How Much Protein Can Be Eaten on the Atkins Diet?

By Sam Amico

The Atkins Diet rose to popularity in the 1990s, with its premise that limiting carbohydrates and getting most of your calories from protein were the keys to weight loss and good health. While the diet plan does not limit protein or fat intake, it does stress eating sensible portions and limiting or eliminating fried and breaded foods.


The Atkins Diet was founded by Dr. Robert Atkins, a cardiologist who developed the plan in the early 1970s in an attempt to lose weight himself. Atkins claimed the high-protein foods eaten on his diet enabled the body to burn stored fat, rather than glucose, for energy. Other similar low- to moderate-carb plans such as the South Beach Diet soon followed, adhering to Atkins’ theory that carbohydrate intake was actually worse for your body than fat.


People on the Atkins Diet are free to eat just about any protein-enriched product, provided it is not fried or breaded. Foods on the plan include chicken, turkey, hamburger, eggs and nonstarchy vegetables. Breads, pastas, cereal and other flour-based foods are almost entirely forbidden, as are sugar and caffeine. This allows someone on the Atkins plan to avoid feeling hungry, yet still lose weight. In other words, someone on the plan is encouraged to eat protein.


Protein is the staple of the Atkins Diet, and it has been proven to help build muscle and break down fat. The digestive, respiratory and immune systems also rely on protein to function. The United States Department of Agriculture recommends different amounts of protein based on your age and gender, typically anywhere from 46 to 56 grams per day. On the other hand, the Atkins Diet suggests 130 to 160 grams per day.


Critics of the Atkins Diet suggest burning fat rather than glucose for energy— a process known as ketosis—can be harmful to the kidneys and liver. Ketosis can be avoided by consuming a minimum of 100 grams of carbohydrates per day. However, the Atkins plan limits carb intake to less than 20 grams per day during the first two weeks, and around 50 grams during ongoing stages. Medical experts have also raised concerns about the effects of the diet and its allowance of fat intake on the heart.

Side Effects and Conclusion

Large amounts of protein can result in side effects ranging from headache to constipation to acne. People following the Atkins Plan are known to experience such symptoms particularly during the first two weeks, also known as the “induction” phase. This is also when the majority of weight loss is said to occur. As for how much protein you can eat on the Atkins Diet, there is no official limit. The plan is only specific about its restriction of carbs, and beyond that, stresses the idea of eating sensible portions throughout the day.

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