Analyzing Atkins

Atkins-diet-plansEveryone jumped on the bandwagon of the Atkins Diet a few years back, and many trainers have worked tirelessly since to get them to jump back off. As in any diet, there are aspects that warrant fantastic results and some that are ignored because those results may do irreversible damage to your body. This article will expose the Atkins Diet in its true form, and, in turn, the reader will be informed enough to make their own choice.

You can start in any phase of the plan that you want to, however your ‘choice’ comes from your weight-loss goals, and how far you need to go to accomplish them.


Phase 1 is where most people start and stop in the Atkins Diet, and it is also where a majority of the problems arise.  Here, Atkins permits the consumption of 20 Net Carbs daily.[1] Normally, a person’s intake of carbohydrates (not just net carbs) should account for about 50-60% of their caloric consumption. On a 2,000 calorie diet, that’s around 250-300 carbs per day. The Atkins Diet suggests about 10% of your daily calories should be carbs.


Carbohydrates supply energy, plain and simple. Proteins aid in building and repairing muscle, whereas fat and carbs supply the energy your body needs to participate in physical activity. If you consume an excessive amount of carbohydrates, your body will store some of them- sometimes in the form of fat cells.

The Atkins Diet often sees weight loss because of its policy on carbs. When your body is demanding energy, but it does not have any carbohydrates to call upon, it will burn stored fat. So, without any carbs for your body to burn during workouts or while you’re typing away at fitness articles, your body will begin to shed body fat. Depending on how much activity and the intensity of those activities you perform without carbohydrates to call upon, weight loss can occur exponentially.

Protein is critical in bodily function and weight loss. Atkins advocates for consuming high amounts of protein (mostly through animal products), which is typical of most diets. Protein is a great source for calories because whatever your body doesn’t use, it excretes it through waste.[2] When your body has access to a plethora of protein, it is more capable in building muscle fibers and repairing damaged muscles. In this sense, the Atkins Diet allows the subscriber to aptly respond to exercise and its effects on the body.


If you are lowering your intake of carbs, than sufficient calories have to come from somewhere. The diet consists of primarily proteins and fats, which is atypical of normal dietary suggestions. People like this because it allows them to eat things they enjoy- like cheese, fried food, and the like. Restricting your diet to those two nutrients may – or may not – lead to weight loss, but it also affords the body the conditions for ketosis, and plaque buildup in the arteries; and these have behavioral effects.

Ketosis is a consequence of your body burning off an excessive amount of fat cells in the absence of saccharides (carbohydrates). It creates an acid by-product called ketones; and a disproportionate amount of ketones in the blood is not only toxic, but also harmful to major organs.  The kidneys usually suffer the most – with an increasing risk of kidney stones and kidney failure the longer Ketosis persists.

Plaque buildup comes from ingesting high amounts of cholesterol and fat, which the Atkins Diet permits. Plaque causes artherosclerosis, or “hardening ateries,” which comes from LDL cholesterol. LDL cholesterol is largely found in animal products – meat, eggs, and milk. As your arteries thicken and the plaque builds up, you run a higher risk for heart attacks, strokes, and heart disease. More recent studies have illustrated the potential for arteries in other limbs can become clogged too, such as your legs. If plaque persists to build up, you can restrict blood flow to the extent that your limb may need to be amputated – but that is in extreme cases, and are long-term effects of a low-carb diet.

Without sufficient carbs in your diet, behavioral issues may result. Fatigue is typically the first symptom to arise – being that you don’t have energy coming from nutrition, but rather coming from stored cells. Dizziness and weakness are found to be consequences of an extremely low consumption of carbohydrates, especially during intense workouts, because your body does not have sufficient energy to keep up with physical activity.


After having lost the majority of the weight you anticipate, you enter into your second phase. Here, you can re-introduce your body to a few more carbohydrates… but ones that have a surfeit number of other nutrients. Carbs from sunflower seeds, avocadoes, brussels sprouts, squash, and so on, are acceptable forms of saccharides.


There aren’t really any added benefits from this phase aside from those in Phase 1. The only one that I’ve found is the emphasis on good carbs. Refined sugars are bad for the regulation of your insulin levels, and typically store as fat more often than complex carbs (good carbs). By stressing the consumption of the better half of the carb spectrum, your body is better equipped to sustain higher energy levels over long periods of time. However, switching to higher quality carbs is prevalent in nearly all diets, and is not exclusive to the Atkins approach to fitness.


Phase 2 usually extends to the second month, or even further in the Atkins Diet. The negative consequences mentioned earlier become more problematic as you continue the Atkins approach. More plaque coagulates in your ateries, and you run a higher risk for heart attack, heart disease, and strokes; ketones carry on to impact the way your organs function; and you may continue to experience those behavioral issues.

