Optimizing health requires balancing opposite extremes. We need periods of maximum intensity and periods of total rest, exposure to the brightest light and then absolute darkness, punctual moments of cold and heat. And the same happens with food. We need periods of nutrition and growth, but also periods of abstinence and regeneration. In this article, you will learn about autophagy, its process, autophagy definition, diet, and so much more. We will delve into the mechanisms of action of fasting and how to induce autophagy and make it more effective and bearable, incorporating even some calories during the process.
What is Autophagy?
The autophagy is an innate process of cleaning and recycling the body that serves to clean up everything that no longer serves and take advantage of what is still useful to generate new components of our body. You will need to learn about this process to truly understand how to induce autophagy and its medical implications.
Autophagy is a process that can be seen under a microscope. When we look through a simple optical microscope we can know that a cell is in autophagy because they appear with “vesicles”, something like balls in the cytoplasm of cells, which are a signal that they are undergoing autophagy.
It begins with the formation of a covering around the material to be digested: although it is still not known how this membrane is formed or what causes it to increase in size gradually until it envelops all the material subject to autophagy, which is has observed is that an envelope is formed that includes this scrap that is to digest so that, once completed, a compartment emerges independent of the cell that contains this garbage that is about to suffer autophagy.
At this moment a lysosome approaches the stage of autophagy, the organelle responsible for digesting the energy joins it, the membranes melt and the lysosome pours all the enzymes, the tools responsible for digesting all the energy: all the components are broken and they are thus reduced to their fundamental parts. This is basically how to induce autophagy in cells.
The fragments are released into the cytoplasm of the cell, into the space that bathes the interior of the cell, where they can be used in the recycling and synthesis of new cellular components. There is still much to discover because some of these mechanisms of regulation are still unknown, but what has been seen is that they can be digested from small cell fragments to whole cells aged, damaged or infected by bacteria or viruses and thus Autophagy helps us eliminate those pathogenic elements of the organism.
Who Discovered Autophagy?
Christian de Duve received the 1974 Nobel Prize in Medicine for discovering autophagy lysosomes. He observed that these organelles recycled cellular scrap (from degraded proteins and dysfunctional mitochondria to bacteria and viruses) and converted it into new functional molecules. This is why there are methods such as protein restriction autophagy being used.
It is as if the cell feeds on its own damaged parts to renew itself, and hence the term coined by Christian himself: autophagy, or eating oneself. Without autophagy, all this biological waste would accumulate, causing disease and premature aging.
But it must have taken several decades to really understand autophagy. In 2016, the Nobel Prize for Medicine went to Yoshinori Ohsumi, precisely for deepening its mechanisms. Few biological processes have two Nobel prizes behind them. He was the one who really discovered how to induce autophagy. He discovered also when does autophagy occur, which you will learn about in the rest of this article.
In order to know how to induce autophagy, you need to understand its process. Throughout our evolution, specific moments of starvation were common, often triggering autophagy. Currently, we are recommended to eat 5-6 times a day, restricting protein to a few hours during the night. If an excess of mTOR contributes to many modern diseases, autophagy should help to combat them, and this is what the studies reflect:
- Prevents neurodegenerative diseases by reducing the accumulation of damaged proteins in the brain.
- Strengthens the immune system. The animal instinct in the face of illness is fasting, and it is no coincidence. Autophagy actively fights invading pathogens.
- Prevents type II diabetes and loss of insulin sensitivity, preserving pancreatic function.
- Help fight against cancer. Cancer is precisely growth without control, and activating AMPK can slow it down, autophagy fasting cancer is thus effective. But the relationship of cancer with autophagy is complex. On the one hand, general autophagy strengthens healthy cells and weakens bad ones. On the other hand, cancer cells try to activate their own autophagy to become more resistant.
- It promotes longevity. It is the most studied mechanism to live longer. Now that you know how to induce autophagy you are probably wondering what time it takes right?
When Does Autophagy Kick In?
Autophagy is not a simple process that is activated suddenly after a certain number of hours since the last meal. It appears gradually. So in order to understand how to induce autophagy, you will need to understand when it kicks in. So when does autophagy peak? It depends on several factors.
