Sunday, June 29, 2014

What Is Atkins Induction? Part II

Last time, I addressed some misconceptions and pitfalls of Atkins induction. It's a simple diet, but it doesn't work with some current fads.

First, a word of caution: if you take amphetamines, diuretics (including high blood pressure medicine) or diabetes medicine, you need medical supervision on Atkins induction. Low-carb diets increase your adrenaline (not good if you're already cranked up on amphetamines), flush out excess fluid (bad in combination with diuretics), and normalize your blood sugar (you can get a hypo with LC plus medication). If your doctor objects to your doing Atkins, just ask him or her to monitor you. You might say that low-fat, low-calorie diets haven't worked for you and exercise hasn't worked for you either, but you've given low-carb diets a lot of thought and want to do a two-week trial.

If you use insulin, I'm sad to say you'll probably be on your own. I can't tell you how much to use, nor can anyone else on the internet. My best advice is to get Dr. Bernstein's Diabetes Solution and follow his diet and insulin dosing methods to the letter. Test your blood sugar often (fasting and one and two hours after meals, more if Bernstein advises it). Giving yourself insulin without testing your blood sugar first and without knowing how much the insulin will decrease it is playing Russian Roulette. My mother has had some nasty hypos that fatigued her for the rest of the day by doing that. It could have put her in a coma.

Of course, few nutritionists or medical professionals will clue you in to the dangers of a high-carb diet: weight gain, diabetes (onset or worsening), hypoglycemia, high blood pressure, tooth decay, GI problems, the need for speed (amphetamines), and much more.

Intermittent fasting is not part of the plan. Some people lose weight and feel great on it, but it's not for everyone and there's no shame in not doing it. I don't think Dr. Atkins could have or would have done intermittent fasting, since he said that back when he had three chins, he went looking for the "hungry man's diet." He added that he had a big appetite but no willpower. While some of his patients ate one meal a day because that's all they were hungry for, and that was fine, he suggested eating a big, cozy breakfast and, if you wanted to, eating six small meals. For people with GI problems or wonky blood sugar, this is better than one giant meal a day. When I tried intermittent fasting, I went on the first food binge of my life. I'd been on a LC diet for several months, I was healthy, and I didn't have diabetes. In other words, I had "no real reason" I couldn't do intermittent fasting, according to some LC doctors in clinical practice. Yet there I was, eating honey and driving to the grocery store for more sweets when it was over.

Don't try to exercise the weight off. Later editions of Atkins' books may say that exercise is non-negotiable, but the original (Dr. Atkins' Diet Revolution) barely mentions exercise, except to say that it wasn't a good weight-loss tool, but taking up a sport you enjoyed was a good motivation to stay trim. There have been recent intervention studies supporting the assertion that exercise isn't a good weight loss tool (weight-bearing exercises might help somewhat since they improve insulin sensitivity), and I can tell you from experience that even doing six hard workouts a week didn't keep me from putting on weight on my old carb-filled eating plan. Nor did it seem to help anyone in Denver's lindy hop scene (lindy being an athletic swing dance). The dance scene included some national champions and hard-core amateurs. Yet I saw some dedicated lindy hoppers gain weight over the years. And remember the 245-pound Jazzercise instructor? Challenging exercise will make everything higher and firmer. But if you don't carb up, you won't need to exercise your butt off.

Take your vitamins and minerals! Dr. Atkins recommended a high-potency multi-vitamin for readers, not because the diet was nutrient-poor, as some have asserted, but because his patients were deficient in vitamins and minerals. (For specific nutrient recommendations, though, I suggest a source more recent than 1972 since our knowledge of vitamins and minerals has changed quite a bit.) Some people are also either poor absorbers or burn through a lot of nutrients. Let me tell you things that have happened to me when I became nutrient depleted. Last year, I figured I didn't need to take iron anymore since I eat red meat daily. (A blood test years earlier showed I had iron deficiency anemia and needed supplements.) After a few weeks, I could barely prise myself out of my papasan chair and couldn't help lift my father after he fell. And when I don't take my multivitamin with zinc, I get acne. (Phinney & Volek recommend taking zinc for a month, then iron for a month, but if I went without iron pills that long, I don't think I could get out of bed.)

