Phase 3 – Pre-Maintenance

By the time you move to Phase 3, you will be close to achieving your goal weight with just 10 pounds to go. You will also have identified foods that your body can or cannot handle as well as the amount of carbohydrates you can eat daily and continue losing weight. You will almost certainly have noticed other health benefits and improvements in general well-being by now as well. Congratulations!

If you are starting the Atkins diet in phase 3 please read the pages on the Phase 1 – Induction and the Phase 2 – Ongoing Weight Loss as this cover the basic principles that are built on in Phase 3.

Phase 3 continues this important process of learning exactly what you need to know to make sure the weight stays lost and you maintain the slim new you. So the objectives of the Pre-Maintenance phase are:

  • Lose the last 10 pounds slowly – it is tempting to want to get to your goal weight as quickly as possible but its important that you do slow it down as you move towards a permanent way of eating. It may take several months to reach your goal weight, losing perhaps just half a pound a week. Those last few pounds and centimeters can be the most stubborn so it is normal for it to slow down at this stage. If you rush to lose those last few pounds you may never learn what you need to know to keep them off for good..
  • Test your carb tolerance – as you slow down your weight loss you may be able to increase your Carbohydrate Level for Losing (CLL). The CLL was the number you discovered at the end of Phase 2 – the amount of grams of carbs you can eat each day and continue to lose weight. Now that you are slowing down the weight loss and moving to weight maintenance, you may be able to increase this number.
  • Test your tolerance for additional foods – as in Phase 2 you can re-introduce whole food carbohydrates and note how they make you feel. These will be foods at the top of the carbohydrate ladder (see below) like fruit higher in carbs, starchy veg and unprocessed whole grains. It is important to pay attention to how you feel when you introduce new foods. For example, it they cause cravings to come back or any other adverse effects on your health or well-being it’s best to eliminate them. And fantastic that you have discovered this – many people go through life eating foods they are intolerant to and suffering the effects of this.
  • Find your ACE (Atkins Carbohydrate Equilibrium) – this is the number of grams of carbs you can eat daily and neither gain or lose weight. This is the magic number that will help you stay at your goal weight – forever!  Ideally, you want to reach your ACE level when you’re at your goal weight. So, adjust your carbs as needed to keep losing if you’re not there yet. Many people end up with an ACE of between 65 and 100 grams of carbs. Some people might be considerably less and a few others could even higher.
  • Maintain your control and your weight. Once you have found your ACE and before you move to phase 4 – Lifetime Maintenance – maintain your weight for a month. You can continue to introduce new foods once you don’t go over your ACE. Again, pay close attention to how these new foods affect you if at all. This month is really the dress rehearsal for the Lifetime Maintenance phase.

How to do Phase 3 – Pre-Maintenance

  • Add 10g of daily carbs every week or every few weeks. If you finished Phase 2 at with a CLL (Carbohydrate Level for Losing) of 45 grams of carbs, start Phase 3 with 55 grams of carbs a day. Then increase your daily carb intake every week or every few weeks by 10 grams. If weight loss stalls or cravings return step back by 10g.
  • Count carbs – you have probably gathered from the objectives above that you will  need to write down what you eat and note the carb amounts. Otherwise you will really know how many grams of carbs you are eating and will not be able to discover your ACE. Again this will also let you identify easily if a new food are causing a problem.
  • As you have done from the beginning, be sure that at least 12 to 15 grams of your total daily carb intake is made up of foundation vegetables – see the veg in Phase 1 of the Acceptable Food List for a list of over 50 of these along with tips on how to cook them and links to recipes.
  • Add new foods one by one, following the Carb Ladder, starting with legumes, unless you’ve been able to reintroduce them in OWL—as vegetarians and vegans almost certainly have.
  • Keep eating the recommended amounts of protein and sufficient natural fats to feel satisfied at the end of each meal.
  • Continue to drink plenty of water and other acceptable beverages.
  • Consume enough salt, broth, or soy sauce (unless you take diuretics) to avoid symptoms that may accompany the switch to fat-burning as long as your Net Carb intake is 50 grams or less. Two cups of Bovril a day will do the trick also. Once you exceed 50 grams of carbs this you won’t need this.
  • Take your multivitamin/multimineral and omega-3 fatty acid supplements.
  • Be sure to have your Atkins bars, shakes and treats on hand to prevent you from resorting to bad choices that might derail your progress.

What happens if I reach a plateau?