And you do not need long fasts to get benefits. Simply lengthening the nocturnal fasting a little more than 13 hours is associated with lower mortality from breast cancer in women. Dry fasting autophagy can help.
An additional benefit of fasting is the reduction of insulin levels, and 70% of this reduction occurs in the first 24 hours. Mitophagy(autophagy of mitochondria) is also reduced after 24 hours, at least in mice, at least that is how doctors understand how to induce autophagy.
How Long Does It Take to Induce Autophagy?
There are multiple combinations of time and frequency that you can use on how to induce autophagy such as:
- High frequency and short duration (for example 12/12 or 16/8 several days a week, or every day).
- The average frequency and average duration (like 24 hours of fasting once a week).
- Low frequency and long duration (2-3 days fasting once a month).
- As always, start gradually. On the other hand, the better your metabolic flexibility is, the easier it will be to use your fat as fuel and the more tolerable the fast will be. So does fat stop autophagy? The answer is more complicated than that.
Autophagy and Fasting
Not only are we perfectly adapted to periods of scarcity, but we also need them to renew ourselves. Fasting of more than a year has been documented in an obese person without side effects. But as always, the dose makes the determination of how to induce autophagy. An excess of mTOR is dangerous, but the same happens at the opposite end. Very thin people or pregnant women should not perform prolonged fasting. Nor children. If you take any medication, consult your doctor before you learn how to induce autophagy.
For example, fasting can raise uric acid, and although there have been no documented problems in people with gout during Ramadan, act with caution if you suffer from this condition. Another typical question is the effect of fasting on women. In my experience, most of them respond perfectly to fasting, although some studies reflect a worse regulation of glucose in certain cases. Regarding its impact on the menstrual cycle, this study shows no irregularity by fasting for 3 days, but such prolonged restrictions could be problematic in women with low fat. Fasting is medicine and, as with any medicine, you must use the proper technique in order to learn how to induce autophagy properly.
How to Stimulate Autophagy
So how could you activate the autophagy process in your body? Here are some methods for how to induce autophagy.
Intermittent fasting in combination with a protein cycle is a good way on how to induce autophagy. Fast intermittently every other day (you should not eat for 16 hours, which is the time needed to activate the autophagy process and you should schedule your feeding in 8 hours). On days when you do not perform intermittent fasting, consume the regular amount of protein you would normally eat, and during the day you perform intermittent fasting, decrease the amount of protein to around 5% of your calories. This is the optimal fasting for autophagy. So, for someone who normally consumes between 45 and 50 grams of protein … [on days of low protein consumption], about 5% of the total caloric intake, which is about 25 grams of protein.
First, consume fats, and then carbohydrates, whether fasting or not intermittently. This is another autophagy fasting process. In a day of low consumption [of protein], when you have done an intermittent fast, your first meal should consist of fats; that must be the first thing you eat. Then, at the end of the day, you can consume carbohydrates, but we refer to the quality carbohydrates we need to be healthy. This is a great way on how to induce autophagy in your body.
Also, when you consume carbohydrates at night as your last meal, you will reap the benefits, from stimulating recovery to helping you relax and getting ready for sleep. Therefore, my second principle is that you must first consume fats and then carbohydrates.
Every two days, you should do 30 minutes of training at high-intensity intervals or resistance training. It could be as simple as walking faster for a minute and then slowing down, and doing that back and forth for 30 minutes. Cyclic exercise activates the autophagy mechanism.
Even resistance training could consist of doing yoga. That acute stress that causes, is an excellent type of stress, which generates a beneficial effect on autophagy. This can induce your skin to be more elastic, thus autophagy and loose skin will actually cure it.
Autophagy Activating Foods
Eat more foods that activate the autophagy process. Whittel includes 140 different types of foods that help activate the process of autophagy – such as citrus bergamot tea, turmeric, and green tea – and others that are recommended depending on whether or not that day intermittently fasts and implements a low protein consumption. The right kinds of foods on how to induce autophagy should be consumed.
For example, on a fast day, with low protein consumption, it is recommended to eliminate egg white (the part with a high protein content) when eating eggs. On days when you do not fast or eat a lot of protein, you should eat both the egg white and the egg yolk. Eggs are a great food on how to induce autophagy.
