For reasons I discuss in Biology, people do best on low carbohydrate diets, high healthy fat content, and moderate protein. Also in Biology, I talk about what we’ve learned with the trail runners. Every trail runner who had gone high fat, low carb gets the same results. They lose weight, feel better, and perform better.
Dr. Atkins was basically correct. If you eat a diet in which you get at least 60-65% of your calories from fat, with the reminder spilt between protein and carbohydrates, your metabolism will change. The portion of calories you get from carbohydrates (sugars) needs to deliver those in as complex a form as possible. Whole grains, vegetables, some fruits and berries. In 2010, “New Atkins for a New You” was published. It’s the easiest way to get a “eat this, don’t eat that” diet plan to follow. Amongst my people, the trail runners, we’ve mostly figured out our own plans. You can do that too after you do some reading. For most people I know, the approach has been to count carbohydrates (not calories) and restrict grams of carbs to under 100 per day, or even under 50 per day. You can use either healthy plant or animal fats. Some Diet of Hope patients, which uses a modified Atkins diet, are vegetarians. Dr. Dietmar Gann, creator of the diet, tells me it’s somewhat trickier for vegetarian patients.
If you successfully adopt and sustain a high fat, low carb nutrition plan, your body will change. For about 2 weeks, you will adapt, possibly with with some amount of discomfort. Your body will stop storing glycogen, the storage form of the sugar glucose. Since there’s water tied up with the glycogen, you may drop several pounds of water weight. It might be helpful to take some electrolyte and mineral supplements during the transition. Some people don’t feel so good. It’s been called “Atkins flu.” I think when I was adapting, which I may have drug out over several weeks, it made me tend to get light-headed when I was during exertion like climbing stairs.
If you ride it through, you will become “ketone-adapted.” Your body will start using fat-derived ketone bodies in place of glucose for normal metabolism. You make any glucose you need by the process of gluconeogenesis. If you get a blood glucose test it will be rock-solid normal even though you’re not eating much sugar. You will have better appetite control and eat less, yet you will feel more energetic. If you do athletic activities, you will notice better endurance and recovery, although you won’t bet any faster. People who do resistance training report similar improvements.
You body composition will want to change. There is a human-normal percent body fat. If you have too much body fat, it will decrease. If you have too little, it will increase, although that’s less common. In underweight cases, I suspect there will be some muscle added, too.
This isn’t a temporary diet to drop a few pounds, at least not if you value your lifetime health. As I explain in Bad, there are long-term health consequences to high-carbohydrate diets. If you do this properly, it’s a new life. A good one.