(I thought I'd start this so some of the more common questions can be answered quickly in future. Don't make a sticky of it - people never seem to read the stickies - just bump it.)
1. Hello! I'm thinking of starting Atkins.... So what should I do/what's it about, then?
Hello in return! First, get yourself a copy of one of the Atkins books and have a read. It's far better to understand the hows and whys of this diet before jumping in to it - Atkins works in a way you may find contradicts any other diet you've done.
If you really really want to jump in right now, go to the stickies section and read 'so you're thinking of starting Atkins' which has an allowed food list and some good advice.
2) How many carbs should I eat per day and how do I calculate 'net' carbs?
On induction - which is at least the first two weeks of your diet - you should eat no more than 20g carbs per day. 15g of those carbs should come from allowed vegetables.
DO NOT COUNT NET CARBS. Yes they talk about them in the book. Unfortunately the book is targeted at an American audience and has never been properly updated for the uk. Net carbs do not exist in the UK - the fibre count is already deducted from the carb count on our labels. When you're counting carbs, just go by what the label tells you. Do not add or subtract anything.
3. Can I have Atkins bars in induction? Also I've found this website selling low carb sweets/bread/pasta...
It's not recommended that you have Atkins bars at any stage of this diet. Yes, the website and the books say you can have two per day. The company that makes the bars also owns the website and publishes the books and would like to take your money.
Here's the thing. Atkins bars contain maybe 2g 'net' carbs. In this case they mean carbs from traditional sources. They then contain 20g or more carbs from the chemical sweeteners and fillers they put in and, because these things don't affect our bodies like real food does, the Atkins company is allowed to say these carbs don't count. They do count. One of the sweetener they use, maltitol, has been shown to have the same effect on the body as a glass of orange juice - which is very high in sugar and not low carb at all.
These sweeteners, called polyols or sugar alcohols, are also (like real alcohol) burned by your body as fuel ahead of fat. So if you're eating polyols you're not burning fat. Their weird chemical ability means they won't take you out of ketosis - but they're no good for your loss.
Although there will always be someone who tells you they eat Atkins bars and other low carb sweets and still lose, twenty more people find out that they're stalled. Keep Atkins bars or low carb sweets for emergencies only.
The dreamfields pasta was discredited a long time ago for similar reasons - diabetics found it had the same effect on their insulin levels as normal pasta. Other low carb products, breads etc, stall some people and not others. It's up to you to decide if you want to take the risk, but do look at the recipes section for lots of desserts and bread type recipes that are better for you.
Personally, I buy 1 carb ketchup and davincis syrups and thats all.
4. What's the best sweetener to have then?
Atkins approved stevia (also known as truvia) and Splenda. Aspartame is also ok if you're not squeamish about it. It's better to buy tablet rather than granulated sweetener - the granulated stuff has carby filler mixed with it. For a truly zero carb sweetener with no blood sugar effects try liquid sucralose - like hermestas. Often stocked in chemists and available online.
5. I've found these crisps/crackers/crisp breads and they're only 5g carbs each so I can have them, right?
It's not a great idea. Bear in mind that 15g of your daily 20g of carbs should come from allowed vegetables. It may not matter where your calories come from on a calorie counting diet, but where your carbs come from does matter. Wheat, potato etc should be avoided as it can cause insulin spikes which will cause you problems and may stall you. Atkins lets you reintroduce things like this as you're getting ready to maintain your weight, but they should be avoided while losing.
5. I've cheated and eaten *insert high carb treat* have I ruined everything???
No. The only way of ruining an attempt at any diet is by giving up completely.
6. But I've put on 5lbs overnight!!!
Yes, unfortunately that is a side effect of cheating on Atkins and its why it's not a good idea to do it. You know that big weight loss you get in the first week (provided you haven't just come from another diet)? Most of that was what we call water weight. When your body goes into ketosis - starts burning fat for fuel instead of carbs - your body sheds its stores of water. You can have 5-15lbs of stored water!
The problem with cheating on Atkins is that as soon as you 'cheat' and eat something very high carb, you risk coming out of ketosis and your body refilling its water reserves. If you've gained a significant amount of weight overnight it is always always water.
So the good news is that it's not fat and getting back on plan will have you shedding that water weight in no time. The bad news is that while you're out of ketosis you won't be burning fat so you'll likely stall yourself for the week of your cheat, or a little longer if it was a longer cheat. Do that regularly and you'll derail your losses.
Atkins and low carb is not a diet where one bad day can be balanced out by a good one the next. It's not very forgiving and it's best to limit any off plan days to very special occasions.
7. I want to do Atkins but the idea of eating fat freaks me out!
Try Dukan. Atkins is a low carb, moderate protein, high fat diet. Just like you need to drink lots of water to stop yourself retaining water, you need to eat lots of fat to help your body burn fat.
The fat you eat won't be metabolized and stuck on your hips, I promise. It also won't raise your cholesterol or cause heart attacks. In fact the Atkins diet is consistently proven to be heart healthy. If you absolutely can't cope with the idea of eating fat, I really do recommend taking a look at Dukan, which is low fat, moderate carb, high protein. Never force yourself to do something that doesn't feel right.
