Atkins 72, An Alternative Low-Carb Plan

Platter Salad: Greens, Baby Shrimp, Cucumber Slices, Slices of Hard-Boiled Eggs
Atkins 72 is still the BEST low-carb diet plan
because it lets you personalize your menu
to fit your tastes and lifestyle!

If you're struggling to lose weight on a modern version of the Atkins Diet, you might be eating too many carbs. You could also be eating too much fat, especially if fat is taking up 80 percent of your calories.

According to Dr. Atkins, the program he created in 1972 was "a very low carb reducing diet (and not a high-fat diet as many of my nonreading critics asserted)."

Returning to the diet Dr. Atkins created and used on himself and patients can get the scales moving downward again, so in this post, I am going to outline everything you need to know to get started on Atkins 72 Induction right away.

I have also included a few sample menus to make the process easier for you.

In Dr. Atkins professional experience:

The 60-gram carbohydrate diets that sprang up in the 60s at the time that he was experimenting with Dr. Bloom's diet (bacon and eggs, meat, poultry, fish, and lettuce salad) didn't cut carbohydrates low enough.

Since the modern day Atkins 20 has increased carbs to include a whopping 6 cups of vegetables per day, this is an important point. Many people cannot handle that amount of vegetables, especially on Atkins Induction.

Dr. Atkins' focus was on eliminating hunger, rather than pleasing society or the medical industry, so the original Atkins diet, often referred to as Atkins 72, begins by placing you at biologically zero grams of carbohydrate.

Dr. Atkins wasn't concerned with whether you reached the magical number of 20 carbs a day, or not. In fact, the lettuce salad offered on the following diet is actually optional. Atkins just wanted to create a diet that tasted good and wouldn't leave you hungry and feeling unsatisfied.

Biologically zero carbs comes to a mere 10 total carbs a day, only what you can metabolize from a 2-cup salad and a few incidentals.

This super-low carbohydrate level that you follow for one week is what made this low-carb diet different and more effective than the other weight-loss diets. 

Basic insulin level falls faster and hunger returns to normal within only a day or two.

Pinterest Image: Shrimp Salad

The Science Behind Atkins 72

What is Atkins 72?

During the first week of the original Atkins diet, you cut your intake of carbohydrates down to what is considered biologically zero.

That dietary restriction creates a unique chemical situation resulting in the quickest way to lose weight and excess body fat there is.

Excess ketones in the urine are excreted due to the body's inability to store them, and hunger disappears quickly due to a drastic drop in blood triglycerides.

When triglycerides are low, the hormone leptin can communicate with the brain and tell the hypothalamus how much body fat you have stored and available for use.

The first fuel your body burns for energy comes from the carbohydrates you eat and drink.

If any carbohydrate is available, your body burns that first, rather than stored body fat. This is the traditional metabolic pathway that most weight-loss diets use.

However, you only have enough carbohydrate stored in the liver to last about 24 hours, or less.

When you don't eat any carbohydrates, your body is forced to draw upon alternative fuel sources, such as:
  • protein/muscle mass
  • alternative sources of glucose
  • and your stored body fat
Forcing the body to deplete its glycogen stores sets the body up to take a different metabolic pathway because the body won't burn amino acids for energy for more than a few days if there is body fat available.

On Atkins 72, you can be in ketosis in 24 hours.

The alternative metabolic pathway allows the metabolism to predominantly burn fats for fuel, rather than glucose or muscle tissue.

Dr. Atkins considered this a revolutionary idea of his day, especially since he believed that excreting ketones in the urine meant you were burning your unwanted body fat without hunger.

By very gradually adding carbohydrates back into your diet, you can stay fat-adapted and keep your body burning its own fat stores for fuel. This gradual addition of carbs keeps your metabolism stoked, so it can burn fatty acids like a fat-burning engine.

This is what Atkins 72 teaches you how to do.

General Overview of Atkins 72

The first week you enter into an Atkins 72 Induction. The rules and instructions for that first phase of the original Atkins Diet can be found below.

The second week you add a few grams of carbohydrate to your diet, about 5 to 8 total carbs per day, and then evaluate your weight loss and how you feel at the end of that week.

