Autophagy.  Auto = Self, phagein = to consume.  Also known as autolysis it quite literally means the eating of oneself.  Apoptosis is a bit different as it is programmed cell death and autolysis helps rid the body of these cell corpses.

What is it?  It is the body’s way of getting rid of all the broken down, old cell parts such as organelles, proteins, and cell membranes when there’s no longer enough energy to sustain it. It is a regulated, orderly process to degrade and recycle cellular components.  Here’s a lesser-known fact, autophagy is always happening to some degree. When we age it happens to a much less degree.

Why do I want autophagy?  The thinking goes that autophagy helps reduce the chance of developing age-related problems and thus extend your life span.  It is also useful in avoiding or diminishing cancer, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, OMG do you need more?   That’s why autophagy is so important. It’s like a cellular garbage disposal, taking the dysfunctional parts and obliterating them so they don’t cause a mess anywhere else.

How do I get this goodness in me? In a word stress. That stress can be caused by fasting, high intensity exercise, and even injury.

How long to fast?  This is tricky and there are a lot of arguments over this question.  But I am here to tell you the truth and why wouldn’t you believe me??  If you want autophagy right now stop eating for 72 hours (if your doc gives you permission.)  After that, you will go into autophagy at about 18 hours of IF and it will last until you take your first bite of anything with protein or sugar-like substance.  Basically, anything that causes an insulin response. Yes, there is some evidence that if you eat just fat that you can extend autophagy. I can’t believe I really just typed that.  Can’t go 72 hours without food? Fine: IF will get you there, but slower. If you do a minimum of 18/6 in about 30 days you will start eliciting autophagy.

The breakdown:  After you put the last morsel of food in your mouth it takes about 12 hours for the glucose to digest and insulin to fall.  At around 13 hours your growth hormone starts to rapidly rise because it can feel that it is going to have to start fixing shit.  At 16 to 17 hours ketosis raises its breath stinking head and finally at 18 hours, autophagy.

Do I have to induce autophagy to get benefits from IF? Nope.