Believe it or not, hangry is real word in the Oxford University Press online dictionary. It means “bad-tempered or irritable as a result of hunger.” You know you’ve felt it and now, thankfully, we have a name for it.
“Hanger” is caused by the drop in nutrients used to fuel your organs and tissues. After eating, carbohydrates, proteins and fats are turned into simple sugars (or glucose), amino acids and free fatty acids. These nutrients slowly decrease over time as they flow through your blood stream.
Once the glucose in your blood drops to a level that your brain determines is “dangerous,” you’re likely to notice that thought-processes become more challenging, and acceptable behavior is replaced by grumpiness and irritability.
“Skipping meals or even skimping on meals can result in you becoming overly hungry,” explains Erin Peisach, RDN, a wellness education specialist with Sharp Rees-Stealy. “At that point, your willpower is at its lowest and your irritability can be at its highest.”
While hangry is a new word, another reason for the unfortunate collision of hunger and anger can be traced back millions of years. Appetite hormones are released when you become hungry and cause reactions in the regions of your brain that handle stress and anxiety.
This response was likely a survival instinct when food was in greater demand. A starving animal or human will feel stressed and anxious — or, as we now call it, hangry — about finding the food necessary to survive.
Peisach offers the following ways to ensure you don’t become hangry on the job, with your loved ones or simply as you go about your day:
- Eat breakfast. Breakfast can help prevent you from becoming overly hungry later in the day as well as ensure that your overall diet is more nutritionally complete. Your morning meal can also improve your concentration and energy throughout the day.
- Pack snacks. Stash snacks in your purse, briefcase, backpack, desk or even in the trunk of your car in order to always be prepared. A healthy snack consists of a piece of produce and a serving of lean protein. Examples include a cup of grapes and an ounce of nuts or a piece of string cheese and a pear.
- Plan meals ahead of time. Packing a lunch and knowing what you’re going to have for dinner can be helpful to make sure you don’t go too long without eating. It’s ideal to eat every three to four hours to keep your hunger at bay, metabolism high and hanger in control.
If you have questions about how much you need to eat each day to avoid becoming hangry, or what a healthy diet consists of, speak with a registered dietitian. They can help you plan your meals and snacks from morning to wine o’clock (the appropriate time of day to start drinking wine).