Every week thereafter, you continue to add a little more carbohydrate, 5 to 8 total grams per day, per week, until your weight loss stalls or you begin to gain. This alerts you to your personal carbohydrate tolerance level.

When you gain weight, you lower your carbohydrates by 5 to 8 total grams per day to see if weight loss starts up again. If it does, this is the maximum amount of carbohydrate you can eat per day and still lose weight.

From that point on, you eat less than your maximum level until you reach goal weight.

The Rules of Original Atkins Diet

Platter of Hot Wings with Chili Sauce
To do the original Atkins Diet correctly,
you need to know and follow the rules.

The Diet Revolution Rules (Level One)

1. Don’t count calories.

2. Eat as much of the allowed foods as you need to avoid hunger.

3. Don’t eat when you are not hungry.

4. Don’t feel you must finish everything on your plate just because it is there.

5. Drink as much water or calorie free beverages as thirst requires. Don’t restrict fluids, but it's not necessary to force them either.

6. Frequent small meals are preferable.

7. If weakness results from rapid weight loss, you may need to add salt.

8. Everyday, take a high-strength multivitamin pill.

9. Read the labels on “low-calorie” drinks, syrups, and desserts. Only those with no carbohydrate content are allowed.

The First Life-Changing Week, eat nothing that is not on this list:

Meat: steak, corned beef, lamb chops, tongue, hamburgers, bacon, any kind of meat in any quantity—except meat with fillers such as sausage, hot dogs, meatballs, and most packaged “cold cuts.”

Fowl: duckling, turkey, chicken, anything with wings, but no stuffing.

Desserts: gelatin with artificial sweeteners.

Condiments: salt, pepper, mustard, horseradish, vinegar, vanilla, and other extracts, artificial sweeteners, any dry powdered spice or herb that doesn't contain sugar.

Drinks: water, mineral water, Vichy, club soda, beef or chicken broth, bouillon, sugar-free diet soda, coffee,* tea, and decaffeinated coffee.

Fish: all fish, including canned salmon, tuna, any kind of seafood, including oil-packed and smoked, except oysters, clams, muscles, scallops, and pickled fish.

Eggs: boiled, fried, scrambled, poached, omelet – any style and without limitations.

Salads: two small green salads a day, each less than one cupful, loosely packed, made only of leafy greens, celery, or cucumbers and radishes. Dressings can be made with vinegar, oil, salt, dry spices, herbs, grated cheese, or anchovies. You can also have a sour pickle in place of a salad. Plus green olives.

Fats: butter, margarine, oils, shortening, lard, and mayonnaise.

Juice: juice of one lemon or lime per day.

Cheese: four ounces a day of any hard, aged cheese. No cream cheese or cheese spreads.

Heavy Cream: four teaspoons a day. Cream has less carbohydrate than milk, so don’t use milk.

Diet Revolution Salad Material: celery, chicory, chinese cabbage, chives, cucumber, endive, escarole, fennel, lettuce, olives (green or black), onions, pickles (sour or dill), parsley, peppers, radishes, scallions, or watercress.

*Special note on caffeine and diet cola: Because most heavy people have some hypoglycemia, coffee, which contains caffeine, should be limited to six cups a day. If you know you have low blood sugar, it's better to limit it to three.

What Happens After the First Week's Diet?

Most diets are fixed formulas. That makes them short-term and self-limiting. This diet is fixed only for the first week. After that, since it's a lifetime diet, you can make it as variable as your individual tastes.

Dr. Atkins was committed to making this a livable lifetime diet.

"I am letting you select your own variations, within the rules set up by your biological rulebook," he said.

His number one suggestion? 

Put back what you’ve missed the most! 

The idea is to custom-tailor the diet to suit your tastes and lifestyle.

"All that matters is that you add back to your diet a little carbohydrate at a time, and that you stop adding carbohydrate when you reach your CCL."

How to know when to put back a little carbohydrate? Ask yourself:

  • Are the ketostix still turning purple?
  • Are you not hungry?
  • Have you stopped snacking at night?
  • Do you have more energy?
  • Are you losing weight and/or inches?
Remember that your tape measure will be a more important marker of success than your scale. It's more accurate, and will better reveal the actual fat you've lost, not just water fluctuations.

