Carbohydrates, also referred to as starches, are your body's main energy source. The Atkins Diet requires that you drastically reduce your carbohydrate intake, so your body uses its fat storage for energy. This fat-burning state is known as ketosis. To successfully achieve a state of ketosis, and to lose weight, the Atkins Diet encourages you to follow their four phases.
Phase 1 - Induction
The induction period of the Atkins Diet is a minimum of two weeks. During this phase, which is the most restrictive of all four phases, you are allowed 20 g of carbohydrates daily. It's recommended you stay in this phase until you lose half your intended weight loss. Carbohydrates must come from non-starchy, nutrient-rich vegetables such as endive, celery and iceberg lettuce. Include up to 6 ounces of protein in each meal. Get protein from foods such as pork, beef, veal, fish, lamb, oysters, clams, cheese and eggs. Prepare foods in fats such as canola oil, olive oil or butter. Use Stevia or artificial sweetener (Atkins prefers Splenda) to sweeten coffee and tea; other acceptable beverages include water, broth, and club soda. Those staying in induction longer than two weeks can gradually add high-fat, low-carb dairy foods such as hard cheeses, cream and sour cream.
Phase 2 - Ongoing Weight Loss
After induction, the ongoing weight loss (OWL) phase allows you to add 5 g carbohydrates daily, in weekly increments. Increase your carbohydrate intake until your weight loss maintains at 2 lbs. per week. According to the Atkins website, you can achieve this with a carbohydrate intake ranging between 30 and 60 g daily. Add nuts, seeds and berries to the foods allowed in the first phase, to increase your carbohydrates. Include 1/4 cup of strawberries or raspberries or indulge in 30 almonds or 50 pistachios to make up your extra 5 g of daily carbohydrates. Other allowed foods include small portions of low-carb bread, sugar-free ice cream and low-carb yogurt.
Phase 3 - Pre-Maintenance
Enter the third phase once you have only 10 lbs. left to lose. Find out the maximum amount of carbohydrates you can eat daily and still lose weight. Add 10 g of carbohydrates daily, in weekly increments. Monitor your weight loss. When you stop losing weight, it means you have surpassed your carbohydrate limit. Reduce your carbohydrate intake gradually, until the weight comes off again. The extra carbohydrates you consume can come from starchy vegetables such as white potatoes, carrots, squash and yams, and from grains such as oatmeal, brown rice and whole-wheat pasta. Enjoy bananas, watermelon, cherries, apples, legumes and beans during this phase.
Phase 4 - Lifetime Maintenance
Once you reach the fourth phase of the Atkins Diet, you know how many carbohydrates you can consume on a daily basis to maintain your achieved weight loss. You've learned how your body responds to certain carbohydrates and you've adapted a new lifestyle. In the fourth phase, you consume the same foods as you did in the third phase; if desired, you can introduce new starchy foods into your diet. Monitor your body's reaction to the new foods to avoid unwanted weight gain.