Sustainable Autophagy year round


Autophagy is a tricky subject because we still don't have much information or research about it. But today I'm gonna try and simplify matters a bit, because there are some misconceptions and bad practices.

Here's where we got it wrong

The "perfect" fasting times to reach autophagy

People ask "how long does it take to start / stop autophagy" and you hear and read all sorts of answers that contradict each other. Well, here's mine: 

Autophagy is ALWAYS running. It never stops, it never restarts.

The reason it's not working well for us modern humans, is because we are stuffing ourselves all the time, overeating on the most toxic garbage that some manufacturers dare to call "food". We never give our body rest from digestion, and we keep shoving it with crap that makes us more and more sick. So the autophagy "workers" never catch up to the workload we put them.

Overdoing it with fasting and then undoing all of the hard work

If you're going on a 24h, 48h, 3d, 7d fast just because you overate all the wrong stuff and you want to lose weight or "detox" quick, that's the wrong approach. First of all, autophagy is not about weight loss. Second, autophagy will try to get rid of the most recent toxins first. Once it's done with that, THEN it will go to the old, lingering stuff. 

If you're not consistent with a healthy, highly disciplined diet, autophagy will take a lot longer to work, or it may not be able to efficiently get rid of your toxins at all. So what you eat, how much you eat and how often, matters more than anything else in autophagy.

Another thing is that if you overdo it with too many days on a water or dry fast (and how many is that depends on the individual), once it finishes "eating" all the waste products, toxins, bad cells etc, it starts attacking your healthy ones. That's when you get sick, and can even die.

This is where it becomes just like a calorie deficit: a yo-yo diet. You eat junk, you fast to "detox", you break the fast with even more junk. Refeeding syndrome is not that much of an issue as most people think (especially if you're getting your electrolytes in), but if you fasted for 7 days and then broke that fast with fast food or junk food, congratulations, you just wasted your entire week by straight adding those toxins and pathogens back into your gut and bloodstream. It's like you are trying to intensify illness, not cure it, because now, after your 7 day fast, your gut microbiome has shrinked and there's not much to defend (or keep out by populating) from pathogenic bacteria.

Eating junk food JUST ONCE is more than enough to cause significant damage

However small the portion of your "treat" or "cheat meal" is, no matter how infrequent ("only" on the weekends, once a month etc) it will undo your entire efforts for disease prevention and treatment, longevity and weight loss. 

And I'm not talking out of my head here, I've experienced it myself, and I've read it in plenty of research studies. Just a small amount of junk foods, and JUST ONCE  will negatively alter your gut microbiome for the worst.

Like my 9 year old son says "sugar belongs in the trash, not in our bellies".  The same goes for trans fats (reheated / reused oils) and anything that is highly processed.

You need to cut out the junk permanently. Forget they exist!

No influencer will tell you this because nobody wants to hear that, they'll lose views. And no doctor will tell you this because you staying sick is how they make money!

But let's move on.

How to sustain your body in a constant, gentle, EFFICIENT, autophagy

I'm gonna try to keep it simple:

  • Eat once a day, every single day for as long as you live. Stop eating so many frequent meals. Give your digestive organs a rest so that autophagy will have the energy to do its thing.
  • Eat that one meal in the morning. Autophagy likes to work more at rest. That means when you sleep. That means, putting your body to digest a dinner at night will reduce the efficacy of the autophagy. Eat early in the morning, so by the time you're in bed for the deep cleansing work, your body can focus on rejuvenation, not digesting your food.
  • With the above in mind, improve your quality of sleep (more details on that on a separate post).
  • With the above regimen, fast for 22-25 hours every day. Eating for 12 hours and fasting for 12 is not gonna cut it. 16:8 is the bare minimum for just starting out. 20:4 is a good regimen, but for autophagy, 22-25 hours of fast and OMAD is best. I give a range of 3 hours because 25 hours fast means your OMAD feeding window is gonna be an hour later every day. Since you don't want to one day end up eating late at night, you reduce to 22 (or even 18-20) hours of fast for a day to go back down to early morning.
  • Intense fasted exercise around the 18-20 hour fasting mark. Highly intense exercise on an empty stomach (think: heavy weight lifting, Crossfit, MetCons, HIIT cardio, calisthenics to failure) increases autophagy, and the best time to do that, is after you have fasted for a good amount of hours. Long after the glycogen depletion and gluconeogenesis. The way I think of it is, when your body is starving for nutrients, survival mode kicks in and that's when it starts working in your favor (burn the fat for energy), so you can go out there and successfully hunt and kill your next meal. No preworkouts needed. Just the natural energy coming from your body itself.
  • Wait a further 2-3 hours AFTER your fasted workout before you break your fast. This will increase autophagy and raise your growth hormone levels (so if you're trying to build muscle, it would be best to skip the so-called "anabolic feeding window").
  • Walk for 15-30 minutes after your meal to improve and accelerate digestion and nutrient processing.
  • Eat just a tad below your maintenance for increased autophagy. If that one meal a day is more nutrients than your body needs, autophagy won't work as well. Stay on maintenance on most days, and if you need accelerated autophagy for some reason (like for treating an acute or chronic disease), decrease your food intake amount for a short period of time (a week or 2). If your decreased food intake leads to feeling starving and even getting dizzy as soon as you get up from the bed in the morning, congratulations, you just considerably increased autophagy.
  • With the above said, yes feeling uncomfortable for a while is a normal process of autophagy. It takes great effort to cleanse your body from all the harmful bacteria, and cells, and toxins etc. You need to be careful with it (don't drive if feeling severely weak or dizzy etc), but you need to push through the temporary suffering (hunger, headaches, dizziness, nausea, body odor, weird taste in mouth, irritability, even sore throat etc) and let your body work itself out of the illness. In ancient Greek medicine they say that autophagy will feel most uncomfortable at the body part where the biggest problem lies. So don't be surprised if your temporary deep autophagy symptoms are different than someone else's.
  • And the most important thing of all: stay disciplined and never, EVER touch junk food again. It takes so much effort and time to restore your health, but a highly processed food will have an IMMEDIATE effect and decline on your health that will take MORE weeks and months to recover from. Every single time you ingest something that's bad for you, you're making yourself more and more sick, even if the ratio between healthy/unhealthy foods is 80/20 or 90/10. The negative impact of the wrong foods are a lot stronger and immediate than the positive impacts of the good foods. So for best results, do NOT add another fast food / junk food / processed food / sugars / sweeteners in your mouth ever again.

To know exactly which foods should NOT be consumed again, take a look at my BEST diet series of posts to understand what you need to eat and NOT eat.

I know the above regimen sounds strict, tough or cruel (or whatever you want to add here), but I prefer doing the above for the rest of my life, than going on an illness/detox switching states all the time. I like preserving my hard work's results for a good health in an optimal way, without having to overdo it with endless weeks of water fasts, nor going back to a bad habit that will immediately bring back sickness in the first place.

Disclaimer: This YT channel & Blog are a documentation of my health journey. The content is based on what worked for me and is for informational purposes only, not a replacement for medical advice from a professional. I’m NOT a doctor, nutritionist, dietitian, coach, nor a personal trainer. Furthermore, we are all different and my results may not reflect your own. Any action you take upon the information provided by ZenGainz is strictly at your own risk.