At each level, you add back approximately five to eight grams of carbohydrate daily for a week, and then you analyze your results.

Most of Dr. Atkins' patients found the best way to handle the second level was to add some cottage cheese on the side of their meat and salad. But alternative choices might be:
  • sugar-free cheesecake
  • more salad
  • nuts
  • fruits like berries
Or anything else you like. You could also choose from a lengthy list of vegetables, which I have included below:

The Diet Revolution Vegetables (not for level one):

Shish Kabobs: Chicken, Peppers, Onions
Shish Kabobs waiting to go on the
grill: chicken, zucchini, onion, peppers

In addition to the salad veggies listed above, you could also have five to eight carbs of:

bamboo shoots
bean sprout
beet greens
brussels sprouts
chinese cabbage
snow pea pods
string beans
summer squash
water chestnuts
wax beans
zucchini squash

Sample Menu, Level One:

The following sample menu was Dr. Atkins recommendations for week 1:

Breakfast: scrambled eggs with spicy ham, diet revolution roll and butter, bouillon, coffee, or tea.

Lunch: cold cuts sandwich on diet revolution roll w/ mayo or mustard, 1 cup of salad (loosely packed), oil and vinegar dressing, or a dressing from the recipe list, raspberry gelatin, diet soda, coffee, or tea.

Dinner: chicken soup with matzoh balls, your favorite cut of steak, caesar salad with caesar salad dressing, gelatin, diet soda, coffee, or tea.

Snack: pork rinds, stuffed celery, diet soda.

Sample Menu, Level Two:

And these are his sample menus for level two:

Breakfast: lox and stuffed onion omelet, caraway diet revolution roll with cream cheese, bouillon, coffee, or tea.

Lunch: avocado stuffed with crabmeat, tossed green salad with dressing from recipe list, diet soda, coffee, or tea.

Dinner: mixed grill with garlic butter sauce or BĂ©arnaise sauce, tossed salad with french dressing, gelatin parfait with whipped cream, diet soda, coffee, or tea.

Snack: assorted smoked fish, hard cheese, diet soda

Okay. There it is -- "By the Book!"

If you'd like to get a full week of sample menus for Atkins 72 Induction, then I highly recommend you check out our quick-start keto guide for Atkins 72.

It includes 7 days worth of menus, recipes, and a shopping list along with valuable tips and tricks for making your Atkins 72 Induction successful.

Additional Atkins 72 Articles You May Want to Read:

What is Atkins 72?
Why is the Original Atkins Diet Better for Weight Loss?
Personalize Your Low-Carb Diet Plan with Atkins 72
Atkins Induction Diet: Which Version is Best?
Three Ways to Jump Start Ketosis


  1. You're welcome. I'm glad I could help.

  2. This helped me a lot. I have a very hard time sticking to any diet. I am starting this tomorrow. We will see how this goes. If you have any helpful menu hints that are simple it would be awese. I have a hard time with that. My email is

  3. I just heard about this on another site and I'm so excited to find your blog. Thank you for posting!! I have a lot to lose, but I'm excited for my future!! :)

  4. Shauna,
    Thank you so much for posting. I hope the diet is going well so far. I will give this some thought and come up with some menu ideas and tips. Thanks for the idea.

  5. Anonymous,
    Glad you found me then. I've been a bit under the weather lately due to thyroid issues, but plan to get back to posting this week. Good luck with the diet. I like Atkins 72 the best of all of Dr. Atkins' plans. It was the easiest to fine tune to my needs.

  6. Looking at Atkins 72, fat and protein ratio's do not matter - is that correct? I use to do Atkins for years and now I am getting back into it and in a month can't drop anything past water weight. As a seasoned Atkin's-er I am really surprised!

  7. Anonymous,
    Yes, that is correct. On Atkins 72, fat and protein grams don't matter. Some people do have problems coming back to low carb. First timers have more of a metabolic advantage than those who are coming back. It depends on how insulin resistant you are, and how proficient your body is in burning ketones. Good luck.

