March 22nd, 2011

Atkin’s New Diet Revolution: Under Investigation

Guest Blog by Jamie Hale. The late Robert C. Atkins is the author of Atkins’ New Diet Revolution.  Atkins is also the founder and former director of the Atkins Complimentary Medicine in New York City.

 The diet is a low carbohydrate high fat diet with no restrictions on fat intake.  The diet begins with an induction phase (ranging from 2-36 weeks) limiting carbohydrate intake to only 20 g/d.  The consumption of fruit, bread, pasta, grains, starchy vegetables, and dairy other than cheese, cream or butter are prohibited in this phase of the diet.  There are two phases following the induction phase where daily carbohydrate intake is increased in weekly increments of 5gms & 10gms (Aragon, 2007; Hale, J 2007).  Then, comes the maintenance phase, where dieters generally consume between 40-90 g carbohydrates (Goodwin, 2010).   

 Proponents of high-fat, low-CHO (carbohydrate) diets dismiss the notion that caloric intake is important to either weight gain or weight loss (evidence contradicts this claim).  They claim that “most overweight individuals do not overeat”, even as they suggest that high-CHO meals leave individuals less satisfied than meals that contain adequate fat, resulting in increased hunger and increased food intake. 

With respect to weight loss, Atkins claims that on a low CHO diet there are “metabolic advantages that will allow overweight individuals to eat as many calories as they were eating before starting the diet yet still lose pounds and inches” (Freedman et al., 2001).  Furthermore, proponents contend overproduction of insulin, driven by high CHO intake, is the cause of the metabolic imbalance that underlies obesity.

The over exaggeration of insulin’s role in obesity is not uncommon, and is often suggested by many of today’s most popular nutrition gurus, in reality this issue has been blown out of proportion.  Golay et al. (Freedman et al., 2001) reported subjects consuming 1000 calorie diets containing 15% CHO had significantly lower insulin levels compared with those consuming 45% CHO, yet there was no difference in weight loss between the two groups. Similar results have been found in other studies.    

My thoughts: Atkins’ New Diet Revolution

Studies cited by Atkins to support his contentions were of limited duration, conducted on a small number of people, lacked adequate controls, and used ill-defined diets.  Some of these, as well as other studies, actually refute the contention that low-CHO diets, in the absence of calorie restriction, provide a metabolic advantage.

Early studies on a limited number of obese men and women indicate individuals consuming low-CHO diets reduce overall caloric intake and lose weight. 

Consuming high amounts of protein in combination with low calcium and minimal fruit and vegetable intake could be detrimental to bone health (New, et al., 1997).  In many cases low carbohydrate diets provide lower than recommended intakes of vitamin E, vitamin A, thiamin, vitamin B6, folate, calcium, magnesium, iron, potassium and dietary fiber (Freedman, et al., 2001).  Under these circumstances supplementation is needed. 

Another important consideration is the water loss that occurs with the Atkins plan.  In the early stages of the diet you can expect a substantial loss in water (due to glycogen depletion, for every gram of glycogen you store you also store 2.8 – 3.5 grams of water).  The belief that there are some magical metabolic advantages to this diet is a fallacy that is not supported by scientific data. 

Long-term weight loss happens because of calorie reduction.  Numerous studies have indicated a big reduction of calories (below maintenance requirements) when following low carbohydrate diets. 

The newest version of the diet promotes the intake of high-fiber foods; which is a good thing (in most cases).  Many people who have followed the diet now realize dietary fat is not the sole reason people are fat nor is it the evil often promoted by low fat diet advocates.   

In conclusion, if you can stick to the food recommendations and function well while following a low carbohydrate diet, the Atkins diet may be for you.  Athletes using the Atkins’ diet should be highly cautious as performance may suffer (decreased performance happens generally in glycolytic athletes- athletes who’s primary fuel source is stored glucose – glycogen). 

Any diet that results in weight loss generally enhances health markers.  If you are following the Atkins plan and are not dropping weight pay close attention to lipid (cholesterol, triglyceride) levels. 

Numerous studies have shown that in the absence of weight loss ketogenic diets (low carbohydrate diets) may be detrimental to blood lipids levels, while ketogenic diets that result in weight loss are good for blood lipid levels.  If you are gaining weight, reduce calories further or try something different.  

– Jamie Hale

Jamie is the author of Should I eat the yolk?: Separating Facts from Myths to Get You Lean, Fit, and Healthy (a paperback or kindle ebook)


Aragon, A. (2007). Girth Control: the science of fat loss and weight gain 1st edition. Alan Aragon 2007.
Hale, J. (2007).  Knowledge and Nonsense: the science of nutrition and exercise. MaxCondition Publishing 2007.
Freedman, MR., et al. (2001).  Popular Diets: A Scientific Review.  Obesity Research Vol.9 Suppl.1 March 2001.
Atkins RC. (1992). Dr. Atkins New Diet Revolution.  New York: Avon Books, Inc; 1992.
Goodwin K.  Atkins Diet: A Comprehensive analysis. The Diet Channel [accessed] November 27,2010
New, SA., et al. (1997).   Nutritional influence on bone mineral density: a cross-sectional study in premenopausal women.  AM J Clin Nutr 65: 1831-9 1997.

About The Author

Jamie Hale is a sports conditioning coach, author, outdoor enthusiast and fitness and nutrition consultant. He is the owner of MaxCondition Training and MaxCondition Nutrition. He has contributed to numerous exercise and sports publications (nationally and internationally) and has authored six books. Jamie is a member of the World Martial Arts Hall of Fame in recognition of his conditioning work with martial artists. He is considered by most in the industry as a specialist in agility and comprehensive fitness training. He is also known for his ability to get bodybuilders lean and dry as bone for competition. To learn more about Jamie, visit his website at and or contact him at (859) 749-2695. He is also available for seminars and camps

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108 Responses to “Atkin’s New Diet Revolution: Under Investigation”

  • Diet alone is never the answer; you have to back it up with an exercise regimen and a weekly weigh-in to track your progress. If you’re extremely overweight you should get a physical before going on any diet. Give yourself a bit of leeway as well or else you’ll simply give up and pack the pounds back on.

    • I totally agree that you have to exercise too! Especially when it comes to burning fat and toning up!

      – Sarah

      • I agree w everyone who says u have to excercise as well, but many people have not done so 4 months or years. A low carb diet gets people started . The really stupid people have personal trainers 3 days a week when it’s always going to be 70% nutrition & 30 % excercise. If your only going to do one it’s ALWAYS nutrition.

      • Yup- I think for toning up, exercise HAS to be involved.

        A good diet can only go so far if you don’t have any muscle!

  • Petros

    “Golay et al. (Freedman et al., 2001) reported subjects consuming 1000 calorie diets containing 15% CHO had significantly lower insulin levels compared with those consuming 45% CHO, yet there was no difference in weight loss between the two groups. Similar results have been found in other studies.”

    I would not expect anyone to be losing fat on a 1000 calorie diet either, or a lot less fat than muscle/other weight. 1000 calories is severe caloric restriction in my book and should not be cited as a reliable study of fat loss between low-carb and high carb groups.

    • Tom Venuto

      You are correct – 1000 kcal per day diet is severe caloric restriction, much lower than I would recommend. But that is exactly why weight loss is virtually guaranteed at that level of caloric intake. risk of muscle loss goes up with such very low calorie diets, but is minimized with weight training and high protein intake. what on earth do you mean by saying you wouldnt expect people to lose weight on a 1000 calorie diet? Almost everyone will lose large amounts of weight on 1000 calories per day because at that level of caloric intake almost everyone is in a large or at least a significant deficit. even small petite women will lose some weight @ 1000 cal per day. Golays study is a great example not only of how two isocaloric diets – matched under controlled research conditions – will produce the same or similar weight loss regardless of the carb and fat ratios; surely so when protein is held constant and its carbs and fat that are manipulated. The study also measured insulin, showing that the hypothesis that higher insulin is causal in obesity/ fat gain is not correct. Further, this was just one study. Read the meta-analysis papers like bravata’s ( which covers ALL the data in ALL the well-designed studies – then you’ll see multiple studies that come to the same conclusion:

      “Among the published studies, participant weight loss while using low-carbohydrate diets was principally associated with decreased caloric intake and increased diet duration but not with reduced carbohydrate content.”

  • I loved this review. It does what so many fail to do – point out that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to weight loss or good health in general. We all have very diverse and unique genetics, preferences, activity levels and environments. Our body’s react differently to different nutrients and our underlying current conditions change our sensitivity to dietary changes. As a wellness professional, I struggle with this misconception everyday. Thanks Jamie for reinforcing the most basic principle of any health regimen – we are all unique and must listen to our own bodies and nutritional needs before jumping on any fad diet bandwagon. (I also loved that you actually provide citations for your sources – too rare these days!) Kudos!

  • […] This article should be of interest to many of you: Atkin’s New Diet Revolution: Under Investigation | Burn The Fat Blog – Tom Venuto. Reply With Quote   + Reply to Thread « Previous Thread | […]

  • JD

    I started following the Men’s Health TNT diet at the beginning of the year, but I only started following it really consistently about two months ago. In that time I have dropped from 210 to 195 lbs. My waist size has gone down from 40.5″ to 37.3″, body fat from 27% to 23%, and I have increased my bench press from 160 to 185 lbs (5 sets of 5). I lift twice a week but do about two hours of mixed martial arts training three times a week.

