What Is The Length Of Time Needed For Achieving Autophagy? A Timeline For Autophagy Fasting

When you put your body through positive stress, there can be tremendous health benefits. One of the ways to make positive stress for your body is through fasting. Recent research studies do not support the traditional eating pattern of three meals a day and in-between snacking. History reveals that humans can, in fact, function physically and mentally for extended periods without food. It is believed that fasting can trigger autophagy in your body. This leads to feeling better, healthier, and cleansed, so how can you incorporate this into your lifestyle?

Understanding Autophagy And Your Health

Autophagy is the body's way of cleaning out our body’s damaged cells. During this process, aged and damaged organelles are recycled, providing energy for the cell and cleaning them of cellular debris. The word "Autophagy" comes from "auto," meaning self, and "phagy," meaning eat. So the word means self-eating. You may also hear it referred to as self-devouring. Now that can sound scary and something you may want to steer clear of, but it can actually benefit your health. 

In a simple term, autophagy is how your body cleans itself by removing the damaged cells, degraded proteins, and pathogens. Autophagy peak occurs when your body is exposed to stress or environmental toxins. It can also play a significant role in combating inflammation, bolstering immunity, and healthy aging. 

Our bodies often initiate autophagy during infections and inflammation because it helps the body to heal. Lately, we have seen increased attention as dietary interventions such as fasting can activate autophagy. Autophagy is considered a crucial mechanism in our body, but when does autophagy start?

How Long Should You Fast For Optimal Autophagy?

It is believed that fasting is one of the most effective ways to stimulate autophagy, but how long to fast for autophagy? Fasting or caloric restriction can create stress in your body, which in turn initiates autophagy. How long you will need to fast for autophagy really depends on your metabolism. Studies have shown that autophagy may take two to four days of fasting in humans. It is believed that autophagy does not begin until the glucose and insulin levels drop considerably. Some experts suggest starting with 32 to 48 hours; 72-hour fast autophagy pushes the limits for most humans but can be possible. Always discuss your fasting and calorie restriction diet with your doctor before you do so. 

14 Hour Or 16 Hour Fast? Which Is Best For You

There is no one size fits all when it comes to intermittent fasting. Some people choose the 14-hour fast, while others prefer the 16-hour fast. Other people fast for shorter or longer time frames. During the 16-hour fast, most people eat between 10 am and 6 pm, whereas the 14-hour fast allows you to eat during 9 am and 7 pm. 

You can practice this method twice a week or several times a month. Some people like intermittent fasting every day for a specific time frame. You don’t have to follow these exact hours. Find what works for your body and your unique health needs.

A Guide To Triggering Autophagy

Autophagy occurs naturally in the body to help break down old and damaged cell components so the body can make new ones. If the process occurs naturally, why should we trigger it? There are some reasons triggering autophagy is helpful to the body. Although it occurs naturally, poor nutrition, stress, and environmental factors can slow the process. If you’re feeling less than your best, triggering cellular autophagy can encourage healthy cells and give your body the boost it needs to increase cellular health.

Intermittent Fasting And Triggering Autophagy

Intermittent fasting or calorie restriction is the most common way to trigger autophagy. According to research, intermittent fasting can induce neuronal autophagy, which is crucial to cellular health. People who fast often choose a 14-hour or 16-hour fast. This means they fast most of the day and eat during the remaining hours. It’s not about the foods you eat but when you eat them. 

This form of calorie restriction forces your body into survival mode, helping your body repurpose cell components. Intermittent fasting can improve your immune system, reduce cardiovascular disease, and improve cellular health. The length of fasting time depends on your body’s unique needs. Intermittent fasting autophagy is the most common way to achieve cellular turnover.

The Role Of Nutrition In Autophagy

Fasting calorie restriction is not the only way to trigger autophagy. The foods we eat can help trigger the process. Calorie intake can benefit just as much as calorie restriction. A Ketogenic diet is a high fast, low-carb way of eating that can reduce insulin, fat cells, and blood sugar levels by encouraging a ketosis state. Ketosis happens when the body burns fat instead of glucose for fuel. Studies show this diet can also help prevent neurodegenerative disease. 

The keto diet isn’t the only nutrition option for triggering autophagy. Other foods include:

  • Coffee
  • Green tea
  • Garlic
  • Reishi mushrooms
  • Ginseng
  • Blueberries and pomegranate

You can include these foods in your diet or take supplements that contain these ingredients.

Triggering Autophagy With Regular Physical Activity

Regular physical exercise is another way to trigger autophagy. You don’t have to train like an athlete. However, the harder and more frequently you train, the more likely you are to activate autophagy. Intense exercise is the best way to enhance the many benefits of autophagy on cellular health. Studies show an increased cellular response after intense exercise. If you can’t exercise intensely for a long time, try brisk walking, swimming, or HIIT training a few times a week.

