How does Autophagy work? – does it really matter?

Nobel Prizes and Fasting

If you have researched any form of fasting recently, I am sure you have come across the word autophagy. If you are like me, you may have skimmed over the word and went about your business. You might be surprised to know that the2016 Nobel Prize was on the topic of…you guessed it, autophagy. Dr. Yoshinori Ohsumi of Japan started research on the topic of autophagy in 2012 when he discovered the break down of cells in bakers yeast.

Dr. Yoshinori Ohsumi
Dr. Yoshinori Ohsumi

Autophagy literally means “self-eating”. Autophagy basically is the body’s way of cleaning house and repairing the “bad cells” with the new by chewing up the garbage and transforming it into superhero cells. We will dive into this deeper in a bit.

Autophagy may be one of the most important processes to understand when fasting. So, how does autophagy work? What are the benefits of understanding the process? Does it really matter to know and understand in relation to fasting and losing weight? The answer in short is…absolutely.

Your Very own Personal Militia

What is really going on when your body is deprived of calories? Your body will go into defense mode quick fast once the calorie intake goes down. Autophagosomes is the official name of your personal autophagy militia. This militia will start to take over at the cellular level. Like I stated before autophagy means “self eating” or “eat thyself”, it’s a Greek thing.

Personal Militia for Cells
Battlefield of autophagy

In order for you to have the autophagosomes take action, the cells must be stressed (deprived of nutrients) and the quickest way to get there is to fast. Once the cells are stressed your scavenger militia soldiers or autophagosomes start to do their thing. The cells will scavenge the body for dead cells, malfunctioning cells, and anything that resembles weakness at the molecular level. The degradation of the cells are gobbled up and transformed to remain in homeostasis or simpler yet – keep the body stable.

“The cells will scavenge the body for dead cells, malfunctioning cells, and anything that resembles weakness at the molecular level”

In essence this is a super power that everyone has the ability to utilize. Being able to put your own self in a constant state of recycling cells is out of this world beneficial! Your body, mind and everything revolving around your world will change when autophagy is in full swing. It is an upgrade on a cellular level…literally. It almost seems too good to be true.

Hack your Way into it

When something seems too good to be true, it is usually. Getting to a state of autophagy isn’t all that easy, but how to get there is simple. Confusing? Let me explain

Its kind of like running a marathon. You know it is 26 miles – that is simple to understand. You don’t know how hard it is however, unless you have trained and ran one before. So getting into this autophagy state is like a marathon, easy to envision – hard to complete without training or in this case, the mindset. Fasting is the quickest way to get there.

“Not eating for 72 hours will induce a state of autophagy”

Not eating for 72 hours will induce a state of autophagy. By not eating any calories for three consecutive days your body will put stress on the cells and this super hero cell eating situation will commence. The body is getting the chemistry set ready for your cell cleaning crew to start work. 72 hours seems like a long time to go without eating, there is however a faster (no pun intended) way to get to this state.

Super Secret Ketosis Black Belt Stuff

Lowering your carbohydrate intake and upping your fat intake. This is in essence – the “Keto Diet”. I won’t go into much detail about the Keto diet here. But to get a basic idea of what the Keto diet does for speeding up the autophagy process, I will explain. In a nut shell the Keto diet is eating a high fat diet, as opposed to carbs and sugars. Keeping your diet 60-70% fats and below 50 grams of carbs in any given day.

Keto friendly meal
Autophagy and ketosis

What this does is put the body in a state known as ketosis. Again to get a grasp of why this is beneficial without too much detail, ketosis creates what are called ketones. Ketones will ultimately replace glucose as a fuel source for the body. This speeds up the autophagy process and gets the autophagosomes primed and ready. Throwing in this keto black belt secret can take you from 72 hours of calorie less deprivation down to 12 hours if you stick to your guns! That is a super hack.

Even if you veer off from the ketosis route a little, eating fats and reducing your carb intake will significantly help you achieve a state of autophagy. Getting to autophagy may take a little discipline but it is well worth it. My first experience was not short of thinking I could be a Marvel character. The energy I felt after the fact was the biggest surge I had felt in at least 10 years.


Living forever. That sounds silly and probably is at this moment in time. I do think little steps like autophagy and recycling the inner workings of the human body is a step in the right direction to longevity. Being able to take old, crappy worn out cells and turning them into young, spry and intelligent cells seems like a no brainer.

Maybe the key to living forever hasn’t been unlocked…yet. But little steps like this are the key to living a healthier and longer life. A life that you can be proud of deep into your golden years. I personally have many “mini goals” in mind and I know I could never get them achieved if it weren’t for the fasting world and understanding scientific states such as autophagy and how they play a rold in my well being.

                                                                “Maybe the key to living forever hasn’t been unlocked…yet”

Little fun fact about mortality. The Turritopsis dornii Jellyfish can in fact live forever. Check out the story of how, it is eerily similar to autophagy. Coincidence?

