How Much Protein Should You Eat on Atkins?
Hi Fellow Low Carbers!
I know there are a lot of low-carb plans out there like Keto, Paleo, and South Beach, just to name a few. But one of my absolute favorites is Atkins. I like Atkins because it’s super easy to follow, and you don’t have to weigh and measure everything.
Of course, for those very same reasons, this plan got me into trouble as well. But that’s a whole other story.
With Atkins, the only thing you have to count is net carbs. However, one of the most common questions people ask on this diet is “How much protein should you eat on Atkins?” So I want to address this question as each person’s protein requirement is unique. But first, I need to explain the importance of protein on a low-carb diet.
What Is The Role of Protein?
Every cell and organ in your body contains protein. Protein is comprised of 20 different amino acids that are linked together in a chain. When you consume protein, your digestive system breaks the links apart so that the amino acids can be absorbed in your bloodstream.
Once in your bloodstream, the amino acids are transported through your body, providing the building blocks that are necessary to build and repair cells. Without a constant supply of amino acids, your cells will shrink, and new cells can’t be produced.
When trying to lose weight, your goal is to shrink the cells that store body fat, but not muscle and other crucial cells. When you eat protein, you increase blood levels of amino acids, which contributes to:
- A sense of satiety (meaning you feel full)
- Stable blood sugar levels (which means you won’t spike and crash, leading to binge eating)
- Burning more calories (which means faster weight loss)
Why Do Diets Higher in Protein Lead to Dramatic Weight Loss?
Studies consistently show that eating protein is more satiating than eating carbohydrates (think bread, rice, bagels) and fat. When you replace bagels and rice with protein, you experience fewer blood sugar spikes. Studies have also shown that it takes twice the energy to metabolize and digest protein than it does to digest and metabolize carbs and fat.
That means you burn more calories digesting protein than you do carbs and fat.
Diets Low in Carbs and Higher in Protein Help Prevent Certain Diseases
A diet low in refined carbs (think donuts, cake, rice, bread and bagels) and higher in protein leads to the prevention and correction of:
- Muscle Loss
- Type 2 Diabetes
- High Blood Pressure
- Metabolic Syndrome
So Ho Much Protein Should You Eat on Atkins?
So to answer the title of this article, which is “How much protein should you eat on Atkins”, we have to take into consideration the following factors:
Here’s a chart I’ve taken from the book, The New Atkins For a New You, which I love and like to use as a reference for my own personal use and for educating people on the low-carb lifestyle.
As you can see, the amount of protein you need to eat has a range. As I said, everyone’s body is different, so you have to do what works for you. Since I’m 5’3 and 3/4, I currently eat 4 oz of protein at breakfast, lunch and dinner – for a total of 12 oz of protein daily.
That’s more than enough protein for me, and I’m currently losing weight at a consistent pace (when I’m not relapsing in the food).
What if You Hate to Measure Your Food?
I hate having to measure my food. But I also know that my eyes are broken. So no matter how long I weigh and measure my food, a 16 oz steak can easily look like 4 oz in my eyes. It’s like people have body dysmorphia? I have food dysmorphia.
But if you don’t like to measure your protein, Atkins offers what’s called The Rule of Sevens.
What is The Rule of Sevens?
In the book, The New Atkins For a New You, it says that each cooked ounce of chicken, meat, tofu or other protein product, including nuts and cheese, cup of dairy or large egg is the equivalent to about 7 grams of protein. So to get your daily protein requirement without having to weigh or measure, consume 10 to 25 of these 1-ounce units daily (depending on your particular range).
But how do you know what’s an ounce, what’s 3 ounces, etc.?
Atkins provides a chart for that too for the visually oriented. From the book The New Atkins For a New You on Page 43:
1 ounce meat, poultry, tofu, etc. = Small matchbox/remote car key
3 ounces meat, poultry, tofu, etc. = Deck of cards/cell phone
8 ounces meat, poultry, tofu, etc. = Slim paperback book
3 ounces fish = Checkbook/iPod
1 ounce hard cheese = Four dice
Atkins Is NOT a High Protein Diet
For the records, Atkins is NOT a high protein diet as people often mistakenly believe. With the consumption of 13-22 ounces of protein foods daily, Atkins is hardly a high protein diet and therefore won’t cause health problems.
Rather, pairing this amount of protein with complex carbohydrates coming from vegetables, certain fruits and nuts will:
- Improve your health
- Help you lose weight dramatically and quickly
- Prevent (and in some instances, cure) certain diseases.
What’s your experience with Atkins, or other low-carb food plans? Did you lose weight? Did your health improve? I’d love to hear your experience. Please share it in the comments section below. I love hearing from all of my readers.