Thursday, April 28, 2011

Metabolic Resistance and Atkins Induction – Clearing Up the Myths

The Atkins Induction phase of a low carb diet often symbolizes the beginning of a new lifestyle. Excitement is high, motivation is strong, and since most turn to carbohydrate restriction after attempting several different types of diets (and failing), hope has actually dared to poke its head out of the covers again.

What happens during this initial dieting phase is crucial to our success; that’s why Dr. Atkins designed it as he did. But over the years as his program evolved, misunderstandings regarding metabolic resistance and the weight loss experienced during those first few weeks have left many individuals scratching their head, confused.

What is Metabolic Resistance?


In 1970 there was no chart to label us metabolic resistant if we didn’t lose a certain number of pounds during the first week. In fact, Dr. Atkins defined resistance to weight loss as those who follow an 800 or 900-calorie well-balanced diet and still can’t lose body fat. He didn’t flag metabolic issues by speed. We were an average loser, a slow loser, or ahead of the game – but not inaccurately labeled metabolic resistant.

Metabolic resistance actually describes a condition called metabolic syndrome, and high insulin levels interfering with fat loss accounts for only a single aspect of that condition. Many other factors apply, most dealing with cholesterol issues.

Can you have metabolic syndrome and still not be resistant to weight loss? Sure. I’m a perfect example of that. The first time I went on the Atkins Diet I lost 7 or 8 pounds the first week, and 5 pounds consistently each week after that – even though I upped my carbohydrates each week, as suggested. My metabolic syndrome did not hinder my fat loss in any way.

What began to hinder my fat loss was the yo-yo low carb cycle I fell into over the years.

What’s the Atkins Induction Phase Actually For?


Over at the Atkins Nutritionals website, Colette Heimowitz has a blog post where she discusses metabolic resistance. While I don’t always agree with what she has to say, her statement about the purpose of Induction is right on:

“During Induction you were consuming about 20 grams of carbs a day. The carbohydrate level was extremely low to demonstrate that it’s possible for virtually everybody to experience lipolysis.”

That’s exactly why Dr. Atkins limits Induction to 20 carbs. It’s not because 20 carbs is the magic number for everyone. It’s because we are not his patients, so he needed a level that would enable most individuals to burn body fat from that very first week. However, the body fat that burns that first week or two is to fuel the liver as it converts glycogen stores back into fatty acids.

Where Do the Drastic Weight Losses On Induction Mainly Come From?


The drastic weight losses seen on Induction come from glycogen and the water attached to that glycogen – the body’s form of carbohydrates stored in the liver (to keep blood glucose levels steady) and muscles (for quick energy purposes). That’s why we tend to lose a lot of weight the first week or two.

Some of those losses are body fat, but not much. Most of it comes from water as the body empties out about half of its fuel reserves. Those initial losses are not about metabolic resistance. They set the body up to switch metabolic pathways where we predominantly burn fats for fuel instead of glucose. With predominantly being the key word here.

It's only after the Atkins Induction phase that we see metabolic problems surface, if there are any.

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