There’s a good chance that at some point you reach a plateau and stop losing weight. The pace of weight loss is often erratic and many people lose weight in fits and starts. However the definition of a plateau when you lose nothing despite doing everything for a period of at least four weeks. If you are losing centimeters but not weight then this is not a true plateau and you should keep doing what you are doing. Hitting a plateau can be very frustrating but dealing patiently with it is crucial to your continued success.Try the following tips:

  • Tighten up on recording everything you eat and the carb amounts – this can make a big difference.
  • Count all your carbs including lemon juice, sweetners etc
  • Decrease your daily intake of carbs by 10 grams. You may simply have stumbled on your ACE (i.e. the number of grams of carbs or maintaining your weight) early. Once weight loss resumes move up in 5 gram increments again.
  • Find and eliminate hidden carbs in sauces, drinks and processed foods.
  • Increase your activity level or try new activities – this works for some people but not all.
  • Increase your fluid intake to at least 8 glasses of water a day.
  • Cut back on artificial sweeteners, low-carb products and fruits other than berries.
  • Check your calorie intake. We do not usually count calories on Atkins but if you are doing everything to the letter and haven’t lost weight in 4 weeks you may need to check your calories. You probably could guess that too many calories will slow down your weight loss, but here’s a surprise—too few will slow down your metabolism and slow weight loss. The numbers will vary depending on your height, age and metabolism but it should be within the following ranges:
    • Women: 1,500–1,800 calories a day.
    • Men: 1,800–2,000 calories per day.
  • If you’ve been consuming alcohol, cut back or abstain for now.

If none of these modifications makes the scales budge for a month, then you really are on a plateau. The only way to overcome it is to continue to eat right and wait. Your body and the scales will eventually comply.

Food in Pre-Maintenance

In Pre-Maintenance you continue to move up the carb ladder adding foods including fruits, starchy vegetables and whole grains if your body can handle them. See The Acceptable Food List for the additional foods you can re-introduce in this phase. Add these foods in the order of the Carb Ladder below:

Rung 1: Foundation vegetables – leafy greens and other low-carb vegetables
Rung 2: Dairy foods low in carbs – cream, sour cream and most hard cheeses
Rung 3: Nuts and seeds including nut and seed butters. Show more..

Nuts and Seeds Serving Size Net Carbs
Almonds 24 nuts 2.3
Brazil nuts 5 nuts 2.0
Cashews 9 nuts 4.4
Hulled sunflower seeds 2 Tablespoons 1.1
Macadamias 6 nuts 2.0
Pecans 10 halves 1.5
Pistachios 25 nuts 2.5
Walnuts 7 halves 1.5
Rung 4: Berries, cherries and melon (not watermelon) Show more..

Fruits Serving Size Net Carbs
Blueberries (fresh) 37g 4.1
Melon cantaloupe balls 44g 3.7
Raspberries (fresh) 31g 1.5
Strawberries (fresh) 42g 1.8
Rung 5: Whole milk yoghurt and fresh cheeses, such as cottage cheese and ricotta Show more..

Dairy Serving Size Net Carbs
Cottage cheese 2% 115g 4.1
Milk, whole, evaporated 2 tablespoons 3.0
Ricotta cheese 123g 3.8
Yoghurt, Greek natural, unsweetened whole-milk 115g 3.5
Rung 6: Legumes, including chickpeas, lentils, edamame and the like Show more..

Pulse Serving Size Net Carbs
Black beans 45g 6.5
Broad beans 45g 6.0
Butter beans 45g 6.5
Chickpeas 45g 6.5
Haricot beans 45g 9.1
Hummus 2 tablespoons 4.6
Kidney beans 45g 5.8
Lentils 50g 6.0
Peas, split 50g 6.3
Pinto beans 45g 7.3
Refried beans, tinned 60g 6.5
Soya beans, black 90g 1.0
Soya beans, green edamame 40g 3.1
Rung 7: Tomato and vegetable juice “cocktail” and more lemon and lime juice Show more..

Juices Serving Size Net Carbs
Lemon juice 4 tablespoons 5.2
Lime juice 4 tablespoonsp 5.6
Tomato juice 120ml 4.2
Rung 8: Other fruits (not fruit juices or dried fruits) Show more..

Fruits Serving Size Net Carbs
Apple ½ medium 8.7
Banana 1 small 21.2
Grapefruit ¼ of whole 7.9
Grapes 8 grapes 7.1
Guava 1 medium 5.8
Kiwi 1 whole 8.7
Mango 85 grams 12.5
Peach 1 whole 8.9
Plum 1 whole 7.6
Watermelon 118g 5.2
Rung 9: Starchy vegetables such as winter squash, carrots, peas in pods Show more..

Starchy Vegetables Serving Size Net Carbs
Acorn Squash 120g 7.6
Carrots 1 medium 7.6
White Potatoes 118g 13.9
Swede 85g 5.9
Rung 10: Whole grains (not refined grain products) Show more..

Whole Grains Serving Size Net Carbs
Oatsmeal 118g 10.6
Pasta 59g 8.3
Rice (brown) 59g 10.3

For some ideas of meals you can now enjoy check out the following recipes for phase 3 here: Atkins meal planner. There are some fantastic recipes for phase 3 too: Akins Chef Recipes.

Tips for Success

Our top tip for success is to have patience and follow the process. Also remember why you want to lose weight and improve your health – write down your reasons if it helps. Doing this will get you to your goal weight and mean you know what you need in order to stay there.. permanently!

We hope that our eatingAtkins Facebook page will be a support to you as well. Please do visit it and share your experiences with other Atkins followers. We’d love to hear your top tips for doing Atkins successfully too.

Continue on to Phase 4 – Lifetime Maintenance..