On Atkins and wondering if you have to take supplements?
Atkins Diet has a great track record. It helped millions of people to lose weight while staying perfectly healthy. But critics claim that balanced nutrition on Atkins Diet is impossible. Could they be right?
It is true that you would eat less of vitamin-rich foods like fruit and grains, especially during Atkins Induction (Phase 1 of the diet).
But you can also get all the vitamins and minerals you need from low-carb foods. Vegetables, eggs, meat and fish have plenty of vitamins and minerals.
Related post: Top low-carb vitamin-rich foods
So should you take supplements on Atkins Diet?
It’s possible to do Atkins without supplements. But many dieters choose to do so anyway. Targeted supplements can make your diet easier in multiple ways.
First of all, they do provide cheap insurance against deficiencies. Let’s face it, most of us don’t have the time to cook perfectly balanced meals from scratch every day!
Supplements can also do a lot more than simply preventing deficiencies. For example, they can boost your energy, reduce Atkins flu or improve your sleep quality.
What did Dr Atkins have to say about supplements?
Dr Atkins himself was a strong advocate for targeted supplementation.
The subtitle to Nutritional Supplements chapter of his original book was “Don’t even think of getting along without them!”
In addition to this chapter in his original book, Dr Atkins wrote a separate book on the potential benefits of vitamins – Dr Atkins’ Vita-Nutrient Solution.
He devised his own multivitamin/multivitamin formula, called Atkins Basic #3 Formula.
Here’s a quick summary of supplements recommended by Dr Atkins in his original book.
Atkins Phase 1 (Induction) Supplements
Multivitamin supplements for overall nutritional support
Atkins Induction (Phase 1) is the most restrictive phase of the diet. Your carb intake is limited to under 20g net carbs a day. Fruit and berries are out. You can only have a few cups of very low-carb salad vegetables. A high-quality extra-strong multivitamin can help to minimise the shock of the sudden change in your nutritional profile. It will also help to maintain your energy and reduce sugar cravings.
Electrolyte supplements for Atkins Flu
Many people feel tired during the first phase of Atkins, before ketosis kicks in – the infamous “Atkins flu”, also sometimes referred to as “Induction Flu” or “Keto Flu”. You may get fatigue, headaches, muscle cramps and heart palpitations. Electrolytes (magnesium, potassium, sodium) supplements can help you beat these symptoms.
Chromium and green tea supplements for sugar cravings
CoQ10 and L-Carnitine supplements to speed up ketosis
If your metabolic resistance is high, Dr Atkins also recommended Co-Enzyme Q10 and L-Carnitine to boost fat-burning metabolism. This combination helps to speed up your transition to ketosis. It can also help you break through a weight-loss plateau if you hit one later in your diet.
Atkins Phase 2 and 3 Supplements
As you start adding foods back, your nutrition will be more varied. There will be less need to supplement. But if you still get problems like tiredness or sugar cravings, then continue taking multivitamins and other supplements listed above.
Fibre for healthy digestion
After several weeks on Atkins, some people get constipated. The reason for that is a possible fibre deficiency (grains being one of its main sources). Sometimes all you need is to add a bit of extra fat to your diet.
Omega oils for heart health
Dr Atkins also strongly recommended essential fatty acids to support heart health over the long term. These are usually available in form of omega oil capsules.
Atkins Phase 4 Supplements
Maintenance phase allows most foods, except for highly processed carbohydrates such as refined sugar and white flour.
By this stage, you will be well adapted to the low-carb lifestyle and most likely won’t need any additional supplements.
But if you experience any issues, like tiredness or Atkins flu symptoms, you could always go back to supplements as and when required.
What is Atkins Basic #3 Supplement?
Atkins Basic #3 Formula was designed by Dr Atkins specifically to compliment the Atkins Diet. The formula included 30 different vitamins and minerals with super-strong B, C and E vitamins. It also contained chromium, selenium and green tea extract.
