Introducing “Hangry” to Your Vocabulary and How to Beat It

You mindlessly snapped at your co-worker. You find your lagging computer especially frustrating today; and even the smallest road bump in your schedule is enough to make you lose it. You don’t know why you’re so strung out but you are and deep breaths aren’t cutting it. Could it be that you skipped lunch? A busy day means no time for the petty stuff. But It’s time to realize that your lunch break and your mental health aren’t all that petty. You are hangry.

Scientists from the Boden Institute of Obesity, Nutrition, Exercise & Eating Disorders at University of Sydney have found the root of all evil – and it is, in fact, your skipped lunch. There’s a term for this breed of short-temperedness and it’s called “ hangry ”. Get to know it, because it could be affecting your boss, your mother or even yourself.


But why?

There’s a method to the madness that goes on in your body and it’s important to understand the mechanism before you decide to ditch a good work snack again. All foods contain carbohydrates, fats and/or protein that are all eventually converted into glucose. Glucose to your body is like fuel to a car. You need it to function.

During a meal, your blood sugars rise and are used to keep your body and brain running on enough energy to function. A couple hours after a meal, these blood sugars are dwindling and your brain is beginning to worry that it might run out. At this point you might find yourself making silly errors or you might even find it hard to focus on small tasks.


Meanwhile, your brain is trying to cope with the loss of glucose in your system so it sends a message to the organs in your body to release more sugar into your blood. This is achieved by the delivery of four specific hormones: growth hormone, glucagon, adrenaline and cortisol. The latter two hormones are released during any instance where the body feels like it is being threatened- so hunger is literally a stressful predicament for the brain.

Hunger vs. Anger

Interestingly enough, hunger and anger are actually controlled by similar genes. When your body experiences hunger, it releases a neurotransmitter called neuropeptide Y. When neuropeptide Y is released into the brain, it immediately tells it to increase food intake in order to avert hunger. However, it also acts on multiples of other receptors, one of them being the Y1 receptor. When neuropeptide Y comes in contact with the Y1 receptor, it is believed to produce a change in aggression and anger.

Correlation or Causation?

With all of these contributing factors, it’s clear that hunger and anger may be more than a correlation but undoubtedly, a causation. You might be wondering what happens if you cannot find a chance to eat some food – well, your body is prepared for issues like these. Like I mentioned before, your brain will activate counter-regulatory response hormones in order to stabilize your blood sugars. But it will take some time.

So the next time you’re about to send that angry email- take a break and eat a sandwich. Or schedule that important meeting after lunch. You might find yourself a lot less heated afterwards. Avoid the unwanted hanger by having a healthy and hearty breakfast, by bringing a lunchbox to work or keeping some protein bars in your car. Keep your energy high and your hanger low and you will power through your days.

If you experience “hangry” or are battling emotional eating click here for more helpful resources.


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