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Atkins Diet Induction Rules

By Joseph Nicholson ; Updated July 27, 2017

The Induction Phase is frequently mistaken for the entire Atkins Diet. Its restriction of generally healthy foods and limit to extremely low and no-carbohydrate selections, primarily meats and eggs, leads some to criticize the diet as being too extreme. But Dr. Atkins always intended the Induction Phase to be a drastic but temporary measure for stimulating a powerful response from the body's metabolism. The Atkins Diet Induction rules are strictly enforced only for the first 14 days of the diet.

Eat Frequently

One of the features of the Atkins Diet that attracts many dieters is that it does not rely on starvation, at least not in the conventional sense. During the Induction Phase, it's important to eat regularly, at least three to six meals per day. Never go more than six hours without eating something, but adjust meal size to suit your appetite as it naturally decreases. When you eat, choose liberally from foods containing fat and protein, but don't gorge or stuff yourself. Though you never have to feel hungry, your body is being starved of carbohydrates and burning fat.

20 Net Carbs

The most important rule of the Induction Phase is to eat no more than 20 net carbs per day. Net carbs are calculated by subtracting fiber from total carbohydrate. Never simply assume a food is low in carbohydrates--always read the label. The one or two grams of carbohydrates in low-carb foods can add up quickly, but with a little creativity, 20 net carbs per day can go a long way. For example, 20 net carbs would allow four ounces of cheese, 10 olives, half an avocado, an ounce of sour cream and three tablespoons of lemon or lime juice. When planning your carbs, it's better to space them out throughout the day rather than piling them all in at a single meal.

Foods to Avoid

Many foods are simply too rich in carbohydrates and low in fat or protein to be allowed during the Induction Phase. Bread, pasta, grains and starchy vegetables like potatoes, yams and squash all fall in this category. The same is true for fruits (except avocado, olives and tomatoes), nuts, legumes (beans, lentils, peas) and milk. Another important food to avoid is alcohol. Eventually, small amounts of red wine or low-carb beer will be permitted, but during the Induction Phase alcohol provides too many calories that will interfere with the transition to fat burning.

Drink Carefully

The best beverage during the Induction Phase is plain water. It's always a good idea to drink plenty of water, but protein digestion requires more water than usual, so your water needs will be increased during the Induction Phase. At least eight eight-ounce glasses per day is suggested. This will also help prevent constipation and encourage the flushing of fat-burning byproducts. Obviously, sugary drinks should be strictly avoided, and beverages with artificial sweeteners should be used sparingly. Because caffeine can create sugar cravings and hypoglycemia, coffee and tea consumption should be limited.


Dr. Atkins fully acknowledged that the Induction Phase of his diet was unbalanced and restricted consumption of healthy, nutrient-rich foods. He advocated the taking of vitamin supplements that include potassium, magnesium and calcium during this period to replace nutrition that would otherwise be obtained from fruits, vegetables and other restricted foods. He also suggest the use of psyllium husks in water or ground flaxseed on a salad to cure constipation during the Induction Phase.

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