDL (bad) cholesterol levels. A public health campaign is needed to educate everyone on the dangers of a diet high in carbohydrates, sugar and processed foods.
What does this mean to you? If you’re doing Atkins, you’re already doing exactly what Dr. DiNicolantonio (the editorial’s author) suggests by following a plan that incorporates a balance of healthy fats (including saturated fats), fresh vegetables, whole grains (eventually if your metabolism allows) and protein, and limits refined carbs, sugar and processed foods.
3. The Low-Carbohydrate Diet and Cardiovascular Risk Factors: Evidence from Epidemiologic Studies
Authors: T. Hu, L.A. Bazzano, Department of Epidemiology, School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, Tulane University, New Orleans, LA 70112, USA
Nutrition, Metabolism & Cardiovascular Diseases (2014)
Background: Researchers analyzed multiple studies conducted from January 1966 to November 2013 comparing low-carb diets and low-fat diets. Randomized, controlled studies have shown that low-calorie low-carb diets are at least as effective as low-fat diets for weight loss.
Purpose: To compare low-carb diets to low-fat diets for weight loss and the improvement of heart disease risk factors.
Conclusion: Both low-carb and low-fat diets can help you lose weight and decrease your risk of heart disease, although low-carb diets may be more effective at decreasing waist circumference. The researchers concluded that a low-carb diet can also be recommended to diabetic patients to help them lose weight, but they emphasize that a healthy low-carb diet should emphasize dietary fiber intake derived from whole grains, fiber-rich fruit, low-carbohydrate vegetables (such as green leafy vegetables, legumes, and cruciferous vegetables), avocado, olive and vegetable oils, soy, fish and chicken, and restrict or eliminate consumption of processed and unprocessed red meat as well as starchy vegetables and refined grains.
What does this mean to you? When it comes to decreasing your risk of diabetes and heart disease, while losing weight and slashing inches from your waist, Atkins may be just what the doctor ordered.
4. A Non-Calorie-Restricted Low-Carbohydrate Diet is as Effective as an Alternative Therapy for Patients with Type 2 Diabetes
Yoshifumi Yamada, Junichi Uchida, Hisa Izumi, Yoko Tsukamoto,
Gaku Inoue, Yuichi Watanabe, Junichiro Irie and Satoru Yamada
Internal Medicine, January 2014
Background: In a six-month, randomized controlled trial, 24 patients with type-2 diabetes were either put on a low-carb diet or a calorie-restricted diet.
Purpose: To determine the effect of the two diets on average blood glucose concentration, which is an indicator of blood sugar levels. Reductions in total cholesterol, triglycerides, HDL, LDL, blood pressure, markers of atherosclerosis and renal function were also measured.
Conclusion: The low-carb diet significantly improved blood sugar levels and triglyceride levels compared to the calorie-restricted diet. And although calories weren’t restricted on the low-carb diet, after six months, calorie intake for both groups was almost the same.
What does this mean to you? If you have type-2 diabetes and you have tried calorie-restrictive in the past without success, a low-carb diet like Atkins can help manage your type-2 diabetes while helping you control your calorie intake without feeling hungry.
Fat has long been the vilified third cousin of the nutrition world. But with Atkins, we have learned that fat can be your friend. Countless studies show that replacing sugars and refined carbs with natural healthy fats may help you lose weight, and keep it off. As long as you are burning fat for fuel, it’s not being stored as that fat that loves to reside on your belly, hips and thighs. Fat also helps you feel full, and it carries flavor, which makes food that much more satisfying.
One of my favorite fats is olive oil. It is a monounsaturated fat, and it should be a staple of your diet on Atkins. It has many heart-healthy benefits, it’s rich in antioxidants, and it will add depth and variety to your meals. You can use it when sautéing food, or you can make your own salad dressing by adding a tablespoon to lemon juice or vinegar. Drizzle some over steamed asparagus (or any veggie) and finish with kosher salt and fresh ground pepper for a simple, yet perfect, side dish. The options are endless.
When shopping for olive oil, look for the following qualities:
• Extra-virgin olive oil in dark green glass or in packaging that shields it from light. Never buy olive oil in clear, plastic bottles.
• The words “cold pressed"
• A harvesting date on the bottle
• Look for the California Olive Oil Council Seal (COOC), which means:
o Less than .5% free oleic acid
o No chemicals or excessive heat during a mechanical extraction
This may not be revolutionary news to those of you who follow Atkins or have read many of my previous blogs, but according to a new editorial in the journal Open Heart, written by Dr. James DiNicolantonio, a leading U.S. cardiovascular research scientist, low-carb diets beat low-fat diets for weight loss, heart disease and longevity. As you may know, I have discussed several studies that show that a low-carb diet is better for weight loss and lowering heart disease risk than a low-fat diet, while larger observational studies have not found any proof that low-fat diets reduce cardiovascular disease risk.