Types of Autophagy:
Three types of autophagy have been classified:
Macroautophagy: is what defines what we understand by autophagy. Double membrane vesicles, called autophagosomes, are formed in the cell around a portion of the cytoplasm, which engulfs the organelles that are going to be metabolized. These vesicles fuse with lysosomes, whose hydrolytic and proteolytic enzymes degrade and metabolize the autophagosome content. Recall that the interior of the lysosomes must remain at a pH enough acid for their enzymes to work properly. That fact will have important implications that we will explain later.
Microautophagy: in this case proteins or organelles are directly trapped by lysosomes through a process of invagination of their membrane, creating a vesicle without the mediation of autophagosomes.
Chaperone-mediated autophagy: it is a process of degradation of certain damaged proteins of the cytosol, in which they directly cross the membrane of the lysosomes, without these having to engulf them in vesicles. To cross the membrane proteins bind to chaperones, a heat-shock protein.
You will need to understand these types in order to further learn how to induce autophagy. It can also teach you what breaks autophagy if you know what the different types are. When does autophagy start when fasting, and other similar questions will be answered if you understand what type of autophagy you are trying to learn how to induce autophagy.
Foods That Promote Autophagy
Just as autophagy does not activate after a specific number of hours of starvation, it does not stop completely from eating a few calories, and it is impossible to define what exact quantity “breaks the fast”. However, if you know the right foods to eat for how to induce autophagy you will be on the right track.
mTOR is especially sensitive to glucose and certain amino acids, such as leucine. Autophagy is inhibited by insulin elevations or the presence of amino acids, but the exact level is not clear and depends on many other factors. These factors affect optimal fasting for autophagy.
In any case, the recommendation in short fasts (<24 hours) is not to exceed 100-200 calories throughout the day, mainly from fat. These fasts are the key to how to induce autophagy. In prolonged fasting (> 48 hours), even levels of 700 calories/day allow taking advantage of most of the benefits of fasting. If the body does not receive enough energy, it will generally maintain greater AMPK activation. One way to keep hunger at bay is by drinking liquids.
More Ideas for Inducing Autophagy:
- Water. You can add a spoonful of lemon or orange juice and a little salt.
- A probiotic drink like kombucha or water kefir. For those wondering how to induce autophagy, water and staying hydrated is integral.
- Broth of bones. Provides a lot of nutrition with few calories. Good source of electrolytes and collagen /glycine. If you prefer vegetable broth, it’s also worth it. Many of the things that benefit us in the future do so by breaking our homeostasis in the present, creating cellular stress and triggering regeneration processes such as autophagy.
- Some compounds that achieve this effect are perfect candidates to include during fasting, for their amplifying role of autophagy, such as coffee, green tea, ginger and turmeric.
Some interesting combinations for fasting:
- Coffee with a tablespoon of coconut oil, butter/ghee or even a splash of whole milk. Also if you like a little cinnamon. Bulletproof coffee break autophagy for sure though, so avoid it.
- Green tea with grated ginger and a little turmeric.
- As for artificial sweeteners, there is no problem in using small amounts, but some evidence suggests that excessive activation of sweetness receptors could interfere with autophagy. If you can avoid them, better. These sweeteners should be avoided if you want to learn how to induce autophagy. So diet soda autophagy should be avoided.
Another thing that it is recommended you to take during the fast: the sun. Vitamin D favors autophagy. And the perfect complement is a good night’s sleep. Melatonin also enhances autophagy. So try to keep all these things in mind for how to induce autophagy. So taking these supplements is one way on how to increase autophagy.
It is already well established that the correct protocol of intermittent fasting and prolonged fasting are powerful tools to improve your health, performance and body composition. Therefore, the millions of people who practice it around the world want to learn to do it correctly and how to induce autophagy. Two of the most common are what breaks and what does not break the fast. Technically a water fast involves only drinking that, and in a dry fast, you cannot even drink liquids. However to make fasting easier and in some cases even more effective there are certain foods and beverages that you can consume without affecting the benefits you get from fasting.
The Main Benefits of Autophagy
The first benefit of autophagy, which you may already be imagining, is that set-up of the organism takes place: autophagy is a cleaning process by which the damage of the metabolic stress of the cell is reduced, damaged cells are eliminated or altered cell fragments and cell regeneration is favored. For these reasons, autophagy has a very positive effect on longevity. This is why people would like to know how to induce autophagy for cell regeneration.
