The ins and outs of the Atkins OWL phase

Filed under: Atkins Diet — @ October 11, 2006

After tackling the major questions about the Induction phase of the Atkins diet over the past month or so, Kent Altena has moved on to videoblogging about the Ongoing Weight Loss phase, also known as OWL.

While Induction seems to get all the attention on the low-carb lifestyle, Kent accurately points out that OWL is what separates the people who are successful at living ow-carb from those who are not. For me personally, I stuck close to 30-35g carbs daily for most of my OWL phase because anything higher would have slowed down my weight loss substantially. With more than 100 pounds to lose after Induction, I knew I needed to keep my carbohydrate intake as low as possible for maximum weight loss. It worked!

Ongoing weight loss phase, end of a good thing?

I LOVED this video because Kent answers some of the popular questions that people have about low-carb diets. Do you ever get to eat fruits and vegetables again? Are you stuck giving up carbs forever on the Atkins diet? Will my weight loss stop if I start eating more carbs than Induction? Wanna know the answers to these questions, then watch the video!

The purpose of OWL is two-fold:

  1. To see how your body will react to adding more carbs to your diet
  2. To determine your Critical Carbohydrate Level for Losing (CCLL)

Both of these are very important as you are livin’ la vida low-carb and should not be taken for granted. Listen to your body and do what’s right for you. There’s no hard and fast rule of thumb in this regard. The more you have to lose, the closer to Induction you should remain. Does this mean you won’t lose weight on OWL? Of course not. But it will likely be slower.

With that said, there is one huge advantage to the OWL phase that you are not afforded with Induction. You get to add back more carbohydrates to your diet in 5g daily increments each week. That 5g may not seem like a lot, but it gives you the flexibility to eat more carbs while still losing weight. Kent reminds you to still eat enough fat and protein as the mainstays of your diet and avoid the obvious pitfall of falling back into burning carbs for fuel. That would NOT be good.

When you have been on low-carb for a while and have figured out how many carbs you can eat and still lose weight, then you will notice your awareness of foods and what they do to you is enhanced. You know to avoid the ones that trigger cravings while enjoying those foods that leave you satisfied without carbing up.

What can you add back, you ask?

Kent lists the 9 rungs in order:

  1. Vegetables (non-starchy)
  2. Dairy (soft cheeses)
  3. Nuts and Seeds
  4. Berries and Melons
  5. Wine and low carb liquors
  6. Legumes/Beans
  7. Fruits other than berries (in appropriate amounts)
  8. Starchy Vegetables
  9. Whole Grains

Be very careful about how fast up the rung you go with adding back these foods. In my personal experience with this, I only got to rung #4 during OWL and actually have not ventured any further down the rung since. That has been my choice, but it’s working out for me. I know my limits and those things from #5-#9 would start packing on the pounds again.

Kent also shared his Rules Of OWL:

  1. Keep protein and fat as the mainstays of your diet
  2. Increase daily carbs by no more than 5g weekly
  3. Add new foods in the order on the carbohydrate ladder
  4. Add one new food group at a time
  5. Eat new foods 3 or less times weekly, but then eat it daily
  6. Stop new foods ASAP if you weight gain or have cravings
  7. Stay on OWL until you are within 10 pounds of your goal


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