It's an interesting bit of trivia that ancient Olympians followed the Atkins diet. Not only did the athletes compete naked to better display their physiques, researchers believe that the Greeks got their buff bodies thanks to a natural low carb diet.
Through ancient Greek and Latin texts, we know that Greeks were austere in their daily diets and ate just two meals per day. Nevertheless, according to Plato (5th - 4th century BC), the diet was balanced and healthy.
It included grains, vegetables, fruits, nuts, dried figs, honey, and wine. Fish, which was plentiful in the coastal communities, was a common source of protein, and olive oil was the primary source of fat. Meat was usually only affordable to wealthy families but it was considered highly beneficial and necessary for an athlete in training.
With a drive to win and obsessed with competing at a high level, ancient Olympians followed an Atkins diet type plan once it had been successfully adapted by other winning athletes. In fact, Plato specifically wrote about the important relationship between a meat-based diet and muscle strength in The Republic: "...for instance, Polydamas, the athlete is stronger than we are, and it is in his interest to eat beef for the sake of his muscles."
Even with the Atkins diet and getting exercise on a regular basis, you may not perform like famed wrestler Milo of Croton (who ate 8kg of meat per day), but you will look and feel better by adopting a very low carbohydrate (ketogenic) diet.
The Atkins diet followed by ancient Olympians was more robust than that of the average Greek and included vast amounts of meat and protein to improve endurance and strength. But the modern Atkins diet plan encourages weight control. It is specifically designed to reduce "bad carbs" that adversely affect the body's hormone balance causing it to convert excess calories into fat.
Dr. Atkins found that a ketogenic diet is very effective for making the body metabolize those fat stores for its energy needs. This isn't the norm for the body since it usually prefers to burn glucose, which it gets from carbohydrates. Denied this fuel during the extreme induction phase of the diet, there is a rapid weight drop — which is a loss of body fat not dehydration.
When ancient Olympians followed the Atkins diet, they were in a constant state of ketosis or partial ketosis. Either way, the daily diet didn't include processed carbs and refined sugars. It is usually difficult for obese people to struggle through the first days of the induction stage when "carb cravings" kick in and the body shows fatigue and lethargy until ketosis sets in. But after 3 or 4 days, a true ketosis state will help you get over that carb addiction, as well as improve mental clarity and best of all, take off the excess weight.