atkins diet review

The Atkins Diet

The Atkins Diet is one of the most famous diets on the face of the planet. Its surge in popularity a few years back means that even people who have no interest in health and fitness have heard about the Atkins Diet.

There are a lot of misconceptions floating around about the Atkins Diet. The intention here is to give an unbiased account of this diet so you can make an informed decision as to whether the Atkins Diet is for you.

I’ll tell you exactly what the Atkins Diet it is, how to do it, how much effort is involved, how to prepare, what food to eat, and I’ll also answer some of the frequently asked questions about this diet.

What Is The Atkins Diet?​​​​

The Atkins Diet is a low-carbohydrate diet that is promoted as helping with weight-loss. One of the many reasons for its popularity is due to followers of the diet raving about how you can eat as much fat and protein as you want as long as you don’t eat high-carbohydrate food.

The diet is named after Dr. Robert C. Atkins who wrote a supremely popular book about the diet in 1972. Back when Dr. Atkins wrote a book, the mainstream belief about healthy diets was that fat was bad for you.

We now know that saturated fat isn’t the demon the media once made it out to be and is in fact healthy if it comes from healthy sources and isn’t paired with high-glycemic carbohydrates (1).

We now know that diets high in good fats and protein and low carbohydrates are fantastic at improving good cholesterol and blood sugar levels. We also know that restricting carbohydrates is a very effective way to lose weight.

How Do You Do The Atkins?

Simply put, you eat foods high in healthy fats and protein and stay away from foods high in carbs. The Atkins Diet has four stages, which might seem to make things a little more complicated but it’s actually quite easy to follow. The four stages of the Atkins Diet are as follows:

  • Phase 1 (Induction) - Under 20g of carbs per day for 2 weeks. Eat high fat and high protein to jump start your weight loss. You can also eat low carbohydrate vegetables.
  • Phase 2 (Balancing) - Add more nuts and low carb vegetables back into your diet.
  • Phase 3 (Fine tuning) - You can add more carbs into your diet as you get closer to your desired weight.
  • Phase 4 (Maintenance) - Now you can eat healthy carbs as long as you don't regain weight.

These phases are not set in stone and I personally like to see them as recommendations. You might wish to stay in the induction for a long time. I stayed in the induction stage for months until I needed to reintroduce carbs and went straight to the fine-tuning stage.

Some people have adapted the Atkins Diet and eat within the induction stage 5 or 6 days out of the week and then have carbs 1 or 2 days. This is known as a cyclical ketogenic diet and I can attest to its effectiveness. The key is to experiment and see what your unique body personally responds to.

Afetr Phase 1, You Can Slowly Add Back Carbs

Despite the popular belief that Atkins is just protein and fat, it is quite flexible on carbs.  It is only during the ​first phase - Induction phase - that you need to cut the carbs drastically.  This phase is only 2 weeks long (although some people choose to drag it out for longer).

After these 2 weeks you can slowly add back in healthy carbs.  These include fruits, vegetables, potatoes and legumes.

However you may find that staying relatively low carb is something you will have to do for a long time and potentially for life.  Going back to the same habits is likely to cause you to put on weight again which is ​typical of most fad diets.

How Much Effort Is Involved? 7/10

At the beginning it takes some effort to consciously figure out if foods have carbs and to make sure you are eating fat and protein and not carbs. But once you’ve got that figured out, it can be pretty easy and you can follow the diet on autopilot.

However, for some people the willpower factor can be quite off-putting. I personally find protein and fat very satiating (and so do many people) but many people might miss their high-carb foods.

If you can get through the four phases, you may find that your body can tolerate certain levels of carbs without adding the fat. But you should focus on dropping the fat first.


The first step to prepare for the Atkins Diet is to read up on exactly what you can and can’t eat. I have included a list here so you’ll know what foods are good to eat on this diet and what foods you can’t eat.

A key step is making sure that high-carb foods are out of the house. Indulging in them can really screw up this diet. It’s easier not to eat them if you don’t have them around you in the first place.

The next step is to set a goal. How much weight do you want to lose with the Atkins Diet? Why do you want to lose the weight? Write your goal down.

Maybe you want to lose 10 pounds to fit into those new jeans or lose 70 pounds so you can look good without your shirt on. Whatever it is, write it down and refer back to it when you need motivation. It will help you bust through any tough times.

Your next step should be to tell the people around you that you are going on the Atkins Diet. Tell them why you are following the diet and let them know what you can and can’t eat. You can also clear up any misconceptions loved ones may still have about the diet.

What foods Can You Eat On The Atkins Diet?

Here are some examples of the foods you can eat on the Atkins Diet:

  • Meat: Beef, lamb, chicken, pork, bacon.
  • Fish: Salmon, tuna, sardines, tilapia.
  • Eggs: Get Omega-3 ones.
  • Low-Carb Veggies: Kale, broccoli, spinach asparagus, avocado.
  • Dairy: Butter, cheese, cream, full-fat Greek yoghurt.
  • Nuts and Seeds: Almonds, Brazil nuts, walnuts, chia seeds.
  • Healthy Fats: Extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, avocado oil.

