Thursday, February 16, 2012

Atkins Snack Choices

We live in a society of nibblers. Long gone are the traditional three square meals per day. Today, people eat at their desks, catch a snack in the afternoon and eat late night goodies. Most, if not all, of these snacks are carbohydrate based and full of sugar. This poses a challenge to people who are trying to follow the Atkins plan. Snacking is a necessary part of keeping your blood sugar up, but most packaged snack foods are forbidden on the plan.
Sweet snacks are high in calories, full of empty carbohydrates and offer no nutritional value. But they sure are popular. There is actually a Snack Food Association that tracks sales of packaged snack foods. It is estimated that Americans eat 3.1 billion pounds of chocolate. Snacking has increased more than a third since 1988. Sales of snack foods gross over $30 billion a year.
If you’ve been a snack food junkie you’ve become used to eating carbohydrates of the worst kind. Snack foods are made from highly refined carbohydrates like white flour, white sugar, corn meal and corn syrup. They are high in trans-fats (which is a contributor to clogged arteries). All in all, they are probably one of the worst food choices you could be making.
But there is hope! You can conquer your love of snack foods by making Atkins-friendly snacking choices. Before you can make the switch, make sure to educate yourself. Understand just how dangerous trans fats can be by reading up on them. Then read the ingredients label of your favorite snack foods. You may be shocked to discover how many trans fats, artificial flavorings and preservatives that you are eating.
Next, get rid of all of the snack foods in your house. If its not there, then you can’t eat it. Junk food is not good for anyone in your home so ignore your family’s complaints and do what is best for the health of everyone.
Now you’ll need to replace those snack foods with some better choices. Giving up your snack foods is not the same as giving up snacks. Snacks should be a part of your daily eating plan because it will help you from becoming too hungry and indulging in high-carbohydrate treats.
There are plenty of low carbohydrate snacks that are easy to make and simple to have around the house. String cheese sticks or small cheese rounds are very easy to keep in the refrigerator. Meat snacks are also a good choice. You can buy jerky strips and other meat products that keep well for long periods of time. When you buy cheese or meat sticks, make sure to read the labels carefully for hidden carbs.
There are low carb instant soups available that are very easy to make and satisfying if you are craving something hot. Low carb soy chips and celery can help with “crunchy” cravings. Try adding peanut butter or cream cheese spread to add more protein to these snacks. Also, you can’t beat a handful of nuts for a high-protein, quick snack.
All of the previously mentioned snacks are good for the initial phases of the Atkins diet and beyond. If you are past the induction phase, you can enjoy berries with cream as a snack. There are also many acceptable fruits that make good snacks for the pre-maintenance phase.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Atkins Criticism

The Atkins diet is very popular, but it also comes with a lot of criticism. Health experts, doctors and diet specialists come from all different opinions when it comes to the Atkins diet and other low carb diets. Some believe that it is dangerous, some say that it is a healthy method to lose weight and others say that it works on a short-term basis.
However, there are also thousands of individuals who have found success with the Atkins diet. They can speak from personal experience and know that the diet works and it is an effective means of keeping weight off. There are thousands of testimonials that tout the benefits of the low carb way of living.
There are many typical criticisms of the Atkins diet. One of the first is that the diet it too high in fat. The butter, oil and fatty meats that are used in the Atkins diet are a far cry from the low-fat diet fad that recently swept the nation. For many people, the low fat mindset has prevailed and they cannot fathom eating real butter or cream with their meals. It seems like too much fat at first glance. However, those that pay close attention to Dr. Atkins guidelines and follow the program closely know that the diet focuses on good fats. Extra virgin olive oil and other helpful fats are emphasized. The proper use of these oils is important to brain function and mood management.
Another popular Atkins criticism is that it focuses too much on food and not enough on exercise. This is an unfair claim because the Atkins books clearly spell out a need for exercise. There is a lot of attention paid to food choices because they are an integral part of the program, and they are different foods than what people are normally used to eating. However, this does not mean that exercise is not an integral part of the Atkins program. Aerobic and anaerobic exercise regimens are encouraged, and both will greatly increase your weight loss efforts.
Many Atkins critics feel that the diet is hard too keep up in the long term. Critics in this category will admit that Atkins is effective in short-term weight loss efforts, but point out that the lifestyle is hard to maintain over time. However, people who have had long term success with Atkins claim it is one of the easiest diets to follow for significant periods of time. The Atkins plan has rich food that is forbidden on other programs, and it has appetite-suppressing effects. When you combine this with the quick weight loss, a motivating factor for many people, Atkins is easy to stick to long term.
The side effects of Atkins, like constipation and bad breath, have also been a topic that Atkins critics are quick to point out. However, these side effects are not as common as critics make them out to be. If they do occur, the side effects normal only last through the first phase of the diet. Additionally, drinking additional water will normally take care of both problems rather quickly.
There are pros and cons to many diets. If you don’t particularly enjoy preparing and eating meat, then Atkins is probably not for you. But if you are considering Atkins, make sure to look beyond the common criticisms for the truth about the diet.