According to DiNicolantonio, saturated fats were vilified in the past because of the belief that they increase total cholesterol (a flawed theory, also according to DiNicolantonio), and therefore must also increase heart disease risk. And since fat contains more calories, it was thought that by reducing the intake, it would naturally curb obesity, diabetes and metabolic syndrome. These theories, based on flawed and incomplete data from the 1950s, led to the current dietary advice to replace saturated fats with carbohydrates or omega-6 polyunsaturated fats. Research now shows that eating refined carbohydrates is a dietary factor behind the surge in obesity and diabetes in the United States. And replacing saturated fats with omega-6 polyunsaturated fats—without a corresponding increase in omega-3 polyunsaturated fats—may increase the risk of cardiovascular disease.
DiNicolantonio says that a public health campaign is needed to educate the public on the dangers of a diet high in refined carbs and sugar, and that processed foods should be avoided at all costs.
Sound familiar? If you’re doing Atkins, you’re already doing exactly what DiNicolantonio suggests by following a plan that incorporates a balance of healthy fats (including saturated fats), fresh vegetables, whole grains (eventually) and protein and limits refined carbs, sugar and processed foods.
I have the chance to talk to people every day about Atkins, and I always find it interesting that there is still the misperception that all you eat on Atkins is bacon, eggs, heavy cream and beef. Nothing could be farther from the truth—when you follow Atkins, you may be surprised to find yourself eating more veggies than you ever did before. In Phase One (Induction), you eat 20 grams of net carbs each day, with most of them (12 to 15 grams of net carbs) coming straight from veggies. Initially you’ll be eating primarily what we call foundation veggies, which have a lower carb content and often a higher fiber count than the starchy veggies higher up the Carb Ladder.
If you’re the kind of person who likes to track every detail, you can keep track of your daily net carb intake in a journal, or you can enter your daily food into fitday.com, which is a free online food and fitness dairy. Enter the food, and fitday will do the math, telling you percentages of protein, fat and carbohydrate, calories and even nutritional content. If journaling and tracking is not your style, you can still succeed by using the cup method (see the ideas below).
If you want to eat your vegetables as part of your three daily meals, you might try getting 4 veggie net carbs with breakfast, 5.5 veggie net carbs with lunch and 5.5 veggie net carbs with dinner. If you want to keep it fairly simple, without having to make a lot of fancy recipes, here are some examples of what that might look like:
Sautee ¼ cup chopped broccoli and ¼ cup chopped onion in 1 Tbsp. real butter. Then add 2 beaten eggs to the pan. Stir over medium-high heat until the eggs are set. If you like, sprinkle 2 Tbsp. shredded cheddar cheese over the eggs in the last 30 seconds of cooking. 5 total net carbs, with 4 of them coming from veggies.
Here are some other combinations of veggies that you can easily add to an egg scramble or omelet that will total 4 net veggie carbs: ¾ cup chopped tomato and ¾ cup chopped spinach, ¼ cup chopped onion and ½ cup chopped mushrooms.
For a breakfast on the run, grab a couple of hard-boiled eggs, a slice of real cheese, and one of the following raw veggies to crunch in the car: 1-3/4 cup chopped cucumber, 1 cup string beans (green beans), 1-1/2 cups chopped cauliflower, 1 cup chopped green pepper.
Salad is a good way to get in your veggies! Start with 2-1/2 cups shredded romaine lettuce and add any of the following for a total (including the lettuce) of 5.5 veggie net carbs: 2 cups chopped cucumber, ¾ cup chopped jicama, 2-1/2 cups sliced mushrooms, 1 cup chopped green peppers, ¾ cup chopped red peppers, 2 cups sliced radishes, 1 cup chopped broccoli, 1-1/2 cups chopped cauliflower, ¾ cup chopped tomatoes, 1-1/2 cups sliced yellow squash. (If you want more than one added veggie in your salad, use half the measurement of one veggie, combined with half the measurement of another, like ½ cup green peppers and 1 cup chopped cucumber.) Plus, you can add 4 to 6 ounces sugar-free salad dressing
Of course, if you don’t like salad, you can just eat raw or cooked veggies, and use the following dinner ideas:
You can have another salad at dinner, or eat cooked vegetables. Add butter or even mayonnaise to hot cooked veggies. Here are some more examples for measuring and tracking raw and cooked vegetables:
How many cups of sliced raw veggies equal 5 net carbs?
• 1 avocado = 4
• 8 marinated artichoke hearts = 4
• 2 cup broccoli, raw = 4
• 1 cup cauliflower, raw = 3
• 1 cup jicama = 5
• 12 black olives = 2
• 12 radishes = 1
How many cups of sliced raw veggies equal 2 net carbs?
• 1 cup cucumber = 2
• ¼ red pepper = 1.5
• 5 cherry tomatoes = 2.2
• 1 cup broccoli, raw = 2
• 1 cup cauliflower, raw = 3
• 1/2 cup jicama = 2.5
• 12 radishes = 1
• 2 stalks of celery = 2
How many cups of cooked vegetables would equal 5 net carbs?
