Published: 10/19/2023

A Low-Carb Lifestyle That’s Flexible and Sustainable: The Atkins Diet

With nearly 75 percent of American adults classified as overweight or obese and approximately 50 percent having prediabetes or diabetes, it’s no wonder that health and nutrition professionals often work with patients on weight loss or weight maintenance programs. We know that a successful plan is one that meets people where they are and helps them make gradual, sustainable changes over time. That’s what makes the Atkins Diet so achievable – it’s a science-backed eating program with decades of independent peer reviewed research and options that fit within an individual’s needs.

Meet the Modern Atkins Diet

Originally developed in the 1960s by cardiologist Robert C. Atkins, the Atkins Diet is still a low carbohydrate eating plan at its core. However, it has evolved along with research on varying amounts of carbohydrate restriction in the diet.  

The science used to develop the Atkins Diet shows that the body shifts from relying on carbohydrate-dependent pathways for energy to using fat as energy (ketosis), which leads to greater losses in body fat, when carbohydrates are restricted sufficiently. This is why the Atkins Diet is a low carbohydrate plan with a daily allotment for net carbs (the amount of total carbohydrates minus the amount of fiber in whole foods).

Within the Atkins Diet, people have choices with the degree of carbohydrate intake they are tolerate, based on individual metabolic needs and personal and cultural preferences. This is especially helpful as we know dietary variety is important for compliance, and as patients shift from weight loss to weight maintenance and/or see improvements in glycemic response.

The Atkins Diet is Customizable and Maintainable

Decades of research show that when it comes to diets, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach. To make an eating plan sustainable, it’s important to have flexibility and choice.

What sets the Atkins Diet apart are the three different types of low carbohydrate plans that patients can toggle between while still maintaining fidelity to the overall goal of low carbohydrate living:

  • Atkins 20® is a ketogenic plan that allows for 20 grams of net carbs per day at the start of the plan. This option is often best suited for people looking to lose 40 pounds or more. Within the Atkins 20® plan is a four-phased approach to help gradually adjust to carbohydrate intake goals. Net carb intake increases to 80-100 grams per day when the patient is in lifetime maintenance mode.
  • Atkins 40® is a low-carb, ketogenic plan with a baseline of 40 grams of net carbs per day. This plan is designed for people looking to lose fewer than 40 pounds.
  • Atkins 100® is a low-carb lifestyle plan for people who wish to maintain weight and achieve long-term health goals. People on this plan have 100 grams of net carbs allocated to them for the day.

The three plans allow for adaptation, which is important as people’s individual goals change. For example, a patient may initially seek to lose weight and choose the Atkins 20® or Atkins 40® plans. Over time their goals change to weight maintenance, so they switch to the Atkins 100®. Or, if someone on the Atkins 20® or Atkins 40® goes on vacation and wants a bit more leeway, they can follow the Atkins 100®, then return to their original plan when they’re back to their normal routine.

To determine which plan is best for your patient, use the Atkins Eating Personalities guide.

Atkins Fits Within Other Diets and Lifestyles

Health issues tend not to occur in isolation, such as obesity and type 2 diabetes, and following the Atkins plan to lose or maintain weight while managing type 2 diabetes can easily be done. Plus, reducing carbohydrate intake is a great way to improve glycemia.

We also know that people are multifaceted – they may want to follow a low-carb lifestyle within a Mediterranean-style diet. Or, maybe they are interested in ketosis but don’t want to have animal products as their protein sources. The good news is – you can easily flex Atkins 100® to fit a variety of eating plans and lifestyles, including people following vegetarian, diabetic, Mediterranean and DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diets. View and download suggested daily meal plans for these diets on the Atkins website for Healthcare Professionals.

Embrace the Flexibility of the Atkins Diet

We’ve come to associate the word “diet” with weight loss, but the root of the word comes from Greek and means “way of life.” That’s what the Atkins Diet is – a way to live and maintain health by taking in fewer carbohydrates and replacing them with more proteins. With Atkins eating plans, you and your patients can forge a path to success with a sustainable, science-based approach.


National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (2022). “What Are Overweight and Obesity?”
National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (2022). “What Are Overweight and Obesity – Symptoms and Diagnosis”
American Diabetes Association (2020). “National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (2022). “What Are Overweight and Obesity?” Diabetes Care.