The Program: Phase 1
Supporting You During this Phase
Here you'll find the most-often asked questions about Phase 1 of the Atkins Diet—along with answers. Also check out FAQs about Phase 2, Ongoing Weight Loss and FAQs for Phase 3, and Pre- Maintenance.
Q. Do I have to start Atkins in Phase 1?
A. No. You can start in any of the first three phases. If you have just a few pounds to lose, up to about 15, you can probably start in Phase 2 (Balancing) at 25 to 30 grams of Net Carbs a day. If you are heavier, you can also start here, but it could take considerably longer to lose weight without the kick-start that you get in Phase 1. You can also begin in Phase 3 (Fine-Tuning) at, say, 45 grams of Net Carbs a day if you have very little weight to lose or are willing to shed it very slowly.
Q. Do I have to count carbs if I follow the meal plans exactly?
A. No. However, it’s unlikely that you’ll follow them to the letter day in and day out unless you eat every meal at home, so it’s a good idea to use the Atkins Carb Counter. Also, if you aren’t precise about serving size, you may be consuming more carbs than the meal plan indicates. In any case, it’s important to know how to count carbs (actually, grams of Net Carbs) as you start to add back more foods. Counting provides a double check that improves your likelihood of success from the start.
Q. Must I have two snacks a day?
A. Not necessarily. If you’re having four or five small meals a day, you may not feel the need for snacks, but be very careful not to go more than four to six hours between meals. Instead, have a hot drink, perhaps a cup of broth.
Q. What is water weight loss?
A. The first few pounds you lose on any weight-loss program are primarily water, and Atkins has a particularly diuretic effect. That’s why it’s essential to drink plenty of water and other fluids, eat your foundation veggies, and take a multivitamin-mineral supplement to replace the electrolytes you’ll be flushing out of your body along with the excess fluid. After the first few days you’ll be losing primarily body fat.
Q. Can I eat as much protein and fat as I wish?
A. No. Eating excessive protein will make you sluggish and interfere with weight loss. Overeat fat and you’ll burn it and not body fat for energy.
Q. Why do I have to drink so much water?
A. Most people are borderline dehydrated all the time. Drinking enough fluid helps flush toxins from your body, combats constipation and bad breath, lubricates your joints, and is important to your overall health. Staying hydrated also assists with weight loss. Remember, some of your water requirement can be satisfied with coffee, tea, or other clear beverages, including broth.
Q. Most bacon is sugar or maple cured. Does that mean I can’t eat bacon?
A. Bacon is fine in moderation. Any residual sugar from the curing process in bacon, ham, or other pork products is burned off when you cook it.
Q. Why do the carb counts for some vegetables differ depending upon whether they’re raw or cooked?
A. Cooking compacts vegetables such as spinach or cabbage significantly. Carb counts reflect the cooked amount. Chopping or grating a vegetable also compacts it more than slicing does, and that impacts the carb count as well.
Q. Can I have dessert in Phase 1?
A. Yes, as long as you get your quota of foundation vegetables and don’t exceed your Net Carb daily limit. A dessert should contain no more than 3 grams of Net Carbs per serving. An Atkins Endulge bar or one of our dessert recipes is a good choice.
Q. Can I eat more carbs one day if I cut back the next?
A. By maintaining a constant level of carb intake from day to day, you’re more likely to keep your blood sugar on an even keel. But a range of 3 or 4 grams of Net Carbs from one day to the next should not create a problem as long as your average intake is consistent. If you do overindulge one day, simply return to your current level the next day.
Q. Why can’t I do Atkins during the week and then take the weekend off?
A. Doing so will mean that you’re consistently returning to a primarily blood sugar metabolism for two days. It then takes several days to reignite your fat-burning engine. Stopping and starting, known as “carb cycling,” will lessen the likelihood that you’ll lose weight or keep it off.
Q. Will drinking caffeinated beverages interfere with weight loss?
A. Caffeine itself doesn’t slow weight loss. Drinking a few cups of coffee or tea each day actually produces numerous health benefits. However, have your beverages without sugar or honey. Noncaloric sweeteners are okay, but have no more than three packets a day. Also lighten these beverages with cream, half- and-half, or acceptable dairy substitutes, not milk.
Q. Can I consume beer, wine, or other alcohol in Phase 1?
A. No. However, once you transition to Phase 2, you can consume moderate amounts of most alcoholic beverages, assuming it doesn’t interfere with weight loss.
Q. If the object is to stay at 20 grams of Net Carbs a day, why can’t I have Atkins bars and shakes or a slice of bread instead of all those vegetables?
A. You’re not just tracking your carb intake; you’re also aiming for a well-balanced meal plan full of vitamins and other nutrients provided by vegetables, along with fiber to help manage your hunger. One slice of bread might represent the balance of your daily carb intake in Phase 1, which would put your blood sugar back on the roller coaster.
Q. Why can’t I drink tomato or orange juice with my breakfast?
A. The juicing process removes all or most of the fiber in fruit and vegetables, concentrating the sugar hit. You’ll be able to introduce tomato juice in Phase 2. In Phase 3, oranges and other citrus fruits are acceptable.
Q. Why is cream allowed in Phase 1 but not milk?
A. Strange as it may seem, milk is higher in carbs than cream, thanks to the lactose (a form of sugar). In Phase 2 you can reintroduce small amounts of whole milk. Or dilute cream with some water, if you prefer.
Q. I’m experiencing cravings for sweets and other high-carb foods such as muffins, bread, and chips. How do I stay in control of my appetite?
A. Most likely your blood sugar levels have not yet stabilized, which usually occurs after the fifth day on Atkins. Once you’re burning fat for energy, it acts as a natural appetite suppressant. Sometimes women have cravings right before their menstrual period. Or you may be going too long between meals or snacks, eating foods that contain hidden sugars or grains, or not consuming enough fat. When you experience cravings for high-carb foods, have an Atkins Advantage bar or shake, half a Hass avocado, some cheese, or some olives instead. Hunger and cravings can also be confused with thirst, so drink up.
Q. I am having a hard time staying motivated. What should I do?
A. It’s definitely easier to achieve any goal with someone who has your back. Find a buddy who wants to lose weight too, whether it’s your significant other, a friend or family member or someone in the Atkins Community. He/she can help you stay on track and achieve your goals.
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Disclaimer: Nothing contained on this Site is intended to provide health care advice. Should you have any health care-related questions, please call or see your physician or other health care provider. Consult your physician or health care provider before beginning the Atkins Diet as you would any other weight loss or weight maintenance program. The weight loss phases of the Atkins Diet should not be used by persons on dialysis or by pregnant or nursing women.