• 1 cup green beans = 6
• 1.5 cup cooked broccoli = 4.5
• 1.5 cup green cabbage = 4.5
• 12 spears asparagus = 5
• 1.5 cup eggplant = 4.5
• 1 cup kale = 5
• 1/2 cup button mushrooms = 5
• 1.5 cup zucchini = 4.5
• 1/2 cup spaghetti squash = 4
How many cups of cooked vegetables equal 2 net carbs?
• 1/2 cup green beans = 3
• 1 cup cooked broccoli = 3
• 1 cup green cabbage = 3
• 6 spears asparagus = 2.5
• 1 cup eggplant = 3
• 1/2 cup kale = 2.5
• 1/4 cup button mushrooms = 2.5
• 1 cup zucchini = 3
• 1/4 cup spaghetti squash = 2
Muffin top, spare tire or love handles. Whatever you call it, carrying excess weight around your middle isn’t just a matter of clothes not fitting properly or a fear of putting on a bathing suit; it’s also a health hazard.
There are three types of fat: triglycerides (the fat that circulates in your blood), subcutaneous fat (the layer directly below the skin’s surface) and visceral fat (dangerous belly fat). Visceral fat is located beneath the muscles in your stomach and poses many dangers to your health when there is too much of it. It produces excess hormones and chemicals, which negatively impacts almost every organ in your body, and increases your risk for health issues such as heart disease, Type 2 diabetes and colorectal cancer.
How do you know if you have too much belly fat? It’s a simple as grabbing a measuring tape. A waist measuring more than 40 inches puts men at risk; for women, it’s anything over 35 inches.
Losing that stubborn belly fat doesn’t happen over night, but it’s possible. Just ask all the people who have successfully transformed their bodies by following the Atkins Diet. And research showing that low-carb diets help people lose that unhealthy visceral fat (as well as body fat everywhere else) continues to back up these real-life examples.
The evidence is clear: hands down, the best way to burn body fat is to switch to a fat-burning metabolism by controlling your carb intake. The best way to whittle your waist is to combine the Atkins Diet and regular exercise, which will enable you to achieve a healthy weight, reduce fat and build muscle. An hour of exercise a day is ideal (research suggests a combination of weight-training and cardio), but even if you can’t work out that much, a regular fitness program will speed your results.
Following a low-carb diet and consistent exercise program to cut down on belly fat not only will help you look good in your favorite pair of jeans or swimsuit; it improves your health and your quality of life!
While it is not necessary to exercise in order to lose weight on Atkins, there are many other reasons to exercise. Once you’ve made it through the initial couple weeks of Atkins, and your body has gotten used to burning fat for fuel instead of carbs, there are many good reasons to start exercising. It helps boost your mood, decrease stress, increase energy, plus it lowers your risk of a host of health issues, including stroke, metabolic syndrome, type-2 diabetes, depression, certain types of cancer, arthritis and falls. Another huge bonus? It can help you maintain the weight you’ve already lost on Atkins. While most of you may fall into the recreational athlete category, some of you may be inspired to take your athletic goals to the next level. And research shows that a low-carb diet can be used to help athletes train harder, perform longer and recover faster.
In one study, elite cyclists consumed a diet equivalent to the Induction phase of Atkins for four weeks while maintaining an intense training regimen. You would think that these cyclists were burnt out and exhausted, with a serious decrease in performance by the end of four weeks. In fact, the results were not significantly different than when they were consuming their usual high-carb diet. And, by the end of four weeks, they had trained their bodies to burn fat for fuel during exercise, which means they were able to hold on to their reserves of glycogen (the storage form of carbohydrates in the body). Another study of elite cyclists published in the journal of Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise also showed that while following a low-carb diet, the cyclists also burned fat as fuel, while preserving glycogen stores. Once again, performance was similar among both the high-carb and low-carb group.
To sum it up, whether you’re exercising at the gym or competing in a race, you want to be able to burn fat efficiently. As you become accustomed to eating fewer carbs, your body adapts, and starts burning more fat for fuel. Running on a fat metabolism is exactly where you want to be during long-distance training or a race. This means you may avoid “hitting the wall”, so to speak, because your body has already made the switch to fat burning. Any carbohydrate stores that you have are saved for exactly this purpose, versus being used up earlier in your training or race.
Although this goes against the conventional pre-race “carb-loading” strategy of the past, it makes perfect sense. In addition to the research, there are many anecdotal reports from our Atkins Community of people who have chosen to stick to their low-carb lifestyle even while training and competing, and have found they have hit the dreaded “wall” not nearly as early as they did in their carb-loading days.
And a low-carb diet may be beneficial for people who participate in resistance training as well. In one study, overweight men who followed the Induction phase while participating in an intense resistance-training program (three workouts per week) lost on average of 16 pounds (thanks to the low-carb diet) after 12 weeks. Meanwhile, their lean body mass actually increased by 2 pounds, credited mainly to the resistance training.