    This is my daily menu during the week:

    Breakfast: 4 eggs scrambled in butter
    Snack: handful of almonds
    Lunch: two drumsticks and half an avocado
    Pre-workout: protein shake
    Dinner: homemade burger, big salad with spinach, tomato, broccoli and onion

    I take a multivitamin and fish oil each day. On the weekends I can cheat for up to two or three meals, eating whatever I want, without slowing down my progress.

    I don’t know what the people in these studies were doing, but for me the low-carb diet combined with lifting and mixed martial arts training have been the best thing that’s ever happened to me. I rarely feel hungry and I’m full of energy throughout the day.

    • Tom Venuto

      JD, neither jamie nor I have dismissed that fact that low carb diets can be effective. Read the post more carefully. Also this post is not about the TNT diet. There are a multitude of different types of low or moderately-reduced carb diets. Myself, I use a cyclical low carb diet for bodybuilding competition (, not a ketogenic low carb diet. TNT is also not the same as Atkins. Correct me if im mistaken but TNT is heavily strength training based and allows for more carbs after (or) around training sessions – thus the name TN in TNT standing for Targeted Nutrition. That makes a lot more sense to me than the original Atkins (or new atkins circa 2002 pub date) diet with extreme carb restriction in induction and even into ongoing weight loss phase, and without strength training.

      • JD

        Hi Tom,

        I hope my comment didn’t come across as too critical. I mostly just wanted to share my experience because I’m very excited about my success. I do believe that the carb restriction has been a major part of that success and I do think it has benefits that go beyond the fat and weight loss (such as stable energy levels, lack of hunger pangs, etc.) But I also acknowledge that a big part of that has been the strength training, so I would agree that the carb restriction by itself is inadequate as a comprehensive approach.

        • Tom Venuto

          oh, not at all. Results ARE what count! and congrats on yours! But as I wrote in my Book, The Body Fat Solution when I was discussing body fat myths, sometimes you have to be careful in coming to conclusions about WHY you achieved the results you got! Cheers!

  • Thomas Paull

    Hi Tom! Thanks again for sharing this with us! From my personal experience, I can agree with everything in this post concerning the Atkins diet. That program worked very well for me a few years ago coupled with the crucial mindset makeover that you are very big on in your BFFM program. I once again appreciate your mission to have us correctly informed as to how to acheive fitness goals! I am now 58, getting ready for my 9th marathon, I am edging down into the low teens with my BF%, but I am getting stronger and faster with my running. It is absolutley thrilling to be able to do this at my age! I was never much of a runner before my mid-50’s! I owe so much of it to your BFFM book to help me know what I want to do for my dream fitness goals. Keep up the good work!

  • I don’t believe that this post reflects a balanced view of the diet as it was positioned by Tom. I have absolutely no problems with the conclusions offered because I happen to believe that narrowly focused diets don’t provide the balanced macro-nutrient requirements that our bodies need. The American Heart Association has provided evidence that, beyond 1 year, the most effective weight loss strategy is one centered around lower fat (particularly saturated or trans fats) consumption. I digress.

    My original point was that this was supposed to be a balanced review of the Atkins diet. The article simply listed Atkins points and then provided evidence against those points with a conclusion that basically says “but, hey, if it works for you then go for it”.

    In any case, a couple of points are clear. 1. If you are obese you should lose excess body fat and diet modification and exercise are probably going to be part of the game plan. 2. If you enjoy the Atkins food choices, won’t miss the carbohydrates and are willing to take micro-nutrient supplements – it might be an effective approach especially in the short-term (up to 1 year). 3. A more productive long-term approach will (generally speaking – we’re not addressing individual diseases or disorders that should be referred to a dietician) probably include a balanced menu of complex carbohydrates, lean protein and high-quality fats.

    Extremism is usually irrational – no exception here.

    Great topic – we need to continue to spread that message.


    • Tom Venuto

      Extremism is usually irrational – no exception here.

      I agree 1000% with that statement. And thats the point. There are some extreme beliefs that have been developed in the low carb – particularly ketogenic low carb – community which are indeed irrational and incorrect. The idea that carbs are inherently evil or bad for you… the idea that insulin is the primary causal factor in obesity/ fat gain… the idea that calories dont matter — yes, not all low carb proponents believe this things, and there are some very intelligent people in the low carb world. But there are plenty of real wankers in the low carb community too, who do believe these things and who continue to perpetuate these myths. Jamie has always done a very good job in the myth-busting department.

    • Momir Iseni

      Well, I can attest to validity of low carb eating, having shed 17 kilograms of fat in two years, without calorie counting, and without any cardio. Then I hit homeostasis, on 91 kilograms, and put the energy balance equation into action, which caused additional loss of 6 kilograms of fat, and got to BF level of 8%. You cannot lose and fine tune your body fat by just eating low carb without paying attention to calorie content.
      In last year by manipulating daily calorie content I managed to gain weight from 85 to 89 kilograms, while at the same time drop my BF to 6%.
      I’m not on Atkins type diet, but on carb-cycling one, which incorporates two days a week carb loading during last two meals of the day, and that, along with calculating calories day in and day out, delivers results.
      About the Golay study mentioned in the article, it shows no difference in WEIGHT LOSS between two groups, but real thing that should have been addressed is the difference in BODY COMPOSITION. WEIGHT LOSS should be ditched as indicator of diet validity – only changes of BODY COMPOSITION are valid, and wee it the topic of analysis, it would show a different picture indeed.

      • Tom Venuto

        Thanks momir. Great comments. It’s surprising how few studies measure body composition – and do it accurately. With low carb versus high carb studies, that leaves the dilemma of sorting out the water weight losses from the real fat losses which is a major point of contention when comparing the two diets. further, as an alarming number of low carb diets only encourage carb restriction and not weight training, there is little doubt that muscle may be lost with the fat and what many people dont realize is that loss of muscle will lead to more weight loss per unit of energy than fat: see:

        • Momir Iseni

          Actually, what got me interested in low carb approach was Dr Greg Ellis’ book, where he presented several studies regarding the exact topic of body composition changes in connection with diets differing in CHO percentage. Water loss no doubt contributes to the greatest percentage of weight loss during first several weeks, but after that, and with each additional week, low fat diet provides more fat loss and less lean body mass loss comparing to diets higher in CHO.
          I admit I was skeptical regarding this statements, but results were and still are excellent, more so because I am 40 and extremely endomorph (years ago I was the fattest guy in highschool).
          I found the explanation about lipoprotein lipase enzyme distribution in fat or muscle cells depending on the type of diet the most interesting thing.
          Thanks very much Tom for great articles and newsletters – your websit is the place I check out regularily. And being fitness trainer and working with clients myself, I found lots of useful info here. Keep up the great work!

  • Hey Jamie,

    Great article on the Atkins B—-ht diet. I have for the longest time been against this extreme no carbs loose thew fat hype that is finally getting the negative press it deserves. But at the end of the day the masses that subscribe to extremes in anything we do suffer. Surprise, that Dr. Atkins at the time of his accidental passing was about 60 pounds overweight. How did that diet work for Doc !! I would wager a huge sum of money to see the actual % of Atkins sheep that actually kept the weight off.

    Thanks for listening.


    • Petros

      Atkins was not 60 pounds overweight at the time of his death. There are many myths surrounding Atkins’ death and this is one of the easiest to find out what really happened.

      Atkins weighed 195 pounds when admitted to the hospital after suffering head injuries falling on ice. Whilst in the coma he deteriorated and major organs failed, resulting in a dramatically bloated and fluid-re-tentative body of 258 pounds at the time of death.

  • Judith Myers

    I am now trying the Atkins plan of eating and for the first time in 10 years, I am slowly losing inches and pounds. I agree it is very restrictive and support the theory that once you are on the program for several weeks, you do not consume as much. This eating plan does not encourage overeating like the low fat diets..
    I truly love bread and not eating any is a sacrifice.
    I am 72 years old and since menopause, have acquired the”no waist” and extra fat around the mid section. I am happy to report that that condition is gradually changing.
    I actually decided on this approach after reading the article in the Reader’s Digest, by Gary Taub. He is a scientific journalist.
    You might change your mind if you read this article.
    Judith Myers

    • Tom Venuto

      dont get us started on “scientific” journalist Taubes.

      • Judith Myers

        Please explain this as simply as you can.

        • Tom Venuto

          Jamie can chime in if he wants, but I will stay on topic by saying that the exact same concerns/ criticisms we have about Atkins, as posted above are the same with taubes … cut from the same cloth. In fact, with Atkins’ passing, Taubes has taken atkins place as hero and savior of the anti-carb movement

          • Katherine

            Thanks for addressing this briefly, Tom, I also saw the article she mentioned, and it was very convincingly written.

        • Spiritsplice

          To quote Lyle McDonald, “Taubes is wrong about everything.”

