Autophagy is a natural regeneration process that occurs at a cellular level in the body, reducing the likelihood of contracting some diseases as well as prolonging lifespan.
Even in a healthy human body, cells are constantly becoming damaged as a normal part of metabolic processes. However, as we age, experience stress, and deal with more and more free radical damage, our cells become damaged at an increased rate.
This is where autophagy comes in: It helps to clear damaged cells from the body, including senescent cells that serve no functional purpose but still linger inside tissues and organs. The reason it’s so important to remove senescent and damaged cells is because they can trigger inflammatory pathways and contribute to various diseases.
In 2016, Japanese scientist Yoshinori Ohsumi won the Nobel Prize for his discoveries into the mechanisms of autophagy. These have led to a better understanding of diseases such as Parkinson's and dementia.
Since then, drug companies and academics have raced to find drugs that will stimulate the process, and diet and wellness experts are jumping on the bandwagon claiming that the process can be induced naturally by fasting, high-intensity exercise and restricting carbohydrates.
3 Ways to increase cellular autophagy (cleaning the cell) to look younger, feel better, improve muscle mass, lose fat and live longer:
+Restricting Carbs (Keto or Low Carb Diet )
The ketogenic (“keto”) diet is a very high-fat, very low-carb diet that works in similar ways to fasting. The keto diet involves getting about 75 percent or more of your daily calories from fat, and no more than 5–10 percent of calories from carbs. This forces your body to go through some major changes, as metabolic pathways are shifted so that you start using fat for fuel instead of glucose from carbs. What types of foods are most beneficial if you plan to follow the KD? High-fat, whole foods like coconut oil, olive oil, eggs, grass-fed butter, ghee, grass-fed meat, fermented cheeses, avocado, seeds and nuts. Vegetables are also included for fiber, vitamins and antioxidants.In response to such severe carb restriction, you’ll begin to start producing ketone bodies that have many protective effects. Studies suggest that ketosis can also cause starvation-induced autophagy, which has neuroprotective functions. For example, in animal studies when rats are put on the ketogenic diet, the keto diet has been shown to start autophagic pathways that reduces brain injury during and after seizures.
+Intermittent Fasting (IF) or Time Restricted Eating
When it comes to diet and lifestyle habits that are in your control, the thing that triggers autophagy most is fasting, including the dietary strategy known as intermittent fasting. Fasting is a pretty simple concept: You abstain from eating for a certain period of time (you can still drink water and liquids like coffee or tea).
If you’re not yet familiar with intermittent fasting, this is a type of cyclic fasting that involves time-restricted eating. There are many different forms of IMF that you can practice to promote autophagy, such as Alternate Day Fasting or limiting your daily “eating window” to somewhere between just 4 to 8 days per day.
How long do you have to fast for autophagy? Studies suggest that fasts between 24–48 hours probably have the strongest effects, but this isn’t always doable for many people. Try to at least fast for 12 to 36 hours at a time.
An easy way to accomplish this is to eat just 1 or 2 meals per day, rather than grazing on many small meals and snacks. If you usually finish dinner at 6 or 7 p.m, then try to fast until at least 7 a.m the next morning— or even better, don’t eat until 11 a.m. or 12 p.m.
METABOLIC365 Training or High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)
Another “good stress” that can induce autophagy is exercising. Recent research has shown that “Exercise induces autophagy in multiple organs involved in metabolic regulation, such as muscle, liver, pancreas and adipose tissue.”
While exercise has many benefits, it’s actually a form of stress because it breaks down tissues, causing them to be repaired and grow back stronger. It’s not exactly clear yet how much exercise is needed to boost autophagy, but research does suggest that intense exercise is probably most beneficial.
We suggest starting the Metabolic365 program which features HIIT workouts to spike your metabolism.