What Is the Atkins Diet?

Learn what the Atkins diet is, how it works, the different phases, and the health benefits of following the Atkins diet.

By Megan O'Connell
Edited by Tom Amitay

Published October 22, 2020.

The Atkins Diet is focused on controlling insulin levels through a low-carbohydrate nutritional approach. The diet encourages people to eat the right balance of carbohydrates, protein, and fats to optimize weight loss and overall health.

According to the Atkins Diet, the typical high-carbohydrate and low-fat diet followed by most Americans today is why most obesity and related health issues, such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes, are so prevalent.

Advocates of the diet believe that consuming too many carbohydrates may lead to imbalances in blood sugar, weight gain, and cardiovascular issues. Therefore, the Atkins Diet encourages people to eat fewer carbohydrates and more fat.

When people consume many refined carbohydrates, their insulin levels tend to rise and fall rapidly. This rise in insulin levels triggers the body to store energy from consumed food. By using stored carbohydrates as fuel, rather than the body's own fat stores, weight gain will occur.

The diet is split into 4 phases, similar to the South Beach Diet, during which carbohydrates are eliminated and reintroduced over time. These four phases can be summarized as follows:

  • Phase 1 (Induction): During this phase, less than 20 grams of carbohydrates should be consumed per day for a period of 2 weeks. A high-fat and high-protein diet should be followed.
  • Phase 2 (Balancing): During this phase, some low-carbohydrate vegetables and fruits should be slowly added back into the diet.
  • Phase 3 (Fine-tuning): During this phase, you should be very close to your weight loss goals, and more carbohydrates should be added back into your diet, up to a point where weight loss slows down.
  • Phase 4 (Maintenance): During this phase, you may consume as many carbohydrates as you like, as long as your body can tolerate the extra carbohydrates without gaining weight.