          • Tom Venuto

            AMEN! thank you spiritsplice (and lyle and james)

      • Whites

        Tom, firstly, you are a breathe of fresh air to the the topic of fat burning. Keep up your awesome devotion and efforts to this subject, people need your passion and your efforts. I’ve still yet to read anything better than the first chapter in BFFM. The science for all it’s worth is actually nothing without goal setting. I’m a time served personal trainer working with ‘ordinary’ people and an experienced NLP practitioner and the clients I work with acheive more results and fell better about themselves more than anything else they have ever done when they apply and action good empowering goal setting.

        Right, enough ass licking, your work is ace…now on to Gary Taubes… who I beleive needs to be given some credit for the work he has done with his book ‘good calories bad calories’ and the more recent ‘why we get fat’ as he raises some fascinating arguments in a one stop shop tirade of the whole subject of getting fat and the reasons why it happens with plenty of ‘science’ to back up his arguments. By my own standards I’ve read a lot on the subject of fat burning and I actually find both you and Taubes the leading players on the subject. You are both raising exciting points.

        The facts are this…you are right with your advice.
        So is Taubes with his view point.

        However, the challenge that you both have and always will have is very simple.
        You are both trying to ‘speak’ to ‘everyone’ at once.

        Unfortunately we are all at different levels with difeerent bodies and levels of fitness living in different environments with different foods available and with many other different factors that play their part in fat burning.

        I think the easiest way to sum this up is this.

        Hormones matter.
        Insulin is definately the ‘main’ fat regulating hormone (along with others)
        Exercise matters and in particular resistance training and cardio.
        Calories in v calories out matters – as does the size of the defecit for fat burning.
        The quality of calories matters – (Atkins was an idiot suggesting burgers and sausages are ok!)
        Digestion matters – you are not what you eat…contrary to popular beleifs – you are what you can digest and absorb
        Goal setting matters – focus is key! Will power and motivation should not be a concern to any fat burner, choose what you want, define your purpose for wanting this, picture what your life is like when you are their and it’s pretty much a done deal for most once they affirm this regularly…no will power required.
        Your starting point matters.

        If Taubes is the new ‘Bob’ then perhaps a live debate between you both that could be posted as a video on both your websites could be arranged.

        One thing is for sure, it could help all of us…or maybe not.

        Tom, you game?
        Gary, you game?

        We await your responses…

        • Tom Venuto

          1. thanks for your post – I appreciate ALL your feedback
          2. taubes may have done an excellent job discussing the lipid hypothesis (theres your “giving credit”); viewpoints are changing about cholesterol and saturated fat with regards to health (note: health and obesity are separate subjects, even as they do overlap)
          3. taubes is way off in his viewpoints about exercise. Here is why

          4. taubes believes in the carbohydrates drive insulin –> insulin drives fat –> therefore carbs make you fat / carbs are bad / insulin is bad hypothesis. The bulk of the research does not support this hypothesis for reasons Jamie hale has outlined in his article.
          5. I will never turn down a debate. However, taubes hypthotheses have already been debated and picked apart by others in the evidence-based community the likes of: james krieger, Alan aragon and carbsane blog (google it – her posts will keep you busy for hours and I do believe taubes has taken notice)

    • Judith,

      You could also lock yourself in a room for a month with only water and lose weight but that doesn’t make it healthy. As you stated, you don’t eat as much so your weight loss, from your comments, is attributed more to lowered caloric consumption. If that’s your only goal (and health isn’t) than that’s your decision. Before you follow advice such as this please be sure to review and consider the unbiased opinions of government AND non-profit organizations dedicated to health such as the National Institutes of Health, the American Heart Association and/or the American Dietetic Association.

      Tom’s blog provides an excellent resource based on scientific facts and personal experience – I recommend that you consider his opinions carefully as well as those that I listed above before you commit yourself fully to Gary’s philosophy.

      Good Luck!

      • Petros

        wow, calling the government/NIH/AHA and the ADA sources of unbiased information is a pretty bold statement.

        fact of the matter is they are heavily influenced by the food industry and based on poorly done science. I do not completely agree with Atkins or the like, but what they have done in trying to point out bad science in the field of nutrition (saturated fat springs to mind, something that is still demon-ized with no basis) is something we shouldn’t ignore.

        • Petros,

          I should’ve worded that differently to mean that we should seek other resources and not simply follow extreme viewpoints to reduce biases in our own judgement. I would also whole-heartedly agree that these organizations can be slow to officially adjust their opinions. That said, I believe their reporting is based on much more long-term and objective data and they don’t base their opinions on their ability to profit from their opinions. You may be right in that their official stances may be impacted by various stakeholders (which is why they are often slow to change) but, again, it’s our responsibility as consumers of information to discover the truth which is usually somewhere to the center of extremists (in this case somewhere in the center of the no carb, no fat, no protein diets which would mean a balanced diet). Scientific knowledge is evolving so these discussions will continue I’m sure.

  • Petros

    Tom, I believe this is because some low-carbers have tried everything in the past and not been able to lean-out, myself included. It is after years of struggling with “how the hell can I stop slowly putting on weight or staying the same weight” that we find either low-carb or paleo type lifestyles and the fat melts off, our body composition starts dramatically changing and sometimes this can cloud some of the reasoning behind it.

    I for one believe that calories in/out is most definitely not the be-all-end-all of it; our bodies are far too complicated and not a closed system. However, I also do not believe that “its only insulin” or “calories mean nothing”.

    Being new at studying nutrition I don’t like to think I have the answers, but for me what has finally enabled me to start losing body fat is cutting dramatically down on sugar/fructose/carb intake, I do not “measure” carbs nor calories but I do tend to have to force myself these days to eat nuts and the like to get my caloric intake up, if I do not do this I plateau, which I believe is my body fighting to get energy balance. I eat fairly “paleo-like”, lots of veg, eggs, meat.. some dairy and some nuts. Listening to podcasts such as “latest in paleo”, “underground wellness” and robb wolfs’ “the paleo solution” has helped me to improve my diet constantly and I have seen a steady clothes size/feel change over this last 3-4 months. Over this time I have (though I try to ignore weighing myself too much) recorded a weight loss of approximately 2.3 lbs per week whilst keeping or even increasing (on appearance and strength) my muscle mass.

    I do some H.I.I.T running on my treadmill occasionally along with my main workouts which consist of kettlebell/resistance cords(ripcord) training, but I am not over-doing this and to be honest have not been working out as much recently.

    The point I’m trying to make Tom… is that while you show that you are frustrated by these people who praise low-carb to the extreme, it is because they had given up hope of ever attaining “normality”, let alone actually being lean… and like those people, Paleo-type advise has given me this dream back and I feel more energetic and positive than ever.

    • Tom Venuto

      I for one believe that calories in/out is most definitely not the be-all-end-all of it; our bodies are far too complicated and not a closed system. However, I also do not believe that “its only insulin” or “calories mean nothing”.

      The improvement of health and body composition is absolutely NOT a simple matter of calories in versus calories out. – we’re on the same page there. What is a fact is this: A calorie deficit is a required condition for weight loss to occur. And the reverse: A calorie surplus will lead to weight gain – even if its all protein and fat. So we establishing a calorie deficit is a must, but the fact that theres more to good nutrition than calories doesnt mean we should dismiss calories and thats whats still happening in some segments of the low carb community. calorie quality is important for health, and calorie quality plus macronutrient profile, particularly proper protein intake, is important for optimal body composition improvement. The way I like to put it is “energy balance controls body weight loss or gain…. but energy partitioning controls body composition… energy partitioning (where the calories go) has much to do with training combined with the composition of the diet, not just the number of calories.

      Paleo is not the same as atkins or ketogenic diets, so that is off topic of this post, actually, but there is a parallel. I think paleo is well intentioned and mostly a move in the right direction; arguably one of the better choices if youre going to move in the lower carb direction. But the same problem exists in paleo with extremism and dogma, as exists in aktins/ keto low carb: absolute dogma against certain foods like grains and dairy. Its almost comical hearing what some paleo folks say – right in lockstep with the atkins dieters – about grains being EVIL… the food of the devil, etc etc. why the absolutism? Wheres the balance? I speak for a lot of bodybuilders when I say we use foods like oatmeal, yams, potatoes, rice and beans/legumes in generous amounts and we maintain low body fat year round.

      The point I’m trying to make Tom… is that while you show that you are frustrated by these people who praise low-carb to the extreme, it is because they had given up hope of ever attaining “normality”, let alone actually being lean… and like those people, Paleo-type advise has given me this dream back and I feel more energetic and positive than ever.

      Maybe thats the bigger problem… people gave up hope

  • Jim

    I’ve noticed that an increasing number of people in the health and fitness industry are saying that total calories consumed is not important when it comes to weight loss and that it’s all about restricting carbohydrates because of their effect on insulin. Excess insulin is the being touted as the primary reason why so many people are overweight or obese.

  • At one point (before I had the good fortune of finding Tom Venuto’s sane, honest and healthy approach to fat loss), I seriously looked at the Atkins diet. The problem I really have with the Atkins idea, is that as a recovering alcoholic (sober now nearly 4 years), I know that too much (or unlimited quantities of anything) just can’t be healthy.
    Just thinking about unlimited amounts of fat makes me cringe. Even if you put a limit on the fat intake it still makes no sense to discount the basic fact of energy balance (deficit-surplus management) that is paramount in any endeavor to achieve fat loss and body recomposition. Thanks for the informative article!

