The Program: How Does the Atkins Diet Work?
Your Ally, the Atkins Edge
One of the first things that people new to Atkins notice after the first few days is their newfound ability to pass on sweets and starchy snack foods. This is not just a matter of psyching yourself up to the task, but an actual diminishment in appetite that occurs a week or so after you start controlling your carb intake. This precious gift is one of the benefits of the Atkins Edge. What is it and how does it work?
When you curb your intake of carbs and eliminate junk food carbs from your diet, you convert your body from burning primarily glucose (sugar) from carbs to burning primarily fat for energy. Within a few days any residual glucose from carbohydrates in your blood stream or cells is used up and you begin to tap into your body’s fat stores. (You’ll always burn carbs for energy first, but you switch over to fat burning sooner.) So the Atkins Edge is simply the metabolic adaptation to burning primarily fat for energy.
Vanquishing the Metabolic Bully
Now that you’ve met the Atkins Edge, let us introduce you to its arch enemy, the metabolic bully. If you struggle with a metabolism that can’t handle the high carbohydrate load typical of the modern, processed-food diet, you’re probably all too aware of the effects of the metabolic bully, although you’ve likely never called it that. The metabolic bully blocks the burning of stored fat. That roadblock is a high blood insulin level resulting from a diet that includes too many carbohydrates. As long as you eat lots of carbs (and the wrong ones to boot), your body keeps shooting out insulin to signal the glucose from carbs to leave your bloodstream and enter your cells. Insulin is known as the fat hormone for good reason. As long as you’re producing lots of insulin, it acts as a roadblock to burning your body fat.
Fortunately, your body will behave differently if you feed it differently. When you do Atkins, you rebalance your intake of carbohydrate, fat and protein, removing the roadblock to burning fat for energy. All you have to do to banish the metabolic bully that in the past has threatened to take over your life is to activate the fat-burning switch. Somewhere toward the end of the first or second week, you’ll probably feel a dramatic increase in your energy level and sense of well-being. That’s a clear signal that you’ve got the Atkins Edge.
In addition to the using your body fat for energy, this perfectly natural metabolic adaptation has a number of other related benefits. Among its beneficial effects, the fat-burning of the Atkins Edge:
- Provides a consistently high and steady stream of energy, rather than the ups and downs typical of a glucose metabolism.
- Moderates hunger and carb cravings.
- Gives you a sense of mastery as you realize that you’re capable of modifying your responses to certain situations and temptations.
Keeping the Edge
It’s important to understand that the Atkins Edge is a tool you’ll use for life, not just while you’re working toward your goal weight. Once you know how it feels to have the Edge, you’ll notice when you don’t have it and know to take immediate action to restore it. For instance, as you get closer to your goal weight, you may get a little sloppy about tracking your carb intake. So here’s the test: If you’re at or just below your carb threshold, it’s normal to feel comfortably empty at times without having to feel hungry. But if you’re above your carb threshold, feeling empty always triggers hunger. If you feel extremely hungry before meals, or if you experience binge eating, you’ve lost the Atkins Edge. Try reducing your average daily carb intake until the hunger or urge to binge goes away and you’ll have the Edge back.
Once you’ve reached your goal weight, if you exceed your carb tolerance (Atkins Carbohydrate Equilibrium, or ACE), you’ll find it harder to control your appetite and feel satiated, with the result that you’ll almost certainly regain lost pounds. You’ll lose the Atkins Edge and the metabolic bully will rear its ugly head again, blocking fat burning. Once you’ve burned up your excess fat pounds, there’s no reason your metabolism can’t continue that same burn rate for fat—keeping the Atkins Edge—as you maintain your new weight. But you’ll probably have to slightly increase your intake of foods such as olives, avocado, sauces, and salad dressings to continue primarily burning fat—with all the benefits it provides. With the Atkins Edge at your disposal, permanent weight control is within your grasp.