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Intermittent fasting is an effective weight loss tool: Has anti-aging benefits

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Nutritionist and fitness expert Yuri Elkaim is a fan of intermittent fasting, which has been shown to melt belly fat and provide powerful anti-aging benefits.

In an exclusive interview, Elkaim revealed how intermittent fasting can be a useful tool to enhance weight loss ahead of the summer swimsuit season. Yuri's three-pronged weight-loss approach is simple:

  • Eat a mostly plant-based, gluten-free diet.
  • Incorporate intermittent fasting into your eating plan.
  • Focus on interval circuit-training.

Yuri, author of Eating For Energy, said contrary to what we've been told, we do not need to eat every three hours or risk having our metabolism slow down.

"When you're eating five small meals a day, you're constantly elevating your blood sugar," said Elkaim, who has a degree in kinesiology. "This isn't ideal for someone who wants to lose weight."

Indeed, research shows that constant spikes in insulin levels and blood sugar fuels weight gain and contributes to type 2 diabetes — a disease that is quickly becoming an alarming worldwide epidemic.

"Intermittent fasting is a powerful tool for fat-burning," said Elkaim. "I recommend that people try to incorporate IF into their lives. It's easier than you think."

Intermittent Fasting Protects the Brain and Slows Down Cellular Aging

Research by the National Institute on Aging indicates that in addition to accelerating weight loss, intermittent fasting protects brain health, helps maintain lean muscle mass, improves insulin sensitivity, and boosts the release of anti-aging hormones. The health benefits of IF were detailed extensively in the bestsellers, The Fast Diet and The Every Other Day Diet.

"Just as exercise makes muscles stronger, fasting makes the brain stronger," Dr. Mark Mattson, chief of the NIA's neurosciences lab, told the Wall Street Journal. Mattson said the chemicals produced by fasting also appear to boost people's moods.

Mattson and his team conducted studies on animals with Alzheimer-like conditions, and found that alternating between days of fasting and normal eating seemed to slow or even reverse brain impairment. Intermittent fasting also helped the animals maintain their lean muscle mass even as they aged — the exact opposite of what happens to both animals and people as they get older.

Elkaim said the health benefits of intermittent fasting kick in after 18 hours, so you can start by eating dinner by 7 pm, for example, and then not eating again until 12 pm the next day. Because you spend eight hours of that time sleeping, this IF protocol is actually fairly easy to follow.

'A Plant-Based Diet Gives You Energy'

Elkaim, a proponent of vegetarian and vegan diets, has nothing against meat eaters, but believes that a plant-based, gluten-free diet featuring vegetables, salads and fruits, and minimal processed food, is the optimal diet for weight loss and health.

"Eat more raw plant foods and few, if any, processed foods and you're going to lose weight and feel more energetic," said Elkaim, who also wrote The All-Day Energy Diet. "Raw foods are great because they are water-rich, and they contain lots of vitamins, minerals and disease-fighting phytonutrients. Raw foods are also highly alkalizing."

Elkaim takes a similarly minimalist approach to exercise, noting that intensity is more important than duration. Whether you want to lose weight or build strength, Yuri said you're better off doing a shorter session of circuit-training that involves full-body movements rather than slogging through a long, tedious workout at a middling pace. "I'm a huge fan of less is more," he said.

Yuri is a former professional soccer star for OSC Lille in France, and was the strength and nutrition coach for the men's soccer team at the University of Toronto for seven seasons. For more of his weight-loss, diet and fitness tips, check out his blog, YouTube channel, or follow him on Twitter @yelkaim.

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