I just learned about Autophagy and how it can help me lose weight, and I just had to share with the world!
What is Autophagy?
Autophagy is basically the self-reconstructing of damaged or old cells into new, healthy cells.
What does that mean?
All of our cells get old and die. Some get damaged through inflammation or sickness or by other means. So how do we get rid of these cells?
This is where Autophagy comes into play.
When our body signals a time of distress (like starvation) our body will stop looking for outside food sources to sustain the cells we have, but instead will pick out the old and weak cells, and signal them to start the autophagy process. Auto-phagy means self eating. Although it doesn’t eat itself, the cell does break down into usable parts, and then either rearranges itself into a new cell, or gives the useful parts to other cells.
So basically autophagy is renewing old and broken cells into new cells again. That is something that needs to happen to every body quite regularly.
So how do we make this happen?
Ideally and naturally it should happen during our fasting state (sleep) – when The cells do not have access to readily made energy.
My theory of why I was gaining weight during pregnancy:
This knowledge came at a perfect time for me.
I was just ending my first trimester of pregnancy, and although I was eating REALLY HEALTHY! (no sugar, plenty of proteins, veggies etc). I still gained 20 pounds! Why?!!!!
Well, one of the things I did to keep the nausea away, was to eat a few bites of a protein bar every time I got up in the middle of the night. And then I would eat every 45 minutes to an hour during my time awake.
I realized that my body was holding on to old cells that would have naturally been renewed had I been in a fasting state at night.
I don’t regret my decision of eating in the middle of the night. Because it helped me not throw up, but I was just getting past that.
Autophagy helped me lose weight
So my first goal was to get through the whole night without eating anything.
It took me a few nights, but when I finally did start ‘fasting’ my weight started to dip. It wasn’t too much, because I am growing another human being. But I found that I could stay safely within a certain weight, if I gave my body some time to fast every day.
Our fasting state happens every day. . . or I should say night. As we sleep. But each body is just a little different, and the amount of time you’ll need to get into a fasting state to encourage autophagy may be more than just 8 hours.
Why Intermittent Fasting encourages Autophagy.
This is where Intermittent Fasting comes in.
Intermittent Fasting can be done in so many different ways. The first basic one is the 16/8 diet. Where you fast for 16 hours a day, and eat within an 8 hour block.
We tried this as a group, and it worked really well for one of us.
For others, we are still looking for that perfect ratio.
Giving our body a break from digestion.
The more I try to figure out my own body and the weaknesses it has towards weight gain and holding onto that weight, I find that for me, in this world of over eating, that my body just wants a break. When it sleeps, it doesn’t want to still be working on my last meal. It wants to work on repairing damage. Which is what sleep is originally supposed to do.
Experts say to have your last meal 2-3 hours before bed. that way this break can truly happen.
Using Autophagy when you are sick.
Another interesting thing I came across when studying this, is that it can break down sick and infected cells too.
Stop and read this article on whether you should feed your body glucose or not when you are sick (hint, it depends on whether its viral or bacterial). Don’t worry, i’ll wait for you to finish!
My husband and I have 2 different methods for dealing with feeling sick. He comes home with a bag of fresh cut broccolli and ranch dip (first signs that he’s not feeling well) and he wants to eat that instead of dinner.
And then he doesn’t want to eat anything at all when the cold/fever/achiness comes at all.
He must listen to his body pretty well, because the theory of autophagy supports this action in helping break down those sick cells to help recovery.
I on the other hand, thanks to my pregnancies that taught me to ‘eat when you feel sick, or you’ll throw up’ habits-
I make sure I eat food. But it’s usually broths, soups. . . soft things that are hopefully sugar-free (sugar can cut your immune response. which you need to help recover). I also rely heavily on healthy vitamins and foods that I know can aid my body. (like cayenne pepper see my review here)
In the end, I think a smart mix of these two might be in order.
I especially think its important to stay well-hydrated during sickness. Especially when throwing up or diahrea are present.
And with autophagy, Water is also safe to take plenty of while ‘fasting’.
How far should we take Autophagy?
The Nobel Prize winner of science for 2016 was this fascinating scientist Yoshinori Ohsumi. He had been studying autophagy for over 25 years, and made some interesting breakthroughs.
Here is a link to his Nobel Prize Lecture. (Be warned, it is 37 pages long.)
He describes the process of what happens to the cells when they go into starvation mode. How they break themselves down and re-use their essential parts. There have been some evidence that they break down old and damaged cells first.
His sole focus was to understand how it happened, and is pleased that it will be studied in the form of how it will help others in diseases, infections, cancers, etc. (Reflections on the nature of discovery pg 31)
Trying to pinpoint exactly how long we have to fast for autophagy to begin, is still a little difficult. But most studies suggest (like this one) that it starts to really happen at 12 hours, and reaches it’s peak at around 36 hours of fasting.
I’m not, at least at this time, planning on going that long without eating.
Maybe for those who have big health issues, it might be a good idea to talk to your doctor to see if a big fast for autophagy would be right for you.
I am so grateful that I found that autophagy helped me lose weight (a little) and I will continue to take advantage of doing minor fasting at night to help rejuvenate my cells.
for more reviews on intermittent fasting, Check out my OMAD (one meal a day) review!