It's the Atkins diet introduction we all need — and if it's not the most important rule, it'll definitely be the one you enjoy the most. But we admit it: When we got our first copy of The Carb Nite Solution, we didn’t pay much attention. After all, its premise — that carefully timed pasta-and-cheesecake “cheat nights” will turbocharge Atkins-style weight loss — just seemed completely impossible. But Carb Nite’s buzz kept getting louder. Devotees raved that their pre-pregnancy pants were too big, that their pre-menopause clothes were falling off. “After ten days, I was leaner than I’d ever been,” reported University of Pennsylvania’s Mori Taheripour, 34.
So we gave the plan a second chance. And in a matter of days, women testing our Carb Nite menus had dropped eight, nine, 10 pounds. Christie McKee even whisked off 14 pounds in a single week. “That would be amazing even if I hadn’t spent an entire Friday night eating cupcakes and ice cream,” marvels the Michigan reader, 41. “Especially for larger women, this is a plan that will give you hope and motivation so quickly. It certainly did that for me.”
Atkins diet: Introduction to the “cheat” secret
So what are the Carb Nite rules? Most of the time, they’re very similar to Atkins rules — calling for you to limit yourself to 30 grams of carbs per day, eating mostly protein and veggies. But then comes your “cheat night.” On the evening of every fifth day or so, “you must eat a sizable amount of carbs,” explains John Kiefer, M.S., who was a physicist working at the University of Florida when he began developing the unusual strategy. “Spaghetti, apricots, pie, potato chips, bananas, bagels, cheesecake — whatever you crave. You should eat carbs until bedtime.” Then the next morning, go right back to meals with no more than 30 grams of carbs per day.
Kiefer admits he hit on his approach accidentally; after months on a disappointing low-carb diet, he snapped and scarfed down a dozen donuts. “Instead of gaining weight, I blasted through my plateau and got more phenomenal results than at any other point on the diet,” he recalls. This prompted the scientist to ask, What just happened? Will it happen again? Could I make the effect more powerful? Testing different “carb cheat” patterns, “I got rid of my love handles for the first time. I cut my body fat in half.” He then recruited friends and family to be guinea pigs, gathering more and more data to perfect his regimen for people with all body types. “Now I'm confident it will work for anyone.”
Atkins cheat days: Surge to skinny
In addition to his own informal tests, Kiefer relied on hundreds of existing studies and theories, often interpreting them in unique ways. “I knew my Carb Nite results were unexpected, so I was looking for connections that hadn’t been made yet.” One crucial connection: evidence that the longer a dieter is on an ultra-low-carb plan, “the more levels of certain hormones drop.” Waist-shrinking leptin, HGH and thyroid hormone all take a hit — likely a natural defense against starvation during fast weight loss.
“Carb Night counteracts this,” seeming to override the starvation response and “create a surge in weight-loss hormones that will then last nearly four days, until your next carb night.” What about the fat-storage hormone insulin? Doesn’t “cheat night” make it spike, too? Yes — but, unlike other hormones, insulin only stays elevated for about two hours. Plus, after a string of ultra-low-carb days, the body reduces production of enzymes that insulin needs to store carbs as fat. “So the increase in insulin has minimal impact,” says Kiefer. And the surge in other hormones destroys fat like crazy.
Fat-melting “hot flashes"
It’s not just a scale that tells you the Carb Nite diet is working. As you enjoy bread and dessert, “the jolt of carbs ignites metabolism, and you can feel heat as calories and fat burn. You might want to sleep with the covers off,” says Kiefer. Florida reader Candy Darr, 50, says the phenomenon is a pleasant one: “It’s like a hot flash, but not uncomfortable. When it happened to me, everyone was saying, ‘You look beautiful. You’re glowing.” Candy dropped 10 pounds in about a week. “This is the real deal,” adds Allyson Wilson, a Georgia student down 85 pounds so far. “I’ve lost 30 inches from my waist in nine months. Thirty! And as time passes, I keep gaining momentum. After a lifetime of weight struggles, I know I’m finally going to reach my goals.”
Your Carb Nite menus!
Our Carb Nite Solution menus average 30 grams of carbs daily. On the evening of day five — after eating a low-carb break-fast, lunch and dinner as usual — let “cheat night” begin. Between 6 p.m. and midnight, eat a sizable amount of carbs—all the fruit, pasta, bread, dessert you desire. The only thing off limits: fruit juice and sugary drinks. On the morning of day five, resume eating low-carb. Once at least four full days have elapsed, enjoy another “cheat night.” It’s fine to delay by a day or two to accommodate, say, a dinner date or birthday party. Just be sure to have at least one “cheat night” per week and to wait at least four full days between them. (For example, if you have carbs on Friday, your next carb indulgence should be no sooner than Wednesday.) While using this approach, drink water and any zero-cal beverages you like. Jazz up meals with ultra-low-carb extras (spices, vinegar, Splenda). Important: Always get a doctor’s okay to try any new eating plan.
Breakfast (choose one daily)
Option 1: 1 low-carb shake (up to 300 calories and 5 g. carbs)
Option 2: 2 hard-boiled eggs, 1 oz. ham and 1 oz. cheese
Lunch (choose one daily)
Option 1: 3 oz. hamburger (no bun), 1 oz. cheese, 2 tsp. mustard with 1 cup steamed vegetables, such as broccoli or cauliflower
Option 2: 3 oz. canned tuna packed in oil, 1 1/2 Tbs. mayo with 1 cup raw vegetables, such as celery or cucumber
Option 3: 3 oz. chicken, 1 oz. shredded cheese over 3 cups leafy salad greens, 3 Tbs. vinaigrette dressing
Snacks (enjoy once daily)
Option 1: 2 oz. deli turkey or leftover meat/fish
Option 2: 1/2 oz. nuts, such as almonds or 25 pistachios
Dinner (choose one daily)
Option 1: 5 oz. lean steak or chicken, 1 oz. Mexican cheese, 1 1/2 cups fajita vegetables (such as bell pepper and onions) sautéed in 1 tsp. oil
Option 2: 6 oz. chicken sausage links with 1 1/2 cups sautéed bell peppers with 2 tsp. oil
Option 3: 6 oz. roasted salmon, chicken or turkey with 1 1/2 tsp. oil, herbs to taste and 1 1/2 cups steamed broccoli or green beans, lemon wedge
Dessert (enjoy nightly, if desired)
1/2 cup sugar-free Jell-o
Make your own menus
On low-carb days, simply use nutrition labels to stay under 30 grams of carbs daily. Important note: When you include a fiber-containing food like nuts, subtract the grams of fiber listed on the label from the grams of carbs listed — and only count the lower number toward your 30-gram carb allotment. Fiber doesn’t count toward your daily carb allotment. When making your own menus, be sure to incorporate “cheat night” foods every five days or so, as described in the beginning of the meal plan.