What Foods Can’t You Eat On The Atkins Diet?

Here are some examples of foods you can’t eat on the Atkins Diet:

  • Sugar: Soft drinks, fruit juices, candy, ice cream, cakes.
  • Grains: Wheat, rye, barley, rice, pasta.
  • Vegetable Oils: Soybean oil, corn oil, canola oil.
  • Trans Fats: If it’s in processed food and hasthe word “hydrogenated”, stay away.
  • High-Carb Veggies (induction phase): Carrots, turnips, beets.
  • Starches (induction phase): Potatoes, sweet potatoes.
  • Legumes (induction phase): Lentils, chickpeas, beans.

What Are The Benefits Of The Atkins Diet?

  • Improves skin
  • No hunger pangs
  • No calorie counting
  • Improved cholesterol
  • Improved blood sugar
  • Reduction in blood pressure
  • Reduces risk of heart disease
  • Helps autoimmune problems
  • Improved focus, energy and clarity
  • Reduces inflammation (due to lots of healthy fat and reduction in carbs)
  • It works for weight loss.  If you follow it correctly, the results are outstanding.

What Are The Negatives Of The Atkins Diet?

  • Can be boring
  • Can be too strict
  • Can make eating out difficult
  • Reduced fruit and grain intake
  • Counting net carbs can get annoying
  • Rebound weight gain if you carb-binge
  • You can get irritable when entering ketosis (induction phase)
  • Decreased energy levels (especially if not used to low-carb)

Exercise And The Atkins Diet

You can still exercise as normal when following the Atkins Diet but you might need to adapt your training.  For me personally, I found it more difficult to do endurance cardio. I remember I went to a 2-hour Krav Maga lesson one time during the Atkins Diet, which involved lots of cardio, and I was red in the face and feeling deflated by the end of it.

Of course this doesn't last forever.  There are many endurance athletes who follow a low carb diet so it is possible long term to train your body to fuel on fat rather than carbs.

The exercise types best suited to the Atkins Diet are those that fall under the category of anaerobic exercise. That basically means high intensity interval training (HIIT) cardio and explosive weightlifting.

You want short bursts of activity and should keep your training under ~45 minutes.

If you lift weights, I recommend choosing compound exercises and lifting heavy weights for low reps. Here are some exercises I recommend for those following the Atkins Diet:

  • Bench press
  • Pull ups
  • Squat
  • Overhead press
  • Deadlift
  • Bent over rows

Here is a sample high intensity interval training cardio routine for those of you that love to run on the treadmill:

  • Minutes 1-3 – (Warm-up) Light walking
  • Minutes 4-5 – Fast jog (~7kmph)
  • Minutes 5-6 – Walk (~3kmph)
  • Minutes 6-7 – Run (~8kmph)
  • Minutes 7-8 – Walk (~3kmph)
  • Minutes 8-9 – Fast run (~9kmph)
  • Minutes 9-10 – Walk (~3kmph)
  • Minutes 10-11 – Fast run (~10kmph)
  • Minutes 11-12 – Walk (~3kmph)
  • Minutes 12-13 – Sprint (~12kmph)
  • Minutes 13-17 – Walk
  • Minutes 17-18 – (Warm down) Light walking

Can You Follow The Atkins Diet If You Already Have Food Restrictions?

To be honest, it might be difficult for some people with food restrictions to follow the Atkins Diet. For example, I wouldn’t recommend the Atkins Diet for vegetarians or vegans.

You could do the diet as a vegetarian and rely on soy based proteins and eat nuts and seeds, as well as use coconut oil and olive oil for your fats.  It may prove  very difficult though.

It can also be hard for anyone that has a dairy intolerance because the Atkins Diet relies quite heavily on butter and cream. However, you can of course eliminate dairy as long as your find other adequate sources of protein and fat.

The Atkins Diet could be good for those that need to go gluten-free because the Atkins Diet removes some of the main gluten offenders, namely grains.

Atkins For Weight Loss – Does It Work?​​​​

Yes, the Atkins Diet does work for very well for weight loss. You can easily lose a pound a week on the Atkins Diet. However, it is important to keep in mind that how much you lose is dependent on your current body fat level and how much you need to lose.

If you’re very overweight, you could lose a lot more than a pound a week on the Atkins Diet. If your bodyfat levels are already nearing the single digits, the weight loss will be less dramatic. It’s not uncommon to lose 5 or more pounds in the first week as a result of losing water weight.

How Does It Work?

When you drastically restrict your carb intake, your body is basically forced to tap into stored fat for energy. This is called ketosis and results in the body burning your unwanted belly or thigh fat instead of glucose, which you typically get from carbs.

When you eliminate carbs and rely pretty much solely on healthy fats and protein, you also improve your blood sugar levels. Less blood sugar spikes means less chance that your body wants to lay down fat.

