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How Long Can You Go Without Food Without Dying?

How Long Can You Go Without Food Without Dying?

How long can you last without food? It’s a question on many people’s minds usually just out of curiosity. However, in an emergency, being able to go without food for a while could be the difference between life and death.

So, how long can you really last? The answer may surprise you. This post will explore how long a person can realistically go without food and water. Keep reading to find out more.

How Long Can a Human Survive Without Food?

How long can you survive without food? There is no concrete answer to this, as studies on starvation have not been completed. The answer to this question depends on several factors, including your age, weight, and activity level. It also drastically depends on your access to water, as if you don’t have water, the lack of food generally won’t matter. But we’ll dive into that later.

Generally speaking, most adults can survive around a month without food, with known exceptions lasting over 2 months. Children usually can only survive for a few days to a few weeks. However, these are only rough estimates, and your actual survival time will depend on many individual factors.

For example, if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, you’ll need to eat more frequently to stay healthy. Additionally, if you’re very active, you’ll burn more calories and may need to eat more often to maintain your energy levels. Finally, if you are ill or injured, your body will require additional calories to heal.

And, of course, if you have access to water, you’ll be able to survive much longer than if you don’t. So, how long you can really go without food depends on a lot of factors, but the bottom line is that it’s not very long.

How Long Can You Go Without Eating

Do Women or Men Handle Starvation Better?

This is a question that many people have asked over the years, but it’s tough to find an answer.

Many factors play into how well a person can survive without food. For example, men typically have more muscle mass than women, and muscle burns more energy. So they may drain their calorie reserves faster if they go without food for longer periods. Women, on the other hand, tend to have more body fat, which can help them survive in starvation conditions slightly longer.

However, ultimately, both will experience the same effects of starvation if they don’t have access to food. The difference between length of time until death by starvation will be based more on other physical factors than gender. The human body can’t go without food for very long periods, and eventually, all systems will begin to shut down. This can lead to organ failure, coma, and death.

Little girl eating a cheeseburger.
There are many factors that can impact how long someone can survive without food.

The Effects of Starvation on the Body

It’s amazing how the human body can survive without food. Though the human body can’t survive without food, people have gone for weeks without eating anything and have still managed to live.

However, starvation does take its toll on the body and eventually can lead to death. Here’s a look at the possible effects of starvation on the human body after one day, two to three days, and four days or more.

Pro Tip: We uncovered Is Freeze-Dried Food Bad for You to help pick out what to store in your emergency food stash.

Male survivalist camper sitting by fire.
People can go weeks without eating, but after a few days, effects will start to present themselves.

After 1 Day

After one or two days of not eating, there are already some noticeable effects on the body. Most people switch from glycolysis (burning glucose) to ketosis (burning ketones from fat reserves). During the switch, the person will feel weak and tired, their skin will be dry, and they will have difficulty concentrating. They may also experience dizziness and headaches.

2 Days to a Week

After two to three days of not eating, the brain will start screaming for glucose to keep from shutting down. To get it the human body will start to break down muscle tissue and other protein sources to get energy. This will lead to even more fatigue and muscle atrophy, as well as cramps and diarrhea.

The person’s heart rate and blood pressure will drop. They may feel lightheaded and start to experience hallucinations, walking may become difficult, and they may even fall into a coma.

After A Week

After about a week without food, the breakdown of proteins will continue to fatigue and damage organs. In addition, the lack of necessary vitamins and minerals will weaken the immune system making the body susceptible to infection.

If an illness or infection does not set in, organs eventually fail and the body will shut down.

Health Complications From Lack of Food

It is surprising just how long some people can survive without food. Some people can survive for weeks, but it’s important to note that the quality of life will be very poor during this time.

Without adequate nutrition, the body begins to break down muscle tissue for energy, leading to weakness and fatigue. In addition, the digestive system slows down, and people may experience constipation, diarrhea, and vomiting.

Over time, these health complications can become life-threatening. Malnutrition can cause desperately low blood sugar levels, organ failure, and even death. So, while it is technically possible to go without food for an extended period, it will eventually cause severe health problems and death.

