Fasting & Autophagy (the body’s way of cleansing cells)

Published: January 20, 2020

What is Autophagy?

There’s something that a lot of people that practice intermittent fasting talk about and that’s autophagy. Now I’m going to explain what autophagy is in just a second. But the purpose of this video is to teach you that due to the fact that your body produces ketones during a fast, autophagy isn’t quite as important as you might be thinking. Okay, so autophagy is this, autophagy is where your body has sort of a built-in cellular recycling process. Think of it like your cell’s little Pac-Man. And this Pac-Man opens up and eats all these old components of the cell that don’t need to be used anymore.

How Fasting Triggers Autophagy

Now, why is this important when it comes down to fasting? Well, think about this. Let’s say you haven’t eaten for 16-20 hours. You don’t have any nutrients coming in, so your body has no choice but to try to find and conserve food from other places. So it takes components of the cell that are not really being used, or fragmented portions of DNA that aren’t being used, and uses them as fuel. It’s basically recycling it’s own components in an effort to gain energy. It’s really really powerful stuff. But, the problem is that so many people believe that autophagy is the end all be all. So for example, they’ll be afraid to consume something because it might stop autophagy. Or, they’re afraid that their fast isn’t going to be as effective because they’re not getting into that stage of autophagy.

Relationship Between Ketones & Autophagy

Well, I want to explain how the ketogenic diet actually triggers autophagy, and how autophagy is not necessarily everything you have to bank on. You see, there’s a study that is published in the journal PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America) that found, at a 48 hour fast, autophagy tends to decline, now, my reason in mentioning this is because, as autophagy declines, it doesn’t mean that the fast is no longer beneficial, you see, they always have kind of a give and a take. When you are fasting for a long period of time, you have an upregulation of ketones. Okay, the longer that you fast, generally, the more ketones that you’re going to have in your blood. Now, ketones have a world of benefits, right? They have genetic properties, they have, ultimately, macronutrient properties, they have abilities to fuel the brain, they’re a very powerful thing. But, as ketones upregulate, we tend to see a little bit of a decline in autophagy at the micro-level with fasting. And this is simply because the ketones that are elevating throughout the fast are actually stopping the breakdown of proteins, now this is a good thing in a lot of different ways, right? The longer that you fast, the more protein you actually conserve, it’s contrary to what most people would say. So, when you fast for a long period of time, the ketones preserve your proteins. And when your proteins are being preserved, you have more protein in your bloodstream, which actually turns off autophagy.

Ketones are a Better Measure of Fasting Effectiveness

So my point in saying this once again is that we can’t dictate whether a fast is good or bad, only on autophagy. We really should be paying attention to our fast based on our ketone levels, ’cause that’s the benefit that we’re actually getting from everything. So, don’t get me wrong, autophagy is good, and there’s a lot of ways that the ketogenic diet, in and of itself, can actually induce autophagy through other mechanisms. But, for the simple on-off switch that has to do with fasting, the measurement that you should be looking at, more than anything, is your ketones. You’re going to drive yourself absolutely off the wall trying to wonder if you have a high degree of autophagy occurring or not, and the fact is, unless you have access to a multi-million dollar lab, you’re never going to know, but the one thing that you can do, is to actually test your blood, and test your ketones. Higher ketones mean deeper into a fast.

Autophagy Levels Vary

Don’t worry about what your autophagy level is at that point in time. And remember, your autophagy’s going to change from organ-to-organ. So, just one last thing to leave you with, just because autophagy is high in your liver at one point in time, doesn’t mean that it’s not high in your muscles at another point in time. Always going to be changing, always revolving, depending on what we are doing, and what our lifestyle is at that very point in time. But the one common denominator, the one gold standard that we can always lean on is testing your ketones. And that’s why you leave the measuring to the meter, and leave that guesswork out of the equation.

I’m Thomas DeLauer, and I’ll see you in the next Keto-Mojo video.


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