Do You Have to Fast for Autophagy?


You’ve probably heard some of the health benefits that accompany fasting. But did you know that fasting can help induce autophagy throughout the body? What is autophagy and is autophagy good or bad? This article will go over what autophagy is, how fasting can help induce it, and the foods you need to eat to get the process started. 

What Is Autophagy?

Autophagy is the Greek phrase for “self-eating.” Although the definition sounds concerning, autophagy is a fundamental cellular process that defines the degradation and recycling of damaged and potentially harmful cellular components. This process is an essential function at the cellular level and can help slow down the side-effects of aging and, in some cases, potentially reverse damage down from the aging process. 

So what exactly is autophagy? Simply put, it’s the body’s way of replacing worn out or impaired organelles, proteins, or whole cells with newer, healthier ones so your tissues and organs can function optimally. The older we get, the more and more critical our cellular health becomes. One of the benefits of autophagy is it provides the healthy cells needed to improve longevity and overall well being. To improve longevity and overall well being, we need healthy cells. This is why autophagy is so important, but when does autophagy start?

Do You Have To Fast To Reach Autophagy?

One of the best ways to induce autophagy is through fasting. Fasting is the choice to fully abstain from eating or drinking for a certain length of time. By limiting the length of time you allow your body to consume calories, your body will have to rely on other methods to find energy once that source is depleted. After enough time withholding calories, your body begins utilizing stored fat as energy, a metabolic process called ketosis, followed by autophagy. 

During a fast, the lack of food will starve cells in the body, triggering autophagy to recycle cell components that have been damaged or worn out to be used as necessary energy for survival. Autophagy breaks down the defective organelles and proteins within cells that, if accumulated, can lead to age-related diseases. If you aren’t interested in giving up food for an extended period, there are other ways to induce autophagy. We’ll touch on these methods later in the article. 

How Long Do You Need To Fast For Autophagy?

It should be noted that, as of right now, human research into the effects of autophagy is still in its infancy. You may be wondering how long to fast for autophagy. With that in mind, researchers have yet to come to a consensus regarding the length required to achieve autophagy. One thing researchers do agree on, however, is that fasting to reach autophagy will vary depending on the individual. Factors such as weight, height, age, activity level, and biological history will play a key role. 

Since we all have different metabolisms and degrees of metabolic flexibility, some may experience a spike in autophagy after eight hours, while others require 16-18 hours. Long fasts, such as 24-hour fasts, can produce even more benefits. Before beginning a fast, it’s important to consult with your doctor to ensure it’s safe for you. 

How Do You Trigger Autophagy?

As mentioned earlier, there are a few other suggested ways to activate autophagy. Research is still ongoing, but current studies have indicated three methods to help boost the cellular recycling process, including:

  • Fasting -  Fully withholding from calorie consumption (keep in mind, the amount of time required to induce autophagy will vary)
  • Caloric restriction - Restricting the amount of calories consumed can produce similar results as fasting
  • Regular Exercise - Frequent moderate exercise causes “healthy stress” on the body and can promote autophagic processes

If you are looking to trigger autophagy, consider these options. 

What Should You Eat While Trying to Reach Autophagy?

If inducing autophagy is something you’re focused on, you will need to build a diet centered around foods with ingredients shown to trigger the process. One way to do this is by consuming foods and drinks that are rich in spermidine. This compound can be found across the food pyramid and has a demonstrated history of inducing autophagy. Foods that are high in spermidine include:

  • Wheat Germ
  • Peas
  • Aged Cheese
  • Soybeans
  • Mushrooms
  • Broccoli
  • Natto
  • Coffee

If you feel you are not getting enough spermidine through your diet, it may be time to consider supplements. 

Can You Speed Up Autophagy?

As you can tell, autophagy is a complicated process. Simply inducing it can be difficult enough, let alone speeding it up. Even then, this is one of our most commonly asked questions. 

While there is limited concrete evidence that shows exercising can speed up the process in humans, the limited research that is available shows that mice who exercise 30-minutes per day see more results than those who don’t. The study points out that many of these health benefits also coincide with living a healthy life, so it can’t all be attributed to autophagy.

What Can You Drink While Fasting For Autophagy?

You may be wondering what you can drink while fastingCan you drink water during autophagy? As long as you’re not practicing a water fast, you can consume any beverage that is incredibly low or without calories. Think water, unsweetened tea, black coffee, vinegar, and broths. 

Experts highly recommend drinking plenty of water during a fast, as staying hydrated can help boost benefits. Coffee can work as an effective appetite suppressant, but be cautious when drinking coffee during a fast. The caffeine content can cause nausea, jitters, and light-headedness on an empty stomach. 

How Much Weight Can You Lose In Autophagy?

As mentioned throughout the article, the effects of autophagy will vary from person to person. With increased autophagy, your cells can function optimally, often leading to an increase in energy. With that in mind, research does point to autophagy aiding in the weight loss process. 

This is likely due to healthy lifestyle changes that accompany an increased emphasis on autophagy, as well. To induce autophagy, one must practice a healthy and balanced diet and exercise frequently. By making these two lifestyle changes, you already increase your chances of losing weight regardless of autophagy. 

Supplements Can Help

If you’re interested in the benefits of autophagy, you should be looking to up your consumption of spermidine. Unfortunately, most Americans fail to get their recommended daily dosage through their diets. That’s where supplements come into play. At spermidineLIFE®, we offer the world’s first award-winning spermidine supplement to ensure you’re always getting the most out of your body!


  • Don Moxley - Director of Applied Science

    Don Moxley is the Director of Applied Science at Longevity Labs. Moxley draws upon his career as an athlete, a sports scientist, and an instructor to lead and educate on the science of autophagy and longevity.