Stimulating Autophagy With Coffee

Coffee can also help trigger autophagy by mimicking calorie restriction. The best thing about this is that you don’t need caffeine to stimulate the process. You can drink it during your intermittent fasting period or throughout the day. Drinking coffee can lower inflammation and reduce oxidative stress by helping the body detox quicker.

How Autophagy Is Beneficial For Your Health

Aids In The Prevention Of Diseases

As autophagy sweeps up the damaged cells and recycles them, it removes toxins that can cause neurodegenerative diseases. Autophagy also helps reduce inflammation, contributing to many cardiovascular diseases and impairing the immune system. 

Promotes Healthier Cells And Prolongs Life

As our bodies age, so do our cells. If you notice some age faster than others, you’re not alone. Cellular health plays a primary role in the aging process. Cells age more quickly because of damaged proteins, oxidative stress, and other toxins that prevent the body from repairing itself. Triggering autophagy can maintain cellular health and increase longevity.  

Reduces Inflammation And Improves Gut Health

Autophagy helps control several anti-inflammatories such as lymphocytes and macrophages. It can help balance insulin and blood sugar levels, which can improve gut health by reducing inflammation. This is a great reason to include triggering autophagy as another wellness strategy.

Improves Nuerological Health And Function

Neurodegenerative diseases, like Parkinson’s disease or Alzheimer's disease, often occur because of accumulated cellular proteins. Autophagy can also help protect against these diseases by removing the abnormal cell growth that leads to neurodegenerative disease. Since autophagy also reduces inflammation, it can improve mental awareness and focus.

Autophagy Fasting Timeline FAQs

Can Autophagy Be Triggered With A 16 Hour Fast?

If you are trying to induce autophagy by exercising, restrictive eating, and fasting, There is one thing you should be aware of. Waiting a few hours in between meals does not translate into immediate autophagy time. To enter the autophagy phase, your body requires low liver glycogen, which typically only happens after a 14-16 hour fast. So to answer the question, is 16 hours long enough for autophagy, yes that should be sufficient time.

When Does Autophagy Begin?

If you’re just now learning about autophagy, you ask, “When does autophagy start”? This is a common question many people wonder. Understanding the body’s cells and the natural process of cellular detoxification can help you know the signs of autophagy in your body. Studies have shown that autophagy is believed to begin after 24 hours of fasting, and autophagy fasting evidence has shown it can peak around 48 hours of fasting. Every human is different, and this can vary from person to person. 

What Are Common Signs Of Autophagy?

It typically takes 24-48 hours for the body to reach autophagy. There are signs of autophagy you can look for to know if you have achieved your goal. These signs include low blood glucose, low insulin, elevated ketones, weight loss, reduced appetite, muscle loss, and even skin health. While these are not the only sign of autophagy, they are the most common.

Autophagy markers are another way you can tell if your body is going through the process. Autophagy markers can help you monitor and measure how the process is happening in your body. LC3 is a common protein marker that doctors look for to determine the effects of autophagy. They measure this through a blood test.

At What Point Does Autophagy Peak?

As we mentioned above, most people experience a peak in around 48 hours, but everyone is different. There is not enough evidence and studies to indicate what the optimal fasting period needed for autophagy is. Each individual is different, and you should remember to speak to your doctor about your fasting method to ensure you are staying safe. 

What Is Acceptable To Drink During An Autophagy Fast?

There are a few tips you should follow when you are fasting. One of these includes staying hydrated. Water is an essential part of fasting as it helps with the exfoliation of toxins. You can consume water, lemon juice, or other fruit juice. Make sure they have no added sugar. While fasting, other liquids you can drink include tea, coffee, bulletproof coffee, apple cider vinegar, and bone broth. The underlying rule of thumb is to drink liquids low in calories to avoid increased insulin levels.

Will A Fast Be Broken By Drinking Coffee With Creamer?

Drinking coffee while fasting can increase autophagy benefits even more. Adding milk or cream could reduce the benefits because it can spike your blood sugar and break the autophagy process. If you need to add something, add less than a tablespoon of cream to keep your calories under 50. You can also use coconut oil.

How Spermidine Supplements Might Help

Intermittent fasting provides many health benefits, however not everyone can fast or may want to alter their lifestyle and diet. Recent scientific findings have identified a novel molecule called spermidine, which can help your body induce autophagy. Many of the benefits of intermittent fasting can be achieved through a spermidine rich diet.  Fortunately many of the foods you consume on a daily basis contain spermidine, though spermidine content among these foods varies widely, making it difficult to gauge how much spermidine you are consuming through diet alone. 

Spermidine supplements are an easy way to ensure that you are getting the recommended daily dose of spermidine. spermidineLIFE® is the world’s first spermidine dietary supplement, containing all-natural ingredients, rigorously tested to ensure that you meet your daily spermidine needs.


  • 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.