Atkins and Intestinal Problems

The major complaint of those who use the Atkins diet is the intestinal problems that are associated with reducing carbohydrates. These problems can include constipation and diarrhea. These symptoms can happen to anybody at some point, but those who follow a low-carb diet are especially prone.
Most commonly dieters will experience diarrhea during the early days of induction. This is a result of the body getting rid of excess carbohydrates. It also marks the beginning of the ketosis process. So in actuality, experiencing diarrhea at the beginning of the diet is a good thing. It indicates that you are on the road to becoming a fat burning machine.
Constipation is a side effect of lack of fiber in the low carb diet. Whole grains, legumes and fruit are the normal sources of dietary fiber, and they are all restricted on the Atkins diet’s initial phases.
However, you shouldn’t be scared off from the low-carb way of life because of these issues. There are simple solutions that can prevent and help with these symptoms and allow you to continue with staying on the diet plan.
The first tip is to make sure to include the proper amount of low-carb vegetables in your daily diet. In the induction phase, you can eat up to 20 grams of carbohydrates per day. This is roughly equal to 3 cups of salad vegetables. Some people are tempted to use their carbohydrate grams on cheese or artificially sweetened soda. Eating acceptable vegetables is a vital part of maintaining intestinal health while following the Atkins plan. It’s also important to drink a minimum of 8 eight-ounce glasses of water per day and get exercise. Both of these steps can help with intestinal programs.
If you are experiencing constipation specifically, then there are many methods for relief. When you switch from a diet full of processed and refined sugar products, your body will need some time to adjust to this new way of eating. You’ll need to make sure to up your fiber intake with acceptable vegetables and fruits (certain fruits are allowed after the initial induction phase). You can also try a fiber supplement like sugar-free Metamucil.
Make sure you are eating enough fats and oils. Constipation can be a result of too little fat in your diet. Adding tablespoon of olive oil or flax oil to salads or other vegetables can help your intestinal health. Also, try to incorporate a variety of vegetables in your salad. Pale iceberg lettuce does not have much fiber in it. Try dark green lettuces or have a serving of dark green steamed veggies (broccoli, asparagus or spinach are good choices).
If these tips don’t work, try cutting out all salt from your diet for a couple of days. This includes pickles, mustard, diet soda, ham, bacon and bottled salad dressing. This will decrease your fluid retention and sometimes helps with bowel movements.
Diarrhea should not be a problem after the first week of the Induction plan. However, on rare occasion, it does persist longer. First, analyze your diet. If you are eating low carb protein bars or other sugar free products, eliminate them. They may contain sweeteners like glycerine, sorbitol and malitol which are known to cause diarrhea and gas. Homemade low carb desserts may also be a cause of problems. Most of them use maltodextrin, an artificial sweetener used in baking. Maltodextrin is made from corn and can cause problems for some people.
If you are not used to eating raw vegetables everyday, this may be a cause of diarrhea. Understand that your body will adjust to the vegetables and the intestinal side effects won’t last forever. Make sure you are chewing your raw vegetables thoroughly. Also, using lightly steamed vegetables rather than raw can be a solution to this problem.
Intestinal problems are common during the first portion of the Atkins diet. Keep in mind, however, that these problems will go away within the first few weeks of the new way of eating. If the problems persist, try the previously mentioned tips to get relief.

Atkins and Ketosis


The basic principle of the Atkins diet is that a state of ketosis will help you burn your fat stores as energy. Many people, even those who are on low carbohydrate diets, don’t quite understand ketosis and why it works.
Most diets are calorie-reduction diets. They help you lose weight, but some of the weight is from fat and some of it is from lean muscle tissue. While you may look smaller on the scale, your metabolism is actually slowing down. The more muscle you lose the slower your metabolism will be. This makes losing weight more difficult and gaining weight back even simpler.
The Atkins diet, on the other hand, is carbohydrate restrictive. It creates a state of ketosis in your body that burns only fat, and not muscle. The primary source of your energy for your body will be fat in the form of ketones. Your liver will convert fat into ketones and it cannot be converted back. It will be excreted naturally.
Ketones are actual a normally and efficient source of fuel for the human body. They are created in the liver from the fatty acids that result from the breakdown of body fat. These only appear when there is an absence of glucose and sugar. In the Atkins diet, you reduce the amount of glucose and sugar that is in the bloodstream. As a result, your body produces ketones for fuel. When your body is creating ketones it is called ketosis.
There is a common misconception that following a ketogenic diet like Atkins is dangerous. The truth is that being in ketosis is a completely naturally state. The human body creates ketones to use as fuel in the absence of glucose.
In the Atkins diet book, Dr. Atkins suggests using ketone-testing strips to determine your state of ketosis during dieting. These small plastic strips are held in the urine stream and contain a special chemically treated absorptive pad. This pad will change color if ketones are present in the urine. With the presence of ketones, the strip will change varying shades of pink to purple. There is a color scale on the label of the bottle that will help you determine your ketone levels.
Ketone strips are available in any pharmacy and can be found among the diabetic supplies. In some stores, they are kept behind the counter so you may have to ask for them. You won’t need a prescription to buy them though. Once you open a package of ketosis strips they have a shelf life of 6 months. It may be helpful to mark the opening date on the box.
Ketone strips will let you know if you are progressing correctly on the Atkins diet. If you are following the Induction plan to the letter and aren’t seeing purple, don’t worry. Some people never show trace amounts of ketones or they may show just above the minimum line. As long as you are losing weight and inches then you are successfully using ketones. Also, if you’ve just exercised a few hours before using the strips, you may not see purple.
Some dieters may mistakenly believe that a dark purple result on the testing strips means that they are losing weight faster. Actually, the darkest purple color is a sign of dehydration. It means that your urine is too concentrated and you need to drink water.
Ketones come from fat in the bloodstream, whether it is fat that you eat or fat that you burn. So if you eat a meal heavy in fat and then immediately use a testing strip, then you’ll see a dark purple result. Use the strips as a guide, but don’t get hung up on the color.
Reaching a state of ketosis is key to success on the Atkins diet and it as simple as eliminating carbohydrates from the diet. Make sure to follow the eating plan correctly and use the ketone testing strips as needed.