Is Autophagy the Same as Fasting?


If you’ve ever considered fasting, you most likely asked yourself a lot of questions. There are many things to think about before and after your fast. Most people consider fasting for weight loss or to help reset their system. 

Autophagy also helps reset the body by clearing out harmful toxins from the body. However, is autophagy the same as fasting? Is autophagy healthy? Let’s explore a few things about autophagy and fasting and how it can benefit your health. 

What Is Autophagy?

Is autophagy good or bad? Perhaps you’ve wondered how your body gets rid of toxins to keep you healthy. Autophagy is like the body’s personal recycling system. Think of the process as decluttering your body from a cellular level, removing accumulated cellular debris.

It targets old, damaged material within cells and clears said toxic material from the cell, allowing for the cell to continue operating unimpaired. The process is essential for cellular repair and health. Autophagy works to help reset your body and optimize your system. 

How Long Do You Have to Fast for Autophagy?

Autophagy plays a key role in metabolic function. By helping convert unused organelles and long lived proteins (among other cellular debris) within the cell into energy, autophagy provides balance to your metabolism. Fasting to reach autophagy is the most common method to induce autophagy. Have you ever heard of intermittent fasting? Chances are you’re familiar with this popular fasting choice.

Intermittent fasting occurs when you fast for a specific length of time, usually 8-16 hours. When fasting, your cells are deprived of nutrients, triggering autophagy to use damaged organelles as energy. 

Can You Achieve Autophagy Without Fasting?

Autophagy and fasting go hand in hand. Have you ever considered fasting? Even if you’ve never fasted before, you’ve probably heard that fasting offers health benefits for the body. Fasting helps trigger autophagy, which cleans and resets your system. However, fasting isn’t for everyone. Fasting may pose health risks to those with medical conditions, or may not be the preferred diet for others. 

So, is reaching autophagy possible without fasting? The good news is yes. If fasting is not an option, you can use certain foods rich in polyamines to help you reach autophagy and reap the same benefits as fasting. 

Ketogenic Diets Can Help

A ketogenic diet helps you achieve autophagy by using about 75% of your food to consume healthy fats. These fats can come from healthy oils such as medium-chain triglycerides (MITs), extra virgin olive oil (EVOO), and grass-fed butter. The rest of your diet comes from carbs, fruits, vegetables, and lean meats. 

What Type of Fasting Is Best for Autophagy?

Your body triggers autophagy without you even knowing. It helps protect your body from disease and illness as it works to clean out toxins and damaged cells. Although this process works naturally in the body, there are ways you can trigger it to help increase the benefits. 

Intermittent fasting is the best type of fasting for autophagy. It can help produce the proteins your body needs for energy. 

How Do You Know When Autophagy Starts?

Autophagy occurs in your body without you knowing it’s happening. Certain things like fasting can help trigger the process. However, how do you know when autophagy starts? Since everyone has different ranges of metabolism, autophagy also occurs differently in each person. Nutritional habits, exercise, and other lifestyle choices play a role in the process. 

During a fast, cells starve and begin breaking down in order for new cells to grow. The longer you fast, the more the body produces its own cells through autophagy. Autophagy can occur anywhere from a 24-hour fast to a four-day fast. 

How Do I Activate Autophagy?

We now know that fasting is the best way to activate autophagy and trigger the health benefits for health and wellness. Optimizing the health benefits is the best way to take control of your health. Here are a few things you can do to activate autophagy. 


While we’ve already mentioned fasting as the primary way to trigger autophagy, there are a few things to keep in mind. Some studies show that 24-48 hour fasts are the best for triggering autophagy. Many people choose to reap the benefits through intermittent fasting, usually fasting for 16 hours and eating during an 8-hour period. If you have any medical conditions, be sure to consult with your doctor before beginning a fasting regime. 

Engage in Exercise

Regular exercise is also beneficial for your health and can help cellular regeneration. Even exercising for 30 minutes can help trigger autophagy by building muscle and repairing tissue. 

Try a Keto Diet

A ketogenic diet is among the popular diet choices today. However, many people now consider it a lifestyle choice that offers many health benefits. This diet involves eating healthy fats, fruits, and vegetables,  with a limited amount of carbohydrates. 

Ketosis and Autophagy

Trying a ketogenic diet can help trigger ketosis, a fat-burning process in your body. Ketosis occurs when your body burns fat for energy instead of carbohydrates.Does ketosis trigger autophagy? The process aids in weight loss and metabolism regulation. Research also shows that ketosis can help trigger autophagy by starving the blood sugar levels in your body. As it turns out, ketosis and autophagy are closely linked.

What Are the Side Effects of Autophagy?

If you’re not familiar with fasting and autophagy, you may wonder about side effects of autophagy or have other concerns. Is important to separate the difference between natural autophagy and inducing autophagy on your own. Autophagy naturally happens in the body to prevent illness by filtering out toxins. As we learned above, the process has many health benefits. 

Self-inducing autophagy requires careful guidance from a doctor. Excessive autophagy can create health problems such as killing off good cells in the body. Also, unnecessary calorie restriction deprives the body of essential nutrients, which weakens the body. Closely working with a doctor can help you determine the right way to induce autophagy. 

Supplements Can Help

Did you know taking supplements can also help autophagy? Spermidine supplements contain the spermidine polyamine that is part of the body’s cellular makeup. It’s an essential component for cellular health as the body ages. During the aging process, cells break down and die. Spermidine levels in the body also decrease, leading to fatigue and a lower immune system. Spermidine helps induce autophagy to clear out the old cells and regenerate new, healthy cells. Taking a spermidine supplement can increase the benefits of autophagy and promote health and vitality.


  • 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.