You started Atkins Diet to lose weight quickly, effectively, and without feeling hungry. Millions of people have done just that in 40 years since the original book was published in 1970s.
Despite this track record, critics still claim that balanced nutrition on a low-carb diet is impossible.
Could they be right?
It is true that you would consume less of some vitamin-rich foods such as fruit and grains, especially during Atkins Induction (Phase 1 of the diet).
Should I take supplements on Atkins Diet?
So should you take supplements? Dr Atkins himself certainly thought so. The subtitle to Nutritional Supplements chapter of his original book was “Don’t even think of getting along without them!”
In addition to a whole chapter of his original book, Dr Atkins also wrote a separate book on the potential medicinal benefits of vitamins (“Dr Atkins’ Vita-Nutrient Solution”). He also devised his own multivitamin/multivitamin formula, called Atkins Basic #3 Formula. (Robert C Atkins (27 May 2009). Dr Atkins New Diet Revolution. Ebury Publishing. p. 301-307. ISBN 978-1-4070-2768-5.)
The right combination of supplements can ensure that you get the full spectrum of all nutrients. Supplements can also make it easier for you to stick to the diet, boost your fat-burning metabolism and prevent some common diet problems.
Supplements for Atkins Phase 1 (Atkins Induction)
Permitted food list is limited during this phase, and excludes all fruit and grains. Taking a multivitamin is therefore a good idea to ensure nutritional balance.
Induction only lasts for two weeks, so your health wouldn’t be affected by any deficiencies in such a short period of time. However, if your body doesn’t get all the nutrients it needs, you might get strong food cravings and feel unwell overall. A strong multivitamin formula could make the difference between sticking to the diet or giving it up.
Many people feel tired during the first phase of Atkins, before ketosis kicks in (the infamous “Induction Flue”). Extra-strong dosages of C- and B-vitamins help to reduce tiredness.
Sugar cravings are also common during Induction. Chromium normalises blood glucose levels and thus helps to reduce these cravings.
If your metabolic resistance is high, Dr Atkins also recommended Co-Enzyme Q10 and L-Carnitine to boost fat-burning metabolism and speed up transition to ketosis.
Supplements for Atkins Phases 2 and 3 (“Ongoing Weight Loss” and “Pre-Maintenance”)
As you start adding foods back to your permitted list, your nutrition will be more varied and there will be less need to supplement with extra vitamins. However, if you still experience tiredness or sugar cravings, you might want to continue taking multivitamins and other supplements listed above.
After several weeks on Atkins, some people get constipated, because they now eat less fibre (grains being one of its main sources). You can prevent this unpleasant side effect by taking an additional fibre supplement. Dr Atkins recommended flaxseeds (also known as linseed) and psyllium husk, to be sprinkled on food or taken as tablets.
One other supplement Dr Atkins recommended for overall heart health is essential fatty acids. These are usually available in form of Omega 3, 6, 9 oil capsules. This supplement helps to improve blood circulation and protect arteries from forming plaque.
Supplements for Atkins Phase 4 (“Maintenance”)
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 low-carb lifestyle and most likely won’t need any additional supplements, unless any specific issues listed above persist.
What is Atkins Basic #3 Formula?
Atkins Basic #3 Formula was designed by Dr Atkins specifically to complement Atkins diet. It contained 30 different vitamins and minerals, including dosages of B, C and E vitamins that are substantially higher than RDA. The formula also contained chromium, selenium and green tea extract.
Unfortunately, Atkins Nutritionals have stopped producing Atkins Basic #3 product. The company has changed hands many times since Dr Atkins’ death, and their marketing strategy changed accordingly.
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, please check out our online shop for Nutri-Align Multivit – the best-selling multivitamin formula for low-carb dieters, with a similar composition to Atkins Basic 3.
Summary of Dr Atkins recommendations
Dr Atkins recommended the following supplements during weight-loss stages:
- Atkins Basic #3 (or a similar multivitamin/multimineral formula with high levels of B and C vitamins) – to ensure full intake of nutrients, improve energy levels and reduce sugar cravings.
- Essential fatty acids – omega 3 and 6 capsules as fish oil, flaxseed oil and borage oil, to improve blood circulation and protect arteries from forming plaque.
- Chromium – up to 1000mcg a day (remember to count any dosage included in the multivitamin pill), to normalise blood glucose levels, aid body recomposition and lower cholesterol levels.
- L-Carnitine and Co-Enzyme Q-10 – if your metabolic resistance is high, these nutrients can assist fat-burning metabolism and speed up your transition to ketosis.
- Fibre – flaxseeds (also known as linseed) or psyllium husk, 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.
You could also purchase most of these 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 RDA (which isn’t sufficient), won’t be iron-free or sugar-free, and won’t include any of the extra recommended ingredients. Always read the label carefully and refer to the original Atkins recommendations to ensure suitability.
What about the revised version of the book?
In the latest revision of Atkins Diet book, published in 2010, supplements are only mentioned briefly. The authors advise to take an iron-free multivitamin/multimineral formula, including magnesium and calcium, and an omega-3 supplement. (Eric C Westman; Stephen D Phinney; Jeff S Volek (30 September 2011). New Atkins For a New You, Ebury Publishing, p.82, ISBN 978-1-4464-5842-6.)
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 for weight-loss supplementation. 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.
Vitamins and Supplements for Atkins Diet article is also available in German.