Hanger, an amalgam of ‘Hunger’ and ‘Anger’ is the phenomenon that see’s otherwise nice natured, kind human beings turn into cranky, anger stricken monsters. Snickers got it right when they said ‘you’re not yourself when you’re hungry’, and I for one concede to being a little snappy when my tummy is rumbling. I admit there is no excuse for being rude, but some compelling evidence does seem to be coming to us hangry peoples defence.
The thing is, the reason we become a little cranky when hungry is because our bodies think we could die…simple as that! I kid you not, if levels of carbohydrates, proteins and fats aren’t regularly topped up, your body thinks it is entering starvation mode, which in your bodies mind is a certain death sentence!
Why does your body panic so much?
Sugar…it all comes down to blood sugar levels. A recent study has linked the drop in blood sugar levels that follow a prolonged period of not eating to difficulties in regulating temperament. In other words, you are far more likely to bite (excuse the pun) when you are hungry, sad but true.
To be fair to your brain, it is pretty much solely dependent on a steady flow of glucose (sugar) in order for it to function properly, and let’s face it, if your brain isn’t happy YOU won’t be happy. If glucose levels are perceived to be too low by the brain, the brain will begin to use ketones for energy (which is actually a more efficient energy source for the brain), but this is by no means preferred due to it being more of an emergency measure. Panic stations!!!
Anger is one of many issues
Concentration is also tell-tale sign your blood sugar levels may be dropping, another is clumsiness and silly mistakes, as well as lethargy and muddled speaking. The study also found that hungry people also struggle to function in socially acceptable environments, now I don’t mean taking a pee in the corner of the office, but I do mean snapping at your colleague, or worse still your boss! An unfortunate fact is that you are less likely to snap in the workplace, instead most people will bottle it up until they get home and let it all out on their partner or loved ones. Hanger isn’t good at all!
Other reasons for Hanger
Aside from the sugar drops that follow not eating, the body also releases certain hormones that are supposed to release more sugar from inside the body. Four of main hormones released during this time are growth hormone, glucagon, adrenaline and cortisol. Incidentally both adrenaline and cortisol are stress hormones that get the body ready for action, and circulate in response to stress respectively.
Both of these hormones prompt the release of glucose from glycogen (stored glucose) during physical and physiological stress, including periods of starvation. You’ve heard of the term ‘get fired up’ when preparing for a competition of some kind, well this requires the release of adrenaline and cortisol, so hunger is inevitably going to ‘fire you up’.
What you can do to limit Hanger
Simply, you have to ensure a consistent flow of glucose into your body, but this doesn’t require you to eat lots of sugar over the day. Instead you should try to consume a slow releasing (low glycaemic index) starchy carbohydrate every 2-3 hours (ideally alongside a protein and veg source for optimal balance). The complex structure of starchy carbs is key to regulating blood sugar levels, the glucose molecules are slow to be released from sweet potato, whole-wheat/ brown pasta and rice, meaning you get a drip flow of sugar into the blood stream. All you really have to do is take some time to prepare food the day before so that you have a good supply of food, that way Hanger has no impact on your life.
CNN, (2015). The science of 'hangry:' Why some people get grumpy when they're hungry. Retrieved 6th August, 2015, from http://edition.cnn.com/2015/07/20/health/science-behind-being-hangry/