8 Ways to Optimize Autophagy

Autophagy happens when your body recycles and gets rid of old or excess cells that don’t serve a purpose or benefit your health. It is a “self-digestion” mechanism and is the way our cells clean house and recycle the trash. This is a great thing!

I’m here to tell you chronic, degenerative, inflammatory conditions don’t have to be a “normal” part of your aging process. The truth is the body was created with an innate ability to heal itself. Every day your body goes to work to help repair damaged cells and cellular components while getting rid of metabolic debris. Unfortunately, we live in a society today that has created lifestyle habits that thwart this innate healthy mechanism and overload our system with metabolic waste, so what to do?

5 Benefits of Inducing Autophagy

#1: Healthy Aging

#2: Metabolic Health

#3: Brain Health

#4: Cellular Health

#5: Heart Health

8 Ways to Optimize Autophagy

Autophagy is a complicated process, but there are certain things that kick it into action.


Fasting for a specific window of time is by far the most powerful way to stimulate autophagy mechanisms in the body. How and whether a person enters into a fast is VERY individual, so consider your circumstances and pick the fasting window that is ideal for you on a day-to-day basis.

How Does Fasting Work?

Intermittent fasting is simply an eating schedule….not a diet. It also is NOT for everyone...if you have a history of eating disorders, having an active adrenal or thyroid health issue, have difficulty maintaining blood sugar levels, or have recently been sick, fasting may not be the best option at this time. Do not fast if pregnant or breastfeeding.

A fast can be done in a number of ways, but I generally recommend beginning with one of these three ways: 12/12, 14/10, or 16/8 strategy. This means you eat all your calories during a 12-hour, 10-hour, or 8-hour feeding window and fast for 12, 14, or 16 hours per day. For example, if you finished eating dinner at 7:00pm, your next meal would be either 12 hours later at 7:00am, 14 hours later at 9:00am, or 16 hours later at 11:00am. Then, that starts your feeding window which would end again after dinner at 7:00pm.

12/12 strategy

Eat for 12 hrs

Fast for 12 hrs

Stay hydrated during fast

Break the fast with a meal with balanced fats/protein/carbs

14/10 strategy

Eat for 10 hrs

Fast for 14 hrs

Stay hydrated during fast

Break the fast with a meal with balanced fats/protein/carbs

16/8 strategy

Eat for 8 hrs

Fast for 16 hrs

Stay hydrated during fast

Break the fast with a meal with balanced fats/protein/carbs

Check out these details on intermittent fasting and what's right for you.


The polyphenols in green tea, also known as catechins, support a healthy metabolism and promote normal energy expenditure. Green tea may also help to regulate ghrelin, otherwise known as the hunger hormone.

If you are a coffee drinker, good news! Black coffee has also been shown to help induce autophagy

Only about 66% of the population does well with coffee or caffeine in general and the other 3rd struggles with it. The way you know you are getting a positive response is if you feel good after the next few hours after drinking it on a fast. If you feel anxious, irritated, or have an increase in hunger and cravings then it is a sign you are having a poor response.


Just like the polyphenols in green tea, many herbs also contain this unique plant compound. This isn’t as strong of a stimulus towards autophagy as fasting, but it can be used in conjunction with fasting to optimize the autophagy mechanisms in your body.

Some of the best herbs for this include quercetin (red onions, citrus fruit, elderberries), carnosic acid (oregano, sage, and rosemary), citrus bergamot (Earl Gray tea), ECGC (green tea and dark chocolate), 6-shagaol (ginger), curcumin (turmeric) and resveratrol (blueberries, grapes, and red wine) among others.

Consuming these polyphenol compounds through herbs in your diet and through supplementation can be very helpful. In addition, I’m a huge fan of drinking herbal teas made from many of these compounds.


You can choose to drink apple cider vinegar (ACV) tonic during your fasting window. ACV contains a compound called acetic acid, which supports a healthy metabolism and promotes fat burning rather than storing it. 

Apple cider vinegar is also shown to be useful in making you feel fuller for longer and reducing your appetite.