In addition, autophagy helps us to defend ourselves from infections since on the one hand it favors the elimination of infected cells and, on the other hand, autophagy enhances the action to the immune system by stimulating the expression of markers that indicate that those cells, in particular, are infected to attract to cells of the immune system to eliminate them.
Neurology and Autophagy
Autophagy has been shown to have a positive effect on neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s, heart disease, liver diseases, and gastrointestinal diseases. Many experts actually see potential in how to induce autophagy in certain patients.
On the other hand, autophagy favors insulin sensitivity, thus protecting the pancreas from exhaustion and preventing the development of diabetes mellitus. And it also seems that autophagy helps protect us against cancer, although this is still a subject of research and somewhat controversial because it has been seen that in some cancers autophagy helps the patient in recovery, while in other specific types of cancer. Cancer(specifically, squamous cancer of the head and neck) can make the tumor more resistant to treatment and promote cell proliferation. There is still much to learn in this regard.
Beyond all these interests in the medical and scientific field, autophagy is awakening a lot of curiosity in the general public and it is because the autophagy favored by fasting has been very beneficial in weight control diets. In addition to helping regulate weight and lose weight, autophagy has been shown to help improve physical performance and intellectual performance and promote a better mood. Something that arouses great interest in many people!
Autophagy Definition, Terms and Tips
The body having no external proteins begins to eat their own. This does not mean that your body will eat your muscle just in case. The body is intelligent so it will first consume the dead or damaged cells and then regenerate them.
Ketones are a more stable source of energy and have truly incredible neurological benefits.
Weight Loss From Fat
When you are fasting, the ketones that are mentioned above come from your body fat. You are basically using the calories of your own fat as energy. Read: Weight Loss Smoothies For Nutribullet: 15 Best Recipes You Must Try
Vitamin supplements can include it without problems if they do not have sugar or maltodextrin.
If you take magnesium, sodium or potassium they will not take you out of the fast. The same will happen with the Sodium Bicarbonate since it is simply a Sodium type that is an electrolyte, so you can consume it without any problem.
BCAA (Branched-Chain Amino Acids)
These are very common amino acids during training. They are Leucine, Isoleucine, and Valine, and if they are pure, they will not raise your glucose or insulin and will keep you in ketosis, but they do have 20 calories, and although that is not significant, you would have to do an analysis, since you would not be consuming your own calories
This food does not interrupt autophagy because it does not have proteins, nor will it raise glucose, insulin or take you out of ketosis, but each spoonful has 120 calories, which is significant for fat loss; So if that is your goal, it will delay that process. Other similar examples are the Exogenous Ketones, MCT Oil and Coffee Cream because they are a considerable source of calories that will delay your fat loss in a certain way.
Having said this, there are people who consume this, they are facilitated to adapt to fasting, because they consume these oils, they are digested and produce ketones, which are a source of energy, and it is possible that your body until it is adapted When you fast, you can not produce them efficiently, so this will give you a benefit.
None of the processes will be interrupted by stevia if you consume it in its pure state. If you have maltodextrin or corn starch it will interrupt the process of ketosis and fat loss.
Soda Without Sugar
Generally these drinks are sweetened with aspartame, and this sweetener that I personally do not recommend it since Its not considered healthy and that can affect your metabolism in the medium term, will not get you out of any of the processes of ketosis, autophagy or Short term weight loss, but if you consume it for a long time, your metabolism will slow down.
This drink does not interrupt any of the processes of ketosis, autophagy or weight loss; and even though it actually only has one calorie, when exams are done to see the glucose or insulin levels after drinking apple cider vinegar, not only do they not rise but decrease, so you could argue that this puts you in an even deeper state of ketosis.
You can consume this drink without interrupting any process of ketosis, autophagy or weight loss.
Fat Burning Coffee
Fat Burning Coffee will not interrupt the processes of autophagy or ketosis, but it will prevent you from using your fat during fasting because one of the ingredients is Coconut Oil, and in this case you will use the 120 calories that come in a spoonful instead of the calories of your body fat.
