Last Updated on
When it comes to low carb diets there are two popular options that come to mind – the Atkins Diet and the South Beach Diet.
Both boast huge fan bases and impressive anecdotes about dieters success on these compared to other diets. Both diets check out as great choices but seem so similar it can be tricky to just choose one.
If you’re stuck between these two and are unsure of which is better for your lifestyle, consider the following.
Bottom Line Up Front: For most people (and families in particular), I would recommend starting with the South Beach diet here as a trial. If it doesn’t work for you, Atkins is a solid option but makes sense to be tried second.
Of course, you can read my full review for the entire comparison…
How the South Beach Diet Works
The South Beach Diet was created by cardiologist Dr. Agatston. He created a simpler three-step approach to the low-carb diet, which consists of:
- Phase 1/Induction – Two-week phase where carbs are severely restricted and initial weight loss begins. This is the most difficult part of the diet as the body will go through a time where you feel tired and even irritable as it switches from carbs to burning fat for energy.
- Phase 2/Long-Term Weight Loss – After your two weeks is up the diet will add some important carbs back into the diet, such as fruit, potatoes and whole grains. This phase slows weight loss with most losing up to 2lbs a week.
- Phase 3/Maintenance – This phase eliminates strict dieting and allows you to go on with your lifestyle while still keeping up with a lower carb diet. There aren’t many instructions for this phase as dieters should have a good idea of what they should or shouldn’t eat.
The South Beach Diet is more practical than other low carb diets, which makes is a popular choice for those that are focused on weight loss but are hesitant about militant diet plans. This diet tends to be very successful, not only in terms of losing fat but also in gaining a healthier relationship with food.
Dieters will be cooking meals and following recipes on this diet which helps set them up for long-term success after they enter Phase 3.
Pros and Cons of the South Beach Diet
The South Beach Diet sets itself apart from other low carb diets in that it is less restrictive and doesn’t necessarily exclude any major food groups. For some this is believed to be a healthier option since you are eating more of a variety. Another advantage of this lack of complete exclusion is that cravings may be easier to deal with and people that love whole grains and fruits won’t have to suffer without. Of course, we all know that a healthy diet includes fruits and vegetables, so any program that restricts these too much should be cautioned.
Weight loss is fairly quick on the South Beach Diet, with some losing upwards of 13lbs during the first two weeks. Even though this is water weight and not fat, it’s nonetheless weight lost. This quick drop in weight is very encouraging and can help dieters continue on. The South Beach Diet is also easier to follow and doesn’t require as much work when it comes to counting calories or carbs.
Unfortunately, there is a lack of scientific data that proves the South Beach Diet is effective, particularly from non-biased sources. It is also unclear how the long-term effect of low carb and high protein diets affect the body, though this isn’t just an issue with the South Beach Diet. Another downside of the South Beach Diet is that it requires a lot more cooking and can be more expensive than other low carb diets.
How the Atkins Diet Works
The Atkins Diet is one of the most popular low carb diets, and one that has been around since the 1970’s. This diet was created by Dr. Atkins, another respected cardiologist, when he realized that limiting his patient’s intake of sugar and carbs led to better health and significant weight loss compared to traditional low-calorie diets.
Unlike many diets, the Atkins Diet is high in healthy fats (so not a “low-fat diet” per se), protein, and specific produce. It is a great choice for non-vegetarians or people that just don’t want to give up their cheeseburgers or steaks.
There are four phases to the Atkins Diet:
- Phase 1/Induction – A 2-week phase where you are introduced to the diet, dietary restrictions and your body enter ketosis to kickstart weight loss. Carbs are kept under 20 grams per day and come from vegetable food sources.
- Phase 2/Ongoing Weight Loss – Some carbs are brought back into the diet and you learn how many carbs your individual body needs.
- Phase 3/Pre-Maintenance – Prepares you for long-term success on this diet. Typically starts when the person has only 10lbs or less left to lose.
- Phase 4/Maintenance – This is the final step and considered a lifestyle change. You will be able to consume more carbs but will still be lower carb than average diets. Atkins recommends you stay on this for life.