I don't see it in Dr. Atkins' Diet Revolution, but it's in the Protein Power blog and the book The Art and Science of Low Carb Living: take potassium and magnesium and eat salt, especially when starting a low-carb diet. Here again, I can tell you what can happen when you get depleted in some of these minerals. A few weeks ago, I decided I was too flabby and started Atkins induction (20g of carb per day). I was already low-carb, I just went lower carb. The next day, I had oral surgery.  A very low carb diet like Atkins induction depletes magnesium and especially potassium for awhile. Epinephrine, an anesthetic my surgeon used on me, can also cause low potassium, which I didn't know. I couldn't eat very much the first few days after my surgery--and I couldn't chew leafy greens or meat (I tried), foods high magnesium and potassium, respectively. So my potassium was really depleted.

Low potassium can give you heart palpitations. I knew this, having been through it before, so I started popping potassium pills when it happened. I popped them like candy, but I was still jittery, fluttery, and full of nervous energy.  It was so bad that after a yoga workout, I was so light-headed I worried that I couldn't make it home on the bus: the stop was several blocks away and I thought I might pass out from walking that far. It was a scary and uncomfortable. Doing some research later, I found out that potassium doesn't work if you're low on magnesium. I started taking magnesium and felt better within 15 minutes. Incidentally, after the yoga class, I stopped at a wine bar nearby and ordered a plate of cured meat and cheese and a big bottle of mineral water. Only later, I found out I needed magnesium (found in mineral water) and that pork (e.g., the cured meat I ordered) was high in potassium. That meal made me feel better for a day.

My Results doing Atkins Induction
I started at 130 pounds, about 10 pounds more than I wanted to weigh. When the palpitations started and continued after my surgery, I stopped doing induction because I knew I was low in minerals and didn't want to get worse. By then, I had lost three pounds and kept it off while still doing LC, just not induction. A week and a half after the surgery (June 23), I felt up to starting induction again. I've been taking all my supplements, following the eating plan pretty closely, and I've felt fine. Any palpitations have gone away with a potassium pill or two. After nearly a week, I'm at 125. It's only five pounds, but my watchband, jeans and shoes are all looser, my face is thinner and my belly is flatter. I've gone from the second to the third hole on my raincoat belt.

The oral surgeon's assistant said my mouth was healing properly; everything feels perfectly normal--the graft feels like it's part of my gums and I can barely feel a thin scar on the roof of my mouth. When I had septoplasty long ago, it didn't heal for years--not until I'd been on a LC diet for some months. But get this: my nosebleeds have almost completely disappeared in the past week. My skin feels softer and much of my keratosis is gone. It could be the unusually humid summer we've had in Denver this year--we'll find out as it gets roasting hot and dry this week.

Some people might find Atkins induction very restrictive, but one advantage is that it makes shopping and cooking a snap. Hardly any of the 50,000 products for sale at the grocery store are relevant so they don't get any of my attention. Since I quit eating crap-in-a-bag years ago, all that stuff looks the same to me, anyway. Yesterday at Natural Grocers, a woman had some food samples set up at a table. She complimented me on my necklace, then I said to her, "I'm sorry I can't sample whatever it is you have, I'm on Atkins." She said, "It's dog food, so I wouldn't want you to sample it." We laughed. I thought it looked like some chocolatey, high-fiber cereal in a remarkably plain container. Except for the chocolate, that's not far from dog food.

