The science behind hangry

By August 17, 2016Blog
angry man holding fork and knife, text reading "The Science Behind Feeling Hangry"

If you’ve ever been hungry and grumpy at the same time, it’s safe to say that you’ve experienced “hanger” – hungry + angry = hangry. Or maybe you’ve never snapped at someone when you’re hungry, but perhaps you’ve been snapped at by someone else who’s going through the hanger.

We know that it happens, but do we know why it happens?

What is hunger?

Before you can define where “hanger” comes from, you must first understand where hunger comes from.

Here’s how it works:

  • You body finishes digesting and using up energy from your last meal, causing your blood and insulin levels to drop.
  • When that happens, ghrelin is created in the gut and it travels to the brain to signal that more food is needed.
  • That’s when the brain releases a second hormone, called neuropeptide Y, and that’s what causes your appetite.

Where does hanger come from?

According to medical experts, the key reason for hanger and hanger-related issues is a drop in your blood-glucose levels. Unlike other organs that take advantage of a variety of nutrients and resources in the body, your brain relies on glucose to do its job.

What happens when blood-glucose levels drop?

You might find yourself experiencing the following symptoms:

  • Trouble concentrating
  • You make silly mistakes that you wouldn’t otherwise make.
  • Your words are muddled or slurred.
  • You find yourself snapping at loved ones, colleagues or friends (hanger).

When your brain senses there is not enough glucose, it releases a stress hormone, which is linked to the aggression we sometimes feel when we’re hungry and unable to satisfy that hunger. It’s actually your brain going into survival mode.

Studies show that husbands and wives are often the ones who become angry toward their spouses. Anger is an emotion that’s hard for the body to regulate.

What do you do about hanger?

The most obvious answer to dealing with hanger is to eat (duh), but you’ve got to be careful what you put into your body to try to calm the hanger. Your brain will try to push you to eat the first, and possibly the worst, food you can get your hands on, but that’s not a good idea when dealing with hanger.

Foods to avoid:

  • Junk food
  • Chips
  • Brownies
  • Soda
  • Fast food
  • Processed foods high in sugar and high fructose corn syrup

Foods to eat when you’re hangry:

  • Healthy proteins and fats
  • Nuts
  • Avocadoes
  • Whole grains
  • Boiled eggs
  • Chicken

The best advice is to keep healthy snacks readily available to avoid the miserable condition known as “hanger.” Remember, don’t let your brain steer you in the direction of food that will only make it worse in the long run.