  • Dimitrije

    – Hormones and Insulin chief among them have major effects on fat accumulation.
    When insulin is high there is no releasing of free fatty acids from fat cells and sans insulin free fatty acids won’t form triglycerides and hence no new fat is stored.

    – You still need a caloric deficit or you will only maintain fat deposits.

    – Chronically highly elevated insulin will cause weight gain, by affecting hunger, energy partitioning, hormonal status etc.

    -No successful diet exists that does not limit high GI foods, or at least does not control when they are consumed (peri-workout etc)

    -Persons actively engaged in sports and/or without any fat accumulation problems should only limit refined carbohydrates, since they obviously have no insulin sensitivity problems.

    -Atkins diet will work, it is however stupid to not watch what you eat.

    • Tom Venuto

      Hormones and Insulin chief among them have major effects on fat accumulation.
      When insulin is high there is no releasing of free fatty acids from fat cells and sans insulin free fatty acids won’t form triglycerides and hence no new fat is stored.

      thats the exact low carb “talking point” that Jamie dismissed in his article

      Chronically highly elevated insulin will cause weight gain, by affecting hunger… hormonal status etc.

      Ive seen the insulin-hunger issue debated, but assuming its true, anything that leads you to eat more brings us right back to calories and the energy balance equation doesnt it. Thus, we are not arguing that low carb diets dont work. Clearly, they do. we are arguing about WHY people believe low carb diets work…. and helping people avoid developing beliefs that do more harm than good, like beliefs that demonize entire macronutrients or food groups

      • Dimitrije

        You are 100% right about the WHY part, however the dismissal of insulin “talking point” is not really valid. When eating as hunger dictates low insulin diet will be less caloric. You have to be realistic about effects, but if you are overweight that almost certainly means you have problems following calorie restricted diets otherwise you wouldn’t be overweight, also in all probability you have insulin sensitivity issues and there are only two ways to combat that: insulin restriction and weight training.
        The effect of insulin can be easily seen on diabetes melitus patients.
        Also, I’m a fan of your nutritional approach, but for my friends with less willpower I would recommend some sort of carb restriction.

    • Marjorie Trujillo

      Dimitrije is right. Low carb diets work but of course you have to eat a sensible amount of food. For some people the guideline “eat until you are full” is not a reasonable measure and they need to also factor in calories. But for the reasons mentioned in Dimitrije’s post, low carb is the way to go.

  • Great article….you’re right, there is so much mis-understanding around cycling carbs that it makes it tough for trainers to teach it fairly and without bias. Thanks for the great article. Karen

  • David Cramer

    Dr. Atkins is very clear in his book that you don’t have to worry about the amount you eat because after a few days you will not have a desire to overeat and that is exactly what happened to me when I tried the “Atkins New Diet Revolution” plan. I stopped the diet because it didn’t allow me to eat fruit and I believe that is a very important part of one’s diet. But Atkins seemed to forget that in order to lose weight efficiently and to maintain that weight loss one must exercise regularly to the point of exhaustion. I don’t believe a casual walk around the block is effective exercise but taking your dog for a 2 mile walk in 30 minutes or less is effective exercise for both you and your dog.

    • Tom Venuto

      Indeed, low carb diets, including atkins can be helpful at achieving ‘automatic calorie control’ as well as appetite suppression. But to re-iterate my point, that brings us back to calories in vs calories out. Diets that work without counting calories are diets that automatically help you control your food intake. Can you see however, how we still have a problem with aktins diet/low carb extremists who think that calories dont matter? And why its so important to keep publishing these articles to help people see the distinction?.. and why the all or nothing? Fruit is bad, you cant have any fruit, etc etc. Not only is this false, why even make such carved in stone rules in the first place? as if a piece of fruit will sabotage induction????

      • Marjorie Trujillo

        Healthy low carb diets do not say “fruit is bad” They say it’s high in sugar and for someone trying to control their sugar intake not to overdo it. Vegetable have lots of vitamins, too and are lower in sugar. For some people controlling their sugar is important and will lead to fat loss. Low carb diets stay popular b/c they do work if you use eat a balanced diet and exercise.

        • Tom Venuto

          MANY of them do say fruit is “bad” “fattening” “forbidden” and so on. Dogmatically so. Emphatically so.

        • Rex Alfie Lee

          Just to support that last comment when Aspartame or Nutrasweet or whatever name it’s being called now was released onto the market it had already been named a poison by the American forces. Reagan (the then Pres) had a favour called in by Rumsfeldt, froze the FDA administration & removed the FDA head placing a new head who also owed Rumsfeldt a favour & he had this poison released proving the administration’s poor reliability…

      • saxman

        My experience with Adkins and a point of thought:
        When I started induction the theoretical idea of being able to eat a half a pound of bacon in the morning seemed asinine let alone unhealthy. But I also knew that’s not what the diet advocates. It merely states that you shouldn’t be afraid of fats, especially healthy fats. They do help satiate your hunger and are needed in a healthy diet. So I didn’t go overboard with my fat consumption. But at the same time (and I think what’s getting lost here) it’s not that the amount of calories you consume isn’t important, it’s just when you start this diet you aren’t weighed down with the burden of having to count each little calorie with the thought that if you eat too much you’re going to hell. My point is this: I found that after about a few days into induction I would find myself getting hungry at certain times of the day after having a healthy low carb meal. I would go to my cupboard and start searching for some “acceptable” food to eat. I would see potato chips and WANT them but said no. I would see cookies and WANT them but said no. I would see some cheese (which I could have all I want) but said no because……..that’s not what I was CRAVING. It donned on me then and there; I wasn’t hungry, I was withdrawing from my ADDICTION to a high carb junk food diet which unfortunately most Americans are. After a few more days on the diet not only did my carb cravings go away but my meal portions automatically (and at first unconsciously) became smaller and thus my caloric intake naturally lowered. The fat melted off. Of course I included regular exercise and yes consumed good carbs mostly from veggies and occasionally fresh fruit, just not all the time. I think what the diet did for me was get me balanced. Most Americans (and VERY shamefully, our children) are a bunch of fat lazy good for nothing couch potatoes that will be dying prematurely do to all the health issues caused by obesity. Sad. Very sad.

        • Lowcarber

          Your post was great up until you started calling people names at the end. You should remember you also were not eating as you should. Calling people good for nothing couch potatoes is the sad part. Especially children because it’s their parents fault if they are not helping them eat right. Most people who are overweight just don’t know how to eat. They have been taught to eat this way themselves. Wouldn’t it be nice if the lowcarbers who know the restrictions of what to eat could encourage them and teach them the right way to eat?

          • Spiritsplice

            Do you want a tissue?

          • saxman

            Actually when I hit the send button to post my comment I’d realized that I left out what I really wanted to say which was:

            “Because of the greed of corporate America and their constant bombardment on the populace that junk food and fast food restaurants with their 99 cent menus are the way of getting your family fed cheap make most Americans (and VERY shamefully our children)”…….etc.

            I hope that clarifies my comment.

      • Galina

        OK Tom, now it is my turn to say Amen.
        No one who reads this site and have your books (I for one) wants to overeat. We all know it is calories in – calories out is what counts even if we want to argue it sometimes as we all have our buttles. However you said it – low carb diets supresses the hunger. PERIOD. Say no more. That is the main reason we turn to it when we want to lose weight. Hunger and cravings cause the nutrition educated people to overeat. We know all about whole grains and vegetables and low far proteins. I think one more time I read about chicken breast I am going to test my windows with it. But we all are different, and we are looking what works for me individually. ATKINS DIET IS THE ONLY DIET I AM NOT HUNGRY ON!!! I forget about the food and cravings. Yes, it is automatic calorie control. And that is what I need. Do I need to say anything else?
        And I did not really get why you recommended this article – did not find anytihng new in it – one of many Atkins diet bashers. For every research there is another reserch that dismisses the previous one. What is new?

        • Tom Venuto

          I dont think jamies article bashes atkins. Out of ALL the fitness writers I know, jamie is very unemotional about diets. He is just providing the facts. Whats “new” is His article is research-based, not anecdotally based (“it worked for me!”). The article doesnt dismiss the fact that atkins can work, nor have I – if you can stick with it. and if we are being really honest, the fact is, NOT everyone finds hunger well controlled on atkins -nor does everyone like living with those kind of carb restrictions. You said it yourself – we have to sort things out for ourselves individually, in the end. I think a persons life is much richer when you understand how to achieve balance in your eating habits rather than condemnation of an entire food group. Ive done full-blown ketogenic diets for extended periods in the past and I found them terribly distasteful with regards to the foods allowed and those forbidden. Not for me at all. Whats most important of all is that this article accurately reveals some of the myths about atkins (and similar low carb diets). For example, NOT EVERYONE knows or will admit that body weight changes are dictated by calories in versus calories out. You Galina, are smarter than most and ahead of the game if you follow low carb AND you watch your calories. believe me, MANY low carbers are adamant about calories “not counting” and they insist they can eat as much as they want if only they cut the carbs. That is complete nonsense and is a dogma that is BAD for our industry and our cause to beat obesity and health epidemics. What happens – as you said – is those low carbers simply automatically eat less. If you eat in a surplus, even if its all protein and fat, you will gain weight. Incidentally, high protein diets have been proven to be better at appetite suppression than low carbs per se. Protein is a b etter appetite suppressor than dietary fat and not all low carb diets are high in protein. a true keto diet is high in fat, not protein. I appreciate you and I thank you for your feedback, but I definitely support the information provided in this article. It is true and it is scientifically accurate… and be careful about dismissing science. As sagan said, science is not perfect, it is often misused, it is only a tool, but its the best tool we’ve got.

