Are you planning to do that 7-day fasting challenge getting popular on YouTube? You better first learn the consequences of it.
Most people say it’s not good to starve for as long as 7 days but do we know or have logical reasoning for what happens if you don’t eat for a week? When you don’t eat for a week, you will experience weakness, hunger pangs and possible fainting at the very least. In severe cases, you can face chronic health conditions like organ damage if you already have existing health conditions.
That said, most people think if you don’t eat for a week, you will die, which is not the case. In fact, when you starve yourself for 7 days, your body goes into starvation mode and starts to consume its own tissues to survive. So, yes, you won’t just die if you don’t eat for seven days. But beware of the consequences as they may go severe depending on your health condition.
Now let’s begin the guide and learn in detail what happens if you don’t eat for a week, and how to deal with its repercussions.
How long can you survive without food?
According to researchers, a person can survive without food for as long as 3 weeks, given that they have water to drink. However, without both, a person cannot live for more than 4 days.
How long you survive without food and water also depends on your health condition, age, and activity level. As we said above, an individual with ideal health can survive without food and water for three weeks. In fact, those with good health have survived for almost a year without food.
Young children, including infants and toddlers, are less likely to survive without food and water than adults as they lack the energy reserves necessary to survive without food like adults.
What about people with chronic diseases?
Starvation is basically a slow and painful demise. People who are malnourished or suffer chronic health diseases are at a much greater risk of death due to starvation. In order to survive, the body breaks down its own organs and tissues which leads to extreme weakness, organ failure, and death ultimately.
Those who survive for 3 weeks or more without food typically have more body mass and fat to lose. What does that mean now? When you go into starvation mode, the body consumes its own fats and mass to survive. Those with greater body fat and mass can survive for a long. That means how long a person can survive without food mainly depends on their body mass and fat.
Lastly, people who are under-nutrition and lack body fat and mass may die sooner due to weak immune systems.
What happens if you don’t eat for a week?
You will experience fatigue, weakness, dizziness, extreme hunger, and lightheadedness when you don’t eat for a week. As time goes by, your body prepares to consume its muscles and tissues for energy. Roughly, after two to three days your body will enter ‘starvation mode.’
During this period, your metabolism will slow down to preserve energy, and you may begin to lose weight by 1 to 2 pounds per day. The initial weight loss will mainly be because of dehydration and not fat reduction.
Timeline of what your body goes through on Starvation mode
While we have already discussed what happens when you go into starvation mode, below, we have broken down all the stages of it in a bit more detail.
In a normal routine, your body uses sugar, glucose or carbs as its primary sources of energy. When you stop eating, your body instantly uses its glucose reserves within a single day.
After one day of starvation, your body release ‘glucagon’ a hormone that sends a message to your liver to make glucose to be consumed by your brain cells.
2 -3 Days Later
After two to three days in the diet, your body begins to break down fatty tissues to release fatty acids to feed muscles as a source of fuel.
When the body releases fatty acids, ketones are formed in the liver. They are another substance used by the body as a source of energy. When ketones are released into the bloodstream, they are consumed by the brain as fuel. As a result of that, brain cells don’t need as much glucose to function.
7 Days Later
When the body finishes consuming the fatty acid reserves, it switches to protein. If you ask how many days a body takes to reach this stage, know that it has no fixed timeline. It totally depends on how much fatty acids you are left with. That said, ideally, after a week, a body starts breaking down muscles to generate energy from protein.
14 days Later
By this time, the body speeds up the breakdown process as a result of which you begin to lose liver, kidney and heart functioning. This could be a dreadful stage for people with low fats and health conditions as this stage may lead to death. When the body lacks resources to survive, it develops deadly infections which is another cause of death.
Some Survival facts
It’s time to learn some facts to finish the long-going debates on whether one can survive without eating or not. Also, some claim that it is an effective way to lose weight, while others argue that it has life-threatening consequences.
Your sex, age, water intake and weight play an important role in how long someone can survive without food.
Based on the limited research in this area for obvious ethical and clinical reasons, researchers determined how sex, age, weight and water in taking influence one’s survival without food.
- Sex: Research found that women tend to live longer than men, even during famines, due to a combination of social and biological differences. Also, it could be because testosterone in men affects their immunity and increases the risk of heart stroke as they age. Other risky behaviors like, drinking, smoking, poor hygiene and eating habit are also common in men that lead to death.
- Age: Age plays an important role in staying alive without food. This is one of the reasons why children die more during famines than adults. Their body lacks energy stores which are required to produce instant energy during starvation.
- Weight: Researchers say that lean individuals can bear weight loss up to 1 percent and gets weak after 30 to 50 days. Death usually happens between 43 to 70 days. Interestingly, people who are obese can live for longer during starvation as they can tolerate more than 20% loss of body mass. Of course, other health conditions also play a major role in the length of survival time.
- Water Intake: Those were the cases of starvation with water intake. People can not survive without water for longer. That means water can increase the survival possibility during starvation.
Health risks of restricted eating
Going without food can have damaging effects on your body. With time, your body’s functioning will start to decline despite being capable of going for days without consuming anything. Following are some side effects of restricted eating.
- Bone loss
- Blood pressure drop
- Slowing heart rate
- Muscles weakness
- Hair thinning
- Dry skin
- Thyroid malfunction
- Abdominal pain
- Low potassium
- Body temperature fluctuation
- post-traumatic stress
- Heart attack
- Organ failure
People who starve for a longer period can’t continue eating a normal amount of food the way they used to. It will take time for their body to come to a normal state. Their body needs to consume slowly in order to avoid adverse reactions, which could be in the form of:
- Neurological conditions
- Swelling of the tissues
- Heart conditions
Also, resuming eating after prolonged starvation might require a doctor’s supervision. They may recommend how to start eating again and your diet may initially comprise lactose-free foods, vegetables, and a low protein and sugar diet.
Benefits of starvation for a week
- The biggest benefit of not eating for a week is that your body cleans itself of all harmful toxins. When you consume food, your body takes in several pollutants and chemicals along with the food, which can build up over time and cause health complications. By fasting, you enable your body to detoxify itself and get clear of all those toxins.
- The second benefit of not eating is that you lose weight fast. When you starve yourself, your body begins consuming its muscles and stored fats to produce energy to function, leading to weight loss. Moreover, fasting also helps reduce your appetite eventually making it easier for you to stick to the healthy and small-portions diet.
Fasting helps in many ways if it’s done right. If you are planning to do a water fast, it is better to consult your doctor first as there are some risks associated with it. For instance, you may suffer extreme dehydration, dizziness, electrolyte imbalance, etc. After examining your body condition, your doctor will recommend whether or not you should go for it.
Wrap Up – What happens if you don’t eat for a week
Fasting for a week is not harmful unless you have water to drink. Depending on your health condition, it can turn out to be extremely helpful for most of you. However, if you already suffer certain health complications, you should first consult a physician before going for it. If it’s about losing weight only, we would recommend intermittent fasting instead of depriving yourself of food for the whole week. While it may not kill you, it has some adverse side effects that would be painful.