The Effect of Atkins Bars on a Low-Carb Diet
About the Reviewer:
Jill Corleone is a registered dietitian with more than 20 years of experience. She graduated with honors from New York University and completed her clinical internship at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey.
About the Author:
Andrea Cespedes has been in the fitness industry for more than 20 years. A personal trainer, run coach, group fitness instructor and master yoga teacher, she also holds certifications in holistic and fitness nutrition.
The Atkins Diet calls for an extremely low-carb induction phase and then slowly increases your carb intake to help you find your carb tolerance level — the number of carbs you can comfortably eat daily and maintain a healthy weight.
Reducing your carb intake helps you become more efficient at burning fat so you lose weight. It also has the benefit of stabilizing your blood sugar so you have fewer cravings.
In an ideal world, your Atkins plan would consist of whole, unprocessed foods such as meats, poultry, fish, vegetables and, after several weeks, plain yogurt, winter squash, berries and nuts. But even when whole foods aren’t available, Atkins markets a number of convenience foods to help you stick to your low-carb diet.
Atkins bars can also be helpful between meals, but eat them in moderation, especially in the earlier stages of the diet, to stay within your carb budget.
About Atkins Bars on a Low-Carb Diet
Atkins bars come in a variety of types and flavors. Purchase trail, meal-replacement or snack bars — all of which contain 2 to 7 grams of net carbs per item. The flavors range from harvest fruit and nut versions to chocolate-and-nougat options.
You might choose a snack or trail bar to tide you over until your next meal, while a meal-replacement bar is just that — a bar that you can eat instead of a whole-food lunch or breakfast.
Net Carbs and Sugar Alcohols
Net carbs are counted on the Atkins plan. They’re digestible carbs, meaning they affect your blood sugar and have an impact on your weight. Figure the net carbs by subtracting the grams of sugar alcohols and fiber from the total carb grams:
Net carbs = grams of carbohydrates – fiber grams –
sugar alcohol grams.
Fiber, or indigestible plant matter, has a positive impact on digestion. Atkins bars have 3 to 6 grams of fiber per bar, depending on the type you choose.
Sugar alcohols are compounds such as mannitol, sorbitol and isomalt that sweeten much like sugar, but they contain fewer calories and don’t have as big an effect on your blood sugar levels. Because they digest slowly and don’t spike your insulin, they’re acceptable in phases 2 through 4 of the Atkins plan.
Because they aren’t completely absorbed, though, sugar alcohols can cause stomach upset. You might experience loose stools, gas and bloating from consuming them.
The Atkins program claims most people can tolerate between 20 and 30 grams of sugar alcohols daily, but this varies from person to person. Also note that eating sugar alcohols on an empty stomach at breakfast may disrupt your digestion more than having them later in the day when your stomach isn’t as empty.
Bars Work for Several Stages of the Atkins Plan
The Atkins diet plan consists of four stages, each one with progressively more carbs:
- In Phase 1, or induction, your carb intake is limited to just 20 grams of net carbs daily. You’ll get these carbs from the trace amounts in cheese, eggs, watery vegetables, cream, lemon juice and condiments. The emphasis is on whole, unprocessed foods, but Atkins bars are highly processed. And even the lowest-carb bars have 2 net grams of carbs, which could put a pretty large dent in your small carb allowance.
- In Phase 2, you start to add more carbs — but just 5 grams of net carbs per week. According to the Atkins website, every single flavor of Atkins bars is acceptable in Phase 2, but doesn’t count toward your total net carb intake.
- You move to Phase 3 once you’re within about 10 pounds of your goal weight. Continue to add carbs, up to 10 net grams per week. This gives you even more wiggle room for including bars without negatively affecting weight loss, but you can only afford one to two per week of any that contain 5 to 7 grams of net carbs.
- When you’ve reached your goal weight, it’s time to move to Phase 4. During this phase, you adjust your carb intake downward if you start to regain pounds. You have more freedom to use Atkins bars as snacks, but as with any carbs, if you eat too many, you may start to regain weight.
Count the Carbs in Atkins Bars
Atkins bars aren’t free foods. They still have carbohydrates that you have to count, and they don’t offer the same nutrition as whole foods. If you find yourself using them as an occasional meal replacement or to satisfy what could be a disastrous sweets binge, then they could successfully aid your adherence to the low-carb plan.
But if you rely on the bars as free treats or find yourself eating them more than once per day, they could hinder your weight-loss progress. If you have diabetes, especially Type 1, you might still experience a rise in blood sugar if you consume too much of any sorbitol-containing food, including the Atkins bars.