Speaking of chocolate, I've passed up chocolate bars completely. I've found abstaining from chocolate  bars is easier than trying eat them in moderation. We tell smokers to give up smoking, we tell alcoholics to stay on the wagon, we tell drug addicts to kick the habit, why do we tell chocoholics and people like them to use moderation? Yes, I'm a chocoholic. Once I start eating chocolate, I don't stop. Dr. Atkins actually addressed this in his book, saying that for reasons he wasn't able to discern, chocolate addiction was real. I have made some Coco Cocoa Fat Bombs from The Fat Fast Cookbook that have less than one gram of carb per serving, and they don't leave me wanting more chocolate. (Dr. Atkins' Diet Revolution says fats are unlimited and that you can have no-cal sweeteners and powdered spices, so the bombs are within the rules.)

The Atkins Diet has a reputation for being a horrible diet, but I think this is because of popular myths  and mental habit. And if some people really are eating pounds of meat, gobs of fat, and their full ration of cheese and cream, it might be because they're hungry and malnourished from starvation diets that have been pushed for over a hundred years. Or they might have a biological disorder that makes them very hungry; if that's the case, they're simply trading one high calorie diet for another.

Aside from my mineral depletion from the unfortunate timing of starting Atkins induction, I'm happy with it. If you're not sure about it, give it a two-week trial.


tess said...

excellent overview! I suspect a lot of long-time LCers can benefit from getting back to the basics -- there are so many tweaks and work-arounds floating about in the blogosphere, the issue gets complicated beyond recognition.

Lori Miller said...

Thanks, Tess. A lot of those tweaks and workarounds aren't appropriate for people with a damaged metabolism or GI system.

tess said...

and it's hard to predict who is going to benefit from what. even though i know Wooo knows her stuff, what works for her just doesn't fit me, and vice versa!

Lori Miller said...

Yes, and women of a certain age seem to need more fine-tuning than the guys. A stripped down approach without many variables is a good place to start. Atkins induction if you think your problem is blood sugar or weight or low energy; It Starts with Food by Dallas and Melissa Hartwig if you think you have food intolerances.

Lori Miller said...

Another thing about tweaks and workarounds: once you have an intermediate knowledge of LC and paleo diets, you can justify doing just about anything.

Galina L. said...

Thank you for the over-view, I am sure the troubled reputation of the Atkins diet has nothing to do with the original diet, rather with several layers of misconceptions, commercial activity of the Atkins company, the controversial reputation of Dr.Atkins himself - he enjoyed pissing-off his opponents.

Lori Miller said...

If you look at the Atkins diet objectively, it's like French food without the bread or dessert. Would France be full of muffin tops and clogged arteries if they all gave up bread and dessert?

Galina L. said...

I am not very knowledgeable in the area of a French cooking, My guess is - any traditional cooking values high-fat foods. I see just one disadvantage in LCarbing - it feels you fast,so it is more problematic to have long social meals.

Lori Miller said...

That's a feature, not a bug. But there's always coffee if you want to make it last longer.

JasmineJohend said...

Haha to the "no thanks" re the dog food, all crap in the bag looks the same! I hear you on the chocolate. I used to loathe dark chocolate, hubby always got lumped with the dark chocolate along with the coffee and orange cremes. These days I only allow myself 90% as a treat and guess what - I now crave it and could eat the whole packet - so that's off the menu. Amazing how the body responds to new foods. A few years back I would have never dreamed I would crave and overeat dark choc and brussel sprouts but here I am.

Lori Miller said...

I hear that all the time--that people's tastes change after they've been LC for awhile.

Lowcarb team member said...

You've set this out so well ...for all to read.


All the best Jan

Lori Miller said...

Thanks, Jan.

Larcana said...

Great post! It's true that each of us needs to see what we need to supplement for mineral loss.
I had all the same issues until I started daily magnesium and stopped worrying about fat.
I have boundless energy and believe me my job demands that!
I think being told" you need to eat this or that" because someone else did well sting it is crap!
I love my VLC eating and won't give it up for eny "expert" !!

Lori Miller said...

Sorry to hear you went through that, Larcana!

My least favorite advice is skipping meals. I hate being hungry all day and a big meal gives me a stomach ache.