Here’s what happens to your body when you stop eating food

We all know that food is fuel, but what really happens when you start skipping meals – and then stop eating altogether? We found out.

Skipping a meal might not seem like a big deal – our ever-increasingly busy lives mean it’s a common occurrence for many of us.

But what actually happens to your body when you do? From turning you ‘hangry’ to your body starting to ‘eat’ itself, here are some of the key stages. 

The first 6 hours

Everything is pretty normal. Your body begins to break down glycogen – which stores energy in your body – into glucose, which your cells use as fuel.

Around 25% of energy generated is used just for your brain, and the rest goes to muscle and red blood cells.

After 6 hours

This method of energy production stops as the glycogen stores to start to run out. This can lead to you being ‘hangry’ (angry and hungry).

6-72 hours

Your body enters a state called ketosis as it begins to fast or starve. Because there is now very little glucose in your blood, your body must begin to break down fat for energy – which is broken down into fatty acids.

However, your brain can’t function off this and it impairs normal brain function.

72 hours

Beyond 72 hours, your body is basically cannibalising itself. Without any stores of sugar and fat, your body looks to get energy from other sources and starts to use protein reserves.

1-2 weeks

Without any vitamins or minerals, the body’s immune system starts to shut down along with any ‘unnecessary’ bodily functions like menstruation and libido.

3 weeks – 70 days

Starvation can lead to death in as short a time as three weeks, or up to 70 days.

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