The way HIIT does this is by increasing autophagy.
Autophagy is a cellular recycling system, which breaks down old and damaged cells allowing new cells to be created. It prevents the buildup of bad cells that is not good at doing it’s job.
For example, if your fuel pipe gets all clogged up, fuel can’t flow properly and your car will run sub-optimally. Autophagy cleans the fuel pipes so to speak.
A number of degenerative and age-related diseases are associated with malfunctioning autophagy including type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, neurodegenerative disease such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, and cancer.
Fasting is probably the most well known and practiced method for inducing autophagy.
Exercise can also stimulate autophagy and the effect increases with intensity. Slow pace cardio will have almost no effect on autophagy whereas moderately intense long duration cardio (such as 60 minutes at 55% of max velocity) has a moderate effect (∼49%) and high intensity interval training (HIIT) (less than 30min session) has the greatest effect (∼162%) (R). So you don’t need to train for very long, but just intense for a few sets.
Example HIIT workout for sprints:
- 4sets of 40m
- 3 sets of 60m
- 2sets of 100m
Example HIIT workout for cycling:
- 30sec max out sprint at high resistance
- 2-4min relaxed cycling at a low resistance
- Repeat 4-6 times
On a side note, I know a lot of people think that just because fasting boosts autophagy, doing cardio on top of it will potentiate the effect. Well this study found that fasted cardio greatly blunted the rise in autophagy and the subjects had to be in the fed state to benefit from it (R).
Bottom line, train fed.
Furthermore, vitamin E and sarcosine are two great supplements that promote proper autophagy and prevent the accumulation of lipofuscin. Lipofuscin is considered to be one of the aging or “wear-and-tear” pigments. It’s basically damaged cells caused by excess polyunsaturated fat, iron and insufficient/dysfunctional fission, mitophagy and autophagy.
Take 200IU of vitamin E daily, or 400IU every other day for maximal benefit and 2g of sarcosine for a month.
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