Atkins, South Beach and the Zone are the leading three low-carb diets, and the virtues and weaknesses of each particular plan makes for regular water cooler chat all over the country. If you are curious about these three diets and their differences, the following will provide a brief overview to their main strategies and focus of each.
The Atkins Diet
The grand-daddy of them all that many credit with providing momentum for the low-carb revolution, the core concept here is that late Dr. Robert Atkins‘ pioneering theory that over-consumption of and hypersensitivity to carbohydrates is the root of our problem with being overweight. The principle of his plan is that it is the way your body processes the carbohydrates you eat -- not how much fat you eat -- that causes you to gain weight.
By reducing your carbohydrate intake to less than 40 grams a day, you enter a bodily process called ketosis, a state in which your body burns fat as fuel. Once in ketosis, your body efficiently using fat as fuel and reduces your craving for carbs.
The Atkins Diet consists of four stages: induction, ongoing weight loss, pre-maintenance, and maintenance. Induction is the first 14 days of the plan, during which Atkins says you can lose up to 15 pounds. This rapid weight loss is due to limiting your carbs to 20 grams a day. After that, you can slowly increase and adjust your carb intake through the rest of the program. The goal is to have you learn to choose healthy carbs instead of bad ones, and make the diet a way of life in order to keep off the weight youve lost.
Bottom Line: It really helps to love red meat, eggs and cheese if you want Atkins to work, and tampering with the meal plan in any way is a kiss of death to your success.
The South Beach Diet
Miami cardiologist Dr. Arthur Agatston‘s diet became the buzz of the city before being printed in “The South Beach Diet: The Delicious, Doctor-Designed, Foolproof Plan for Fast and Healthy Weight Loss,“ which has become an international bestseller.
On the surface, it seems quite similar to Atkins, but there is one MAJOR difference -- Dr. Agatston stresses from the onset that this is not a low-carb diet. Instead, his weight loss advice focuses on a healthy balance between carbs and fats -- “good“ carbs and fats.
Highly processed foods like baked goods and soft drinks are verboten on this diet. Dr. Agatston says decreasing these kinds of carbs will help you metabolize what you eat better and also improve insulin resistance, leading to weight loss. On the diet, you eat normal-sized portions of meat, poultry and fish, eggs, nuts, cheese and vegetables. Snacks are requires, and you eat six times a day.
The South Beach Diet is divided into three different phases, each with specific meal plans and recipes. The first phase lasts for two weeks, during which time one can expect to lose between eight and 13 pounds, especially in the belly area. When you first read the requirements of phase one, it may sound a little daunting if you are used to low-fat, high-carb diets, but Dr. Agatston says that as you can become accustomed to and happy with eating the good carbs and fats and leaving the bad ones behind, the consistent results you can expect to see will motivate you to continue on.
Bottom Line: This is not a low-carb diet, but one that divides carbs and fats into “good“ and “bad“ categories. Most see it as having more flexibility than Atkins, and the recipes are appealing and designed for those who want to enjoy quality foods and not go hungry.
The 40/30/30 program that is commonly referred to as the “Zone“ diet is detailed in the book “The Zone: Revolutionary Life Plan to Put Your Body in Total Balance for Permanent Weight Loss“ by Dr. Barry Sears.
Balance is the key focus of Sears‘ plan - specifically, the balancing of the correct ratio of carbs, fat, and protein. Dr. Sears believes that by consuming the right amounts of these components, you can control your body‘s insulin production. He says that when your insulin is at the right level, your body burns fat more effectively. The Zone‘s food plan consists of 40% of your daily caloric intake in the form of carbohydrate, 30% of protein, with fat making up the final 30%. Getting used to assessing your portion sizes is one of the main skills of mastering this plan, and if youve never been one to practice control in this regard, you will need to develop it.
Foods on the Zone diet include entrees like tuna steak and grilled chicken filets (fish and poultry are staples here) and side dishes from the “favorable“ carbs list, such as beans, kale, and spinach. You are allotted snacks as part of this diet, and your two per day can include treats ranging from Waldorf salad to chips and salsa. Plus, The Zone allows you to occasionally sneak in some of your old favorites by pairing them up with the appropriate amount of protein.
Bottom Line: Promoted by many celebrities, The Zone has many advantages and points of flexibility, such as being able to eat i fast food restaurants. Many who have made it work for them say that they‘ve done so by approaching it as a lifestyle change, not a diet.