On the list of amazing, mysterious things our bodies can do, autophagy ranks pretty high. We’ve been chatting with wellness boss and the author of Glow15, Naomi Whittel, all about autophagy (pronounced: aw-tof-uh-jee). Read our first story with Naomi or dive deep into her new book, then learn how to execute on all that knowledge below…
Autophagy is a biological process where cells remove toxins, recycle parts and repair their own damage. It becomes less efficient as we get older, and this degradation has been blamed for the signs of aging — from weight gain, to energy loss and even age-related diseases. The good news: You have the power to activate autophagy to look and feel younger – and it’s easier than you think.
6 Ways to Boost Autophagy
try INTERMITTENT FASTING | Not eating, or restricting caloric intake for a short period of time, has been shown to induce autophagy. When your cells lack nutrients, it stresses them out — this is a good thing. That stress increases autophagy or the rate at which cells recycle components, to make sure your systems function well. One of the simplest ways to do this is by fasting for 16 hours. Hold on, I know it doesn’t sound simple to go without food for that long – but if you stop eating after dinner, continue to fast while sleeping (which should be the norm!) and then just skip breakfast — you’ve done it. That’s it, skip one meal. And there is no reason to go any longer than 16 hours (I’m looking at you, over-achievers!). This short-term fast has been shown to have a profound effect on autophagy in your brain. So stay sharp and try working up to three non-consecutive fasting days per week.
about PROTEIN cycling | One of the main purposes of autophagy is to supply the body with a constant level of amino acids (products of protein) by breaking down muscle tissue. If no protein is supplied through eating, the body still needs that amino acid. Limiting protein intake forces your cells to find every possible way to recycle the existing protein you’ve already provided it, thereby activating autophagy. There is evidence that protein cycling can help reduce the risk of diseases, diabetes, cancer and heart disease, in addition to enhancing autophagy. To limit your protein consumption, aim to eat less than 25 grams on the same three days you fast.
EXERCISE in bursts | Think workouts are stressful? Well, you should — and again, that’s a good thing. Autophagy rates increase when cells are under physiological stress (you know, like when your heart is beating fast and your muscles are straining). This stress is a good thing, as it has been shown to boost autophagy in your brain and muscle tissues. A minimal amount of exercise can give you maximum benefits. Just 30 minutes of exercise has been shown to have profound autophagic effects. There are two great types of workouts to boost autophagy: high-intensity interval training (HIIT) and resistance exercise training (RET). The former has been shown to boost mitochondria – the power plant of your cells providing energy – and the latter helps prevent the loss of muscle mass, while improving strength.
get quality SLEEP | Autophagy is key to beauty sleep. Not only is it activated because you are denying your body of nutrients (assuming you’re not eating while snoozing!), but it is linked to your circadian rhythm, which controls your sleep. So, getting quality rest will help your autophagy. Here are my tips to help you “glow to sleep:” No technology for 90 minutes before bed, lower your room temperature to 65 degrees, and try brown noise – like the sounds of wave crashing – which you can find in a sound machine or sleep app.
take RESVERATROL | Go ahead – enjoy a glass of red wine and indulge in some dark chocolate! They contain a powerphenol called resveratrol. Studies have shown that resveratrol-trans is the best type of resveratrol to enhance autophagy. I like to take resveratrol-trans as a supplement, which offers the benefits of hundreds of glasses of red wine (and doesn’t leave me with a hangover!). Resveratrol-trans is best taken once or twice daily as a 250mg nutritional supplement.
make autopha-TEA | Yes, you can sip yourself skinnier and smoother with the ultimate youth boost – AutophaTea! Enjoy up to four cups of this delicious and nutritious autophagy-activating drink daily — just make sure you switch to decaf after 2 pm. It will keep you satiated, focused and energized.
Whole Citrus Bergamot Earl Grey Tea. Induces autophagy to remove toxins from your cells and keep your heart healthy. By doing so, it improves insulin sensitivity to lower blood sugar.
Green Tea. Active polyphenols like EGCG (epigallocatechin gallate) in green tea activate autophagy.
Coconut Oil. Coconut oil is nature’s richest source of healthy medium-chain fatty acids. It eases your hunger and stimulates autophagy by increasing ketone levels — especially in the absence of carbs.
Cinnamon. This spice, high in antioxidants, has been shown to increase autophagy. Look for Ceylon cinnamon, as it is considered “true cinnamon” and is of the highest quality.
1 green tea bag
1 whole citrus bergamot Earl Grey tea bag
1 cinnamon stick
1 Tbsp raw coconut oil
In a kettle or small saucepan, bring 1 to 1 1⁄2 cups water to a boil.
Pour the water into a large mug and add the tea bags and cinnamon stick. Let steep for at least 3 minutes (the longer the better), then remove and discard the tea bags.
