The Atkins Diet

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    Marty McFly
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    The Atkins diet, after having met with much approval and criticism in the United States, has recently landed in Europe and Italy, where it has caused a lot of stir. It is basically a low carbohydrate diet, which aims to satisfy energy needs mainly through fat and protein.
    The Atkins diet offers, for example, to start the day with fried eggs and bacon, eat a piece of cheese in the middle of the morning and a nice steak with vegetables for lunch.
    It is therefore a real tragedy for lovers of the Mediterranean diet and for those who, as we will see in a few lines, care about their own health

    The Atkins Diet

    Atkins DietThe American cardiologist Robert C. Atkins invented the diet of the same name in the 70’s to prevent and control diabetes mellitus. Recently, driven by a massive promotional campaign (it was supposed to have been adopted by many Hollywood stars such as Jennifer Aniston and Renee Zellweger), the Atkins diet has come to the forefront thanks also to its real effectiveness in promoting slimming.
    Why does it work?

    Similar in many respects to the metabolic diet, the Atkins diet aims to maintain constant insulin levels, transforming the body into a real “fat burning”machine.
    By severely limiting carbohydrate intake, this diet forces the body to use lipids and proteins as an alternative source of energy. Such a food strategy favours rapid slimming, as it promotes a rapid slimming:
    increases the sense of satiety with consequent spontaneous reduction of food ingestion
    increases daily energy consumption (due to the high protein content)
    stimulates the production of anabolic hormones which, combined with powerful physical activity (e. g. bodybuilding), promote muscle mass increase and, as a result, increase the basal metabolism

    Diet Stages

    The Atkins diet consists of four distinct phases.

    Induction Phase

    The first period is called INDUCTION and must be followed for at least two weeks. During this first phase, the diet imposes a strong limitation of carbohydrate intake, which must not exceed 20 grams per day (note that in 100 grams of pasta there are about 75 grams of carbohydrates). All carbohydrate-rich foods, both simple and complex (rice, pasta and cereals in general, sweets, snacks, potatoes, sweetened drinks, jams, most of the fruit and also various vegetables) should therefore be avoided. On the other hand, it is possible to eat steaks, fish, cheese, eggs, low-glycemic index vegetables and various seasonings without any special restrictions (only hydrogenated fats present in margarines should be avoided).
    According to the Atkins diet, this first phase is used to get the body used to burning fat more effectively and stabilizing blood sugar.

    Continuation of Weight Loss
    In this second step, the Atkins diet foresees a slight increase in carbohydrate intake. In particular, the amount of carbohydrates present in the diet must be increased by 5 grams per day, until “the critical carbohydrate level necessary for slimming”is reached.
    To understand when to stop increasing carbohydrate intake, it is important to keep the balance needle under control. When weight loss stops, Atkins recommends that you go back and reduce your carbohydrate intake by 5 grams per day until you achieve a moderate weight loss (between 400 and 1400 grams per week).
    This level varies from person to person and is much lower than what you are used to taking with the traditional Mediterranean diet (about 250 grams of carbohydrates per day).
    The small carbohydric increments (the famous 5 g per day) should be satisfied by slightly increasing the intake of vegetables, non-sweetened fruit and dried fruit. In this second phase too, the Atkins diet absolutely prohibits pasta, bread, cereals, confectionery and confectionery.

    Pre-Maintenance

    When you are close to achieving the ideal or desired weight, you enter the third step. During this period, the Atkins diet recommends increasing carbohydrate intake by 10 grams per week. The aim of these third phase is to reduce weight loss to no more than 500 grams per week, preparing the body for the fourth and final phase of maintenance.

    Maintenance

    At this point, the subject has now learned to know his body and, thanks to the previous phase of experimentation, he is aware of the amount of carbohydrates needed to maintain his body weight in a certain range of normality. The majority of people are also forced to limit carbohydrate intake between 60 and 90 grams per day at this stage. This constraint makes the Atkins diet difficult to reconcile with normal Mediterranean eating habits.
    Suggested Suppliers

    Aware of the reduced intake of fibres, vitamins and minerals resulting from reduced consumption of cereals and certain fruits, Atkins’ diet supporters recommend supplementing their menu with multivitamin, antioxidant and bran products

    Atkins Diet Hazards

    Carbohydrates are essential for the body, which needs at least 120 grams of glucose every day to ensure proper functioning of the central nervous system.
    By respecting the Atkins diet’s canons already after a couple of days, the body’s carbohydrate reserves are exhausted. By burning fat as a priority, our body is forced to produce ketonic bodies, given the impossibility of the brain to use fat for energy purposes.
    These substances (see ketogenic diet) lower the blood pH (make blood more acidic) and are responsible for symptoms such as nausea, headache, fatigue and, in extreme cases, coma.
    Other possible side effects due to the Atkins diet include constipation, osteoporosis (a high protein intake increases the elimination of calcium with urine*), insomnia, hypercholesterolemia, colon cancer and cardiovascular disease (complying with the body’s energy requirements using large amounts of animal fat increases cholesterol levels).

    However, it should be pointed out that the potential deleterious effect on bone health is probably compensated, if not reversed, by the increased intestinal absorption of calcium and stimulus on the synthesis of IGF-1 induced by hyperproteic diets.

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