- Diet & Weight Loss
Reasons Why It's Tough to Stay On The Low Carbohydrate Atkins Diet.
Foods Excluded From the Atkins Diet
The controversial low carbohydrate diet popularized by cardiologist Robert Atkins in his 1972 book, has quietly been undergoing changes since its introduction.
In its induction phase the Atkins diet restricts carbohydrate intake to 20 grams a day, excluding bread, grains, pasta, fruit, starchy vegetables, legumes, seeds, nuts and most dairy products from its food list, while emphasizing the intake of fats such as mayonnaise, butter, cheese, cream, and protein from bacon, red meat, fish, poultry and eggs.
It surprised no one that the Atkins diet would evolve because those who sought to lose weight, hoped for a boost in their energy level, prevent high blood pressure and metabolic syndrome, couldn't endure the restricted diet long term, and many left the diet plan, not to mention the constant drumbeat they heard that the Atkins diet may be harmful to their long term heath.
The fundamental difference between the Atkins diet and the traditional diet springs from disagreement on the energy source the body should use to maintain its metabolic functions. The Atkins diet recommends the consumption of foods high in fats to force the body to burn body fat for energy.
The traditional diet which includes grains, legumes, dairy products and some processed foods and drinks, allows the body to do what it has always done naturally, and that is, use glucose from carbohydrates for energy.
Although, the body prefers glucose for energy, it has 2 other sources of energy, which are protein and fat. Nature did this to ensure the body would have access to sufficient energy to maintain its vital functions under a broad range of conditions, including times when food is plentiful, when food is scarce, and when food is not available for an extended period of time, say 30 - 40 days.
When there is sufficient glucose in the blood the body uses glucose as its preferred source of energy, because like a low hanging fruit glucose is easier to convert to energy. When glucose is used up, the body goes to the muscles for glycogen, which is converted to glucose by the glycogenolysis process. After the body has used up the glucose and glycogen in the body, would it start burning body fat for energy.
You could say, burning body fat for energy is like reaching for the high hanging fruits, which the body would prefer not to do when there is glucose and glycogen. Consequently, in order to burn fat for energy as the Atkins diet recommends, the body has to be deprived of carbohydrate, and put under tremendous stress to force it to burn fat for energy.
And knowing the damage stress does to the body organs, the lesser stress the better, but this is not so with the Atkins diet, at least not in the induction phase.
How Your Body Digests Food For Energy
So far we have been talking about the kinds of energy sources available to the body, now let talk about where these energy sources come from. They come from the foods and drinks we consume. During digestion large food molecules are broken down into smaller molecules that the body can absorb.
Upon entering your stomach, food is recognized by your body not as bread and meat, but as carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins and minerals during the 18 - 20 hours it takes for food to travel from when it enters your mouth, through the esophagus, into the stomach, through the intestines, and makes its way out as feces.
When the digestive system has completed breaking food down into micronutrients, with the help of bile salts from the liver and pancreatic juices, millions of microscopic projectiles called villi on the walls of the small intestine absorb the micronutrients into the bloodstream.
By this time, carbohydrates have been broken down into glucose, fructose and galactose; protein into amino acids; and fats into fatty acids and glycerol, these two combined to form triglycerides in the bloodstream.
Before the nutrients-rich blood from the stomach and intestines join the bloodstream, first it flows through the hepatic vein into the liver where harmful substances including ammonia, bilirubin, and drugs are removed from the blood, and sent on its way to be oxygenated by the lungs and pumped into the arteries by the heart to more than 37 trillion cells throughout the body.
Is The Atkins Diet For You
So far, we know the Atkins diet is opposed to glucose as an energy source for the body, because it claims glucose increases blood sugar level, and the risk for other health problems. It also opposes the use of protein as an energy source because of the risk of altering the body's nitrogen balance, and the loss of muscle tissue that would occur. The Atkins diet's preferred source of energy is fat, which of course is not without its own health problems.
In its induction phase, the Atkins diet eliminates whole groups of foods such as bread, grains, pasta, fruit, starchy vegetables, coffee and most dairy products. This means the diet will be low in certain nutrients including fiber, calcium, potassium and magnesium. Not to mention the fruity breath, the headaches, the dizziness and increased irritability, as a result of the restricted Atkins diet.
As if these were not enough, the increased intake of fats such as mayonnaise, butter, cheese, cream, and saturated fats and cholesterol from bacon, red meat and poultry would certainly increase the blood levels of fatty acids and cholesterol, and increase the risk for heart disease.
Unless you are willing to undertake an aggressive physical exercise regimen everyday to burn all excess fatty acids in your blood, the increased fats intake and decreased fiber intake recommended by the Atkins diet should be of some concern to you.
Under normal conditions, when food is plentiful, as in all western countries, the body would burn fat for energy only when it is forced to do so by depriving it of carbohydrates, which explains why the Atkins diet restricts carbohydrates intake. But even in this case, if there is excess protein in the body it would be converted to glucose and used as energy, which is why the Atkins diet also keeps a lid on protein intake.
Certainly, while the Atkins diet is designed to achieve weight loss, and promote all the benefits associated with healthy weight levels, it tries too hard to achieve what other diet plans achieve with less effort and less restrictions on what you can eat.
With so much going on in your life, from when you wake up in the morning to when you put your head down to sleep, you don't want to increase your stress by constantly worrying about every morsel of food you put in your mouth, as the Atkins diet tends to make you do. There is a better way out.
Go to choosemyplate.gov, and plan your meals on the advice provided on the site. Unlike the Atkins diet, the wide spectrum of food groups recommended by "choosemyplate.gov" would provide your body all the nutrients, vitamins and minerals it needs to keep you healthy and robust. The only problem with this traditional diet is that it is not designed to lose weight, and while on it you would start gaining some weight.
But no need to panic about this. The weight gain can be remedied with regular physical exercise. One recommended by your doctor that takes into consideration your physical and health conditions.
While regular physical exercise is not like a leisurely walk in the park on a Sunday afternoon, it beats the Atkins Diet hands down. Regular physical exercise comes with these benefits:
1. Deep breathing increases oxygen intake and strengthen your lungs
2. Blood circulation improves to supply oxygen and nutrients to your cells
3. Your cells do their job, which is to keep your organs and tissues healthy
4. Healthy organs and tissues translate into a healthy you.
5. Your digestion improves to extract the nutrients your body needs
6. Your bowel movement improves and prevents bloating and fecal impaction
7. Your mood improves, prevents depression and you are able to sleep better
At your present age, whether in your 40s, 50s or 60s, when you stay on this simple nutrition and physical exercise routine, it will improve your health condition. I am not saying you should stop taking your medication, or stop going to see your doctor. What I am saying is your health will improve to where your doctor may take you off some medication, and you will spend less time in your doctor's office, and more time in your 80s and 90s doing things outdoors with your grandchildren. If this is not something to look forward to, then I don't know what is worth looking forward to.
If you are not hindered by any health or physical condition, and can eat the recommended meals on "choosemyplate.gov", in moderation of course, and can do the recommended regular physical exercise, you don't need the Atkins diet to maintain your health for the long term. You will do fine without the food restrictions, and the probable long term health effects associated with the Atkins diet.