Add the coconut oil and stir it in using the cinnamon stick.
Mix it all together for 20 to 30 seconds. You can also blend the tea to help mix the flavors and emulsify the oil.
The Chalkboard Mag and its materials are not intended to treat, diagnose, cure or prevent any disease. All material on The Chalkboard Mag is provided for educational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified healthcare provider for any questions you have regarding a medical condition, and before undertaking any diet, exercise or other health related program.
I just read this book last night, and the only problem is I just cannot drink green or black tea most times, but especially on an empty stomach! I would be sick the rest of the day. I wonder if there are any alternatives, or if an after-lunch cup would work as well?
TRUE autophagy consists of complete removal of anything that causes an increase in insulin or mTOR. So the autophaTea, really can’t produce true autophagy. Autophagy can only happen when we stop feeding the cells in our bodies, so they, in turn, eat themselves. Once anything that cells can “eat” is introduced into the system, autophagy ends.
Would you consider this safe for someone who is already underweight? Is this mostly recommended for people who are trying to lose weight?
Would love an answer to this also?
Inducing autophagy really isn’t related to weight gain/loss at all. Some people use it to maximize muscle gain, some to lose weight, others just purely for the mental and physical benefits. This is completely safe and unrelated to weight. The only concern you would have is if you start eating less calories, which is not the point of entering autophagy.
I have been eating “clean” for almost a decade – no processed foods, no added sugar, no grains or refined foods… organic proteins and veggies, etc. I have MS and several other autoimmune issues. Since adapting this way of eating, I haven’t taken so much as an Advil in 8yrs. (I was on 13 scrips/day and felt like complete dog squeeze.) My labs confirmed what my (former) rheumatologist & neurologist said was “just a coincidence”… inflammation that had been elevated for decades dropped and is virtually undetectable… consistently…for 9 years. (But just a coincidence! Lol)
But I have been plagued with chronic insomnia since I was a teen. I have followed strict “sleep hygiene” but still functioned on 4-5 hrs of sleep. Sleep medications aren’t a fit for me. I have tried every natural/homeopathic etc remedy under the sun. And it wasn’t that my body only needed that amount…
So I decided to shake things up again.
I have been doing intermittent fasting for a year. Started 16:8 and gradually moved to 20:4. And started doing 96 hour “water fasts” every other week. (I actually had one mug of black unsweetened coffee with a few pinches of pink salt & organic unsweetened green tea the rest of the day – I don’t actually drink plain water) In December, I decided go shake it up a bit more and did 6 weeks of 96 hour fasts (Weds-Sun) and it was transformative.
And I am now sleeping 8+ hours/night. Not EVERY night, but had three 8+ hour nights of sleep in a row. The quality of sleep has improved as well. And I feel good. It amazes me that after that initial hunger hump at 12-24 hours, I am not physically hungry at all. I could go longer than 96 hours, and maybe I will try it… but what I am do is working (for me). I lose about 5 lbs each time, and gain back about 3lbs – I don’t go crazy “refeeding” but I focus on quality nutrients. I don’t supplement during fasting but I do resume my regular supplements when not fasting. My lab work has been monitored, everything looks great – my blood pressure has gone down slightly. I try to walk every day as weather and life permits – I do not try to do anything excessive. I don’t feel weak or hangry. I find I can be psychologically hungry – toward the end of the fast but it isn’t actual physical pangs.
A couple of warnings: (sorry for the squeamish) I pee A LOT more while fasting, although I am not drinking much more. It can be annoying at night, so I try to tapsr off later in the day. And there is some diarrhea that often comes day 2-3 when fasting for some people. No abdominal cramps, just be wary if you think it is “just gas”. I do a couple of pinches of pink salt in my morning coffee, but if you feel funny, might try an electrolyte supplement. (I don’t like the taste). Some friends have “eased” into the extended fasts using bone broth or stock, but I personally didn’t find it helped with results or hunger.
YMMV but it is definitely something to consider. Of course, consider your own health journey (if you have had eating disorder, tread carefully). I might scale back to an extended fast once a month at some point… it cracks me up how I used to be “famished” if I had lunch an hour late – I know realize that my body works quite fine without those 3 meals a day…
Anyway, just wanted to share my experience
Does anyone know where I can purchase Earl grey tea which contains real bergamot oil. I am wanting to start drinking this after reading Naomi Whittels book on autophagy. Any ideas . I’ve tried everywhere I can think of
So in response to the person who wrote about TRUE autophagy, does this mean that you should have nothing other than water during the 16 intermittent fast you are doing? When would your body benefit to drink the autophage tea she endorses…I am confused. Thanks for any help!
Angie: What is the title of Naomi Whittle book on autophagy please?
Glow15 is the name of the book!