Whether you’re training for a 5K or marathon, or you just want to make the most of your time in the gym, a low-carb diet like Atkins may be quite beneficial to your body composition and performance.
The big game is days away, and it doesn’t matter who you’re rooting for: the typical Super Bowl party is rife with potential dietary pitfalls. Fortunately, I have some great low-carb game-day tips that will help you win even if your team doesn’t.
If you’re hosting the party, you’re in control of the menu. To make entertaining easy, focus on dishes that you can make ahead and that are self-serve and require minimal utensils.
Hit the store for these easy low-carb Super Bowl dishes:
• Cheese and meat platters
• Veggie trays (low carb dip recipe)
• Antipasto trays (olives, peppers, marinated artichokes hearts and mushrooms, fresh mozzarella and tomatoes)
• Relish trays
• Shrimp cocktail
Tip: Ditch the plastic tray that your store-bought food came on and serve it on your own glass or football-themed platters and dishes.
You can whip up the following low-carb Super Bowl recipes from scratch. They, along with many other delicious low-carb recipes, are found in our Recipes section:
• Super Chili Bowl
• Buffalo Chicken Wings
• Baked Meatballs
• Creamy Crab Dip
• Spinach-Artichoke Dip
• Blue Cheese Dip
• Double Chocolate Cookies
Tip: All these dips go great with veggies.
Tip: If you have a crock-pot or two, you can cook the meatballs and chili in advance.
Tip: For your guests who aren’t living a low-carb lifestyle, you can offer a Meatball Slider option. Simmer a batch of Baked Meatballs in spaghetti sauce and serve with slider buns and slices of mozzarella cheese.
If you’re going to a Super Bowl party, you still have plenty of options that won’t pile on the pounds or blow through your net carb quota:
• Review your game-day strategy. If there is one food you simply can’t resist, allow yourself one very small serving, and leave it at that. If you know even that one small serving will open the floodgates to a carb free-for-all, resolve to stick with low-carb options.
• Load up before the game. Have a filling low-carb snack or meal before you head to the party. You can try an Atkins bar or shake, or one of our new Atkins frozen meals. This way you won’t be starving, and makes it easier to resist temptation.
• Play the offense. Offer to bring a veggie tray or meat and cheese tray, and/or prepare one or two of the tasty low-carb Super Bowl-friendly recipes listed previously. Knowing you will have a few low-carb choices that you love makes it much easier to enjoy the party (and the game) without guilt or hunger.
• Did you fumble? Make sure your next meal is a low-carb one. Get back in the weight-loss game by planning your next week of meals and snacks. And add in a little exercise to give yourself an extra boost.
I just received an update on some of the latest low-carb research showing the beneficial effects of a low-carb diet like Atkins on a variety of health factors. It’s always amazing to me when something as simple as changing the way you eat can have such a positive impact on your health.
Atkins and Epilepsy
In an overview published in Epilepsy and Behavior, a modified Atkins diet was analyzed as a treatment of children and adults with epilepsy. After 10 years of continued use, 423 children and adults reported in 31 studies that a modified Atkins diet helped reduce seizures by 50 percent for almost half the participants. It is predicted that a modified Atkins diet will be used primarily for adults and adolescents, and that children who were prescribed a formula-only or ketogenic (high-fat) diet will be transitioned to it. It may also be used as a first-line therapy for some forms of epilepsy in regions of the world with limited resources.
Successful Weight Loss and Maintenance with Atkins Mediterranean Style
In a study published in the journal Nutrients, researchers hypothesized that an Atkins-style Mediterranean diet (lower carb, higher fat, with the Mediterranean emphasis on olive oil, fish, fresh vegetables, and some fruits and whole grains) may lead to successful weight loss and long-term weight maintenance. The results? The majority of the subjects showed significant weight loss, with no weight regain. The researchers proposed that this protocol was successful because of the higher protein intake of the Atkins-style Mediterranean diet.The traditional Mediterranean diet also helped participants to continue to maintain their weight loss. In addition, participants experienced decreases in total cholesterol, “bad” cholesterol, triglycerides and glucose levels.
Atkins and Type-2 Diabetes
While a calorie-restricted diet is widely used to help patients with type-2 diabetes reduce body weight and insulin resistance, many patients are unable to comply with calorie restriction for an extended period of time. The purpose of this study published in the journal of Internal Medicine was to examine the effects of a non-calorie-restricted low-carb diet in Japanese patients with type-2 diabetes unable to stick with a calorie-restricted diet. The patients were randomly assigned to either a conventional calorie-restricted diet or a low-carb diet. At the end of six months, the patients on the low-carb diet experienced improvements in their glucose levels, metabolic profiles and triglyceride levels, showing that a low-carb diet is effective in helping patients with type-2 diabetes improve their health and weight loss goals.
