Incredibly, the average person can survive for up to three weeks without food (if they’re well-hydrated). In rare instances, it can be as long as two to three months.
Hopefully, none of us will ever find ourselves in a situation where we don’t have a single scrap to munch on for weeks, but nonetheless, it’s fun to feed our curiosity and gain an astounding insight into the intense pressures our bodies can handle.
But what exactly would happen to your body if you didn’t eat anything for a whole week? While you definitely shouldn’t be trying this for yourself, we thought we’d find out for you.
So, without further ado…
How Can The Body Survive Without Food Or Water?
The thought of living without any food or water seems entirely incomprehensible to most people.
We’ve all experienced that awful ‘hangry’ feeling – if we can barely manage a few hours, how on earth can people survive that long?
Well, under intense pressure, the body will adjust to cope with the lack of food or water. After 24 hours without food, your body will begin adjusting how it produces energy.
Day 1: In regular circumstances, your body will break down any food it consumes into glucose, which provides energy for our bodies.
However, after 24 hours without food, our glucose storage declines dramatically, and the body starts to convert glycogen from the muscles and liver into glucose.
Day 2: On the second day, there is almost no glycogen or glucose in the body. We must now resort to other means of energy preservation, and the body will begin breaking down muscle tissue to provide energy.
Unsurprisingly, this is another temporary phase – our bodies are designed to preserve our muscles, so this is a short-term occurrence that happens while our bodies prepare to make immense changes to their metabolisms.
Day 3: After 72 hours, the body starts to make more dramatic shifts. To prevent any loss of muscle, we’ll start to rely on our fat stores – to do this the body will slowly break down ketones and use them for energy. This process is also known as ketosis.
From day three onwards, this biological process continues indefinitely, or for however long you go without food for.
How Much Weight Would You Lose?
Unsurprisingly, as your body starts to eat away at your fat stores and you consume no calories to balance it out, you’ll start to lose weight.
If you were to eat nothing for a full five days, you could expect to lose somewhere between two to four pounds of body weight – PER DAY.
However, it may surprise you to know that the majority of this weight loss is not caused by a lack of food. Instead, it’s related to dehydration and imbalances in our electrolytes.
What’s even more surprising is that although this weight loss is initially pretty extreme, it starts to slow down the longer you go without food.
If you remained in starvation mode for a few weeks, your weight loss would slow down significantly to around 0.7 pounds a day.
This isn’t actually that hard to believe – by this point, there would be very little fat or muscle left to break down and, as a result, very little left to lose.
It’s fair to assume, then, that the more fat you have on your body, the better you’ll cope if you go without food for a week.
People with more fat stores can often survive for longer – however, the physical and psychological effects of starvation are no joke, and they’ll affect everyone the same.
Starvation: The Physical And Emotional Impact
Going without food for a whole week is no small feat, and it’s something our bodies aren’t designed to do.
So, if you push your body into a state of starvation, it’s safe to say it’s not going to cope well.
If you didn’t eat for a whole week, the physical and emotional impact of being in starvation would be incredibly intense.
Although you probably wouldn’t die, you might feel like you’d prefer to. Starving yourself can not only lead to severe malnutrition, but it could even permanently damage your organs.
Here are some of the physical and emotional impacts of starvation:
- A decline in social functioning
- Drop in blood pressure
- An intolerance to the cold
- Poor concentration
- Electrolyte imbalance
- Mental delusions
- Organ failure
- Cardiovascular disease
- Osteoporosis or reduced bone density
How Long Can You Go Without Water?
If you were to eat nothing for seven days but stay well hydrated, you could survive for up to a few months, depending on your general health, sex, and body composition.
However, if you were to have no food and no water, you may only survive up to four days.
Why? Well, although our bodies can break down tissue to replace food, there is no process to replace a lack of hydration.
So, when you stop drinking or don’t drink enough, your body will feel it instantly. Dehydration can become pretty dangerous, pretty fast.
Symptoms of dehydration can include:
- Feeling thirsty
- Dry skin
- Feeling dizzy
The longer you go without water, the more severe your symptoms will become. More advanced symptoms of dehydration can include:
- A racing heart (tachycardia)
- Organ failure
In warmer climates, you may not survive as long without water, and the symptoms can become fatal quickly.
The Bottom Line
So, although you probably wouldn’t die if you didn’t eat for a week, your body would hate you for it.
Starvation is undeniably dangerous, especially when it’s maintained for long periods, and without water, your condition can become fatal very quickly.
Although we wouldn’t recommend it, fasting is a pretty popular experience with several purported health benefits.
Although it can be great for weight loss, it also carries some pretty significant risks, and it’s definitely not safe for everyone.
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