Medicines Guardian Angel

Autophagy can be summed up as a saving grace to the medical community. It wasn’t until recently that autophagy was considered such. This may be the coolest part about autophagy.

Guardian angel
What is autophagy

Recently studies have shown autophagy playing a large role in disease control, specifically Alzheimer and other brain diseases. I have heard growing up that “Alzheimer runs in the family”. This may be true, it probably does run in my

family, generationally speaking I have witnessed my grandfather go through this. However understanding autophagy and how it works, changes the very meaning of “it runs in the family”. I can decide to take action now to clean up my cells in my brain. The “it runs in the family” may just mean I need to call in the troops to transform my cells a little more often than normal.

Through diet and little things like autophagy I believe that you can manage all disease and rid most cancerous cells of the body. It all starts in the mind, and once you have committed to a lifestyle change…the sky is the limit.

What you Should’ve Got out of This

  1. Autophagy is your own personal militia, and can be called into action with fasting and other techniques
  2. 72 hour water fast if required in order to get in a state of autophagy…unless
  3. Diet and specifically the Keto diet can speed up the process of autophagy from 72 hours to 12 hours
  4. Understanding autophagy and how to use it as a weapon and defy the aging process
  5. Using a state of autophagy to change your genetic path

Thanks for reading and have a pleasantly uncomfortable day


Nic Chiri





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  1. Tim

    Awesome read!
    I really learnt a lot here about Autophagy and thought your article did a great job at describing it.
    I was happy see you mention the Keto Diet as I have been doing my best to stick to it for the last 2 or so years. I’m not perfect at it and i don’t try to be but the concept of eating less carbs and sugar, and more fat and protein can be hard for some people to grasp. Especially a high fat diet may seem confusing.

    Thanks again for sharing this!

    • Nic

      I appreciate the feedback and that is awesome you are sticking with keto. Keto is hard to stay on top of, but sticking with mostly fats and low carbs is enough for me to see a big difference. Yes a high fat diet does seem confusing, until it broken down to understand you are using the fat for fuel. Thanks again for stopping by!



  2. Kevin McNamara

    Hi Nic,

    Great post! I completed a 7 day juice fast last Saturday and loved it. Best one I have done actually. Just freshly squeezed fruit and vegetable juice and water. I try and do one of those at least 4 times a year on change of season.

    I must do a water fast after reading your post. Might aim for 5 days and then possibly go for 7. I have only ever juice fasted. I know water is a tougher fast. Thanks for the challenge buddy 🙂


    • Nic

      Thanks for reading. And it is nice to meet a fellow “comfort zone exiter”. Kudos on the juice fast Kev, that is a big accomplishment that most can say they haven’t achieved. If you have done a 7 day juice fast, a water fast is in the bag! And I agree with you that fasting should take place on a scheduled basis throughout the year.



  3. Cathy Blake

    Hands down, one of the best posts I’ve read and have some questions I hope you can answer.

    To get to this Autophagy state I either have to fast for 72 hours or start the Keto diet and maintain it for at least 12 hours?
    1. Is it unlimited high fat and just 50 grams of carbs or is there a different ratio? I have low blood sugar and going without small meals/snacks is dangerous for me so I would not be able to handle the72 hour fasting, but for sure I could do Keto.

    2. Once you’re in this Autophagy state, how long does it take for the cleansing process to complete?

    I’m really stoked about this and want to try and never would have had I not read your post!

    • admin

      Thanks for the read and kind words.

      Not necessarily 72 hours or even only the Keto diet. Every person has a different threshold. You can also intermittently fast to achieve a state of autophagy (which I would suggest with low blood sugar). By water fasting and using a high fat diet will put you in the autophagy state a little faster, that’s all.

      It is NOT limited to high fat and 50 g of carbs. Again doing so will just speed up the process by depleting nutrients in the body quicker. As long as you take your carb intake down a notch, your body is going to react no matter what. I would suggest by starting there and moving it down slowly over a couple days. You are a perfect example of what I am trying to get across to readers, that there aren’t any “definitive” ways to achieve weight loss or a healthy lifestyle.

      Just like our ancestors before us, we adapt and overcome. Everything in this realm is adaptable. If you have any more questions please throw them my way. I am passionate about this stuff and love it when people start to see the “other side”.

      Autophagy will start when glycogen in the liver depletes. Then the body will start the “militia” mode for approximately 2 days before true homeostasis kicks back in. It could be a little shorter or a little longer depending on your genetic make up. I have posted a link at the bottom to my blog post about the 5:2 intermittent fasting diet. You should check it out when you have time, that might be the ticket for your situation! Thanks again Cathy, and good luck!

      The Adaptable Intermittent 5:2 Diet?

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