Farewell To The Atkins Low Carb Diet
Atkins Nutritionals recently announced that they are filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. It seems that the "low carb craze" was nothing more than just a passing fad. Well my friends I have come to both praise and bury the Atkins Diet.
I first discovered low carb diets about 15 years ago -- well before their recent popularity. My first introduction was by way of a book entitled "The Endocrine Control Diet." Like the Atkins Diet and other low carb diets for that matter, it was based on a severely restricted carbohydrate intake -- less than 50 grams of carbs per day. You put your body into a state of ketosis and force it to burn fat instead of glucose.
I was amazed at how quickly I was able to drop weight on the diet. If memory serves correctly, I dropped 15 lbs in little over a week. Sure, a portion of it was water and muscle weight, but I also dropped quite a bit of body fat. I could tell it was fat because my waistline shrunk substantially.
The "Endocrine Control Diet" was strict about keeping carbs low and remaining in a state of ketosis until you reached your weight loss goal. This was tracked on a daily basis by peeing on Keto Strips to make sure you were still in ketosis. I stayed on the diet for about 2 months before reverting back to my former diet. The interesting thing was that I was able to keep my weight down for another 3 months before getting back up to where I was before the diet.
I should mention that during the diet that I was lifting weights and doing cardio exercise on a regular basis. I sincerely believe that this factor was vital in retaining lean muscle mass while dropping as much body fat as possible while on a calorie restricted, low carb diet.
In the intervening years I tried other low carb diets that were all variations on the same theme. The one constant for me was keeping up with my weight training and cardio exercise. Each and every time I was able to drop 15 - 20 lbs in as little as 3 weeks and keep it off for at least 3 months after stopping the diet.
The biggest problem I have with low carb diets is that I'm personally unable to stay on them for more that 3 months at a time. It's just too damn hard! Let's face it I like my carbs. Being of Italian extraction I was raised on pasta and bread. I also love Chinese cuisine with extra rice and have a fondness for potatoes. All of these foods are taboo on a low carb diet!
In the end, a low carb diet is not very realistic or very sociable for that matter. I've never been too worried about the health effects though. I've had my cholesterol checked both on and off the low carb diets and there have been no variation in the readings even when I've consumed extra fat during some of the diets. My total cholesterol has always hovered around 200, which could be lower, but is the cutoff for a normal level.
Now that I know the power of a low carb diet to quickly take off weight, it will always be part of my fitness arsenal. The real secret is to combine the diet, and any diet for that matter, with a program of regular exercise that includes both weight training and cardiovascular exercise.
I think the best approach is to cycle your diet plan like professional bodybuilders do. Target a period for when you want to be at your leanest like the summer months at the beach or a high school reunion or wedding and start a low carb diet about 2-3 months out. You'll hit your peak right when you're ready to go back to your normal eating habits and you can count on staying lean for several weeks afterward.
The real secret is to always stay within 10-15 lbs of your "fighting weight" and know that you can get there in a hurry with a low carb diet.
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