    • Cheri

      After induction (which is only 2 weeks) you add in fruit and nuts. They just can’t be the high sugar fruits. Add in berries and melons.

  • scott

    One thing I agree with Tom on (among other things) is that people are fanatical and dogmatic about their diets often times and will make impassioned arguments as to why it is better, or superior to other diets. Luckily I haven’t had to resort to an overly restrictive diet of any kind to get results.

    I DO believe however that calories are the “be-all-end-all,” and that a calorie surplus of any kind will thwart fat loss. There have been numerous studies done that corroborate this fact. When it comes to weight loss, calories in vs. calories out, is still the most compelling piece of information. For optimal health calorie composition is of utmost importance. However, if we are talking strictly weight loss (or more appropriately, fat loss), then number of calories takes precedence.

    I have lost pounds and inches eating nothing but junk. As a matter of fact, I got down to 6% body fat eating that way. Would I recommend others do so? Heck no! I felt lousy and was hungry often times but my willpower was able to overcome it. My point is this, calories DO matter and dictate whether you will lose weight or not. If protein intake is high enough, a calorie deficit is established and you are doing some form of strength training, you will lose weight mostly from your fat stores. THAT is what is most important. Fat loss not necessarily, weight loss.

    Nowadays, I follow a more balanced diet. One that is rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein and healthy fats. I find that if I weigh and measure all of my food and couple this with consistent exercise I lose fat every time! However, if I consume these same foods by “winging it,” or not measuring correctly, then fat loss grinds to a halt. What is the difference? The overall caloric intake…

  • Marjorie Trujillo

    You mention that the only real weight loss comes from calorie reduction. You should see the movie “Fathead” and consider the insulin/fat storage connection–there is evidence to prove it’s veracity. While the commonly accepted theory on weight loss is calorie in/calorie out, the low carb approach to changing the way your body uses insulin and burns fat has been around longer than almost any other approach–and it is constantly studied (some of the studies are very well done)in an effort to disprove it without success. Ask any middle aged woman who spent her life using the calorie/in calorie/out method with no success and to the detriment of her blood sugar/cholesterol/fat burning levels. Low carb can be healthy if you chose well and include healthy vegetables and fruits…and even grains in moderation and IT WORKS. For people who have really studied low carb diets and the research (it is immense) you come across as ignorant about the facts–you’re actually mentioning “water loss” and calorie in/calorie out to people who have done their homework and know the facts about it. These two issues, and ketosis, are the biggest misconceptions wrongly associated with healthy low carb diets. You should have done more research.

    • Tom Venuto

      documentary movies do not constitute real evidence. In fact documentary movies are often the most agenda-driven drivel in the media (michael moore anyone?) real evidence is found in the peer reviewed research. Feel welcome to cite your real evidence of the insulin-obesity connection. We eagerly await and will pleased to discuss the findings of the studies with you. If they prove an insulin-obesity connection, I’ll gladly amend my position

    • Spiritsplice

      Considering that most people under report caloric intake and over report activity levels I think it is safe to say.these hypothetical middle aged women WERE NOT accurately counting calories. Physics doesn’t. change. All energy must be balanced. And you have the gall to suggest Tom needs to do more research when all you have to cite is a docudrama?

      • Tom Venuto

        Just look at thelink jamie provided to his article at mind and muscle dot net. Jamies story about the girl who lost weight as just as predicted at 1000 calories per day in a metabolic ward who “can’t lose weight” on her self reported intake of 300 says it all

  • Thomas Quirico

    Funny no one here mentions the most important factor relating to body mass composition, hormones. In the male it’s not only testosterone levels but free testosterone and testosterone to estrogen ratio. I guarantee that you guys that are all cut up have T levels at or above 800 ng/dl and T to estrogen levels of 30 or 40 to 1.

    When I was 25 yrs. old I doubt my body fat % was even 10% ( 28″ waist/44″ chest) and I could eat 3 plates of Mexican food and a box of doughnuts and not gain a pound. Why? High T levels and low to no estrogen.

    Check out ” The Testosterone Syndrome; The Critical Factor for Energy, Health, and sexuality- Reversing Male Menopause” by Eugene Shippen, M.D.

    Middle aged, over weight males who don’t learn about this important science will be very disappointed trying to correct their decline with diet and exercise only in most cases. Proper high protein/ high healthy fat diet/ low to no carbs and exercise will naturally increase testosterone levels and decrease estrogen and testosterone to estrogen conversion but HRT is usually required also.

    Side benefit of HRT is a healthy heart/vascular system as the heart muscle has more testosterone receptors than any other muscle in the body. See Dr. Shippen’s case studies of males who could barely get out of bed before HRT and now run and have sex twice per day.

    This is over simplified here but just read the book before trashing me.

    • I run a diet center where we have a ketogenic diet that has been incredible successful for 90% of all clients. To lump all ketosis diets together simply shows ignorance on the part of the authors(above). Atkins is an acid based low CHO diet that in and of itself has all kinds of issues. Our Ideal Protein diet is an alkaline based ketogenic diet whose focus is on FAT LOSS and the reseting of the pancreas. After years of abuse the body and more specificly the pancreas no longer produces the correct amount of insulin when it is over-run w sugar. This can be fixed from a ketogenic diet. Almost all the writers above speak of weight loss instead of fat loss. RUN RUN RUN as fast as you can from anyone who speaks in terms of weight loss instaed of fat loss. Any idiot can eat only one apple a day and lose weight, but their percentage of fat loss will actually get worse. Its never ablout weight loss its about fat loss. Its about getting your body to heal and to let it start producing the correct amount of insulin that its has been called upon to produce by your pancreas. Your liver and pancreas is two of the most fascinating organs in the body and BOTH have the ability to heal by themselves under certain conditions. I have hundreds of clients on 1000 calories a day whose nutrition plans and supplemnts are considerably more nutritiously sound than the average American consuming 3000 a day. Please think before you make blanket statements like 1000 cal/a day diets are not safe. How could anyone in the world make an assessment like that without knowing what the 1000 calories along w daily supplements were. I think Tom Venuto and his web site is probably one of the best nutrition web sites out their but the writer of this article and the vast majority of the comments posted are based on more hyperbole than the Atkins diet itself.

      • Tom Venuto

        ed I dont know if you were referring to my comments or someone elses, but i did NOT say 1000 calorie diets were unsafe. I said risk of muscle loss goes up with very low calorie diets – and I added that the risk decreases with weight training and high protein. As you said, its about fat loss / body composition not weight loss…. and I will say that 1000 calories per day without weight training is absolutely NOT a good way to improve body composition. by the way, I read atkins book twice cover to cover years ago, and yet atkins supporters read my articles or comments and seem to very frequently insist that I havent read the book or i dont know what it says. as the years go by it seems that atkins himself and now his successors are the ones who keep changing their recommendations so it seems that knowing “what atkins says” has become quite muddled. people right here in these blog comments are now telling us, “but wait, you have to read the NEW NEW atkins”

        • Tom,
          I didn’t make my points very clear. First off thank you for spending so much time answering evryones comments I have no idea where u get the time. I was trying to say I don’t believe in Atkins in any way shape or form. First off Atkins is an acidic low carb diet. Their are low carb ketogenic diets that are alkaline and the difference between the 2 is huge when we r talking about the stress to your organs. The diet program I have for my clinets requires them to have 4 cups of vegetables a day, unlimited salads, 3 packets of high biological protein packets and 1 meal w 6-8 ounces of chicken ,meat or fish. This is in conjunction with taking a multi vitamin, potassium& magnesium, cal/mag supplements. We recommend vit d and fish oil as well but not required. I’ll put this 900-1200 diet a day diet against allmost all american diets of 2000-2500 cal a day nutrition plan for a nutrition standpoint any day of the week. Calories in calories out is without a doubt the dumbest saying in nutrition today. The statement doesn’t take the quality of the calories into account. You eat 2500 cal a day of cheeseburgers and I’ll eat 3,000 cal a day of chicken and vegetables and lets c who has the best decrease in bodyfat at the end of 12 weeks ? Is a low carb diet acidic or alkaline to the system ? Any author who doesn’t address this question before lumping all low carb diets together is a fool. Is your pancraes producing the correct amount of insulin when called upon to do so ? This can be corrected with a low carb diet ,but not most low carb diets. I don’t have a problem with the author ripping Atkins because it has so many flaws I don’t have the time to start listing them all, but please don’t include all low carb diets in with Atkins because it make the author ignorant ? I can drop my bodyfat, cholesterol, blood pressure, etc. faster without losing 1 % lean muscle tissue on the correct low carb adequate protein diet than any other diet in the world. I’m 170 pounds and 1000 calories is enough and extremely safe given the correct supplents and food choices. I would gladly accept any challange for any amount of money your bloggers offer to prove my point. Its about the quality of the protein, the supplements, vegetable choices etc.. Yes ,the statement calories in calories out will always be true but the only people/dietician’s who still use the phrase have way over simplified nutrition and it’s just confusing people.

