Atkins Diet – The Basics

by Donald Raddell
(Tenby, UK)

The Atkins Diet has been around a while, in fact, it first appeared in the late 1970s. The popularity of the diet is sensational, as it is a household word now that most everyone has heard of. The diet is based on a theory of why we get fat.

In recent years there has been a low-fat diet craze, but as dieters had trouble with low-fat diet plans they searched for a new solution; Dr. Atkin’s New Diet Revolution book was the answer.

Countless people jumped on board the Atkins bandwagon, and because of that, a lot of rumors and hype has been the result. That has left people wondering what the true principles of the Atkins diet really are.

The Atkins Diet book teaches that over-consumption of carbohydrates and simple sugars leads to weight gain. In essence, the way the body processes carbohydrates has more to do with weight gain than the amount of fat or calories consumed.

Dr. Atkins outlines a phenomenon called ‘insulin resistance’, which theorizes that many overweight individuals have cells that do not work correctly.

When our bodies are functioning correctly, as excess carbohydrates and sugar is eaten insulin is released from the pancreas in order to store sugar as glycogen in the liver and muscle cells for extra energy later on.

But the body can only store so much glycogen at one time. When the body reaches its limit for glycogen storage any excess carbohydrates are stored as fat. This is true of everyone, regardless of their body weight.

But it’s important to note that insulin resistant individuals have an even harder time using and storing excess carbohydrates. The more insulin that our body is exposed to, the more resistant it becomes. Overtime, the pancreas releases more insulin and the cells in our body become insulin resistant.

This is a protective mechanism – the cells are trying to protect themselves from the toxic effects of high insulin. They create less glycogen and more fat.

The result is insulin resistant individuals gain extra weight because the carbohydrates get converted into fat instead of energy. Other side effects can include fatigue, brain ‘fog’ (the inability to focus, poor memory, loss of creativity), low blood sugar (which can leads to hypoglycemia), intestinal bloating, sleepiness, depression and increased blood sugar. Obviously, weight gain is only one of the issues at stake when you are insulin resistant.

The treatment for people who are insulin resistant is a diet low in carbohydrates. The root of the Atkins diet is restrictions of carbohydrates in all forms.

The foods restricted on the Atkins plan include simple sugars (like cookies, sodas and sweets) and complex carbohydrates (like bread, rice and grains). This even includes healthy carbohydrates such as oatmeal, brown rice and whole wheat bread.

Because the diet restricts your carbohydrate intake to less than 40 grams a day your body is put in a state of ketosis. While in ketosis, your body will be forced to burn fat as fuel.

According to Dr. Atkins’ research, the ketosis state will also affect insulin production and it will prevent more fat from being formed. Your body will begin using your stored fat as an efficient form of fuel, and you’ll lose weight.