The popular low carb diet plan the Atkins Diet is a program which contains four phases: Induction, Ongoing Weight Loss (OWL), Pre-Maintenance and Maintenance. The first phase, Induction, is the toughest, but it is required to cause the body to start to work in the way that it needs to for the Atkins Diet to be successful.
The induction phase lasts for two weeks, though if you are responding well to it and not finding it difficult, you can continue for longer – particularly if you have a lot of weight to lose – as the weight loss in this phase is generally more dramatic than in the OWL phase that follows.
During induction, you can only take in 20 grams of carbohydrate per day, and all of these must come from green vegetables. This means you can’t eat any other carbohydrates at all. The list of allowed foods during induction is (apart from these limited portions of green vegetables to get your 20 grams of carbs) all proteins and fats. You can eat most types of meat, fish, shellfish and eggs, and you can use butter and most types of oil in cooking. You can also eat cheese, although as it does contain a small amount of carbohydrate you do need to count it in your 20 grams for the day when you do.
For beverages, you have to avoid alcohol during induction (even alcohol with no carbs in it such as vodka), because alcohol is another source of energy the body will use before it uses fat, and most people have to avoid caffeine, although some can get away with drinking coffee, tea or Diet Coke without it affecting the diet. Water is the preferred drink, however you can also have decaffeinated coffee and sugar free diet sodas, and if you want to sweeten any of your beverages you can use Splenda; real sugar is completely forbidden.
The Induction Phase works by starving your body of carbohydrate so it goes into a state called “benign ketosis”. This is where your body switches from using carbohydrate as its primary source of fuel, to using fat – both the fat you eat and the fat stored in your body.
The human body is designed to be able to run on either carbohydrate or fat (or alcohol, which is why you can’t have any during Induction), and can healthily manage on either of these. Benign ketosis is the state where your body is using fat as its fuel source instead of carbs, and as it does this, a byproduct called ketones is released in your breath and your urine. This is why some people notice the “Atkins breath” with people following the plan, which smells sweet, much like pear drops. To check that the diet is working, you can use Ketostix, a product usually used by diabetics that is available from all pharmacies, to test your urine. The darker shade of pink or purple the ketostix turn, the deeper into ketosis you are.