    1. Hi Vickie i have lost my copy of atkins 1972. Do you know where i can get a copy? That is the book that worked the best for me and i am very sad that it is gone

  8. Thanks so much for posting this! I didn't realize all the changes that the Atkins diet has undergone over the years. I had been using the "new" Atkins plan (got a book, bought bars and shakes), and have not had the results I hoped for. Just got the original book from Amazon. Hopefully "Atkins '72" will help me with both weight loss (~20 pounds) and diabetes management. His original book is very similar to Dr. Bernstein's "Diabetes Book."

  9. There are copies available "used" at Amazon. Just search for "Dr. Atkins Diet Revolution 1972" and they will come up. Make sure the blurb says 1972 edition and that the title of the book doesn't use the word NEW.

  10. When it says less than 1 cup of salad, does that include anything you might add to the lettuce like cucumber? thank you!

    1. Yes. Atkins 72 includes very little veggie matter the first week.

  11. Couple of other questions. I am trying to understand levels. So after my 1 week induction must I move to level 1? By 5-8 carbs daily for a week means just 5-8 total and not 35 to 56 right? Also is each week after induction a level until I find the point where I stop losing weight? I am not sure if this is still looked at, but thank you for any help.

    1. You really don't have to move to level 1 if you don't want to, but it's better if you do since week 1 contains so few carbs. As for the 5 to 8 total carbs you add, that's in addition to whatever you were eating on 72 Induction. 72 Induction comes to about 10 carbs per day when I calculated it up.

      72 is a totally different way of doing it than the standard Atkins diet today. There's not really a daily total for carbs. It was based more on returning your favorite foods back in groups.

      When I did this version myself in 1975, I did Induction. Then for week 2, I added 1 cup cottage cheese daily to my meals. I did that by dividing the cottage cheese up into two servings of 1/2 cup each, so it was like replacing the potato or rice I used to have. The next week, I added a cup of veggies, whatever 5 to 8 carbs came to. The next week after that I added an ounce of nuts. Then, the next week some strawberries. That was my total diet.

      If I were doing it today, I'd probably do it a bit differently than that.

      In general, you can figure that you're starting off at 10 carbs, and that each 5 to 8 carbs is added to that 10 carb figure, to get your daily totals. So, week 2 would be 15 to 18 carbs. And week 3 would be 20 or 23 to 25 or 28 carbs, depending on whether you used the 5 or 8 carb figure. I hope that makes sense.

      I think I'm going to do a post on this. There are a lot of people still interested in and doing Atkins 72.

  12. Hi, I'm doing atkins72 , I completed week 2 and I lost 10 pounds in total , I expected to loose more than that because I did the new atkins on the past and I lost 16 pounds during the first2 weeks . Why it is running so slow if I'm eating les carbs than the new atkins??

    1. Each time you go off of Atkins and back onto it, your weight loss will be slower. The body learns to use ketones and fatty acids more efficiently. Carbohydrate restriction lowers insulin and helps curb hunger, but how much you're eating also plays a role in how fast the weight comes off.

  13. I have been doing the DANDR version (2002) and came to a complete weight loss stand still after a couple weeks. I'm going back to this original one which I had major success on back in the 90's. Worried about the fact that since I'm s returner my weight loss will be harder this time. Is there a support group anywhere like Facebook that I can join?

    1. I am not aware of any support groups for Atkins 72 on Facebook.

  14. I have been on the diet 5 weeks first two weeks lost 6 kilos third week 5.3 kilos back on not sure why this has happen. weight has slowed down only dropping 1 kilo per week. Im still doing first week not having salad with meat. why did the weight come back on. Thinking of stopping it over all the meat and if its not working not sure why I should continue.

    1. All of the weight you lose the first week is water. Not body fat. It's normal for your body to put some of that lost water back on. While it doesn't happen to everyone, it's very common. Weight slowed own because you're now losing body fat instead of water. 1 kilo a week is GREAT. How much weight did you expect to lose per week? 2.2 pounds is quite fast.

  15. How do you know how many carbs are in the food you consume each day? Is there a list of how many are in how much of each food you should have each day?

    1. I have a calorie-carbohydrate counter book that I use.

      Sometimes, I'll use, a website that lets you track your food. Fitday is a bit complex to use though.

