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How does the Atkins Diet work?

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Updated February 15, 2014

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Question: How does the Atkins Diet work?
The Atkins Diet is a popular low carb diet plan that focuses on reducing your intake of specific foods in favor of consuming more protein-rich foods. It requires stringent attention to the amount of carbohydrate in the diet.
Answer: The Atkins Diet reduces your carbohydrate-intake to less than 40 grams a day and you will enter a bodily process called ketosis. (Ketosis is a state in which your body burns fat as fuel.) The author of the plan, Dr. Robert Atkins, wrote in his books that ketosis affects insulin production, which will prevent more fat from being formed. Another effect of ketosis is that your body begins efficiently using fat as fuel and you may find your cravings for carbs subside.

In order to follow the Atkins Diet plan, you must begin monitoring and controlling your carbohydrate-intake. There are specific foods that are allowed and not allowed during certain portions of the plan. In particular, you must refrain from eating "bad" carbs such as processed, pre-packaged foods and junk foods like cookies in favor of a protein-rich diet.

The Atkins Diet consists of four stages: induction, ongoing weight loss, pre-maintenance and maintenance. Induction requires limiting carb-intake to 20 grams a day. Ongoing weight loss allows you to increase your carb intake by five grams. Maintenance (having hit your goal weight) means you may introduce more carbs back into your diet -- you must choose healthy carbs instead of refined carbs (like white bread). If you re-gain weight, you can restart the plan again at any time.

To learn more about The Atkins Diet, visit How to do the Atkins Diet or How to Get Started by the About.com low carb diets Guide.

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