Sometimes people get hungry. Sometimes they get angry. And sometimes – they get straight up HANGRY. Are you one of those people who gets bitchy when you haven’t eaten in a while? You’re not imagining things – discover the science behind low blood sugar levels that explains being "hangry," and learn how you can stop your nasty mood before it starts.
When you eat, your body converts the food into nutrients that provide energy to your organs and tissues: amino acids, free fatty acids, and simple sugars like glucose. As the hours go by, the nutrients in your bloodstream slowly decrease, and your blood sugar levels drop. If it decreases too much, your brain sends out a life-threatening alarm. While other body parts can function well with a variety of nutrients, your brain is highly dependent on glucose.
Without the right amount glucose being delivered by the bloodstream, your brain may begin to have trouble with simple tasks. You might make dumb mistakes, mumble your words, have a hard time concentrating – or find it difficult to follow social norms. Like, you know, not being a total bitch.
In addition to this, your brain sends out orders to your organs to release certain hormones if your blood sugar levels drop too low. Your adrenal glands begin to synthesize adrenaline and cortisol – better known as stress hormones. Adrenaline and cortisol are released in any type of stressful situation, and can create the “fight or flight” response. So you aren’t just hungry – your body is actually going into battle mode.
Hunger and anger are also both controlled by the same genes, which produce natural chemicals (such as neuropeptide Y) that controls hunger, anger and aggression. People who tend to get hangry may also have issues with impulsive aggression in other situations (as in: “Get OUT of my way you slow-moving $?@!”) – as well as high levels of neuropeptide Y.
Finally, getting hangry has an evolutionary advantage and has probably worked as a survival mechanism throughout history. If a steak gets thrown on the floor, who will probably eat more food – the angry dog or the chilled-out dog? Being hungry and being overly nice at the same time might have been a death sentence in the past.
Now you know the science behind getting hangry – and you probably read this article because you know that you sometimes tend to be hostile when you need a snack. Knowing your weaknesses can be your greatest strength – and your goal should be to never let your blood-glucose levels drop below that threshold.
Stay happy instead of hangry by stashing snacks in important places. Find healthy, easy-to-carry snacks that you love, such as granola bars, nut and fruit bars, bags of roasted nuts, protein bars, trail mix, roasted chickpeas, dried fruit or cereal. You might want to carry a variety of snacks – or at least, one sweet and one savory option.
From the Organic Authority Files
Hide snacks in your car, gym bag, work desk, backpack, coat pockets, beach bag, and briefcase. If you carry a purse, your snack should be an essential item that you never forget, right up there with your phone and keys. Make sure that your snacks have a prominent, permanent place on your grocery list – and never get hangry again.
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Hungry woman image via Shutterstock