Unfortunately, Atkins Nutritionals no longer produce Atkins Basic #3. The company has changed hands many times since Dr Atkins’ death. Their marketing strategy changed and Atkins supplements range was discontinued.
However, many dieters still use Atkins Basic #3 Formula as a guideline for how to supplement their Atkins Diet. You can view the full list of ingredients for Atkins Basic #3 in his original book.
If you are looking for a similar product, check out Nutri-Align Multivit – the best-selling multivitamin formula for low-carb and Keto dieters, with a similar composition to Atkins Basic 3.
Summary of Dr Atkins recommendations
Dr Atkins recommended the following supplements during weight-loss stages:
- High-quality targeted multivitamin similar to Atkins Basic #3 – to ensure full intake of nutrients, improve energy levels and reduce sugar cravings.
- Electrolytes (magnesium, potassium, sodium) – to help cope with Atkins Flu symptoms
- Omega oil capsules including fish oil, flaxseed oil and borage oil, to improve blood circulation and protect arteries from forming plaque.
- Chromium Picolinate to normalise blood glucose levels, aid body recomposition and lower cholesterol levels.
- Co-Enzyme Q10 and L-Carnitine – if your metabolic resistance is high, these nutrients can assist fat-burning metabolism and speed up your transition to ketosis.
- Flaxseeds and psyllium husks to ensure healthy digestion and prevent constipation.
Buy supplements for Atkins Diet online now
Unfortunately, branded Atkins supplements are no longer available, as Atkins Nutritionals stopped producing them.
You can buy some of the supplements mentioned above from our online shop.
Where else can you buy supplements
You could purchase most of these supplements from High Street health shops or pharmacies.
Just one note of caution regarding multivitamins. Most cheap brands won’t provide you with the full list of nutrients as recommended by Dr Atkins. Typically, they will only include 100% of NRV (which isn’t sufficient). They probably won’t be iron-free or sugar-free. Most likely, they won’t include any of the extra recommended ingredients.
So always read labels carefully and check Dr Atkins recommendations.
What about the revised version of the book?
In the latest revision of the Atkins Diet book, published in 2010, supplements are only mentioned briefly. The authors advise taking an iron-free multivitamin/multimineral formula, including magnesium and calcium, and an omega-3 supplement.
Are there any studies to back up Dr Atkins’ recommendations?
Since Dr Atkins’ book was written, numerous scientific studies confirmed the validity of his recommendations. Some examples are listed below.
B-vitamins to improve energy and boost metabolism
Institute of Medicine (1998) Folate In Dietary 1,160 Reference Intakes for Thiamin, Riboflavin, Niacin, Vitamin B6, Folate, Vitamin B12, Pantothenic Acid, Biotin, and Choline. National Academy Press, Washington D.C, chapter 8, pp 196-305
Chromium to normalise glucose levels and improve insulin resistance
Anderson RA. Nutritional factors influencing the glucose/insulin system: chromium. J Am Coll Nutr. 1997 Oct; 16(5):404-10.
Green tea to control glucose levels and reduce sugar cravings
Julija Josic, et al. Does Green Tea Affect Postprandial Glucose, Insulin and Satiety in Healthy Subjects: A Randomized Controlled Trial; J Nutr. 2010 Nov.
L-Carnitine to improve insulin resistance and fat metabolism
Amino Acids. 2011 Jul;41(2):507-15. doi: 10.1007/s00726-010-0770-5. Epub 2010 Oct 21. Effects of oral L-carnitine supplementation on insulin sensitivity indices in response to glucose feeding in lean and overweight/obese males. Galloway SD, Craig TP, Cleland SJ.
Multivitamin supplements to improve energy levels and sense of well-being
Nutr J. 2012; 11: 110. Published online 2012 December 14. doi: 10.1186/1475-2891-11-110, PMCID: PMC3545984 Participant experiences from chronic administration of a multivitamin versus placebo on subjective health and wellbeing: a double-blind qualitative analysis of a randomised controlled trial, Jerome Sarris et al.