As you probably know, the main premise of Atkins is lowering your net carb intake enough to unlock the gate that keeps you from primarily burning fat for energy. The initial amount that works for just about everyone is 20 grams of net carbs a day. So for at least the first two weeks, your objective is to stay at or very close to that number. The classic way to stay on track is to count grams of net carbs. You can use a pocket-sized carb counter for this or download the Atkins Carb Counter and Acceptable Foods List at Atkins.com to find the net carbs in many of your favorite foods. This allows precision as long as your portions match those listed in the counter. For most packaged foods, you’ll have to read the Nutrition Facts Panel to find the carb count, subtracting fiber from total carbohydrate to calculate net carbs.
Another way to keep track of how much you are eating is by tracking your portions. The New Atkins for a New You book features approximate serving sizes (with net carbs) for a variety of food allowed on every Phase of Atkins. The longer you stay on Atkins, the easier it will become to gauge your portion sizes and net carbs each day.
From my experience with Atkins, I have discovered there are two schools of thought when it comes to how much or how little you track. For some people, writing everything down is second nature. For others, that can become too much of a burden and lead to burnout. The key is to find the approach that works best for you.
Keep in mind, that if self-control is not your strong suit, estimating carb count with portions may mean that you’re actually consuming too many carbs to kick-start fat burning and weight loss. Moreover, all vegetables don’t have the same carb counts, so this method may short-change your vegetable intake. During Induction, you need to make sure you’re eating 12 to 15 grams of your net carbs in the form of foundation vegetables.
A combination approach may work best for some. Count your net carbs the first two weeks, by which time you’ll not only know the carb content for your favorite foods, but also have a handle on the results of that level of carb intake. Then switch over to the carb portions approach. If your results continue to be good, you clearly can do without counting carbs. This approach will make it easier for you when you start adding 5-gram increments in OWL, because you’ll already know how to count.
Be sensible, not obsessive, about both carbs and portions. You needn’t split hairs about whether a serving contains 0.4 or 0.8 grams of net carbs. Round anything under 0.5g down to 0g and anything above 0.5g to 1g. Nor need you count calories, but we do ask you to use a little common sense. If you’re humming along losing weight easily, forget about calories and counting everything. But if the indicator on the scale won’t budge or it seems to be taking you forever to lose, you might want to do a reality check. On average, women should shoot for a range of 1,500 and 1,800 calories a day. Men should aim for 1,800 to 2,200. Whether you’re on the lower or higher end of the range depends on your activity level and if you’re losing weight. If your weight loss as stalled, it may be time to start tracking and journaling in more detail than you have before, at least for two weeks, so that you can get a realistic idea of any areas where you could improve.
There are a variety of great tools within the Community section of Atkins.com that allow you to track your daily progress and food intake as much (or as little) as you want. You can use the Meal Planner to create your weekly and daily meal plans, which allows you to incorporate recipes from Atkins.com and Atkins products, plus you can customize your meal plan with your own favorite foods and recipes, complete with net carb count for each dish. You can also the My Journal section for any additional notes on your progress or food intake.
The bottom line? There is no right or wrong answer when it comes to how much or how little you track your daily carb intake. As long as you are achieving your weight-loss goals, stick with what works for you.