In The Walking Dead, the idea of "walkers" (roaming zombies) and "lurkers" (stationary zombies) exist in the comics. It could theoretically relate to a zombies energy level, so I'm curious - what happens to a zombie that doesn't eat? Are they weakened? Do they die (again)?

  • I think that all the answers here assume that the zombie phenomenon is purely physical. If the germ that causes zombie-ism had a supernatural component, then the portrayed phenomenon would make more sense. So yeah ... supernatural germs ... that's the ticket. May 12, 2016 at 0:06

16 Answers 16


As far as I know, as someone who hasn't extensively watched the series, we don't know in the TV show.

In the comics, they come across an old zombie that hasn't eaten in quite some time. It is incapable of motion, but still animate. One of the characters

Who turns out NOT to be a researcher on the zombie virus

expresses an interest in studying it, saying something like "I wish we could get it into a lab".


You may also be interested in the responses to this related question, though I feel your question is different enough to not be an exact duplicate.

  • I second that there has been no mention of it in the show. Feb 17, 2012 at 20:31

In the game, there's a part in Episode 4 where they find the zombie of a kid who died of starvation. The zombie doesn't have strength even to crawl and that became kinda depressing for the main characters to watch, so one of them decides to end this little zombie's eternal suffering with a hit/shot to the head and then bury him. It's a depressing scene.

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    Should be noted: the boy who became the zombie was probably pretty gone to begin with. Oct 26, 2013 at 6:11

In the show they come across a zombie that has been hanging, unable to eat, presumably for a long time, and it is as animate as ever as it attempts to grab at them.

Additionally in one of the latest (might have been the last) episode, a couple characters discuss how the "world has no future", which granted may not have anything to do with whether zombies need to eat, but you would think that they would hold out hope if they knew that zombies could die of starvation.


Since they don't "really" need to eat in order to not die (after all, they're already dead), there is no danger to them from that side. However, moving, walking, and other actions will clearly use energy, which would presumably indicate the need for some kind of nourishment.

Now, since we've seen that they can survive even with their lower organs missing, they can probably survive for a long time before eventually "dying" again. Its also unclear whether their organs are even working after they die. Muscles clearly work, as does part of the brain, but we don't know if anything else gets shut down (like the digestive system). It could also be that by not moving for a while, they could store their strength for a longer time. But in the end, they would need to get some kind of sustenance to continue moving.

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    The creator's confirmed they don't need to eat, and shut down on their own eventually, even when they do (letter hacks #13, #111) Feb 11, 2015 at 12:55

I'm going to put my two cents in. My guess is that they don't really need to eat, they just use the energy from their own bodies to survive, breaking down things like cells and skin and organs they don't need as they go on. Then they get to a certain point and just kind of stop doing stuff. I think this because; 1. Energy doesn't come from no where. 2. As the apocalypse goes on(especially in the game) you can see that zombies become more and more rotted, and there are fewer fat ones left around active on the streets.

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    exactly: the creator's confirmed they don't need to eat, so using the body's own survival mechanism of draining their own bodies seems the only solution left Feb 11, 2015 at 13:27

There is a comment, in the show (don't ask me which season or episode, I just know I've heard it) where someone mentions that they do starve, just quite a bit slower than humans, since they're not alive. It doesn't clarify, however, what happens when they've finally starved. (Might have been in season 2, but don't hold me to it.)

  • Can you find a reference? That would be useful.
    – Jeff
    Mar 19, 2014 at 13:51
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    It was the governor's "scientist," who was helping him with the experiments on walker cognition and stuff that said that. I can't remember the exact episode, but it was when they were examining Mishone's "pets", and the conversation was about how the walkers stopped being aggressive when you removed their ability to bite, and he mentioned that they would starve, it just took a really long time.
    – Sam Skuce
    Mar 19, 2014 at 15:59
  • the zomibes do die off anyway, eating or not, since they don't digest what they eat (once full, cramming more down forces it out) Feb 11, 2015 at 12:57
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    Mishone states "Take away their ability to eat, they lose interest in doing so." in Walk With Me. The creator's stated that walkers eat due to instint, not for sustainance (Letter Hacks #14 &111) Feb 11, 2015 at 14:56

Anything in motion requires energy to stay in motion (assuming we're not operating in a vacuum, which, on Earth, we're not). Thus, even zombies, begin dead, would expend some form of energy to continue walking around, threatening, and eating people. One would assume, this is why the zombies eat other living creature, to maintain their energy levels which deplete over time.

As zombies only operate at a very basic level (a lot of our biological systems don't appear to be functioning) they probably expend energy at a substantially lower level than you or I do, but expend energy they must, and thus (if they don't eat) they will eventually reach a point where their energy levels drop so low they would cease to be animate (i.e. they would "die" a second time).


In Letter Hacks #14 and #111 it's stated Zombies eat for impulse and posess no functioning digestive system, with what they've eaten being forced out once its full, unprocessed. It's not required for their sustained animation.

