Published: 09/16/2015

Objectives and Guidelines for Phase 2

In Phase 2, Ongoing Weight Loss (OWL), patients learn how to gradually increase their Net Carb intake and add variety to their diet—while continuing to stay in control of their appetite, lose weight and feel energized. We recommend individuals remain in OWL until they’re within 10 pounds of their goal weight before moving to Phase 3, Pre-Maintenance. 

What’s Similar to Induction?

Initially, the differences between Phase 1, Induction, and OWL are relatively minor, but the gradual additions to the diet mark the beginning of the return to a permanent way of eating. Everything else remains the same as in Induction. Patients continue to:

1.    Count their daily intake of grams of Net Carbs.

2.    Eat 4–6 grams of protein at each meal, including breakfast, depending upon height and gender. Tall men can eat up to 8 ounces. 

3.    Eat sufficient natural fats, meaning enough to feel pleasantly full, which varies by individual. It’s not necessary to skimp on fat but don’t overdo it either. 

4.    Drink about eight glasses of water and other acceptable fluids, which can include a couple of cups of caffeinated coffee, tea or colas with acceptable sweeteners.

5.    Make sure that salt intake is sufficient (unless on a therapeutic low- sodium).

6.    Take both multivitamin/multimineral and omega-3 supplements.

What Is Different from Induction?

There are two key distinctions between the first and second phases of Atkins: 

1.    The slightly broader array of healthful acceptable foods in OWL includes nuts and seeds (which individuals who have spent more than two weeks in Induction may already be eating), berries and a few other relatively low-carb fruits, a wider array of dairy products, a few vegetable juices and legumes such as lentils and kidney beans. 

2.    The gradual increase in overall carb intake.  Despite eating more carbs and gradually introducing a greater variety of them, however, it’s important to understand that this transition from one phase to the next is gradual and incremental. 

Finding One’s Personal Tolerance for Carbs 

A key objective of OWL is to determine one’s carbohydrate threshold without interfering with weight loss and other factors. If health issues, such as high blood sugar levels, are of concern, their ongoing improvement is also critical. Phase 2 is a period in which each dieter explores which foods he or she can and cannot handle. All this is part of the process of finding one’s personal Carbohydrate Level for Losing (CLL): the number of grams of Net Carbs that can be consumed in one day without interfering with weight loss or prompting hunger, cravings, fatigue or reversal of health indicators. 

A Broad Range of CLLs

Carbohydrate tolerance can range from 25 grams of Net Carbs to 60–80 grams or even more. If a patient is losing less than a pound a week on average, he or she is probably close to his or her carbohydrate tolerance and shouldn’t increase carbohydrate intake. An individual’s CLL is influenced by age, gender, level of physical activity, hormonal issues, medications and other factors such as cyclical weight loss and regain. Younger people and men tend to have an advantage. Increasing activity may or may not raise a person’s CLL. 

Big Benefits 

The goal for each patient is to enjoy as broad a range of whole foods as possible—but without losing the benefits of controlling carbohydrates: continued weight loss, appetite control, the absence of obsessive thoughts about food, high energy and a general sense of well-being. It’s always better to stay slightly below one’s carb tolerance than to overshoot it and then have to back up. The delicate balancing act is crucial to understanding one’s own metabolism, which will ultimately enable healthy weight maintenance. That said, some “backing and forthing” is often needed to identify one’s CLL. Once he or she finds it, the patient should remain there until 10 pounds from goal weight.

What to Expect

After a month or two in OWL, most people have a pretty good idea of where their CLL will land. If it’s easy to add back a variety of carbohydrate-containing foods, a CLL of 50 or more grams of Net Carbs a day is likely. However, difficulty introducing carbohydrate foods higher on the carb ladder may mean having a CLL somewhere between 25 and 50.