Have you heard of or tried the Atkins diet? If you have been following us for a while, you might have read something about it on this blog. Even if you are new to our community, you most probably would have come across it, or a variant of it. Putting it simply – the Atkins’ diet is one where carbohydrates are drastically cut in an attempt to lose weight.
Now, our blog does not specifically endorse any “diets”, although we are open to the idea that some of these might be good for people starting out, as long as it is only short-term. Since the Atkins Diet specifically cuts out carbohydrate, it is common for adherents to have cravings. After all, our bodies were primed to use carbs as a primary fuel source.
Carbohydrate cravings are difficult to deal with, especially when you are trying to maintain a low carbohydrate way of life. Truth of the matter is that dealing with carbohydrate cravings are not just a matter of will power. The pioneer of the Atkins Diet himself states that carbohydrates produce a flood of insulin and a rise in blood sugar, triggering carbohydrate cravings. This is also the reason why adapting to the “opposite” high-carbohydrate, low protein diet is easy.
Like all other cravings, there are many signs of physical carbohydrate cravings. You will experience a compelling hunger for carbohydrate-rich foods i.e. sugary and to a lesser extent, starchy type foods. Additionally, you may experience cravings and weight gain after consuming food items that you are using as a replacement for carbohydrates – with one prime example being sugar substitutes.
There is also something else going against you – the fact that if you are in a western country, high carbohydrate foods are everywhere! Furthermore, what the conspiracy theorists say about sugar addiction is true – that a lot of us are addicted to sugar. And it is a positive feedback system. This means that yielding and eating the high-sugar, refined starch foods will feed your cravings and create more, much like a drug habit.
At the scientific level, high amounts of carbohydrates produce high levels of the brain chemical serotonin, which is the chemical found in Prozac and other anti-depressants. Therefore, it stands to reason, or one can assume, that eating high levels of carbohydrates is self-medicating. People with low levels of serotonin are more prone to using carbohydrates like a drug.
There is also another factor that can lead to overeating carbohydrate-laden foods, and that is stress. When we are stressed, the adrenal gland creates more cortisol. Cortisol is a hormone that stimulates production of a brain chemical that causes carbohydrate cravings. It also stimulates insulin, which leads to blood sugar dips and more fat storage. And be honest – we live in an increasingly stressful world.
If you try anything Atkins-related, prepare to experience some carbohydrate cravings from time to time, especially during the initial phases of it. However, these will lessen as your body becomes more used to eating a protein-centred diet. The way to deal with this is to eat small meals or snacks that contain protein every few hours. This helps to keep your blood sugar levels. On the contrary, skipping meals will cause dips in blood sugar and leave you craving sweets.
Protein and fat, which are the focus of the Atkins plan, will give your body extended energy. Make sure you are getting enough levels of the essential fats. Sometimes an Omega 3 fish oil supplement will help stave off carbohydrate cravings. There is also the issue of dehydration causing a false sense of hunger. The obvious solution is to keep yourself well hydrated.
Don’t worry if you feel overwhelmed with cravings for carbs after the first few days on the plan. This is normal. Your body is used to running on a diet full of sugar and carbohydrates. It will take some time to adjust to this new way of eating. Normally, these feelings don’t last more than two weeks. The test is your discipline and commitment.
Hopefully this has helped you. Once again, and we need to keep on harping on this – our blog does not fully endorse any specific diets, as we recognise that everyone is different. When it comes to Atkins, we suggest that you may try it gradually as long as it is not long-term. Reduce your carbs but don’t cut them out. Overdoing it might put pressure on your other organs, which you should not do.
What you might want to try and do instead is to alter your diet gradually until you reach a system that is sustainable. For that, get the Strategic Nutrition Guide and get educated – because you can’t be lazy if you want long-term results! For those who are serious, you would do well to get it as part of a set known as the Granite Fitness Masterclass. All the best!
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Also published on Medium.
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