Roundup for Notable Research in 2012/2013:
• Low-carb diets show improvements in biomarkers for inflammation and cholesterol levels (Ruth 2013).
• Low-carb diets do not pose any risk to kidney health (Tirosh 2013)
• Carbohydrate restricted diet could be a sustainable lifestyle especially for individuals at risk for metabolic syndrome. (Ballard & Volek 2013)
• Ketogenic (Modified Atkins) Diet has been used as an effective treatment for epilepsy in both children and adults. (Kossoff 2013)
• A diet high in carbohydrates and low in protein and fat may increase the risk of dementia in older individuals. (Roberts 2012)
• High total carbohydrate intake associated with reoccurrence and mortality in Stage III colon cancer patients (Meyerhardt 2012)
• Low-carb diet is effective in improving blood sugar and triglyceride levels in Type 2 Diabetes patients who could not adhere to calorie-restricted diet. (Yamada 2014, Japan)
• A review of the scientific literature concluded VLCKD (Very Low Carbohydrate Ketogenic Diet) may be an alternative tool against obesity in individuals with diseases of carbohydrate intolerance. (Bueno 2013, Brazil)
• Another review of the literature concluded low-carb diets are as effective as low-GI, Mediterranean and high-protein diets in improving cardiovascular risk in diabetic patients (Ajala 2013, UK)
• Ketogenic diet has beneficial effects in lowering blood sugar levels in obese diabetic subjects. (Hussain 2012, Kuwait)
Interestingly, Sweden has become the first western nation to recommend a higher-fat, lower-carbohydrate diet – in alignment with the Atkins approach to eating – as part of an effort to reduce the national prevalence of obesity and diabetes, and to improve markers of heart health. (September 2013)
So the next time a health professional tells you the Atkins Diet does not have enough science behind it, you can look at them cross eyed with tilted head and wonder where they have been for the last decade!
If you have ever had a gallstone, you know how painful the entire experience can be. Research also shows that the likelihood of getting gallstones is typically linked to obesity, yo-yo dieting and rapid weight loss. A group of researchers recently published a systemic review in the journal of Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology of the best non-surgical strategies to prevent gallstones in adults while they lose weight.
The final analysis of 1,837 obese participants compared taking a daily supplement—ursodeoxycholic acid (UDCA)—with a high-fat diet. The results? Although UDCA reduced the risk of gallstones compared with a control group, the effect was significantly larger in the higher-fat diet trials. In addition, the high-fat diet (12.2 grams-30 grams of fat/daily) beat a low-fat diet (2 grams-3 grams of fat/daily) in the reduction of gallstone formation.
What does this mean to you? We have hard data that consuming as much as 60% of your calories as healthy fats on a low-carb diet like Atkins does not have a negative impact on your health—in fact, it has a positive influence on your levels of good (HDL) and bad (LDL) cholesterol levels, plus it leads to a drop in triglycerides. In addition, people with insulin resistance (a precursor to Type-2 diabetes) who eat a low-carb diet rich in fat lose weight while reducing their insulin resistance (and their risk for Type-2 diabetes). Plus, consuming a higher percentage of fat tends you to make you feel less hungry and more satisfied than other diets. And now, this most recent analysis shows that a higher fat intake may be the best way to prevent gallstone formation while you are losing weight.
Although there are no studies that show that Atkins causes kidney or liver problems in healthy individuals, there are still ill informed health professionals who equate Atkins with excessively high protein intake and the potential for kidney function decline. Those of us here in the community know that Atkins is not a very high protein diet; we recommend a protein intake that is no more than 25 to 30% of total calories, which is optimal. There are already research trials that examined liver and kidney and heart function on participants who followed ketogenic diets (Atkins approach) in which no negative effects were observed up to two years after. Also, follow-up on patients at Dr. Atkins' medical practice (Dr. Atkins used his diet in private practice for 30 years) found no adverse effect on their kidney and liver functions.
Now there is more good news! A new study conducted by the American Diabetes Association supports the safety and efficacy of a low-carb diet like Atkins. This latest study compared a low-carb diet with Mediterranean or low-fat diets and their impact on preserving and/or improving renal (kidney) function of 318 moderately obese folks with or without type-2 diabetes. These participants were followed over the course of two years during a randomized and controlled trial, and a low-carb diet like Atkins was found to be just at effective and safe at preserving or improving kidney function as a Mediterranean diet or a low-fat diet.
The researchers believe that any improvement in kidney function was most likely due to the positive effects of weight loss from these diets, including improvements in insulin sensitivity and blood pressure. This type of research is always encouraging because it continues to show that if you are doing Atkins, not only will it help you lose weight (and keep it off), but that the protein intake does not have a negative impact on your kidneys, and, in fact, there is the potential that the weight loss may lead to improved kidney function in some folks.
