8. July 2022

Hangry – When Hunger Affects Our Mood

''You aren't you when you're hungry'' Does this popular saying carry some merit? Does hunger really affect our mood? How?

Hangry – When Hunger Affects Our Mood

Hangry Territory. Proceed with Caution! 

Contents of this article:

  • What does it mean to be 'hangry'?
  • Why do we get grumpy when we're hungry? 
  • Hungry = hangry? Not necessarily.
  • Our tips to counteract the 'hangry'- feeling.

Everyone is familiar with this feeling: its 10am, you had breakfast recently but your stomach is already starting to rumble. Some people can overcome this feeling, and continue with their day without distractions. Others however, struggle. This affects the mood considerably: everything and everyone is annoying, and even the tiniest irritation can cause a minor tantrum. Let’s be honest, we’ve all suffered from bad moods, but can this really be triggered by hunger? What does the word hangry really mean?

What does it mean to be 'hangry'?

The expression ‘hangry’ combines two words: hunger and angry. Hangry therefore connotes the feeling of irritation and frustration, caused by feelings of hunger. This therefore means that the mood or reactions of this person are likely to be very different if they weren’t hungry.

Why are we grumpy when we're hungry?

To get to the bottom of this, we need to inspect the specific context that our body and brain are in. For optimal performance, our brain needs a steady supply of glucose. This is sourced from carbohydrates like sugar. If you don’t eat for extended periods of time, the glucose concentration in your blood decreases. The consequence: your blood sugar decreases and typical hunger signals like stomach growling or shakes kick in. High time to eat something!

If you happen to be deep in an important task, and don’t actually have the time to eat, is something you should probably keep to yourself. Because at that moment, our brain is not open to excuses. When hunger becomes acute, our brain has already switched to an energy-saving mode and is desperately awaiting some food. Still no food in sight? Your body has then gone into alert mode and released the stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol. This leads to the fact that controlling your emotions becomes increasingly difficult. The result: you are stressed, irritable, aggressive and your bad mood is mounting. Congratulations, you have officially entered hangry territory!

Hungry = hangry? Not necessarily. 

A study has indicated that hungry doesn’t automatically mean hangry. This is due to an additional factor: stress. This means that individuals that are hungry but emotionally at ease, are less likely to overreact due to their hunger. People that are hungry and stressed or in an emotionally heightened state, are much more likely to act ‘hangry’. As mentioned above, this could also be attributed to the release of stress hormones. The body and the brain are just craving food at this point, everything else is just bothersome. Once you eat something, your brain will release reward hormones (Dopamine), this leads to relaxation and more satisfaction. Your irritability will lessen and you’ll become more agreeable.

Our tips to counteract the 'hangry'- feeling 

Your stomach is rumbling? Then you should eat! In case there’s nothing available, the only thing left to do is distract yourself as best you can. For example: listen to your favourite songs or an interesting podcast. Pressed juices or a coffee with some milk could also temporarily help placate your stomach’s screams.

We’ve put some tips together for you to equip you for a hangry situation, or ideally to avoid it.

1. Start your day with a fibre-rich breakfast. A quick and nutritious porridge made from oats is high in fibre and will keep you feeling full for an extended period. Complement this meal with some chia seeds, nuts or fruit and voila! You’ve got a fuel-filled breakfast.

2. Always have a healthy snack on you. Still some hours to go until its lunch time but already thinking about food? Healthy snacks are a great solution to bridge this time without plummeting into hangriness. Fruit, nuts, dark chocolate or energy bars can be a good option. However, be aware that the energy bars aren’t too high in sugar and only contain natural ingredients (as always, the shorter the ingredient list, the better!). Our vegan raw cakes are a great energy-boost pick me up. With clean, nutritious ingredients: Oats instead of flour and date syrup instead of refined sugar. Try them in three flavours: Almond Bliss, Strawberry Supreme and Moccha Moment.

3. Avoid refined sugar. Sweets that are very high in sugar are not a good option to quell your hunger. Quite the opposite, actually. Sugary snacks as well as snacks with a high fat-content will cause a spike in your blood sugar, which will plummet equally fast. Not good to keep your mood and hunger levels in check.

4. Dextrose. You’re stressed and have ignored your hunger for too long–now you're hangry! Dextrose can help out. It gets absorbed easily by your blood and helps regulate your blood sugar levels. However, be careful not to consume too much. One piece should suffice. And very important: your next meal shouldn’t be too far in the future. For more guidelines, check out our article on healthy snacks.

    In conclusion, if we haven't eaten for a long time, our blood sugar levels sink. This signals to our body and brain that we desperately need sustenance, and soon, to maintain our functioning. If this doesn’t happen, and we don’t eat, then stress hormones are released which can lead us to overreact, be irritable and even aggressive in situations that don’t warrant such emotional responses. It's because we’re officially hangry! But we can intervene before we get to this point. By having meals at regular intervals and healthy snacks at our disposal, we can control our blood sugar levels and therefore our mood.

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