How To Induce Autophagy Without Fasting [Updated 2024]

Woman performing rigorous exercise | Oxford Healthspan

Autophagy & Fasting

Fasting triggers our body's ability to clean and renew its own cells, known as autophagy.

But the problem is that fasting isn't so easy for everyone. And new research [1] indicates it might not be as healthy as we once thought either.

As someone with hypothyroidism, I have never found fasting easy. Fasting with hypothyroidism causes our bodies to think we are going into a sustained period of starvation, and in its wisdom tries to protect our ability to survive by down regulating our metabolism and making it difficult for bioavailable T3, one of our key thryoid hormones, from attaching to the receptors in our cells. At the same time, our bodies adrenal glands will increase cortisol production as a way to better regulate blood sugar, but this can lead to chronic inflammation and decreased production of melatonin. If that weren't bad enough, all that extra cortisol has to be made from another key hormone, progesterone, which helps us sleep, but also helps balance out our estrogen levels. 

I think you can see why some of us would be highly motivated to find ways to trigger autophagy without having to fast!

How to Trigger Autophagy

Autophagy Supplements & Foods

Have you heard of spermidine? Spermidine is a natural polyamine we produce in our gut biomes that, just like our body's autophagy process, reduces as we age. Thankfully, we can get it from spermidine-rich foods like Japanese fermented natto, tempeh, mature cheddar cheese, and food-derived spermidine supplements. 

Spermidine has been proven to induce autophagy [2] and acts as a calorie restriction mimetic, providing all the benefits of fasting without the pain. It also inhibits 9 of the 12 hallmarks of aging (the pathways through which your body ages and what is responsible for the signs and symptoms of aging) [3]. 

Our premium, food-derived spermidine supplement, Primeadine, is made from food-derived concentrated wheat germ and offers a highly bioavailable way to up your spermidine intake. It's rigorously tested for purity and potency in Japan and the USA and some of the benefits of triggering autophagy and inhibiting the hallmarks of aging that you can expect include: 

  • Improved hair growth, quality and thickness (including lashes and eyebrows)
  • Healthier nails and skin
  • Better, deeper sleep
  • Improved cognition and reduced brain fog
  • Feeling more vibrant and vital

And of course, all of the benefits you can't see and feel but are happening as a result of kickstarting your cellular renewal process.

Learn more about our autophagy-inducing supplement, Primeadine, here.

Autophagy & The Keto Diet

By going on a ketogenic diet where 75% of our caloric intake comes from healthy fats and 5-10% comes from carbs is a great way to trigger autophagy [4]. 

Examples of healthy fats would be Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO), grass-fed ghee, grass-fed butter, Medium Chain Trigylcerides (MCT's) including caprylic acid, or C8. The fats keep you sated, but importantly they provide ketones which can  service over 70% of the brain's energy requirements. 

And for those of you who think going keto is going to be really hard, well, I've got news for you: you have already been in ketosis and you never even noticed it! 

What am I talking about? 

We are all *born* in ketosis. That's right. When we are in our mother's wombs we are in ketosis. And we continue to remain in ketosis when we are breastfed by our mothers. 

There have even been studies showing that the ketone receptors in the brains of Alzheimer's patients are still fully functional, whereas the gylcogen receptors don't seem to work as well and are even covered by a biofilm preventing gylcogen from attaching to its receptor and getting into the brain cells. 

I hope I've made it clear that healthy fats are good for you. And olive oil and fish oils are my top choices.

I personally also love grass-fed ghee, which does not have either the lactose nor the casein proteins (A1 and A2) that many can be allergic to. However, for those of you who have done your tests and know you have 1 or 2 of the APOE4 genes, you will need to avoid saturated fat due to increased risk for neurodegenerative issues. Olive oil and fish oil by contrast will help you.

You can find more inspiration by going to visit our friends over at KetoDiet blog for recipes and information (no affiliation, just friends!).

Exercise-induced Autophagy

Another way you can trigger autophagy without fasting is through intense exercise [5, 6, 7]. I'm not talking about running a marathon. As a matter of fact, you can do some pretty time efficient exercise by using weights for resistance training incorporated into your circuit training. 

Again, I feel the Japanese have really got this one nailed with the Ka'atsu device, which uses Blood Flow Restriction and Moderation to build muscle, increase growth hormone and nitric oxide in as short a time as possible. There are beauty benefits from this as well with Japanese aestheticians incorporating this into their spa offerings to enhance blood flow to skin, hair and nails. 

You can check this out by going to the lovely folks at Ka'atsu Global or visiting their Ka'atsu YouTube channel. You can get 15% off with the code OXFORD15.

Another great hack you can use is Dr John Jaquish's X3 Bar which allows you to use both your own body weight and some extremely strong, durable and (even for the strongest of you) challenging resistance bands. These are hooked to a unique metal bar which moves such that you can't put too much strain on the weakest load-bearing link, in this case, your wrists. 

Most OsteoStrong bone building clinics in the US also carry them for use on-site as they are great for building muscle but you should also be able to purchase them there as well. 

Autophagy & Sleep

Sleep is another great way to induce autophagy. It has been shown that when we get fragmented sleep, we stop the body's ability to induce autophagy [8]. Uninterrupted sleep is another challenge as we get older and underscores the importance of taking the time to exercise which has been shown to positively influence sleep, wind down properly away from blue-light emitting devices which keep our cortisol levels up while suppressing production of the sleep hormone melatonin and using up stores of progesterone which also help us sleep.

In addition to the fact spermidine triggers autophagy, it has also been shown to modulate 2 of the 8 clock genes that regulate the circadian rhythm. As a result, our clients have reported increased Deep Sleep, as seen on their wearable sleep tracking devices. Kill two birds with one stone and supplement with our food-derived spermidine supplements, Primeadine. Learn more here.


1. 8-hour time-restricted eating linked to a 91% higher risk of cardiovascular death

2. Madeo F, Bauer MA, Carmona-Gutierrez D, Kroemer G. Spermidine: a physiological autophagy inducer acting as an anti-aging vitamin in humans? Autophagy. 2019 Jan;15(1):165-168. doi: 10.1080/15548627.2018.1530929. Epub 2018 Oct 11. PMID: 30306826; PMCID: PMC6287690.

3. López-Otín C, Blasco MA, Partridge L, Serrano M, Kroemer G. Hallmarks of aging: An expanding universe. Cell. 2023 Jan 19;186(2):243-278. doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2022.11.001. Epub 2023 Jan 3. PMID: 36599349.

4. Emerging Role of Mammalian Autophagy in Ketogenesis to Overcome Starvation:

5. Exercise and Exercise Training-Induce Increase in Autophagy Markers in Human Skeletal Muscle:

6. Exercise Induces Autophagy In Peripheral Tissues and In The Brain:

7. Exercise-Induced BCL2-Regulated Autophagy Is Required For Muscle Glucose Homeostasis:

8. Circadian Rhythm of Autophagy Proteins in Hippocampus Is Blunted By Sleep Fragmentation:

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