The real success of the Atkins Diet is that it’s a lifestyle change, not just a fad diet to make you lose weight quickly. That being said, people that aren’t interested in eating low carb as a lifestyle may feel disappointed with the Atkins Diet as you will gain weight back if you fall off.
However, many people find that once they’ve enter Phase 3 they have never felt better and wouldn’t even want to go back to a typical high-carb diet anyways.
Pros and Cons of the Atkins Diet
A significant reason why many enjoy the Atkins Diet compared to others is that they don’t feel hungry on this diet. So-called carnivores that love meals heavier in protein (high-protein diet) won’t feel physically or psychologically unsatisfied when following this diet.
This diet also helps instill healthier eating habits by teaching you the difference between healthy carbs and bad carbs. Atkins is more strict with carbs than other diets but ditching refined carbs will quickly kick sweet tooth cravings to the curb.
Another great thing about the Atkins Diet is that is doesn’t require calorie counting, though it does require counting carbs. Counting carbs can feel just as tedious for some however, making this a downside depending. Overtime, you’ll be able to stop counting carbs and simply know approximately how many carbs you’re consumed based on the actual foods you’re eating.
Some other major advantages of the Atkins Diet is that people undoubtedly lose weight on it, especially in the induction phase. There have even been studies done, like this one, that show Atkins to be more effective than other diets.
Despite all the great things about Atkins, there are some downsides. Many new dieters than relied on typical carb-heavy meals to keep up their energy will experience a lull in energy during the induction phase. This is normal for low carb diets and is often referred to as the “carb flu”.
Dieters that really love fruit may feel too restricted on this diet. Similarly, the Atkins Diet can be difficult to start because it eliminates so many favorite carbs.
Special Note on Pricing: You can save 10% off sitewide on Atkins here with code “ATKINSAFP10!” at checkout.
FAQ South Beach Diet
Are there any restrictions on who can do this diet?
Answer: (Source: https://palm.southbeachdiet.com)
The following are ineligible for our program:
- Under 18 years of Age
- Allergies: PEANUTS, SOY, LATEX (used in food handling)
- Anorexia (consult N & D)
- Body Mass Index (BMI) under 19
- Breastfeeding an Infant under 4 month of age
- Bulimia Nervosa (consult N & D)
- Celiac disease
- Congestive Heart Failure
- Kidney Disease, Renal Disease, Renal Failure (if mild, may be eligible–please consult N & D)
Which is Better? South Beach vs Atkins
In terms of being credible, both the South Beach Diet and Atkins check out. They do work when followed and will yield great results with the average person. It can’t really be said which choice is better as it comes down to individual goals and ideas of what a diet should be.
When it comes down to it the Atkins diet is best suited for people that want a diet that has a lot of structure. You will be required to count carbs and you will have more foods restricted from your diet. Meat lovers will also appreciate that Atkin’s doesn’t eliminate tasty, albeit fatty, meat meals from the diet.
On the other hand, people that love their salads and really want to experiment with various produce may feel restricted on the Atkins Diet.
The South Beach Diet offers more variety overall, which is a great thing but could be a downfall for some. You will be limited to only lean meats but will have access to starchy vegetables typically prohibited on the Atkins Diet. There is less fat in this diet and can leave some feeling more cravings than the Atkins approach.
However, the South Beach Diet is better for those that enjoy cooking and want to prepare meals for their entire family. The meals in the Atkins diet won’t work for the average family while South Beach Diet meals are great for kids and adults alike.
Since both diets have a similar 2-week induction phase, it would be wise to give each a try before deciding on one. Everyone is different and while there are plenty of real people that have lost a lot of weight on both of these, you might find your body feels better on one over the other.
Bottom Line: I’d recommend trying South Beach first here, and then doing Atkins if you can’t keep up. NOTE: You can save $50 off + 1 week free with this link.
Health enthusiast, runner, protein nut. Owen likes to write about protein, particularly alternatve supplementation and supplement comparisons.