The Four Phases of the Atkins Nutritional Approach

The Atkins Nutritional Approach (ANA) is a plan that teaches you to personalize your eating plan over the course of four phases. The plan begins with Phase 1, which initiates weight loss, and progresses through Phase 4, which helps you to maintain a healthy weight for a lifetime. In addition to the food plan, the ANA includes supplementation and regular exercise. It is a permanent lifestyle change, rather than a “diet” that you go on and off of.

What Is the ANA?

The ANA includes regular protein intake, a balance of natural fats and an individualized amount of whole and unrefined carbohydrate foods. Controlling the quality and quantity of your carbohydrate intake can help you to stabilize your blood glucose and insulin levels. These are often out of balance due to a variety of reasons including weight gain, genetic factors, chronic stress and the excessive intake of poor-quality carbohydrate foods.

This article will familiarize you with the phases of the Atkins Lifestyle. It is not meant to provide you with all of the information you need to successfully follow the Atkins plan. In order to be truly successful, you’ll need to make a commitment to your health and take the time to prepare yourself for the task. Before you make any changes in your diet, be sure to read “Dr. Atkins’ New Diet Revolution” (Avon, 2002); if you have diabetes or perhaps have been diagnosed with pre-diabetes, also read “Atkins Diabetes Revolution” (Harper Collins, 2004).

The Four Phases of Atkins

Phase 1: Induction

This phase takes a minimum of two weeks. During this time, insulin and blood glucose levels begin to improve, hunger decreases, energy increases and other blood glucose–related symptoms also begin to improve. By the fourth day or so, you will begin to burn fat and notice a significant decrease in hunger and cravings. During this phase, you are allowed approximately 20 grams of carbohydrate foods per day in the form of salad greens and low glycemic index vegetables. For a complete list of vegetables to choose from, see “Dr. Atkins’ New Diet Revolution”, which is available at bookstores everywhere.

Phase 2: Ongoing Weight Loss

Many people can advance to this phase after two weeks of the induction phase, especially if weight loss is their only goal. This phase offers the opportunity for you to personalize your program, not just to ensure continued results, but to allow you to choose which carbohydrate foods to add to your meals. Your goal for this phase is to find your “Critical Carbohydrate Level for Losing,” or the amount of healthy carbs you can eat and continue to lose weight.

Phase 3: Pre-Maintenance

You move to this phase when you are within 5 to 10 pounds of your goal weight. Phase 3 is an important phase because you deliberately slow weight loss to less than one-half pound a week by adding those foods that are higher in carbohydrates. This gives you the time to instill permanent changes in your eating habits, which is essential for long-term success. When you have reached your goal and have not lost any weight for about one month, you have moved into Phase 4.

Phase 4: Lifetime Maintenance

When you reach this phase, you should have found your Critical Carbohydrate Level for Maintenance. You will know how many healthy carbs you can eat and still maintain your goal weight.

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