          • Tom Venuto

            Ed, we’re on the same page about calorie quality mattering for health. Im no apologist for the junk food industry (quite the opposite, as I have said before: Diet composition can also influence body composition outcomes and energy intake, very much so when calories are not counted (ad libitum/free living situation). Ive also seen data on acid alkaline issue which I used think should go into the alternative health junk heap, but I now understand the importance of that as well. However, Im assuming youre not disregarding the energy balance equation and absolute necessity of caloric deficit for weight loss, because that is exactly one of the aspects of atkins – AND low carb at large that I have a problem with – and WILL lump any low carb diet into the same category (category=wrong) if they do that. “Calories in versus calories out” is vague, just like “eat less, exercise more” is vague as a sound byte. It is more accurately stated as “a calorie deficit is a required condition for weight loss”… and “focus on the calorie deficit” is a better sound byte for advice wrt energy balance and calories. Good nutrition does NOT end at calories and no one here said it did, but caloric deficit (aka calories in versus calories out concept) really is the sine qua non in the weight loss aspect of nutrition. As the article pointed out, similar weight loss will be achieved regardless of the macronutrient composition of the diet if calories are controlled/counted and matched. Study after study bears this out. Im not talking whatsoever about the health aspect of nutrient dense food or importance of large amount of vegetables in a high protein low carb diet. no argument there. Im talking about the thermodynamics aspect of weight loss or weight gain and Im saying we need both calorie quality and calorie quantity and NEITHER should be downlplayed. I discussed this “calorie deficit AND food quality” issue in the january post: (short post; quick read)

  • I was once a proponent of the Atkins Diet and in particular the low carb approach as I believe I have a carbohydrate sensitivity. In reality, I live a sedentary lifestyle and am eating too many carbs, too much fat and too many calories…. I recently went back on the Atkins Diet, did my two weeks and it was awful. I produced ketones, in the mid-range but I was exhausted all the time. I could barely walk my dog up the hill let alone keep up with the new fitness regime I’d begun at the gym. I write a blog and help people with their problems everyday and yet I struggled to even do that. And what happened at the end of my two weeks? I put weight on – 3lbs to be exact. I could have cried. Worse than back to square one. And so I decided enough was enough. It was time to take the sensible approach and eat properly. Like a miracel, I found Tom on the internet and I’ve been following his advice ever since and despite some pretty heavy exhaustion after a workout – I can get up that hill now and then some! I’m alert and have even upped my workload. I watch my carbs in the pm and have a very low fat, low-medium calorie intake which I monitor via the calculators Tom provides. I eat 6 small meals a day and I’ve never felt better. My skin looks great and I’m sleeping better too. How long is it since I stopped Atkins? Just two weeks ago. I’m not interested at this stage to see if I’ve lost weight, only that I get into the groove of regular eating and exercising. One thing I learned from my recent experience of Atkins and then Burn the Fat is that I need to take this nice and slow and do the right thing for my body – feed it well and treat it with respect. As Tom says, you don’t put a lot of weight on overnight, you shouldn’t expect it to come off overnight either. Best advice I’ve heard in ages – simple, but true. So forget any extreme diet nonsense. Eat well, exercise and take your time, there really is no rush. To be on the right road and moving forward is all you need.

    • Of course calories matter, and there is a plethora of scientific research to support this. IMO the future of nutrition research is investigating exactly how we make it easier to create cal deficit on a regular basis- thus the work being done in the areas of cognitive and behavioral nutrition.

      Taubes has written some very good material, but Good Calories Bad Calories is not one of his better works. In fact, the book is quite non-scientific in many aspects. Here is a link to a Review of the book

      Jamie Hale

  • Wispy

    I just want to share my own personal 2 cents worth here.
    I am disabled so cannot exercise – to lose weight I mean. I have been on a eating plan for fibromyalgia for several years. Although it is not Atkins it is high protein, not necessarily fat and very definitely low carb.

    I have both lost and maintained my weight loss eating in this way. I do two days a week lo cal where I eat fruit and veges and the other five days and the rest of the week lo carb where I can eat as much as I like of any protein and many veges.

    I can eat 2000 cals a day eating protein and still lose weight.

    With lo cal eating if I go over 1000 I begin to gain.

    I am now 71 and this way of eating has been one of the best things that has ever happened to me. Protein stops me from feeling hungry and there is no craving or bingeing. I am a carb addict. This way of eating altered my life and allowed me to lose weight and keep it off and also maintain my health and energy levels.

  • Jill

    I know nothing about the new Atkins diet. My mom went on the original Atkins diet many years ago. She lost 50 lbs in 7 months and kept it off for approx 10 yrs giving herself a cheat day once per week for desserts. My mom also ate like a horse -whole chickens, 16 oz steaks, cream cheese, butter; all at the same time being 5 feet tall. At one pt in time, she was looking for a diet buddy and I agreed to do it. At the time I was 22 and weighed 104 lbs. I gained weight being on on the diet for a week eating what she ate. The great thing about Atkins was it allowed you to eat all you want of things that most Americans generally like -meat and fats. Although a good game is talked about veggies, a lot of us would rather eat bacon instead of kale and everything tastes better with butter on it.

  • Aileen

    Its always a pleasure to read stuff here. Its explained simply and holistically. I have never had an issue with any of the reasoning presented and I share the view that the fitness industry is full of mythology. That the grocery industry has far too much to say and that many doctors don’t know a damned thing about nutrition and exercise.

    Keep up the good work!

  • Yes very interesting, the thing I have noticed in recent times is the fact that we are all so different in body type, shape, muscle structure etc; and at almost 60 years of age I am now heading to probably the best, leanest and most muscular condition in my life. I have experimented a lot and for me reducing certain cabs to just before and after my weight training has really worked. I have bread, pasta, rice and dairy products if I want them only just before and after my workouts, but I do limit the fat I eat just after my workouts.

  • gordon walker

    will some of what your saying is reasonable this has the edge of a hatchet job, excercise, quality food, low carbs and whole food are the key to atkins success unlimited fat intake sounds bad but is based on the balanced diet its almost impossible to eat huge qualtities of fat and cheese, unless youve some eating disorder. as a nurse i have worked in eating disorder units and know that many forces cause theses things, the atkins is approached corectly is a brilliant timeless idea that works.xx

  • Kay

    Interest post and comments. I agree that Atkins works best when caloric intake is restricted. In fact, high end/customized Atkins doesn’t match what’s in the book. I was a client/patient at the Atkins Center for Complimentary Medicine in the mid 1990’s. I took a glucose tolerance test, had blood work done, and returned for a detailed interview. I was prescribed a course of supplementation (lots of pills!). I thought that I would be eating cheeseburgers and bacon, sugar free homemade, pure cream ice cream and the like. Absolutely not. My physician there gave me a yellow sheet with a bunch of restrictions that included no nitrates (nitrate free bacon was impossible to find at that time), no more than 2 tablespoons of cream/day, no aspartame, no more than 2 cups of diet soda /day (w/o aspartame), and no more than 4 oz of cheese/day. This substantially reduced my calorie intake because eating huge quantities of buttered steak & meat all day really isn’t appetizing. I took off 55 pounds. Once I started eating things like crustless quiche or sugar free cheesecake, the weight loss stopped. I went back to my really poor eating habits/binging and put it on plus 30 more. Now, I’ve maintained a 75 pound loss for about a year with cardio, strength training, whole foods with limited starchy carbohydrates and recommitted myself to take off the last 35-50 (35 if all the fat comes off from the “right places”) LOL! Extreme low carbing is too difficult of a way for me to live and I wouldn’t go back to it although I got out of some bad habits, like drinking a lot of juice, through Atkins.

  • Mark J

    Another often over-looked side effect of low-carb diets is the increased stress on the liver by the increase in uric acid present in the foods commonly consumed in a low-carb diet.

    I know I lost 40 lbs in about 3 months on a low-carb diet, but after having some serious leg pains, was diagnosed with hyperuricaemia! I had pre/post-diet hydrostatic body fat tests done and it showed a loss in lean muscle mass by almost as much as the fat loss.

    I read a few books on nutrition, body building, and exercise, and now I “Burn the fat, Feed the Muscle” just as everyone else should! I just dropped 10 lbs in 28 days WHILE strength training and only losing 1 lb of lean muscle mass!!! Knowledge is Power. Do the work.

  • Rex Alfie Lee

    The Atkins Diet was investigated with a number of other variant diets by the CSIRO, a very reputable organisation with no organisation financial supports other than those from the Government. As an aside, you may have heard of them recently because they are suing every company who is utilising wireless networks because they developed the technology. They are purely a science organisation, such as many universities in the US used to be before being financed over by big business. Their results decree that Atkins Diet works better than the others but because of the unusual overload of fat & lack of fruit in the early stages, the CSIRO developed one that was less objectionable.