Robert Kirkman wrote on Reddit:

...In the beginning of the show we saw walkers do things like using a rock to help bash the doors in or turning a door knob, is there a reason we've stopped seeing them do that?

"Older zombies are less together and capable or doing things like that. Fresher zombies, which there were more of in season one, are able to do more than older, more rotted zombies.

The worse state of older zombies holds the key; when a human starves, the body will break down fat, then muscle, followed by vital organs. The slide in mental function seems to imply the parts of the brain stem re-animated are canibalized in the process.

Since zombies do not digest, this would be how they survive, and the slower decay that stops them being a bare skeleton in a matter of a few weeks,(#9 and #11) could easily be the virus' way of preserving and stretching its 'food' source.

They would end up running out and 'starving' (in a manner of speaking), but there is no indication of how long, other than that that a surviving human would most likely outlive it, through the years, and that a zombie's lifespan would differ depeding on the individual, (#7); which makes sense, given body fat ratio, muscle density, state of organs and tissue changes from person to person.

The fact the zombies die off, albeight slowly, happens whether they eat or not.


I'm not sure, but at the end of season 1 they find out that the walkers die and then come back to life, but with only part of their brain working. Nothing is said about their bodies changing.


Well they won't die thats for sure. zombies can probably survive for years without eating but I think if they don't feed on living humans to keep them alive then they'll probably will start feeding on themselves since theres nothing else for them eat that is living.

  • This doesn't answer the question. If they don't die, than what does happen if they don't eat ?
    – Stan
    Nov 19, 2013 at 1:06
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    they'll probably feed on themselves
    – Rokai19647
    Nov 19, 2013 at 18:41
  • While they don't need to eat (creator confimed), they still have the drive to, so walkers cooped up together probably would end up attacking each other Feb 11, 2015 at 13:29

I agree that energy out (walking) means energy in. Less energy in means less out (just standing). But even just standing, brain stem still needs energy. If no outside source, would then begin to breakdown own tissue. But the energy needs of the brain stem probably so low that breakdown of body could provide for extended period (months, years?). At some point, without energy to brain stem, bodily functions driven by brain stem (circulation and respiration) would cease. What ever flesh remains would succumb to decomposition. End result of zombie with no access to food, like any other animal lying long enough on the road side. My 2 cent


Gonna throw this out there....As stated in the episode of the CDC when they come back to life it is due to what ever virus strain that allowed them to come back with minimal brain activity. As far as the eating goes, I feel that eating does absolutely nothing for them. Eating would be a primal, instinctual act like how a dog spins repeatedly before lying down (some believe this behavior is done so the dog can find wind direction so when they lay down his/her nose will be facing the wind to smell trouble as it comes, or simply to soften up the ground). Anyway, they probably don't eat each other because even zombies know spoiled meat is bad. Over time as they rot they lose functionality until everything stops working. That being said, I think the bigger question would be why do humans not turn when zombie blood gets on a cut or in the eyes or ingested, why only when bitten or scratched..

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    All humans are already infected and do not require a bite or scratch to turn. Getting blood in their eyes or cuts does nothing aside from introducing germs/bacteria. Bites are more lethal due to severity of the wound and infections from the bacteria introduced.
    – phantom42
    Feb 19, 2014 at 18:35

If you think about how the human body works and especially how the muscles work, I would imagine the zombies will be able to move after a few days of not eating. You need proteins, fat, vitamins, etc.. to restore the muscles and energy. It's all Sci-Fi after all, but couldn't help myself wonder how on Earth are those zombies still moving after 4 seasons of walking dead :)) .. Not much life left on Earth to consume, just a few people, some mice, .. and I didn't see any of the zombies eat wild berries :))

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    Hi and welcome to SFSE! This doesn't really address the question - it gives a general idea of zombies, but seems to be pure speculation. Try a canon answer, as the question specifically asks about 'The Walking Dead' Mar 19, 2014 at 8:26

they will die when they lose some primary ligament, putrefication or decompose. all the zombie will die when they run out of food. in some episodes they eat horse, rats, etc when they don't have human as a target. In Indonesia, Polmas in South Sulawesi, we have some old tribe magic that can make people who died a few years ago to get walk to their own burial place. we call it "Manenek". Come to this place if you intrinstic. In this tribe area you shall prepare all black suit, no other colour, no technology device.

  • Not sure this address the question about the universe Jul 5, 2013 at 18:23

I think zombies die if they do not eat. First slowing them down second a adrenaline rush that makes it want food even more so they attack (more) silently .waiting in a good place for let's say 6years will make them slow perfect for a raiding trip to get food and guns


Basically zombies aren't dead. they are humans who died, and then came back to life. that means, their heart is still pounding, their breathing, and, they have to eat. with no energy they wil starve themselves to death, again. When they have no food for a long time, and their stomach starts eating itself, and the brain doesn't have enough energy, the zombies will die.

ps: that means they could they of suffocation, or smth. else too.

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    No. They haven't come back to life, either in this show, or in the genre. There is no evidence that this is the case.
    – John O
    Jun 19, 2013 at 23:17

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