Vigorous exercise is crucial to your body’s ability to detox, survive
07/09/2019 // Tracey Watson // Views

If, like many other people, you are convinced that when it comes to exercise, less is more, and the idea of fasting has you heading for the fridge, the results of a recent study might give you the push you need to get to the gym and start an intermittent fasting program.

The research, which was conducted by scientists from Harvard Medical School and published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), found that vigorous exercise and fasting trigger certain hormones which help cells in the body get rid of unnecessary and damaged proteins – a process which is essential to maintaining optimal cellular performance and general health. (Related: Vigorous exercise protects against cataracts and age-related macular degeneration.)

Cellular clean-up an essential process

As reported by Science Daily, when the protein-disposal system of the body malfunctions, misfolded proteins can build up in the cells, clogging them, reducing functionality and, eventually, causing diseases like ALS and Alzheimer's.

To enable the body to deal with changing conditions and physical demands, it is vitally important that cells dispose of these damaged and unnecessary cells. Science Daily explains:

The best-studied biochemical system used by cells to remove junk proteins is the ubiquitin-proteasome pathway. It involves the tagging of defective or unneeded proteins with ubiquitin molecules -- a process known as the "kiss of death," which marks proteins for destruction by the cell's protein-disposal unit, known as 26S proteasome.


Past research … has shown that this machinery can be activated by pharmacological agents that boost the levels of a molecule known as cAMP, an intracellular messenger, which in turn switches on the enzyme protein kinase A. …

The new findings, however, reveal that this quality-control process is continually regulated independent of drugs by shifts in physiological states and corresponding changes in hormones. [Emphasis added]

So, while scientists can induce this protein clean-up process with drugs, this research confirms that there are other natural ways to trigger the same process, including fasting and intense exercise.

Fasting and exercise some of the keys to cell renewal

The research team analyzed cell samples taken from the thighs of four volunteers both before and after doing some vigorous biking. After the exercise, proteasomes in the cells exhibited a marked increase in evidence of enhanced protein degradation. Levels of cAMP – the chemical which triggers the start of the protein degradation process inside cells – were also considerably higher at the end of the exercise session. Experiments on anesthetized rats exhibited similar results.

Fasting was found to trigger this process in much the same way, even after shorter fasting periods. (Related: Calorie restriction can make you healthier … but there are a few things to consider first.)

In addition to fasting and vigorous exercise, the team also discovered other ways to trigger the protein degradation process. In one set of experiments, they exposed liver cells taken from mice to the hormone glucagon, which is responsible for stimulating the production of glucose as food for cells. Once again, the researchers found that proteasome activity was triggered (an indication of protein degradation) and the cells’ ability to destroy misfolded proteins was enhanced.

In yet another experiment, in which liver cells were treated with epinephrine – or adrenaline, as it is commonly known – proteasome activity was once again boosted.

Science Daily noted:

Taken together, these findings demonstrate that the rate of protein degradation can rise and fall swiftly in a variety of tissues in response to shifting conditions and that such changes are mediated by fluctuations in hormone levels. [Emphasis added]

In other words, there are several different activities that can trigger the hormonal fluctuations associated with healthy cellular clean-up through protein degradation. These activities include fasting and vigorous exercise – yet another reason to hit the gym and embark on an intermittent fasting program.

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