If you’ve read anything about diets lately, you have most likely heard of the Paleo Diet, which is based on eating whole foods from food groups our hunter-gatherer ancestors would have eaten during the Paleolithic Era, the time period from about 2.6 million years ago to the beginning of the agricultural revolution, about 10,000 years ago. These foods include fresh meats, fish, seafood, fresh fruits, vegetables, seeds, nuts and healthy oils. You eliminate dairy products, cereal grains, legumes, refined sugars and processed foods on the Paleo Diet.
As you can see, there are some similarities to the Atkins Diet, in that whole foods, healthy fats, protein, veggies and fruit dominate the two eating plans. If you were wondering why someone would choose Paleo over Atkins or vice versa, here is a quick comparison:
• Fresh meats (preferably grass-produced or free-ranging beef, pork, lamb, poultry and game meat)
• Fish and seafood
• Fresh fruits (preferably locally sourced)
• Fresh vegetables (preferably locally sourced)
• Healthful oils (olive, coconut, avocado, macadamia, walnut and flaxseed)
Foods that are not allowed:
• Dairy products
• Cereal grains
• Legumes (beans, peas, soybeans, lentils and peanuts, to name a few)
• Refined sugars
• Processed foods
• Refined oils (soy, cottonseed, corn, sunflower, safflower and sesame)
• Grass-fed or free-ranging meats and locally sourced fish, seafood, vegetables and fruits are healthier.
• Grass-fed or free-ranging meats and locally sourced fish, seafood, vegetables and fruits are also more expensive and harder to find.
• One-size-fits all approach and does not allow an individual to discover their personal carbohydrate tolerance and uncover potential food sensitivities.
• Fresh meats (beef, pork, lamb, poultry and game meat)
• Fish and seafood
• Fresh vegetables
• Healthy fats (butter, canola oil, coconut oil, flaxseed oil, grapeseed oil, mayonnaise, olive oil, high-oleic safflower oil, sesame oil)
• Most cheeses
• Nuts and seeds
• Whole milk, cheese, Greek yogurt, ricotta or cottage cheese
• Approved Atkins low-carb bars, shakes and frozen meals
• Berries in early phases and other types of fresh fruits( in later Phases)
• Starchy vegetables (in later Phases)
• Whole grains (in later Phases)
Foods that are not allowed:
• Processed foods with refined sugar and/or partially hydrogenated oils (cookies, crackers, chips, etc.)
• Breaded Fried foods
• Easier entry point into a low-carb lifestyle, while still emphasizing whole foods; healthy fats, optimal protein intake, vegetables, and fruit
• More convenient—Atkins bars, shakes and frozen meals are allowed
• Less expensive than Paleo
• As you learn your personal carb tolerance, you can incorporate certain carbs back into your eating plan while still maintaining your weight loss.
• By introducing foods one at a time (in 5 net carbohydrate increments) you are given the opportunity to discover food intolerances as well as your own personal carbohydrate balance.
• Unlike Paleo, you aren’t asked to totally eliminate cereal grains, legumes, potatoes and dairy.
Ultimately, both diets have numerous benefits, and the choice is yours, although Atkins may be easier to start with since you don’t have to eliminate as many foods, and it’s more convenient and less expensive.
A large part of my job with Atkins involves traveling around the country, promoting Atkins and teaching people how to successfully lose weight while living a low-carb lifestyle. Since I have been doing Atkins for so long, I have had to learn how to stick with my low-carb eating plan no matter where I am—planes, trains, automobiles, you name it! As you hit the road over the holidays (or any time during the year), print out this handy cheat sheet of tips that have worked well for me (and many other Atkins devotees):
• Pack snacks in small containers or zip-top bags so you can track your intake of Net Carbs. Use a cooler with an ice pack, if needed, and include veggies with salad dressing; ham or turkey rollups; Greek yogurt with berries; nuts; olives; smoked salmon rolls; cheese; hard-boiled eggs and Atkins bars and shakes.
• Check if you will have access to refrigerator during your stay and stock up on the snacks listed above.
• If you know the restaurants where you’ll be dining, check out the menu in advance to pre-select your low-carb options. Having a plan before you go out to eat makes it easier resist any high-carb temptations.
• Try and stick with eating schedule. For example, if you eat five small meals per day at specific times, follow the same schedule even when you’re on the road.
• Don’t be afraid to ask what’s in a dish—either at a restaurant or someone’s house.
• Eat a snack or small meal before you go out to reduce your appetite.
• Eat only until satisfied, but not stuffed.
• Drink alcohol in moderation if you are beyond the early phase of Atkins, and watch out for drinks containing sugar or fruit juice.
• If your host pressures you to try something like cake or pie, say you’re full. Or politely take one bite, and say you’re full.
• If attending an event at someone’s house, offer to bring a low-carb option.
• If you are staying with family or friends for the holidays, talk to them in advance about their plans for meals, and offer to make some of your favorite low-carb recipes to contribute to the festivities.