Although the risk for heart attack, heart disease, and stroke are long-term effects and/or only worries in older participants, it isn’t something to be taken lightly. These effects are detrimental to your health, and are essentially irreversible.

Ketogenic issues are both long-term and short-term, and the effects worsen the longer you are in the state of ketosis. Because Phase 2 does not allow the body to ingest a sufficient amount of carbohydrates to supply adequate energy levels and extends well beyond a 1 month period, your body will inevitably suffer from problems in Ketosis.


Phase 3 begins when you are about 10 pounds from your weight goal. This could be months, or in extreme cases, over a year! You are permitted to add 10 Net Carbs every week that you continue to lose weight. Once you begin to gain weight, you have to cut back on your intake. When you reach the weight that you’ve been striving toward, you stop adding carbohydrates to your diet.


Phase 3 is great because you come to realize the equilibrium in your diet – the percentage breakdown of how many calories should come from carbs, fat, and protein (often referred to as “macronutrients”). This is probably the best stage in the Atkins diet. because it allows you to regulate the proper amount of carbohydrates you get. At this point, you ascertain the quantity of carbs that is not harmful, but rather sufficient in supplying your body with energy. The philosophy of your carbohydrate consumption reflecting the energy you are burning is something everyone should try to attain, and not just those that follow the Atkins approach.


There really aren’t any. Finding the equilibrium your body needs to survive is critical, but it should be introduced earlier on in the Atkins approach. Aside from that, moving into this stage is probably the thing your body needs most at this point. It isn’t entirely because the Atkins diet is sound, but more so because your body needs to get out of ketosis and have an adequate supply of energy that isn’t consumed fat or stored fat.


After having reached your goal weight in Phase 3, and maintaining that weight for a month, you are inducted into Phase 4. The equilibrium of carbs-protein-fat you reached in Phase 3 is what you are supposed to stay at for the rest of your life.


Maintaining a consistent diet is fantastic for the body. It can regulate efficiently by anticipating what nutrients it’s going to receive, and it also helps when trying to uphold a certain weight.


If you sustain the same diet chronically, you are not accounting for the way your life changes. A year from now, you will not be expending the same energy in the same way; meaning, you may need to supply your body with more or less energy, depending on your lifestyle. It isn’t a good idea to eat the same way forever; rather, your diet should reflect your energy expenditure. This is a problem in all diets, and is not exclusive to the Atkins approach.


I do not condone, not recommend the Atkins Diet; keep in mind, I am not a physician.

That being said, there are too many problems that the Atkins Diet surfaces that cannot be resolved. Contributing to Artherosclerosis (increasing the risk for heart disease, heart attack, and strokes) and living in Ketosis (damages organ functions, adds toxicity to the blood, and primarily leads to kidney damage) are unforgivable consequences.

Keeping your body in ketosis is very harmful, and it would be far more beneficial to lose weight from adequate exercise and dedication to weight loss. Moreover, running a higher risk for heart disease and strokes are not affordable gambles for anybody. There is too much at stake, namely your life, to subject your body to just to lose weight quickly.

Every benefit the Atkins approach promises – weight loss, lowering the risk of diabetes, wellness – are results from all diets and training programs. The Atkins Diet offers nothing unique to participants. Diet plans that are not low-carb aid in accomplishing weight loss goals, without running risks for heart problems and ketosis.

Essentially: Atkins advocates for weight loss in a way that can be extremely harmful and/or deadly to followers, whereas the benefits of Atkins can be met through other plans without running into those same problems.

My opinion on the Atkins Diet: There are better diet plans and better programs than Atkins Diet, and I could never condemn a client, friend, nor family member to the Atkins Diet while knowing how negatively it can impact your body.



[1] To figure out Net Carbs, you take total carbs (x) and subtract fiber (y), which gives you net carbs (z): X-Y=Z.

[2] Although, there are select protein chains that store as carbohydrates, but those are nearly completely relevant because these amino acids are in the family of casein phosphoprotein. This is about 80% of milk protein. Only a portion of phosphoprotein produce carbs, and the rest produce minerals and other proteins. Casein protein doesn’t produce enough carbs to be worried about, so our concern shouldn’t be focused on how much of the protein stores as carbs/fat.


About Nick

Nick Levato has been involved with the fitness community for over 8 years. Not only is he a Certified Personal Trainer but, has also been trained in martial arts. Nick has overseen the training of many individuals spanning all ages and fitness goals; and experimented most diets; for competitions, cutting, vegetarian, and general diets to coincide with weight training at the time. In addition to training on an individual level, Nick has also taught many group classes. He takes pride in pushing himself to his limits in the gym and in his everyday life.

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