Have you ever lost your cool when you were hungry? You turned from angel to devil in the blink of an eye. You couldn’t imagine ever getting out of such a terrible mood, but then you took a bite of a sandwich, or maybe you munched on an apple or a bag of pretzels. Whatever it was, you magically felt better, like a weight had been lifted off you and you could finally smile and breathe again. Your friend says jokingly, “God, Jen, why’d you have to get so hangry?”
Hangry? Yes, hangry. Hangry is the new term blending both hungry and angry into a cute little package. It seems funny to joke about being hangry, and it also feels vaguely like an excuse. I mean, you can control snapping at your partner when you’re a little hungry, right? But alas, the hangry phenomenon is actually scientifically proven. Although scientists probably wouldn’t use the term hangry, it does get the point across.
What Makes You Hangry?
The biggest factor to the “hangers” is your blood glucose levels. Medical researcher Amanda Salis has written a hefty article breaking down all the effects. “The carbohydrates, proteins and fats in everything you eat are digested into simple sugars (such as glucose), amino acids, and free fatty acids. These nutrients pass into your bloodstream from where they are distributed to your organs and tissues and used for energy.” So basically, everything you eat performs some function in the body (Salis).
Over time, all of the energy that you’ve digested is used. Whether you are riding your bike or journaling, little by little all of those nutrients are going to be sucked away. Glucose is your primary energy source, so it’s only logical that when there is an absence of glucose your body will go into life-or-death mode. Six hours is all it takes for your glucose levels to become depleted, and that’s when you begin to feel that angry and annoyed sensation (Bushak).
In addition to being your main source for energy, glucose is crucial for the operation of your brain. You’ll notice that you become muddled, slower at work, drop things, and are just not yourself. Some people have even noticed a sensation where their words are slightly slurred. Basically, simple things become that much harder. This is why we have a tendency to snap at friends and family–people we are close to–because being pleasant requires effort and our energy and resources have been depleted.
If you thought having a low energy supply was bad, how about adding this onto your current hangry state? When glucose levels are dwindling, four hormones are released, one of them being adrenaline. Scientists believe that adrenaline is released as a survival measure. If all organisms passively let others eat before them then there would be many extinct creatures. So when you’re feeling a little grumbly about missing your afternoon snack, know that there’s a very logical cause: Your body is worried about where its next food will come from. You’re in survival mode, and your friends don’t stand a chance.
So Is It All Glucose’s Fault?
All we’ve been hearing is glucose, glucose, glucose. Is there anything else that’s affected by your lack of nutrients? Well yes, as a matter of fact. Many people who suffer from depression and other ailments are believed to have low serotonin levels, thus doctors will prescribe medications that boost this chemical. But did you know that serotonin is released when we eat? So, when we don’t eat, guess what happens? Yep, we get angry. Many people assume that most people eat for pleasure, which is true to some extent.
Think back. When was the last time you were truly hungry? You hadn’t eaten for hours and you would’ve given anything for a little scrap of food. You see people around you eating and what are you feeling? Anxiety, frustration, irritation, and quite frankly, you’ve become emotional. The longer you deny your body food, the hangrier you’ll get. When you eat, the feeling of pleasure rushes through you, and some mistake this for happiness. In reality, serotonin is being released, which automatically boosts your mood. Clearly, the body’s processes are interconnected. We may not think that our brain is linked to our digestive tract, but it is (Currie).
How To Fight The Hangers
Snacks. The only way to prevent feeling hangry is to keep yourself properly nourished. Having small intermittent snacks throughout the day will keep your hunger at bay. There have been countless articles discussing the benefits of multiple small meals a day: boosting metabolism, producing energy, and staving off fatigue are just a few of the advantages.
So next time you feel your mood plummeting, grab some food. Not only will you save yourself frustration, but you’ll probably save some relationships as well!