The Atkins Induction Phase: Phase 1 Food Restrictions

Pros, Cons, and Alternatives to Atkins Induction Phase

Cobb salad in glass bowl
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The Atkins Diet's Induction Phase is an essential part of the Atkins Nutritional Approach. Now, Atkins materials indicate that the Induction Phase is not absolutely necessary. Is this because Induction seems to draw a lot of criticism from anti-low-carb health professionals and other critics? I don't know, but I do have some thoughts on the whole question of Atkins Induction.

What Is Atkins Induction?

Induction is the first phase of the Atkins Diet and is meant to last for two weeks.

It is highly restrictive, limiting food choices mainly to proteins and low-carb vegetables. A maximum of 20 grams of net carbs is allowed daily. (Note that the books and the website even differ in the amount of vegetables allowed during Induction.)

"Beginning with Induction is your choice -- you can begin Atkins at any of the four phases. However, Induction will jump start your weight loss as you cut back significantly on carb consumption." --Atkins Web Site

The Positive Side of Atkins Induction

This phase is meant to kick start the diet by forcing the body to convert from using carbohydrates for energy to using fat. It also tends to cause a large amount of weight loss. Untold numbers of people have found this to be helpful in starting them onto a new low-carb way of eating, and I am not going to be one to question their experience. Anything that helps people make a healthy change to healthy eating is wonderful in my book.

The Negative Side of Atkins Induction

On the other hand, it's clear to me that Induction isn't for everyone. My heart sinks every time I hear someone say that they tried Atkins but quit because it was "too hard." I think, "there goes someone else who could have been helped by cutting carbs but was turned off by an approach that is very restrictive." The fact is that most people don't need to cut carbs this much to get the benefits, and there is nothing wrong with starting the Atkins Diet at a higher carb level, as the quote at the top of this page attests.

Further, I think that the way Induction is described in some of the books is even more restrictive, and even confusing, than need be. For example, the books usually restrict vegetables to three cups of salad, or two cups of salad and one cup of non-starchy vegetables. Without further explanation, this could be unnecessarily low in carbohydrates, as one cup of shredded lettuce contains about half a gram of net carbs. The new instructions on the Atkins website say to get 12 to 15 grams of net carbs from vegetables, which is much clearer.

The Pros and Cons of the Atkins Diet

Alternatives to Atkins Induction Phase

Consider this: a lot of people go on low-carb diets which don't cut carbs quite as far as Atkins Induction, and they have great results in terms of weight loss and all the other health benefits low-carb diets can offer.

One approach may be to start out following all the rules of induction, but be prepared to loosen up if you find that you are on the verge of quitting altogether. Another might be to start at a higher carb level, such as 30 or 40 grams per day.

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