8. How much weight will I lose?
Provided you're not coming straight in from another diet, you'll probably have a loss of between 5-10lbs over the first week or two. Some people lose more in that time, some a little less. It is mostly water weight but you'll be slimmer and feel less bloated for getting rid of it. A lower loss may just mean you didn't have as much water weight to lose.
After that Atkins has the same average weekly loss as any other diet - roughly 2lbs per week. Some (usually those with more to lose) lose faster and some (usually those with less to lose) lose slower. Often it won't come off in a stable pattern - you may lose 1lb each week for two weeks, then 3lb the next. Atkins is a diet famous for stalls and wooshes but the average usually works out.
9. Help! I'm only in the 2nd/3rd week and I've stopped losing weight!
Don't panic, this is totally normal. In fact the majority of people stall or have a slow week very early on. It's probably just your body adjusting to dropping all it's stored water and changing to its new, fat burning system.
10. I'm on my 3rd/4th/5th day and I feel awful. Will having a sandwich/apple/chocolate binge help?
No. This is known as Atkins flu - it is essentially your body going through withdrawal from carbs and it doesn't feel good (though not everybody gets it). If you stay on plan it will only last a day or two. The only way to get through Atkins flu is to keep on plan. If you eat carbs all you'll do is set yourself back to the start.
If you feel bad at any point on Atkins, you may not be eating enough vegetables. Remember you should be getting 15g daily carbs from these.
11. What if I feel dizzy or have achy legs?
It's likely to be a slight salt imbalance. Add a little more to your food or drink some bouillion.
12. I want dessert!!!
Have some. Try the Swiss roll in the recipes section. Boil up some rhubarb (technically a vegetable and allowed on induction) with sweeteners and have it with cream. Mix a tsp of cocoa powder (not hot chocolate - try bourneville or green and blacks but make sure it's their cocoa) with cream and sweetener. Ask for more ideas on the board!
13. I want bread!!!!
Go to the recipes section and try mims, flax pancake wraps or oopsie bread.
14. What sausages / branded products can I have?
Lots - there's a good shopping list in the stickies section to help you avoid things like sausages containing breadcrumbs. Always read labels before you buy.
15. I want pasta!
Noodles made from courgette will stun you with how good they are.
16. I want milk in my coffee!!
Try switching to alpro unsweetened soya milk light. Barely any carbs. Alternately try watering down a little cream. Milk has lactase sugars and is quite high in carbs.
17. How long should I stay on induction for?
As long as you want, it is completely safe. It's best to do at least two weeks to begin with if you have more than a stone to lose, but beyond that it's up to you.
18. How many calories should I be eating? How much fat? How much protein?
The lower your carb intake, the less you need to count calories. It's not a good idea to eat less than 1200 per day. If you're a woman then 1500 per day is a good average but there's no need to worry if you're over or under - this diet does not work like other diets do. You're burning fat so your body needs more calories.
How much fat at protein depends on your calorie intake for the day. You're aiming to get 65 percent of your daily calories from fat, 30 percent from protein, and 5 percent from carbs. Bear in mind there are 9 calories in a gram of fat compared to 4 calories in a gram of protein, so you don't need to eat pure fat to get to those percentages - cook with oil and butter, eat cheese and mayo and the skin on your roast chicken and do it guilt free. Enjoy.
19. Can I drink alcohol on this diet?
Not for the first two weeks. After that, technically yes, if it's clear spirits or low sugar. In practice it tends to stall people much like sugar alcohols can - because you won't be burning fat while your body is using the booze for fuel. Drinking also lowers your resistance to carby snacks! If you're a drinker, try and keep it moderate or occasional.
20. I am moving from a vlcd to Atkins - will I still lose?
Yes you will but don't expect the big first week loss - you already lost your water weight on your vlcd. You may well sts or even see a small gain in your first week of switching over, as your body adapts to a different reason for being in ketosis - less carbs, more calories. But after this transitional period you'll have the same rate of loss as anyone.
21. How do I track my carbs and ratios?
Here's how I do it. I use an app called my fitness pal on my phone - it also has a website. It allows you to add all your daily food (when adding vegetables always include the supermarket name in your search - tesco cucumber - or you may get American carb values with the fibre added into their carb count). Then it gives you various tracking read outs.
Here is an example.
First I put in all the food I'm planning to eat today.
Then I check how many grams of carbs there are in what I'm eating. If I'm doing induction, I want to be under 20g.
Then I check out the ratios. If I'm under 20g carbs but my fat is too low, I might add a bit of cheese or some butter in my cooking to bump that figure up. But the ratios are less important than just keeping under 20g carbs.
22. I have another question!
Ask it below and someone will help - if it's a common one I've forgotten I'll also stick it up here.
In the meantime, go over to the diaries section, see other peoples menus. Check out the recipes. Scroll back on the main board right here and you may find your question has been answered.
Welcome to the Atkins bandwagon!