Protein and fat are also very satiating forms of food that will keep you fuller for longer and help you moderate how much you eat.

mary ullery atkins diet weight loss succes

Atkins Diet Results And Success Stories

If you want to see how powerful the Atkins Diet can be for weight loss and general health, all you need to do is check out some of the fantastic success stories over at the Atkins website:


How Can I Make Sure I’m Getting A Balanced Diet?

As you’ll see from the four phases listed in this guide, the Atkins Diet focuses on reintroducing low-carb vegetables throughout the diet in greater quantities. This helps ensure you’re getting the minerals and nutrients that you need.

How Long Can I Stay In Phase 1?

I stayed in phase 1 for months. Many people stay in phase 1 for as long as they need to lose weight because this phase has the greatest fat-burning potential.

As long as you stay healthy, you can stay in phase 1 as long as you want but a good rule of thumb is to start introducing carbs back into your diet around 6 months into the Atkins Diet.

Is It Dangerous To Rapidly Lose Weight?

It depends on how much you have to lose and whether or not the weight comes back on. If you need to lose 200lbs, the Atkins Diet is naturally going to result in fast weight loss, which is often a good thing because it will help to improve your health.

If you’re already very lean, you don’t want to lose lots of weight rapidly and should move slowly towards your goal or otherwise risk health issues.

How Many Calories Can I Have On The Atkins Diet?

The Atkins Diet is not a calorie-counting diet. The Atkins Diet counts net total carbs and requires you to keep them under 20g in phase 1. With each phase you can bump up that amount in 5-10g increments so long as your body can tolerate it.

Where Can I Find Out More?

For more answers to common questions, the Atkins website has a fantastic FAQ section that is quite comprehensive. I highly recommend you check it out here:

The Atkins Quick Start Kit

My top recommendation is to register on the Atkins website. You’ll get a free Atkins Diet Quick-Start Kit, which will be a big help and you’ll get a coupon for any Atkins product.

atkins starter kit bundle

You can also customize your own meal plans on the website and print off your personal shopping list. ​

​There are also over 1600 recipes and tools for you to monitor your progress. You can also get the support of the other Atkins followers. Sign up here:

Websites And Forums

The Atkins website is obviously one of the best resources on the subject of the Atkins Diet. If you’re considering following the Atkins Diet, you should try to read as much as possible on this website:

The Atkins Diet Bulletin Board is another great place to hang out if you’re thinking of following the Atkins Diet. Whatever question you have, I’m sure it’s already been answered. And if it hasn’t, you can ask it and get responses from knowledgeable people:

It’s also worth checking in to the Atkins Diet Facebook group so you can keep up to date about what’s going on and maybe even meet other Atkins Diet followers:

For tips and advice on following the Atkins Diet, Eating Atkins is a great blog with tons of yummy recipes and ideas:


​Dr Atkins New Diet Revolution Book

​Robert C. Atkins

​If you’re going to follow the Atkins Diet, you absolutely should read the book written by the man himself.
dr atkins diet revolution book review

​The New Atkins For You Cookbook

​Colette Heimowitz

​This is one of the best Atkins Diet recipe books with 200 hundred simple recipes that will take you less than 30 minutes to cook up.
the new atkins for a new you cookbook

​Atkins Endulge Bars

​I really like the Atkins bars and shakes. Although I personally think the Atkins Diet is quite easy to follow most of the time, I still miss my treats. The Atkins bars make me forget all about the chocolate bars I’ve given up. I recommend this flavor, Nutty Fudge Brownie.

atkins endulge bars

​Atkins Ready To Drink Shake

​Atkins also has a great range of ready to drink shakes for moments when you have no time but want to stay on the Atkins diet.

atkins ready to drink shakes

​Dr Atkins New Diet Revolution Book

​​​Robert C Atkins

dr atkins diet revolution book review
​If you’re going to follow the Atkins Diet, you absolutely should read the book written by the man himself. 

​The New Atkins For You Cookbook

​Colette Heimowitz

the new atkins for a new you cookbook
​This is one of the best Atkins Diet recipe books with 200 hundred simple recipes that will take you less than 30 minutes to cook up.


​​​​Endulge Bars

atkins endulge bars

​​I really like the Atkins bars and shakes. Although I personally think the Atkins Diet is quite easy to follow most of the time, I still miss my treats. The Atkins bars make me forget all about the chocolate bars I’ve given up. I recommend this flavor, Nutty Fudge Brownie.


Ready To Drink Shakes

atkins ready to drink shakes

​Atkins also has a great range of ready to drink shakes for moments when you have no time but want to stay on the Atkins diet.

Wrapping Up

The Atkins Diet is another love it or hate it diet. If you love it, you’ll really love it. As long as you follow the Atkins Diet philosophy and banish carbs, you will experience some fantastic weight loss results! Try it out for a month or two to see how your body responds. I’m sure you will love it!

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