This food will not interrupt the autophagy, but it will get you out of the ketosis. Last checked with a glucometer that this broth elevates glucose, and therefore insulin, and contains 20 calories.
Powdered Protein Supplements
Although it is a bit obvious, many people have asked us about it and yes, consuming protein will get you out of the fast.
Why Is Fasting Beneficial for Autophagy?
One of the great benefits of fasting is that it stimulates autophagy. Now, autophagy is a survival system that has to be very well calibrated, it requires the perfect balance point because both a defect of autophagy, whose simile could be like when you never do a general cleaning at home, as an excess of autophagy, which would be equivalent to constantly doing general cleaning and destroying everything, could be harmful. There must be a point of balance in our body between activated and braked autophagy.
At a biochemical level, this control is established by the balance between a metabolic autophagy pathway called mTOR, which is a protein linked to growth, and a pathway called AMP-K, a protein linked to alert systems due to scarcity and the need to reserve energy and activate the recycling.
Autophagy, Fasting and Cancer
Many people want to learn how to induce autophagy because it can affect their cancer cells. Some organs, such as the brain, liver or muscle, depend to a large extent on autophagy to prevent the accumulation of defective mitochondria and we have already confirmed the need to maintain adequate mitochondrial health. When levels of autophagy are chronically low there is a risk that the accumulation of defective proteins and organelles will lead to all kinds of problems. Read more: Best Protein Powder for Women: The Best Protein Powder Types Review
In addition, autophagy allows a more efficient regulation of iron homeostasis by degrading ferritin (in the presence of certain proteins called receptor cargo or NCOA4) and allowing the intracellular use of iron. When the level of the proteins that allow lysosomes to degrade ferritin is low, ferritin remains bound to iron and it can not be used. That is, autophagy improves efficiency in the use of iron by cells. Let us also remember this fact when we deal with the importance of iron for tumor cells.
There is evidence that when autophagy is deficient the process of carcinogenesis is facilitated and tumors develop more easily. But, and this is very important, tumors that arise in an environment where autophagy is impeded or hindered, do not reach an aggressive phenotype and remain as low-grade tumors.
Autophagy and Cells
Autophagy prevents inflammation, prevents oxidative stress, modulates the immune response and prevents metastasis. The autophagy seems to be a weapon that also extensively uses the cells of the immune system to fight against threats, especially in dendritic cells, or to maintain homeostasis in T lymphocytes, especially those of TH1 strain and their cytokines, dedicated to the antitumor defense.
Put another way: autophagy is an excellent way to prevent the onset of any cancer by cleaning mitochondria and other defective organelles and ensuring proper cellular homeostasis, but in already established cancers, tumor autophagy is a means by which tumor cells ensure their survival.
The contradictory effects of autophagy are not only demonstrated in the onset and development of cancer but also in relation to the process of metastasis, although we must consider it an enemy rather than an ally when cancer has already been established and a factor eminently promoter and facilitator of metastasis.
Autophagy Process and Tumors
Hypoxia (usual in areas of the tumor inhabited by cells with more malignant phenotypes), also accelerates autophagy. Something logical, because poor tumor irrigation prevents the arrival of nutrients, which forces the tumor to autophagic ‘cannibalism’ to ensure its viability.
Autophagy as a Tumor Protector
- Inhibition of autophagy prevents progression of glioblastoma, demonstrating its cytoprotective role
- The inhibition of autophagy multiplies the anti-tumor
- The inhibition of autophagy can block cell migration and breast cancer metastasis
- Inhibition of the basal level of autophagy in bladder cancer cells induces apoptosis
Autophagy as a Trigger for Tumor Death
The most powerful synergy has been found between enhancers and inhibitors of autophagy, but only those inhibitors that do not completely prevent it, but only inhibit the last stages (in which the lysosomes fuse and digest the autophagosome content) or that act on lysosomes.
Only the inhibition of late stages of autophagy with chloroquine, one of the most known inhibitors, synergized with autophagy enhancing substances in glioblastoma cells. In another study, glioma cells were exposed to imatinib and inhibitors of different phases of autophagy. The inhibitors of early phases actually reduced the tumor cytotoxicity of imatinib, while the inhibitors of late stages, focused on the lysosomes, increased their effectiveness.