    Note: Atkins take on limiting Carbs below 20gms was that the body does no longer absorb fat & from my own general use of this diet I feel that is a fairly accurate statement…

    • Tom Venuto

      “their results “DECREE”?? interesting word. we’d all be interested in seeing these CSIRO studies; if they are peer reviewed they should be indexed in pub med, even if CSIRO is not from the USA. Research bias does exist, and there are plenty of poorly designed studies, but when theres as much research on diet composition (low carb, high carb, mixed diets) as there has been published, for one to assume that its all financed by big business or otherwise biased or that we dont have enough quality data available to make conclusions is a stretch.

      • Rex Alfie Lee

        I sense your cynicism Tom & completely understand it when most of your universities & scientists are under “Big Business” finances. This is a respected institution in Australia & the only interference here is whether or not the Government is going to finance the whole organisation. The Government here has no control over what is investigated not how it is investigated. That is up to CSIRO management. They have proven their worth many times over in Australia. They are not a small organisation but also not a large one.

        They had no valid reason for supporting any of the diets but they themselves had trouble with chewing through so much fat & so developed a milder version of the Atkins Diet…

        • Tom Venuto

          but again, where do we read the study(s)? that is what peer review and journal publication is for.

        • Rex Alfie Lee

          Apologies Tom it seems that the CSIRO didn’t make a study to produce their diet they used known studies. My first reading of the information some years back gave me the impression that they actually compared diets & supported Atkins but on reading up today it seems this is otherwise…

  • Darshan

    I would like to know the source articles for “Numerous studies have shown that in the absence of weight loss ketogenic diets (low carbohydrate diets) may be detrimental to blood lipids levels, while ketogenic diets that result in weight loss are good for blood lipid levels.”
    Also “Numerous studies have indicated a big reduction of calories (below maintenance requirements) when following low carbohydrate diets.”

  • Darshan

    I suggest that the authors review this article as well:

    • Tom Venuto

      Darshan. what does the Stanford A to Z study (JAMA) have to do with the statements made in Jamies article (specifically regarding myths about the atkins diet… such as “carbs make you fat, insulin causally drives obesity, calories dont matter” and so on)? The A to Z study, like a lot of other studies, says atkins is a feasible way to lose weight. No one here has said otherwise. by the way, similar studies, if you read the full papers and not just the abstracts, will tell you basically the same thing: any diet can work if it puts you in a caloric deficit and most importantly, if you can stick with. Thus, for weight loss, the ability to stick with a diet appears to be more important than which diet you follow, so the study you quoted and many others like it actually refutes the claim made by extremist low carbers who say that high carb diets or moderate carb (mixed diets) make you fat. They dont. the best diet is the one you can stick with. by the way, other long term studies of similar design found that any diet that goes to extremes, including extreme low carb diets, has a lower compliance rate; the diets that were more balanced rather than those that demonize entire food groups came out on top over the long haul, particularly when you look at relapse rates later on.

      • Darshan

        Thanks for your reply. I am not talking about a lifestyle management, where you are correct that the diet has to be more balanced.
        However, when you do talk about caloric restriction and some posters have invoked physics, let me point out one thing. KEtosis represents metabolic waste, in the sense that ketone bodies are 4 carbon containing molecules, such as hydroxybutyrate, and these are excreted out. IN a higher carb diet, there is no metabolic waste, the body simply adjusts (after a lag phase) to a lower caloric intake by minimizing the BMR.
        MAny people in India go on a 30-day fast, drinking only plain water. They lose a lot of weight during this time. However, they gain back more weight, once they are on a normal diet. My hypothesis is that they primarily lost lean muscle during the fast, while preserving most of the fat.
        I believe that only lower carb diets work to initiate fat loss, however, they are not suitable for lifestyle management (protein, fat and fiber are extremely expensive compared to the carbs they replace; and what options do vegetarians have?)

        • Tom Venuto

          Hi darshan. lower carb diets DO initiate weight loss faster. Its water weight and glycogen depletion not 100% fat. This quick initial weight loss explains better outcomes on atkins (which uses very low carb induction) in short term studies. In long term studies, weight loss evens out and either diet works provided the person could adhere to it. Its NOT correct however that ONLY lower carb diets initiate fat loss: low fat, high carb diets and mixed diets will also initiate fat loss if the calories are in a deficit. ketosis is no magic, in my opinion. Diets that restrict carbs moderately, but arent low enough in carbs to induce ketosis can work very well in my experience…… Im not sure if youre referring to metabolic advantage when you discuss metabolic waste, but improved fat loss due to “metabolic advantage” has not been conclusively proven as a result of ketogenic diets. Just to play devils advocate though, lets assume extra energy is used during a keto diet or energy is excreted (feces). If you can quantify that energy in order claim “energy waste” has occured, then you have just proven physics/thermodynamics of weight loss, not disproven it, because after accounting for said energy, the weight loss will be exactly as the calorie math dictates. calories dont just disappear. Also, the energy balance equation is dynamic – always changing and many people forget that…. re vegetarian. I found it interesting that people said the most recent atkins book, says there is a vegetarian version of the diet. Sounds like an oxymoron. But I do know many vegetarians who increase their intake of nuts, seeds and healthy oils in combo with of course the veggies, and call that low carb. Seems awkard to me though for vegetarians to exclude the high protein whole grains and the beans, legumes, etc. Im curious to see what others might say about “vegetarian atkins” -including what long time atkins supporters might say (is it just marketing? diluting the name? bastardizing the real atkins? trying to grab more converts as the atkins company keeps publishing and trying to stay alive long after atkins passing? I dunno. Just thinking out loud)

        • Frank


          Do you really believe it would make sens from an envolutionnary standpoint that when fasting, the body eats its muscle and preserve its fat? That would be one of the least advantageous adaptation ever, and I doubt we would have survive if that was true.

          • Tom Venuto

            im not darshan… :-)…. but, actually prolonged fasting or vlcd’s are in fact NOT muscle-friendly at all. in the absence of weight training and adequate protein, its downright catabolic.

            And, there are indeed adaptations that decrease energy expenditure and (attempt to) increase energy intake so as to preserve weight/fat homeostasis and prolong survival time before real starvation occurs

  • Aileen

    I have to contest that the CSIRO diet study was neutral. The high protein diet that CSIRO promote was in part funded by the Meat and Livestock Association. CSIRO’s funding situation is dire and they take money from anyone and everyone to get operating money, even salary money to do research.

    Having said that I don’t actually have a problem with the CSIRO well being diet. Its rates of protein intake are roughly what I follow anyway.

  • the atkins would seem to hav too little protein

  • Cheri

    You must not have read the book and whomever is “investigating” them didn’t either. The Atkins diet DOES have restrictions. You should probably see what Colette Heimowitz says because she HAS said over and over again that you have to limit quantities. This blog article is false advertising. And should be deleted before you get into trouble! Or, are you trying to sell your own diet by trashing one of the greatest diets out there? This is so ridiculous, Even Dr Atkins says you don’t have to do high fat.. PLUS your appetite will diminish and therefore you will naturally eat less. I hate when these blog articles pop up because they have no clue what they are talking about. Perhaps you should READ the book so you will see you are slandering the diet.

    • Tom Venuto

      Cheri, cheri cheri….
      A. I cant speak for Jamie, but I read the atkins diet (New Diet Revolution edition, pictured in the post) twice from cover to cover. Unlike you, I have also read all of the important peer-reviewed research on the atkins diet and low carb versus high carb versus mixed diets. You’ve probably dont even know what a peer reviewed study is, let alone read one.

      B. This article is not slandering the atkins diet – a source has been provided for every statement that has been made – and additional citations provided by me in the comments. The truth can be found in the research. Whats more , jamie even had the courtesy to point out when he is citing the research proven facts and when he is giving his opinion.

      C. This article does not “trash” the atkins diet in any way shape or form. What the hell did you read, lady? (or what did you smoke?). Jamie’s conclusions are pretty balanced if you ask me. Throughout the comments, NO WHERE do I say that the atkins diet doesnt work. What more do you want? My endorsement on on the cover blurbs?

      D. What this article is really about, but your IQ appears too low to realize, is that there are pros and cons to the atkins diet, like there are many diets – EVEN THE ONE I RECOMMEND – which is based on bodybuilding nutrition – My diet is not for everyone. Atkins is not for everyone. This article was also about MYTHS and INCORRECT ASSUMPTIONS about the atkins diet and WHY IT WORKS. Notably: carbs make you fat, insulin is baaaaad and makes you fat… calories dont matter — all low carb misconceptions. If you wish to defend any of these false beliefs, please state your case, and be sure to cite your sources….

      on second thought, never mind… just GET OFF MY WEBSITE, YOU DRONE!

      • scott

        I must be one of the “lucky” ones Tom. All I have to do to lose fat is ensure that a calorie deficit is in place by day’s end and presto, the fat is gone. Obviously this is not an overnight process but once I get the numbers crunched and follow a diet (any diet) that results in a calorie deficit for a long enough period of time, the fat starts to disappear.

