The Atkins Diet plan is divided into four phases, allowing your body to adjust to a new way of eating and losing weight. In Phase 1, which is known as the induction phase, you choose from a restricted diet including primarily proteins and vegetables, limiting your net carb intake to only 20 grams daily. This restricted diet encourages your body to begin burning fat to produce energy, resulting in rapid weight loss.
The foods in Phase 1 contain nutrients such as minerals, vitamins, fiber, and antioxidants that will nourish your body as it becomes accustomed to a new way of producing energy without relying on carbohydrates. The Atkins Diet begins with a limited menu of choices in Phase 1 and then expands in the other three phases, which allows most people to maintain their initial weight loss.
Phase 1 can last from two weeks to a few months, depending on how your body reacts to this new style of food intake. Many people find that they lose significant weight in the first 2-6 weeks of the induction phase. This occurs as a result of the process of ketosis, the body’s shift into burning stored fat. However, because every individual is different, it could take some time for you to come close to your goal weight, even if you enjoy rapid weight loss in the first few weeks. Phase 1 lasts until you are within approximately 15 pounds of your goal weight. It is recommended that most individuals should stay in Phase 1 until they no longer experience carb cravings or feelings of extreme hunger between meals.
In Phase 1, you will be regularly scheduled meals, either three meals of normal-sized portions or up to five smaller meals each day. Ideally, you should avoid going more than six hours without having something to eat. Every meal will include between 4 and 8 ounces of protein-rich foods from the list of acceptable meal items, which ranges from fish, beef, poultry, and pork to eggs, certain cheeses, and some vegetable proteins. Stay away from processed meats like bacon and ham, which can contain added sugars, as well as any meat products that contain nitrates, such as cold cuts. The Phase 1 menu also includes between 12 and 15 grams each day of low-carb vegetables, such as cucumber, mushrooms, peppers, romaine lettuce, and iceberg lettuce. Other vegetables are slightly higher in carbs, but you can include them as part of your total 15 grams per day. These include olives, asparagus, avocados, broccoli, tomatoes, and zucchini squash, among others.
During Phase 1, you can use sugar-free sweeteners such as Splenda (also called sucralose), xylitol, stevia (also known as Truvia or SweetLeaf), or Sweet’N Low (also called saccharine), including up to three packets of sweetener in one day. Diet sodas containing these sweeteners are also acceptable. However, stay away from other sweeteners such as honey, maple syrup, high fructose corn syrup, and molasses. Be aware that most salad dressings and other condiments contain sweeteners; always read the ingredient label.
There are two primary goals in Phase 1 of the Atkins Diet. The first goal is to train your body to produce energy by burning fat rather than carbohydrates. The second goal, which will occur due to the burning of your body’s fat reserves, is to get a quick start on weight loss that can be maintained in Phases 2, 3, and 4. The induction phase limits the type and amount of food you consume in order to accustom your body to a new way of eating and processing food.