• Stay hydrated. Keep a water bottle with you and refill it frequently.
• Stay active. Walk instead of taking a cab. Check out your hotel gym or pull on your running shoes and go for a jog or walk outside. You can pack portable elastic bands in your suitcase for a quick do-anywhere resistance workout, or bring along a workout DVD. Staying with family or friends? Offer to walk their dog if they have one, enlist everyone to go on a walk after dinner or look into guest passes at local gyms.
Thanksgiving is here this week , which means food, food and more food. Since I’ve been living the Atkins lifestyle for more than 25 years, I’ve learned some strategies that help me enjoy this holiday to its fullest without overdoing it on forbidden treats or even feeling deprived. Here’s what works for me on turkey day and well into the holiday season:
Follow the 3-2 plan. I strongly recommend eating three meals and two snacks a day. That will keep you full and satisfied and less likely to grab something to eat that’s not on your plan.
Eat before you eat or cook. If you’re hosting Thanksgiving at your house, keep plenty of Atkins-friendly snacks on hand during all your cooking and preparations for the big meal. By hosting your own party, you have total control over the menu and activities. If you’re not hosting, fortify yourself with a filling Atkins-friendly snack before you go. My favorite snacks are Greek yogurt with slivered almonds and blueberries, or Cheddar cheese with strips of red pepper, or an Atkins Advantage bar or a shake. Or you could a have a small low-carb meal, such as a chef salad topped with grilled chicken. The combination of a small amount of carbs with fat and protein will stabilize your blood sugar. That way, you’ll have the physical backup to your mental fortitude so you can pass up holiday foods that are not on your low-carb meal plan.
Enjoy your options. Thanksgiving features plenty of low-carb options, with the star being the turkey, of course. We have some delicious recipes in our recipes database for turkey, ham, mashed cauliflower (instead of potatoes), green bean casserole, low carb stuffing ideas and more. There are even some decadent low-carb desserts that everyone will enjoy.
Work it off. No matter how “good” you are when it comes to Thanksgiving temptations; the reality is that you’ll probably take in a few extra carbs. And there’s nothing like a little exercise to make you feel good about yourself and renew your commitment and motivation. Squeeze in an exercise video, take the dog on a walk or do something active with the family after the big meal.
Give yourself a break. The holidays are a time to enjoy family and friends, and yes, some favorite foods. If there isn’t an Atkins-friendly alternative, enjoy a little bit of the real thing, and don’t throw all reason to the wind, just make sure your next meal or snack is low-carb. Don’t beat yourself up if you’re not continuing to lose weight during this time. A true sign of success is maintaining what you’ve already lost while still enjoying food, friends and family.
An all-too-common misconception is that the first Phase of Atkins—Induction—is the whole program. Which probably led to other misconceptions, including the one that Atkins is all about omitting major food groups from your diet and subsisting on meat, eggs, cheese and lots of fat. Every time I see that in an online article, I find myself yelling at my computer. It is simply not true! The purpose of Induction is to switch your body over to burning fat for fuel instead of carbs for fuel and kick-starting weight loss. You will burn the fat you are consuming as well as the fat you have stored. However, don’t think that eating less fat will hasten burning more body fat. You need dietary fat to fuel the fires of fat burning. So, when you are on Induction, you are consuming optimal levels of a variety of protein choices like fish, poultry, eggs and meat, healthy fats such as olive oil, avocado, and polyunsaturated fats, as well as the mandatory Foundation vegetables.
However, the true key to success on Atkins is the process of finding the maximum number of carbs you can eat while continuing to lose weight, keep your appetite under control and stay alert and energized. This number is your personal carb balance, which is different for everyone. To find your personal carb balance, you gradually increase both the amount and variety of the carbohydrate foods you eat. Once you’ve reached your goal weight, you will have hopefully discovered the maximum number of carbs you eat while maintaining this weight and controlling your cravings. This is your personal carb tolerance, and this is when Atkins has become a lifestyle for you; a new and improved way of eating and living, versus a quick-fix diet you return to after you’ve resumed your old eating habits and the pounds pile back on.
It’s true that if you have a lot of weight to lose, or you want to lose weight faster and you like the structure and fewer choices in this first Phase, you may stay on Induction longer than two weeks, typically until you’re 15 pounds from your goal weight. But even if that’s the case, I suggest that you add nuts and seeds to your meal plans, as they are full of protein, fiber, and healthy fats and relatively low in carbs. But I still strongly recommend that you move to Phase 2 (Balancing) no later than when you’re within 15 pounds of your goal weight so that you can transition to a more permanent way of eating. In Phase 2, you begin to increase your carb intake in 5-gram increments, which means gradually introducing more foods as you begin to understand your personal carb balance. In addition to nuts and seeds, you can start to add foods like berries, melon and cherries, Greek yogurt and fresh cheeses, which add delicious variety to each of your meals.
