How Long Can You Live Without Food

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It seems obvious that human life is impossible without some external factors. These include oxygen, sleep, water, food, and shelter. It is slightly obvious that a person can live without some of them for a relatively long period of time (for instance, one can live without shelter for a week) if the environment is friendly. However, others are considered vital for a human, and one will experience starvation soon.

It is essential to know for how long one can live without food or water in order to plan the survival time frame. Surely, you do not have to endure without some vital factors in your usual life, but nowadays many unexpected things happen, so it is better to always be ready.

In this article, you will find all the essential information about surviving without food, what can become a substitute for common food sources in a wild environment, how to know you are in need of food or water, and some tips on surviving.

How Long Can You Live Without Sleep, Food, or Water

Let’s start with what is the most important. When you are placed in unliveable survival conditions, you should know how much time you have until starvation affects your organism.

A person’s survival process can last about a month without food. It is considered to be true if the environment is not too harsh and the organism is in normal condition (normal weight, body temperature, etc.). However, starvation is likely to overtake soon, which may cause hallucinations, increased temperature, body fat loss, hunger strikes, and exhaustiveness.

One can live without sleep for about 11 days, which is proven by many experiments from volunteers and scientists. However, you still have to get some rest in this period of time, otherwise, there is a big chance of rapidly decreasing your chances to survive since you lose too much energy.

What is about living without water, it can last only for 3-4 days. On the second day of dehydration, you will feel extremely tired, lose consciousness, and have digestion issues.

Obviously, living without factors that support vital processes in the human body even for one day will result in various health consequences. That is why we do not recommend practicing the relevant experience while not being in an emergency situation.

Some factors influence each other. For example, the more water you drink, the more time you can spend without food. There is a well-known example when a man lived for 21 days just drinking water. Those who are considered to be hunger strikers are said to drink more water to avoid frequent strikes.

Why Do Our Bodies Need Food?

Food intake is obviously one of the most needed factors of human life. It affects all our inner processes and supplies fat reserves. Thanks to them, we gain body weight that keeps us warm and gives us energy. Surely, there are many factors that make our bodies different and thus require various food intake.

Such factors are:

  • age, sex, and starting weight
  • surrounding environment
  • body mass index and amount of stored fat
  • how healthy your organs are
  • metabolism and daily average calories

Therefore, some people may live without food for bigger time periods than others. For instance, an obese person is likely to survive without food or water for a longer period since there is more stored fat and energy in their bodies that are spent slower.

Also, food provides a hormone called glucagon, testosterone, estrogen, and thyroid hormones to our organisms. These are crucial to our health and support the whole organism with energy, blood supply, reproduction, etc. Without food and needed fats, the body starts to lose weight and hormones, which restricts its main functions. If you lack some hormones, you will experience brittle hair, loss of energy, and refusal. of the reproductive system.

Nevertheless, the consequences of starvation are almost the same for everyone. Food brings energy and vitamins that are vital for our health. It starts the brain functions, thanks to it the body begins to gain and save energy. The major part of the body’s ability to live and exist is gained from food. Even those who are diagnosed with an eating disorder have some problems with the endocrine system, ketone production, and kidney function, so there is no need to say about spending weeks without food.

Human Starvation Stages

Even though one can live up to two months without food, the starvation process will launch in a few days after the body starts surviving without food:

  1. Fat stores. For the first weeks without food, the body will use the fatty acids that were stored in the organism. Use this time to search for food and get used to the new environment. During this period, a person starts to lose weight from the main body mass.
  2. Ketosis. After time passes, the body will start using ketone bodies stored in the liver and other crucial organs. After that, organ failure is likely to occur, so the body will experience significant weight loss. One should try to burn fewer calories in this period so that the body will longer use the stored energy.
  3. Organ destruction.  After a prolonged period, no energy is left in fats, so the body will start to consume itself by using tissues from the skin and muscles.
  4. Final damage. After about a month of starvation, the body will not be able to function anymore. The heart refuses to pump blood, so soon, the cardiovascular system fails to work at all.

Surely, it is an exhaustive and painful process, so it is better not to let this happen. That is why eating enough food is essential to supply the human body with needed components not only when one has to survive but in daily life too. Many healthcare professional organizations claim to avoid stopping eating during diets.

Why Does Your Body Need Water?

Now, let’s discuss what water brings to your body and why it is important to drink enough of it even when you do not have to survive in an unfamiliar environment.


The most crucial thing to mention is that water supports many body functions so the organism cannot exist without it. In general, more than half of human beings’ organisms consist of water.  The water does not stay in the body forever, it goes away through respiration and sweat since if this mechanism malfunctions and does not get the water out, the organism heats. When the water comes out, the organs cool down (you may feel it while doing sports and sweating), so bodies tend to bring it out.

Therefore, adding water to the body remains the organism cool. Otherwise, the organism will heat from the inside and some organs will be damaged. That is why it is impossible to survive without water in hot temperatures.

What is more, water is supporting your muscle tissue and joints by keeping them mobile and hydrated. Without water, it will be painful and hardly possible to move. Water supplies the organism with energy and helps to remove toxins and clots that appear in muscles and under the skin.

If you lack water, you will see the occurrence of such symptoms as dry mouth, dry skin, and infrequent urination. These are the first signs of dehydration, which you should not allow to happen.

How to Prevent Starvation?

First of all, you must drink more water if it is possible as it prevents starvation and the possibility of hunger strikes. You may do frequent body breaks to disperse water, vitamins, and fat all over your body so the start of starvation can be prolonged. Even though it is impossible to survive without food and water for a long period, starvation can be postponed and give you some time to find the needed shelter and products.

Frequently Asked Questions — FAQ

Can You Survive 2 Years Without Food?

It is impossible to predict the time period in which a particular person can live without food. Basically, on average, it is about 2-3 months, according to some experiments. However, it may vary depending on one’s personal health characteristics.

What Happens If You Don’t Eat for 3 Days but Drink Water?

It is possible to survive without food and common eating practices if you drink enough water. Water provides the ability to function in a more or less familiar way, and the organism will gain energy from the stored fat. Therefore, you will only struggle from hunger strikes but not experience vital organ failure.

What Happens When You Don’t Eat for a Week?

For the first several days of lacking food, your metabolism slows down, energy is found in stored fats, organ failure starts occurring, weight loss speeds up. You may feel extremely tired and exhausted. After that period, some products may not be digested.

Can You Survive on Just Water?

It depends on how long you will need to survive on water. Definitely, you can spend a couple of days while only supplying yourself with water intake. However, even if what you drink includes vitamins, there are no vital fats and carbs that will help you to function properly.


A former USA Army sergeant and a highly educated survivalist and prepper with a degree and interest in Engineering and Electronics, Mike Millerson applies his extensive expertise in survivalism, homesteading, backpacking, hiking and hunting, spreading his deep knowledge about handling emergencies and prepping for them reasonably and effectively.




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