Empty plate with clock on it
Without proper nutrition, the human body will start to break down muscle and become weak and fatigued.

How Long Can You Live Without Water?

While Mahatma Ganda once went 21 days without food and only minimal sips of water, the longest anyone is known to have gone without water and survived is 18 days. 

That said, the average person can only go three to five days without water. However, many factors affect how long someone can survive without water, such as age, health, climate, and activity level. For example, a young, healthy person in a cool climate can survive without water for much longer than an elderly person in a hot climate. Furthermore, someone who’s sedentary will need less water than someone active.

The bottom line is that everyone’s needs are different, and how long you can survive without water will depend on your individual circumstances. However, as a general rule, most people can survive for about three days without water.

If you find yourself in a situation where you don’t have access to clean water, it’s important to ration your intake and make sure you’re drinking enough to stay hydrated as best you can while maintaining your water supply.

Pro Tip: Always have an emergency food stash on hand in your bug-out bag. Find out what else you should pack in your emergency bag.

Man drinking water from bottle while hiking in the mountains
Generally, people can survive for about three days without water.

Is Fasting Okay for the Human Body?

The human body can go without food for a short period. In fact, fasting has been shown to have many health benefits, including improved digestion, increased energy levels, and reduced inflammation.

However, it’s important to understand the difference between fasting and starvation. Fasting is a voluntary decision to go without food, while starvation is involuntary deprivation. As we noted, starvation can lead to serious health problems.

Short-term fasts (up to 24 hours) are generally safe for most people. However, longer fasts (more than 24 hours) should only be under medical supervision. This is because they can lead to dehydration and electrolyte imbalances.

When done correctly, fasting can be a safe and healthy way to improve your overall health. Just be sure to talk to your doctor before starting any fasting regimen, and make sure you’re well-informed about the risks and benefits.

How Many Calories Is Starving Yourself?

It is possible to starve yourself even when eating food. While you may technically survive for longer than if you didn’t have any food, a low-calorie diet will still put your body into “starvation mode” and lead to harmful effects on your body. A diet of 1,000-1,200 calories is the bare minimum your body requires, and anything below this is considered by many to be a starvation diet.

Contrary to what you many think, a starvation diet can actually be counterproductive to weight loss and is very unhealthy for your brain, muscles, and organs. While yes, you will see weight loss on the scale, starvation mode lowers your metabolism which makes burning calories harder when you do eat. You will also experience adverse side effects that will make you miserable. If weight loss is your goal, we highly recommend finding another plan of action for a sustainable lifestyle change.

How Long Can a Person Survive Without Water?

Create a Stash of Emergency Food & Water

Now that you know how long you can go without food and water, it’s time to start creating your stash of emergency food. Even if you’re not a survival prepper, having a stockpile of food and water handy will keep you prepared for any emergency. Emergency food is also a great idea if you’re adventuring in the backcountry or thru-hiking long remote trails.

Make sure to include a variety of foods that will last longer and are easy to prepare. Canned foods are a good choice for your emergency stash, but be sure to include a variety to have good sources of proteins, fruits, and vegetables. There are also many freeze-dried and dry foods that last a long time, such as ready-to-eat meals and multivitamins.

Of course, don’t forget clean drinking water, which you can round out with electrolyte-containing sports drinks and powdered milk. Emergency water purification tablets are great to have on any trip.

Whether there’s a power outage or a natural disaster strikes, you’ll be glad you have everything you need to stay safe and fed. There’s no need to test yourself on how long you can go without food.

Was there ever a time you had to go without food? Tell us your experience in the comments!

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About Mortons on the Move

Tom & Caitlin Morton of Mortons on the Move gave up the stationary life for one where they are constantly on the move. They are full-time travelers, television hosts, and digital media producers.
They left their jobs, sold their house and possessions, and hit the road in September 2015 in their full-time “home on wheels”. Since then they have traveled the US, Canada, and even internationally by RV.
Now, they are Discovery Channel & PBS TV Co-stars of “Go North” on Amazon Prime Video, co-founders and instructors of RV Masterclass, and contributing authors for and an Arizona travel guide.

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