And let me clear up one last little misconception about Induction. Not only is it not what Atkins is all about, you don’t even have to start in Induction if you don’t want to! If you are comfortable with a slow and steady rate of weight loss (because wouldn’t you rather lose a little more slowly and keep the weight off for good?), it’s perfectly acceptable to start in Phase 2.
Starting in Phase 2 can be a more gentle way for some folks to ease into their backup fuel system, which is a fat-burning metabolism. There are fewer adaptation symptoms and you have more foods to choose from. Plus, you have the option to go down to Induction if the inches and scale are not moving as fast as you’d like. The bottom line? Atkins is not just about Induction—each Phase of Atkins plays an important part in your goal to lose weight and keep it off for the long term while developing lifelong healthy eating habits.
Sweden has given us the Volvo and Ikea, now it may be on the forefront in the fight against obesity. A report called Dietary Treatment for Obesity, from the Swedish Council on Health Technology Assessment (SBU), has shown that the typically recommended low-fat diet is failing to stop or reverse obesity trends that have reached epidemic proportions across the globe. The SBU will now recommend a lower-carbohydrate, higher-fat approach similar to the Atkins Diet. “A low-carbohydrate diet, even in the stricter form, will lead to a greater weight loss in the short term than the low-fat diet, and studies have indicated no adverse effects on blood lipids, provided that the weight stays low,” the SBU concludes.
“One possible consequence of this report will therefore be an increased use of a strict low-carbohydrate diet for short-term weight reduction.” As you know, during the maintenance phase of Atkins, you typically consume 20 to 40 percent of your calories from carbs, exactly the percentage range recommended by the SBU, and the range that helps you maintain your goal weight. In addition, the higher fat intake on an Atkins-like diet means your are more satisfied and stay full for longer, which makes this way of eating much more sustainable.
In addition, as you know, health markers improve on a low-carb diet. According to the report, following a low-carb diet resulted in “… a greater increase in HDL cholesterol (“the good cholesterol”) without having any adverse effects on LDL cholesterol (“the bad cholesterol”). This applies to both the moderate low-carbohydrate intake of less than 40 percent of the total energy intake, as well as the stricter low-carbohydrate diet, where carbohydrate intake is less than 20 percent of the total energy intake. In addition, the stricter low-carbohydrate diet will lead to improved glucose levels for individuals with obesity and diabetes, and to marginally decreased levels of triglycerides.”
This new research is in tune with the study released in the June issue of the British Journal of Nutrition, which I covered in one of my previous blogs: http://blogs.atkins.com/Blogs/colette_heimowitz/Archive/2013/6/13/195568.aspx. It also showed that a carbohydrate managed approach like Atkins is more effective for long-term weight loss than a conventional low-fat diet.
As always, it’s encouraging to see more and more studies that support the efficacy of a low-carb approach like Atkins. Although the SBU excluded all studies that examined both obese and overweight people in this latest analysis, if the studies on overweight people were included, it would show that a low-carb diet has the clear advantage, even after a year. This once again shows that Atkins is not just effective for short-term weight loss, but truly effective over the long term as well.
Have you ever been the victim of a bully? How about when the triple-threat of Halloween candy, Thanksgiving pies and Christmas cookies attempt to bully their way into your low-carb meal plan?
Perhaps when you were a kid an older youngster pushed you around or prevented you from using the swings in the playground or grabbed your sandwich at lunch. If you’re lucky, that childhood experience or two has inflicted no lasting damage on your psyche. But this other bully—the metabolic bully right within your own body—can damage you on a daily basis by interfering with your ability (and resolve) to achieve a healthy weight. In the simplest terms, this metabolic bully rears its ugly head when you exceed your tolerance for carbohydrates. But when you begin to tap into your body’s fat stores (burning fat for energy instead of carbs), you foil the metabolic bully that normally blocks access to your fat stores.
This metabolic adaptation, known as the Atkins Edge, provides a steady source of energy, helping control your appetite and eliminating or reducing carb cravings. It helps you lose fat pounds without experiencing undue hunger, cravings, energy depletions or any sense of deprivation. When you burn fat for energy all day (and all night), your blood sugar remains on an even keel. So how do you win the battle against this metabolic bully when the most food-focused time of the year is right around the corner? You can start planning now just by choosing from the following two options.
1) Stick with your personal carb balance, which will allow you to maintain the weight you’ve already lost, even through the holiday season.
2) Stay right below your personal carb balance and continue to lose weight.
And not to worry; I understand that no one is perfect, especially if you’re face to face with a plateful of Grandma’s famous cookies or a pile of mashed potatoes dripping with butter and gravy. As long as you have taken the time to set a few goals for yourself well in advance, and you have outlined a general plan, even if you stray a little, you will still be set up to get back on track once the holidays are over. If you maintain your weight during the holidays, consider it a win. If you gain a few pounds, just hop back to Phase 1 for a couple of weeks to lose the few pounds you might have gained.