        I prefer a diet that is high in protein and moderate in carbs. That enables me to more effectively manage my hunger and keep the cravings at bay. A higher protein diet is more satiating and helps preserve lean muscle mass while dieting. It is also alleged to boost your metabolism through thermogenesis, but I think people overestimate the amount of additional calories burned.

        I have lost fat by eating many different ways. However, the successful diets all had one thing in common: they resulted in a calorie deficit. Too much of anything can get stored as fat even chicken breasts and salad greens. I agree with what you have said all along and that is whatever diet enables me to remain in a calorie deficit over a long enough period of time (assuming fat loss is my goal) is the right diet for me as long as it doesn’t jeopardize my health.

        Keep up the good work, Tom. Who knew this latest blog update would touch off such a hullabaloo.

        • Tom Venuto

          thanks scott – and lucky you indeed. Actually i KNEW this would touch off a hullabaloo. But if you think this is good, you should wait til I post my pieces on: master cleanse, colon cleansing and HCG diet. That will be a HOOT!

          • Mia

            Can’t wait. It’s amazing how hostile the advocates of colon cleansing are to any suggestion that they don’t work and are actually very bad for you; as if we know better than millions of years of evolution as to how to clean our colon!! Love ya Tom.

          • Tom Venuto

            Ha – yeah. that one will be a real s**t storm! (pun intended). Already published that but never open to comments yet, just google “colon cleansing scam”

  • […] came across this article and thought it was interesting, especially since there talk in fitness circles around low carb and […]

  • karina cerda (no longer mendoza!)

    Well,thanks to Tom Venuto,”Dr.Atkins” is not going to be “MY” ALLI!(:

    • Placing the focus on a calorie deficit which is required for weight loss is exactly why the US has tens of thousands of high school girls using starvation as their main weight loss tool. They start this cycle at a very young age which results in a slow down in metabolism. As these girls go back to their normal eating HABITS their weight goes back up and their metabolism decreases again. They may be back to the weight they started at before they started focusing on the all important calorie deficit starvation diet but their new metabolism is now markedly worse then it was originally. The girls will go on this rollercoaster ride for the next 40 years of their life. They will listen to quotes in movies like ” Notting Hill” from Julia Roberts where she says “I haven’t eaten in 10 years.” The US fascination with calories in calories out has led to a culture of starvation and models that look sickly. Focusing on calories in and calories out along with watching nothing but your weight on the scale are the two biggest problems confronting the battle against obesity and eating disorders in our country today. Does anybody measure or even care about bodyfat and ones fat mass which is the only true objective measure we have of people’s metabolism in our country anymore. The day you read the word’s metabolism and fat mass/ bodyfat more in nutrition articles than you do today’s calories in and calories out and weight weight weight is the day you will see a dramatic drop in obesity and eating disorders in the US. Yes, from an energy point of view the statement in and of itself is correct but statements like calories in calories out have an entire nation focusing on the wrong concepts. I respectfully disagree with the words not the concept of what is argueably one of the best nutrition blogs in the country(Burn the Fat).
      Ed Reardon

      • Tom Venuto

        Youre right – most people in our industry, especially the diet side (as compared to the fitness side) are still focused on “weight” loss. But every program I have ever created has been body composition focused. I even wrote a short ebook about how to test your body fat and calculate/ track lean body mass – all my customers get it. Ask ANYONE around here or on our facebook pages. even the title of my first book is all about body comp: “BURN THE FAT, FEED THE MUSCLE.” caloric deficit is not the reason for starvation dieting and eating disorders – that is WAY deeper than teaching calorie deficit. “Tricking” people into eating less by telling them to eat only from a certain list of foods and not mentioning calories can work, but if it does, the client will have no idea WHY they really succeeded. They will have been denied the nutrition education they really need. I teach *conservative calorie deficit* + high nutrient density food + weight training + cardio. Add social support and motivation tools to that and you cant help but succeed. Works like an absolute charm and Ive been teaching this since 1989. Thanks for your correspondence. We can agree to disagree. best regards,

  • David Ludlow

    My Father and I both went on the Atkins Diet about 20 years ago, and both successfully lost weight. I however must admit that a lot of the actual loss was muscle and not fat. The other point is that my father passed away at the age of 85 last year, due to Parkinsons disease which he has battles since his late 40’s. There is no history of parkinsons disease in my family and his doctor stated that he believed that the Atkins diet was a major contributor to his development of the disease and that the diet was known (or believed)to cause the disease in certain cases.

    • Petros

      Sorry to hear about you’re father, on that topic though I have never heard of “atkins” type diets being linked to parkinsons. On a quick search it threw up something about high iron diets being linked to it. Anyhow, if you do an atkins type diet without eating enough protein and doing some form of strength training then you are bound to lose some muscle; though I have known people who didn’t do much strength training and lost a ton of body fat I did not ask about their muscle mass.

      I, myself follow a similar type of eating and try to get enough protein and definately do some strength training in the form of kettlebell workouts and some ripcord resistance training (as well as a little of H.I.I.T sprints.

  • Vivi

    I for one am doing the Atkins diet right now. I can say that I have been following the induction phase to a “t”. Here are my findings: number of calories does matter! When I overeat all the allowed foods, I do not loose weight. So I basically have to eat sensibly and not pig out in order to loose. It is also true that the more fat % I consume, the least hungry I get. So it is all about balance. I do eat plenty o green and leafy vegetables daily, I take multivitamins (good ones), Omega-3 for sure, probiotics also, Extra vitamin D and extra minerals for good measure.

    I also started a weight lifting program – I am a woman and I started a program for men that want to get buff! High weight, fewer reps than the girlie ones. 🙂

  • I find the confluence of diet, exercise and adequate rest (usually the one that is forgotten) is the only sure-fire way to lose weight.

    Use all three of these as a weapon to combat weight loss! One individual piece won’t be enough.

    Great work on the site Tom. It looks great and more importantly provides people with the information they need.

  • I heard that the guy who created this diet died of heart disease. is this true?

    • Petros

      he died slipping on some ice and was a healthy weight for his age… during his coma/period in hospital he bloated

      In 2000, Dr. Atkins developed cardiomyopathy, an incurable heart condition which has quite a few different causes. His was thought to be from a viral illness, and his physician stated at the time that there was no evidence that his diet contributed to the condition. His coronary arteries were reported to have been checked at that time and found to be free of blockages.
      Cardiomyopathy makes it more likely that a person will have a cardiac arrest (heart stopping), which happened to him two years later. Again, the cardiac arrest was not thought to be diet related. His cardiologist stated that (other than the cardiomyopathy), Atkins had “an extraordinarily healthy cardiovascular system”.

      William Leith, an writer who interviewed him around the time of his cardiac arrest stated that “he looks to be just under 6 feet tall and around 200 lbs – not skinny, not thin, but definitely not fat.” A report from Atkins Nutritionals states that he played tennis competitively and that his weight was frequently checked, and in the years before his death was below 195, and six feet tall. And a medical report at the time of his admission to the hospital, which was later made public by his widow, states that he was 195 lbs on admission to the hospital.


      Atkins’ Death

      On April 8, 2003, at age 72, Dr. Atkins slipped on the ice while walking to work, hitting his head and causing bleeding around his brain. He lost consciousness on the way to the hospital, where he spent two weeks in intensive care. His body deteriorated rapidly and he suffered massive organ failure. During this time, his body apparently retained an enormous amount of fluid, and his weight at death was recorded at 258 pounds. His death certificate states that the cause of death was “blunt impact injury of head with epidural hematoma”.


  • DT

    As someone who had battled the buldge for as long as I can remember, I can say that Atkins changed my life and not just because of massive weight loss or changes in overall health but because it showed me the very negative role “sugars” (meaning actual sugar and simple carbs) had in my life and made me believe that I could change my body. It changed how I looked at food and the way I felt, which is 80% of it. There is something with obesity that makes you feel like a “victim”, like you almost have no control over your own body.

    For me Atkins was a starting point to a journey that took 80 lbs off my frame and put more muscle on me than ever before. Was it all Atkins? No, but it was the catapult. Only the first 22 lbs, after that I listened to my body and did what I call “modified Atkins”. Adding back carbs (gasp!) but only those of the BEST quality…i.e. leafy greens, yams, oatmeal. I made sure there was more than enough protein. Then I took pieces of advice from body builders and modified again….ALWAYS listening to my body.

    Atkins was pretty extreme back then and I’d recommended it to anyone who struggles with obesity but with a catch….don’t go extreme. Do the 2 week induction only then build your good carb intake to the point that you aren’t too tired to work out but still see results.

    The one MOST important piece of advice I can give anyone wanting to change their body for any reason is do what works for your body and CHANGE it up frequently. Listen to your body and don’t buy the hype but if you choose a “diet plan”, don’t stay on it for more than 20lbs. It seemed that every time I hit the 20lb loss mark the results slowed dramatically, which in turn causes frustration. That’s what has brought me here. Wish I’d known that 20 years ago. 🙂

  • The Atkins diet can make you lose weight but is extremely unhealthy as well. My father actually tried this diet, lost 20 pounds, and gained 25 pounds back when he began to eat regularly. This was the same for several other people I know. People who are lean eat well-balanced diets because they are listening to their bodies and fill their stomachs with a large variety of foods, fulfilling all of their bodies needs.

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