Have you ever noticed you’re a little ‘on edge’ between meals? Do your hunger pains slowly morph into an unexplainable agitation or anger? You’re not imagining things. Rather, you’re experiencing the phenomenon of hangry.
What is hangry?
Hangry is a made-up term that defines being hungry and angry at the same time. (Hungry + angry = hangry.) You could put it down to being food-impatient or a simple dislike of hunger pains. But according to science, there’s more going on behind the scenes.
Your glucose-greedy brain utilises roughly 70% of the glucose used by your body, which is a simple sugar converted from food. If your blood sugar level gets too low, your brain literally turns to mush – leaving you unable to concentrate, think rationally or regulate your emotions.
Based on this, many people blame low blood sugar as the sole cause for hanger. However research has shown that the brain, when deprived of sugar, triggers the release of glucose-leveling hormones – namely cortisol and adrenaline. These hormones are classified as stress hormones, as they’re released in times of “fight or flight”. If you’re not familiar with this, it’s our primitive response to danger that sees us “fight” (stand our ground) or “flight” (run for the hills).
With cortisol and adrenalin running through your body, you’re prone to being more reactive and erring on the side of moody – just as you’re more likely to lose your cool in stressful situations or turn into a ninja if someone threatens you.
In the words of Dr. Amanda Salis, Associate Professor at the University of Sydney, “Getting aggressive in times of hunger is a survival mechanism.”
Taming your hanger
So you might be thinking “Hangry is a natural state that’s out of my control”, but there are a few ways to stop ravenous becoming rage.
Get a decent sugar hit. No, I’m not suggesting reaching for the Tim Tam’s. Instead opt for quality sources of carbs, such as berries, veggies and wholegrain crackers with avocado or hummus, for a steady supply of brain fuel that keeps your blood sugar levels on an even keel .
Too busy for breaky? Too lazy for lunch? These are prime ways to let your sugar levels levels slip. If you’re not feeding your body regularly you’ll trigger that “fight or flight” state known to bring on hangry moods. As a general rule, don’t go more than four to five hours between meals.
Prepare power meals. If your meals and snacks only contain one food group, you’re not optimising brain power. Blend nutrients such as wholegrain carbs, which keep your blood sugar levels happy; and proteins, which are digested slowly. This way you’re giving your brain the perfect cocktail or slow-burning fuel.