Atkins Diet: The low down on the controversial high protein eating plan

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  • We've all heard of the Atkins diet, but how exactly does it work?

    The Atkins Diet is the famous high protein, high fat, diet. Launched by Dr Atkins in 1972, it’s a meat eater’s dream and millions have tried it. However, some have criticised the diet for being unhealthy.

    Research says low-carb diets like the Keto diet and Atkins are ‘most effective’ for losing weight compared to other diets, with the average slimmer losing 10.3lbs.

    What is the Atkins Diet?

    The Atkins Diet was invented by American Dr Robert Atkins in the 1970s and is the original ‘low-carb’ diet. It might seem too good to be true but you’re actually encouraged to eat bacon and eggs for breakfast!

    Fans of the Atkins Diet stay on it for months or even years and claim it helps them keep the weight off. But for every person in favour of the Atkins Diet, there are plenty who disagree with it.

    How does the Atkins Diet work?

    Our bodies burn fat and carbohydrates for energy but carbohydrates are the first to go.

    The idea behind the Atkins Diet is that by drastically reducing your carbohydrate intake, your body will use up your fat stores first.

    The Atkins Diet is a meat lover’s dream! People who love ‘rich’ foods such as cheese and butter will also like it.

    Discover lots of Atkins Diet recipes here.

    Atkins diet

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    Why could the Atkins diet be bad for you?

    The Atkins Diet is not very easy for vegetarians to follow and is not recommended for anyone with diabetes, heart or kidney problems.

    Critics claim the lack of fruit and veg you’re allowed, especially in the first two weeks of the diet, means you miss out on important vitamins and minerals.

    Low fibre intake can cause constipation . The high levels of saturated fats Atkins dieters are encouraged to eat also worries some doctors.

    What do you do on the Atkins diet?

    There are four phases of the Atkins Diet:

    1. Induction
    2. Ongoing Weight Loss
    3. Pre-Maintenance
    4. Maintenance

    The induction phase lasts two weeks and is the strictest. Dieters can only eat 20g of carbohydrates a day (less than a cupful of cooked vegetables). The rest of their foods must be fats and proteins – bacon for breakfast and steak for dinner are both encouraged!

    After the two week induction period, dieters are gradually allowed to eat more carbs so you can add in some fruit, veg or whole grain foods. You’re not supposed to return to eating foods full of refined sugar though, so white bread, cakes or pasta made with white flour will be off the menu for good.

    When you’ve lost the weight you wanted to lose, you’re taught how to stay that way in what’s called the maintenance phase.

    Alcohol is strictly banned in the early stages of this diet, although later on you’re allowed the occasional glass of wine.

    What can you eat?

    Red meat, chicken, cheese, eggs, fish and shellfish are all allowed.

    You can cook with butter, put mayo on your tuna and drizzle your salads with olive oil.

    Typical day’s diet:

    Breakfast: Cheese and mushroom omelette, decaffeinated coffee with single cream.
    Lunch: Chicken breast with melted blue cheese and a green salad.
    Dinner: Steak served with spinach topped with soured cream.
    Snack: Two slices ham.

    Top tip

    If you can’t resist a glass of wine, have red instead of white as red wine tends to contain less sugar.

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