Have you ever felt so hungry that you become angry? That’s called hangry, your body’s response to low blood sugar that reduces your impulse control to the point that you let out frustrations and emotions, often in an inappropriate manner. Today we’re exploring the science behind being hangry and what you can do about it.
Why We Get Hangry
After a meal, the fats, carbohydrates and protein in our food are broken down and used as energy for every party of the body. One of the byproducts of the break-down of food is glucose or sugar, which our bodies, especially our brains, need to function. As time goes by after a meal, blood glucose lowers. Most organs can rely on other nutrients for survival, but the brain must have glucose to perform. This is why you may start losing focus and make mistakes when you are hungry – your brain needs glucose, fast.
Along with your brain’s ability to concentrate on a task at hand, your brain controls your mood and reactions. When you are hangry, you are more likely to lack the impulse control for patience and you may lash out at others angrily. It often happens to those who we feel most comfortable around, such as friends, family members and spouses. It seems that hunger trumps self control in these hangry moments.
Additionally, the brain releases hormones as a response to low glucose levels. Without this crucial sugar, the brain believes the body is under attack and needs back-up. Two of the hormones released are the stress hormones epinephrine and cortisol that make up adrenaline. As you know, adrenaline comes into play under extreme stress and is a part of the “fight or flight” response. Like in most stressful situations, shouting, short temperedness and other signs of anger are more likely to occur when you are hangry due to adrenaline.
Neuropeptide Y is another reason why hanger exists. Neuropeptide Y is a brain chemical that is released to counteract hunger. It is also the chemical responsible for aggression and anger. So as the body naturally tries to correct the feeling of hunger, it inadvertently allows you to be more aggressive than usual. If you top that with hormones and lose of impulse control from low blood sugar, you can be one hangry gal.
How to Combat Hanger
The easiest way to not be hangry is to not get hungry. But we all know that sometimes that’s not possible as food isn’t always available the second we need it. What we eat can also help us control hanger. Foods high is simple sugars like sweets and white carbohydrates (white bread, white rice, regular pasta) may give us a temporary sugar spike but then crashes down quickly. Complex carbohydrates combined with protein and healthy fats will last longer in our system to keep blood glucose levels stable for longer.
It’s also important to know yourself. Not everyone responds to being hungry in the same way. If you know you tend to get hungry at certain times of day, plan to have a snack available. Also, plan your meals so you save your best hours of concentration during an important meeting, when you’re spending time with your family or when you’re hunkering down for some tedious work.