How Many Days Can You Survive Without Food?

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Malnutrition can permanently stunt a child's growth. (Image: SylvieBouchard/iStock/Getty Images)

Although eating several times each day is ideal to stay healthy and maximize your energy level, the human body is resilient. People can survive for long periods of time without food. However, going days without eating can cause nutrient deficiencies and unpleasant -- even dangerous -- side effects.

Survival Period

The number of days you can survive without food varies based on your size, activity level and the amount of stored body fat you possess. A 2009 review published in “Archiv Fur Kriminologie” reports that studies involving starvation in humans are unethical. However, authors of this review examined cases where individuals were trapped or buried alive after accidents, and concluded that people who are able to drink water but are deprived of food may be able to survive for up to two months.

Hydration Considerations

People who are deprived of both food and water have life expectancies much shorter than individuals deprived of food only. A 2009 review in “Archiv Fur Kriminologie” reported that humans can survive without food and water for just eight to 21 days. Your survival time without food or water is highly individualized and is based on your size, hydration status and activity level.

Concerns

Just because your body can survive for days without food doesn’t mean you should starve yourself, even if you’re trying to lose weight. Starvation not only breaks down stored body fat for fuel but lean muscle tissue as well. Starvation often causes malnutrition, which can lead to physical disabilities, mental disabilities, illnesses, fatigue, dizziness, fainting, lack of menstruation in women and rapid hair loss, according to MedlinePlus.

Safe Weight Loss

If weight loss is your goal, make healthier food choices rather than avoiding food entirely. Reduce your current intake by 500 to 1,000 calories daily, and aim to achieve a 1- to 2-pound weekly weight-loss goal. To increase satiety without the extra calories, choose foods rich in fiber, protein or both. Examples include lean poultry, seafood, fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy foods, whole grains, soy products, legumes, nuts and seeds.

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