Have you ever yelled at a friend while your stomach growled? Or felt yourself staring daggers at the guy behind the counter because he was making your sandwich too slowly? If you have, you’re not alone. And rest assured, there’s nothing wrong with you! You’ve simply been hangry.
Hangry is the unhappy place where hungry and angry meet. The hybrid emotion was the subject of a recent CNN.com report, which delved into the physiology of hanger. Basically, our body and mind need carbohydrates, proteins and fats to function – they provide us with the energy needed to function. When we go too long without eating, the amounts of nutrients in our bloodstream start to nosedive. And when our blood sugar dips too far, we might find it hard to focus, or have trouble coming up with the right word when communicating. We also, it follows, may find it trickier to behave “within socially acceptable norms, such as not snapping at people,” CNN says. “So while you may be able to conjure up enough brain power to avoid being grumpy with important colleagues, you may let your guard down and inadvertently snap at the people you are most relaxed with or care most about, such as partners and friends. Sound familiar?”
The article goes into detail about other possible mechanisms, but you get the point: You brain doesn’t like being hungry, and it’s not afraid to show it.
In a 2014 study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers gave couples blood glucose monitors and voodoo dolls. Members of each couple were asked to take their blood sugar every morning and evening for three weeks. Every night, they were instructed to stick pins in their voodoo doll; the number of pins was supposed to demonstrate any anger they felt towards their partner. At the end of the study, researchers saw that individuals with lower blood sugar used more pins, meaning they were not just hungry, but angry, too. As study lead author Brad Bushman, PhD, summed it up, “Hungry people are cranky people.”
Letting yourself get hangry could do more than ruin a few friendships; according to a new study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, it could drain your bank account. Researchers found that when people are hungry, they’re more likely to purchase more than their well-fed counterparts.
Luckily, the cure for hanger is just an omelet or chicken breast away. The key is not just making sure you’re eating enough, but that you’re eating the right kinds of things. Protein is critical – make sure your nutritional lineup includes protein at every meal. Think eggs, beans, nuts, fish, chicken, lean red meat and dairy. (Yes, kefir counts!) Fiber will help keep you full – beans, fruits and vegetables, whole grains – and try to steer clear of candy or carb-heavy meals like pancakes and syrup or pasta alfredo; they’ll spike your blood sugar, setting you up to crash shortly thereafter.
When all else fails, where a Hangry shirt – no one can claim you didn’t warn them.