We eat apples, bananas, cakes, sandwiches and vegetables. We drink water, milk and juice. Food helps our body to grow, remain strong, keeps us healthy, gives us energy to think and helps us fight diseases. To be healthy, we must eat the right food in the right quantity.
But what if you had nothing to eat? What happens to your body when it’s starving? How long do you think you could go or live without eating?
When the body gets fewer nutrients and calories, that’s when starvation happens. Roughly 1 out of every 9 people do not have enough to eat. But despite the widespread problem, starvation is not well understood due to the lack of interest in systematically studying its impact.
How Long Can You Live Without Eating
It takes time to starve to death. Science explained that without oxygen, our bodies shut down in five or ten minutes. Without water, we can last maybe a couple days – a week at most. But depending on the circumstances, a person might go as long as two months without any food at all.
During this time, the body passes through three distinct metabolic phases as it desperately tries to stay alive until it finds food again. Phase 1 is where your body picks the lowest hanging food through glucose burning. In your normal well-fed state, your body breaks down glycogen molecules to produce glucose: the friendly carbohydrate that keeps your cells well-fed and functioning.
The average person can typically go about six hours after feeding in the glucose-burning phase before they start feeling hungry, and probably grumpy. At that point, your body has burned through all that glucose and is turning toward fatty acids; the building blocks of fat molecules stored in your tissues to fuel itself.
This, which kicks off the first big metabolic shift as your body enters phase two of starvation: the fat burning that last from days to weeks. In your first day or two without food while the rest of your body starts fueling itself on fatty acids, the brain drains the last bit until it really runs out.
The third, and final phase of starvation begins when all your fat stores are burned up, and the body switches to using its final reserves proteins also known as the catabolysis or self-cannibalism by eating up your least vital cells for as long as possible.
But, after weeks of no food, once your body has burned through all available glucose, fatty acids, protein, muscle mass or it’s got nowhere left to look, the end is near. Also by this point, your body is so deficient in vitamins and minerals and has such a weakened immune system, which later causes death.