Metabolic Resistance and Atkins Induction – Clearing Up the Myths

Myths Can Spoil Your Hope for Successful Weight Loss
Don't Let These Myths
Spoil Your Hope for Successful Weight-Loss

The Atkins Induction phase of a low-carb diet often symbolizes the beginning of a new, healthier lifestyle.

Excitement is high, motivation is strong, and since most dieters have turned to carbohydrate restriction after attempting several low-calorie or low-fat 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 your weight-loss success. This is why Dr. Atkins designed his Induction diet in the way that he did.

Over the years his program has evolved, but misunderstandings among the low-carb community regarding metabolic resistance and the weight loss experienced during the first few weeks of the diet have left many individuals scratching their head, confused.

If you don't know what metabolic resistance actually is, and you don't know what Induction is for, it's easy to get caught up in the myths.

With a clear understanding of metabolic resistance, and what you can expect on Induction, you can hold onto that initial hope and achieve your weight-loss goals.

What is Metabolic Resistance?

In 1972, there was no chart that labeled you 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 this:

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.

You 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, which is linked to overweight but also inactivity.

People with metabolic syndrome have a thicker waist than others, and tend to have an apple or pear-shaped body. It is thought to be caused by insulin resistance, but only 1 in 3 overweight people actually have insulin resistance.

Can you have metabolic syndrome and still not be resistant to weight loss?


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 by 5 to 8 grams per day, exactly as Dr. Atkins suggested.

Metabolic syndrome did not hinder fat loss in any way. The fat literally fell off of me even though I was eating a large number of calories per day.

So what did hinder fat loss?

The yo-yo low-carb dieting cycle I fell into over the years.

What is the Atkins Induction Phase Actually For?

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

“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.

This is exactly why Dr. Atkins limits the Induction diet to 20 carbs a day.

It is not because 20 carbs is the magic number for everyone.

It is because we are not his patients, so he needed a level of carb restriction that would enable most individuals to lose weight the very first week.

With most being the key word here.

Dr. Atkins didn't promise that everyone would lose weight on Induction, nor would it be practical for everyone to do so.

The first adaption the body makes as glycogen stores become depleted is to upswing the direct burning of amino acids. This means what you burn during Induction is:

Glycogen and MUSCLE!

Watching others burn through muscle tissue at a rapid pace is nothing to be envious about.

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

The drastic weight losses seen on Induction initially come from glycogen that is stored in the liver, plus the water that was stored to process that glycogen. Glycogen is the storage form of carbohydrates stored in the liver or muscles.

Liver glycogen is converted into glucose, as needed, to keep blood glucose levels steady. Muscle glycogen is important for quick energy when time is of the essence. If you have a lot of glycogen stored in your muscles, the weight you lose during the first two weeks of the Atkins Diet can be a lot.


Recent research showed absolutely NO body fat lost during week one of the diet. Week two, the liver started using body fat instead of muscle tissue to help keep the brain alive, but it wasn't very much.

Water also contributes to those huge losses you see on induction, especially if you were not eating adequate protein before you ditched the carbs.

Water retention is a sign of protein deficiency.

What you lose on Atkins Induction is not about metabolic resistance.

While the body might resist going into the state of ketosis by exhausting all other sources of glucose and energy first, it can't keep avoiding the process of making ketones to feed the brain for very long.

Not in the presence of severe carb restriction.

Atkins is designed to set the body up to switch metabolic pathways, where you predominantly burn fatty acids for fuel instead of glucose. 

It's only after the Atkins Induction phase that you might see metabolic problems surface, if there are any that a low-carb diet doesn't almost immediately correct.