      I went online and found a good carb-calorie counter. You can enter the food you're looking for in the first search box above the table, or you can sort by category in the second search box. The category will give you an entire list of vegetables or fruit or whatever food type you're looking for.

      Atkins 72 counts carbs without the fiber, which is what the default table will give you. If you want to know what the fiber count is, you can scroll down below the table and click on the box in front of the word "fiber," and the table will add those counts for you, too.

  16. Do you have a Facebook page? I would love to follow you.

    1. My contact info is on the contact us page in the top navigation.

  17. So the meals we can only eat meat and eggs. No veggies in the first week?. Can I drink bpt ?

    1. Atkins 72 Induction includes up to 2 cups of lettuce salad, along with your meat, eggs, and cheese. Bullet Proof Coffee is fine. In 92, Atkins added 2/3 cup of cooked vegetables a day because most of his patients could handle that many carbs the first week. It depends on WHY you're doing Atkins 72.

  18. I started low carb about a year ago, and have lost a little over 60 lbs. While I never had the dramatic weight loss as some report, e.g. 30lbs in 30 days, I have lost at a fairly consistent rate of 5 lbs a month. As I got close to my goal, I was adding back items I thought were low glycemic, but they caused me to stall. Worst of all, I started getting cravings to eat in the evening, which caused a small gain. I decided to go back to induction, after which i added back carbs, trying to stay in the 40 gram per day range. The carbs I added back were a 1/4 cup of oatmeal, 1/4 cup of beans and sometimes an apple. The desire to snack in the evening returned. This led me to researching on the web which led me to this blog. I am now in the middle of doing the Atkins 72 induction, eating only the juice of 1 lemon first thing followed by bacon and eggs for breakfast. Lunch and dinner consists of some meat and the 1 cup salad as described. This works out to 10 grams of carbs per day, 6 of which is the juice of a lemon and 2 grams for each salad. I am completely satisfied and do not have any craving to snack in the evening. This time when I add back carbs, I am not going to add them back by amount, but rather 1 food at a time. My expectation is that it is not the number of carbs as much as particular foods that trigger the desire to snack and I do not expect to see the cravings return of I stay on the list of vegetables for level 2.

    1. Thank you so much for sharing your experience with us. I really appreciate you taking the time to do that. I'm seeing this tendency a lot in those who develop cravings from carbs, that it is individual foods that trigger cravings. I cannot eat mixed nuts without it setting off a huge surge of hunger for more food, so I just don't eat them anymore.

    2. Thanks for the reply Vickie. I'm curious regarding adding back, in your experience do most people subtract at the same time. In other words, if add back broccoli first, i could keep or drop the salad, and still add a few carbs either way. After that, if I add asparagus, I would probably drop or at least reduce the amount of broccoli. I guess the question is, if I am just substituting one vegetable for another on the level 2 list over a period of weeks, I am not really increasing carbs, just testing my reaction to that particular food. So it seems that increasing carbs really comes if or when I go off the level 2 list, several weeks down the road, and test my reaction to higher carb foods. Is that the approach most people take, or am I missing something?

    3. Yes, you can keep or drop the salad or use a combo of both salad and broccoli. Just limit the amount of broccoli you add to your daily total to 5 carbs.

      Think of it in terms of a single small serving of broccoli on top of what you're now eating for Induction. This will move you from 10 carbs per day to 15.

      If that doesn't go well, then I would try a week where you choose salad OR broccoli, and see if that works better. There are a number of people who honestly cannot eat more than 10 to 12 carbs a day without craving.

      If the salad + broccoli does go well, and your hunger is still in check at 15 carbs, you could stay at 15 carbs per day and choose between asparagus or broccoli, or a combo of those two plus salad plus lemon juice to come out to 15 carbs per day, to see how your body handles the asparagus.

      Each week you'd add back one food and toss it into the mix, juggling them in any way you like, but staying at 15 carbs total. Your food choices of what to eat each day would grow as time goes by, until you feel ready to up your carbs a little bit more, to 20.

      There is no right or wrong way to do this.

      The idea is just to go slow enough that you can catch which foods cause cravings and which foods do not. Serving size also matters though. Where say 1/2 cup of broccoli might be fine, 1 cup might be too much. There's no way to know except to experiment.


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