Is Autophagy Good or Bad for Us?
Through its definition and effects, you will learn how to induce autophagy and how it can be good for you, this is a normal mechanism of cell renewal. It acts in a keyway in the prevention of autoimmune, neurodegenerative, infectious pathologies. In addition, it has anti-aging benefits as it destroys and reuses damaged components. This process is done inside the vacuoles. And some of the resulting products are reused again.
Effects of Autophagy
Many people would like to know how to induce at the cellular level because of its effects. There are several of these processes are being investigated. Some of the most important are:
- It supplies energy to the cell and components for the formation of structures
- Recycles the remains of damaged proteins and unusable cell parts
It provides benefits to cardiac cells and protects against coronary heart disease
- Eliminates damaged endoplasmic structures
- Protects the stability of DNA
- It protects the nervous system and improves its cells. It seems that autophagy improves brain structure, cognitive function, and neuroplasticity. Which is why people are focused on getting to know how to induce autophagy
- Improves immunological function eliminating intracellular pathogens
Regulates mitochondrial functions
- Prevents tissue necrosis
What Is the Relationship Between Autophagy and Cell Mechanism?
Apoptosis is the mechanism of cell death that is part of the normal process of development of an organism. Researchers believe that autophagy is selective when it comes to eliminating ribosomes and protein aggregates. Some studies have indicated that an autophagic mechanism is a form of cell death independent of apoptosis. So this apoptosis is how to induce autophagy.
These processes are very interesting for scientists because it is believed that autophagy could help in the treatment of cancer and neurodegenerative diseases. This is why so many medical insights are being investigated on how to induce autophagy. This mechanism would be used to protect the cells that we do not want to die and destroy and eliminate and destroy the harmful ones.
How Can Autophagy Be Induced?
This process is active in all cells but increases in situations of nutrient deprivation. It means that we could induce this process using triggers such as intense exercise or fasting. Studies are being done to show that increasing autophagy favors weight loss or control of some diseases associated with age.
This is a very simple concept. It is about restricting food intake over a period of time. You can drink water or coffee, but you must not introduce any caloric food into the body. When does autophagy start when fasting? It is usually done following a strategy called intermittent fasting that consists of limiting the number of hours per day that you eat, 4 or 8 according to your plan. The rest of the time you do not eat anything. Autophagy and fasting are very linked together. If you would like to know how to induce autophagy then fasting is the fastest way to do it.
The simplest way to do it is to practice two meals a day, for example, breakfast and lunch, and completely eliminate snacks between meals and dinner. If we give an example with schedule, it would be something like this: if you eat breakfast at seven in the morning and eat at two in the afternoon, from there you do not eat anything else, except water, coffee or tea until seven in the morning. next day. In this way, you keep a fasting period of 16 hours.
If it is too complicated, it can be reduced to a 12-hour fasting window, having a light dinner at seven in the evening and not eating anything else until breakfast at seven in the morning. There are other methods, such as occasional periods of fasting longer than two or three days or intermittent fasting alternate days in which the day of fasting greatly reduce the number of calories (one or two meals of 500 calories) and the next day you eat it let your stomach ask you.
This type of diet is a high-fat, low-carbohydrate diet and works in a similar way to intermittent fasting. This type of diet forces your body to change its metabolism so that it burns fat instead of sugar for energy. It is basically autophagy without ketosis. Anyway, it is not about eating the fat of any kind, you have to prioritize healthy fats such as coconut or olive oil, avocados, butter from cows reared with grass or nuts. In addition, the ingested carbohydrates should come from vegetables to add vitamins and fiber. The ketone bodies that are going to be produced when using fat as fuel, induce autophagy, with its protective functions of the nervous system.
Exercise as a Trigger for Autophagy
Practicing exercise is a way to produce “good” stress for the organism since tissues that must be repaired to become more resistant are broken. This is going to induce this mechanism that we are talking about.
It is not very clear yet what type of exercise is recommended for this purpose although probably intense exercise is the most appropriate. In the tissue of the musculoskeletal system, with 30 minutes of exercise is enough to unleash this process.
You can even combine the exercise with fasting and perform your routine before you start eating, although this depends on the personal situation of each individual.