The Atkins diet, a well-known, low-carbohydrate eating program, consists of four phases. In the first phase, known as induction, carb intake is highly restricted. The idea behind the first phase of the Atkins diet is to kick-start weight loss by consuming a maximum of 20 net grams of carbs per day. “Net carbs” is defined as total carbohydrates, less the fiber content. While the first phase of Atkins may provide results for many people, there is the possibility of various side effects including fatigue, food cravings, insomnia and more.
Because carbohydrates are the body’s primary fuel source, very low carbohydrate diets can result in fatigue, particularly during exercise. A study article published in October 2007 in the “Journal of the American Dietetic Association” notes that low-carb diets have been associated with reduced physical activity, which can be counterproductive for individuals trying to lose weight. The study found that diets consisting of only 5 percent carbohydrates caused feelings of fatigue, as well as mood disturbances, during exercise. The researchers concluded that low carbohydrate diets could significantly reduce the desire to exercise.
Side Effects of Ketosis
Consuming the recommended amount of carbohydrates for the first phase of the Atkins diet can lead to a state called ketosis, in which your body burns its own fat stores for energy, due to insufficient blood glucose. While the state of ketosis may in fact be the goal of many Atkins dieters, ketosis can also have some undesirable effects on the body such as mental fatigue, headaches, nausea and bad breath.
For most individuals, the first phase of the Atkins diet means a considerable shift in the type of calories consumed. This dramatic shift, along with the complete removal of all sugars from the diet, can lead to food cravings for many individuals. While cravings for high-carbohydrate foods, such as bread, chips or muffins, may be common, these to cravings will likely subside after the fifth day of the Atkins diet when your blood sugar levels stabilize, according to the Atkins website. When you’re having cravings for high-carb foods, it may be due to a lack of dietary fat, which can be remedied by eating avocado or cheese.
Other Undesirable Effects
The potential side effects of the Atkins diet may be largely dependent upon the individual. A study published in 2008 in “Nutrition & Metabolism” found that while low-carb diets proved useful in managing obesity and Type 2 diabetes, they also presented a number of adverse effects including headache, constipation, back pain, diarrhea and insomnia. The early phase of the Atkins program can cause these side effects as well, in addition to dizziness and weakness, notes MayoClinic.com.
Clay McNight is currently a nutrition writer with Demand Media Studios.