When paired with starchy foods, ACV can slow digestion. While digestion is happening, you remain feeling full. While your body is digesting that food, your insulin levels should remain stable, meaning you won’t feel tempted to reach for a sugary snack.
We recommend diluting 1-2 tbsp of ACV in water and drinking it before meals.


High intensity interval training and resistance training while fasting can ramp up autophagy, promote fat burning and support your mood and mental focus. Fasting and exercise both create an environment of stress for the body. That might not sound very appealing in theory, but intermittent doses of that stress can help with weight loss and improve mental clarity. Just don’t overdo the exercise!

High intensity exercise and resistance training help stimulate human growth hormone (HGH) which creates an environment that favors fat burning, autophagy and muscle tissue repair and preservation. The boost in HGH is higher when the individual is in a fasted state.

I recommend working out in the morning or mid-day on a 12-16+ hour overnight fast. You should be well hydrated, and you can take in a pinch of salts for electrolytes and consume some green tea or organic black coffee if you like.

If you are new to fasting, begin with exercise on a 12 hour fast and have a good quality protein shake after your workout. If you have had a lot of success with fasting, you can get a great workout after 16-24+ hours of fasting and then replenish with a good meal after the workout.


We all know how important sleep is and so it should be no wonder that our sleep cycle and circadian rhythm is intimately tied into autophagy. Individuals with circadian rhythm disorders due to poor sleeping habits, insomnia, and long-term night shift work have an increased risk of early-onset chronic disease development.

One of the reasons for this is autophagy is in part regulated by light & dark cycles and deep sleep favors an environment for optimal autophagy mechanisms. You will need to prioritize good sleeping habits in order to help you optimize autophagy with your intermittent and extended fasting regimen.


Short periods of intense heat and cold exposure have also been shown to promote autophagy mechanisms. Rapid temperature changes are a major stressor on our body and we have to adapt quickly to get back to balance and homeostasis.
This is one reason why stressed-out people often get sick with colds, infections, and the flu when the temperature drops outside. Their body was already stressed and immune susceptible and when the weather changed quickly it overwhelmed their body and made it hospitable to environmental pathogens.

Rapid temperature changes can also be used strategically as a hormetic stressor to boost our internal resistance to stress. What is hermetic stress? It refers to the beneficial effects of a mild stressor, which in this case is heat and cold strategies. Autophagy-related genes are required for the thermoresistance and longevity of animals exposed to hormetic heat shock or cold temperatures.

This adaptation pushes autophagy and gives us a much greater ability to adapt to temperature changes and other stressors we encounter. In essence, strategic dosing of hot and cold temperatures makes us stronger and more resilient human beings.

Some ways to take advantage of this are to exercise outside in the heat of the summer or use a steam sauna or an infrared sauna on a regular basis. For cold adaptation, one suggestion is to finish your daily shower with 1 minute at the coldest temperature possible. While standing in the cold water, pump your arms and legs in order to activate your skeletal muscle and it gives a great boost to circulation and feel-good compounds such as serotonin, dopamine, and endorphins.


Eating protein helps muscle cells stay healthy. It feeds muscle cells so they’re able to repair any microscopic damage that’s made during exercise. Each time they’re repaired, they get a little bigger. As long as they’re being repaired, your body will not see them as cells it needs to get rid of, and will opt for other cells during autophagy, like fat, instead.

For protein sources, it is best to choose organic, pasture-raised meats, eggs, dairy and wild-caught fish. You can also use plant-based protein sources such as nuts, seeds and legumes. I am also a huge fan of adding a good quality bone broth or collagen protein powder into your diet to get more connective tissue amino acids into your body. You can also use a vegan based protein source such as pea, hemp, chia or rice protein to support your protein needs.

Meet Your Nutritional Needs While Fasting

The restricted feeding windows of IF may lead to fewer calories consumed and challenges with meeting nutritional needs. Focus on eating an abundance of nutrient-dense, whole foods during feeding periods for optimal results. 

I recommend a multi-vitamin and a high-quality protein powder, at minimum. Adding superfoods is also a convenient way to improve the quality of your diet. 

Reference: Activating Autophagy. Your Guide to Cellular Healing. Dr. Jockers.com Supercharge Your Health.

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