Low-carb diets generally restrict the number of grams of carbohydrates you can eat in a given day. How many you're allowed varies slightly depending upon the low-carb diet you're following and the specific diet plan. The two most popular low-carb diets are Atkins New Diet Revolution and the South Beach Diet. Both of these diets have three stages.
The beginning stage of a low-carb diet generally lasts for two weeks and is designed to help your body kill sugar cravings. This beginning stage also gives you a quick drop of pounds, which helps keep you motivated to stick with the plan. To help with the initial weight loss and cravings, your daily carbohydrate intake is quite low. On the Atkins diet, you limit yourself to just 20g carbohydrates per day; the South Beach diet limits you to 30g. The beginning stage is meant to last for just two weeks, however, many people stick with this extremely low-carbohydrate eating plan for months so they can continue dropping weight quickly.
The middle stage of a low-carb diet is the most important, because it is designed to help you determine how many grams of carbohydrates you can eat each day while still losing weight. Since each person's body responds differently to food, you learn about your specific body's needs in this middle stage by slowly adding carbohydrates to your daily eating plan. For example, if you were eating 20g carbs per day during the beginning stage, then you would try 25g for a week or two to see how your body responds. If you're still losing weight at that level, then you would try eating 30g per day. You continue this process until you reach a level of carbohydrate intake that still allows you to lose 1 to 2 lbs. per week.
Some people are able to raise their daily carbohydrate intake to as high as 50g and continue losing weight, while others' weight loss will slow considerably at half that amount.
The last stage of a low-carb diet is often referred to as maintenance. It is meant to be a lifestyle change that helps you maintain your new body weight indefinitely. Once you have reached your weight loss goal, you add enough carbs to your daily eating so that you neither gain nor lose anymore. Depending upon how your body responds, ongoing maintenance can range from 30g to 100g of carbohydrates each day.
- Dr. Atkins' New Diet Revolution; Robert C. Atkins; 2002
- The South Beach Diet; Arthur Agatston; 2003