The hunger games: Why you feel ‘hangry’ and how to deal with it

Your mood swings, anger, fear, irritation could be triggered by something totally unrelated. It could be because you are hungry. Here’s how to deal with it.

fitness Updated: Nov 01, 2017 08:55 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times
Hangry,Hunger and anger,Blood sugar levels
Low blood sugar levels lead you to get irritable, lethargic, and more prone to getting ‘hangry’. (Shutterstock)

We all know the sinking sensation at the pit of the stomach when hunger pangs strike but there’s no food in sight. While some may be able to deal with it calmly, others get ‘hangry’ or unreasonably angry with trivial things.

Explaining the science behind it, nutritionist Pooja Makhija says, “Everything we eat converts into sugar (glucose). Sugar is the main source of energy for your body functioning and as the sugar level drops, one tends to become ‘hangry’. Hypoglycaemia or low blood sugar levels lead you to get irritable, lethargic, and more prone to getting ‘hangry’. The state mainly occurs when there are large gaps between your meals.”

Smitha Shetty, nutrition and fitness expert, says, “When our brains are starved of glucose, it perceives a danger situation, which leads to change in mood. A lack of sugar to the brain triggers the release of stress hormones, which makes the situation more difficult.”

Peanuts and dry fruits will protect you from getting hangry. (Shutterstock)

There is growing evidence about this phenomena: Case in point, a 2014 study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, showed that married couples get angry and mean towards one another when their blood sugar is low.

But, how do you know if you are ‘hangry’? “Symptoms include mood swings, anger, frustration, fear, sadness, irritability, snapping at people and aggression,” adds Shetty.

While the phenomenon may seem trivial, over the long-term, it could lead to complications. “If you are not consuming food at regular intervals, your blood sugar levels will be inconsistent. This will trick your body into believing that there is not enough food, and hence your body will start to store most of the food in the form of fat for the future, instead of breaking it down into sugar for immediate consumption,” says Makhija. Being ‘hangry’ can also lead to serious health issues such as sleeplessness, high cholesterol, diabetes, anxiety and cardiovascular diseases, she adds.

Here are some tips to prevent yourself from getting hangry:

* Eat a meal that is balanced with enough carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins and minerals. “You can eat rice and dal, vegetables, sandwiches or flavoured oats. You can even prepare quick meals using flaxseed and olive oil as they are good fats,” says Makhija.

* Avoid foods with high sugar level and high fat content. Even though such foods will increase your blood sugar level faster, the speed of depletion is also faster. You should eat something that’s going to sustain you for a longer time and prevent your sugar levels from spiking or dropping quickly.

* Don’t wait till you reach the hangry point. By then, the damage has already occurred.

* Make sure your meals are planned. Always carry some portable snacks with you such as peanuts, dry fruits, fruits and homemade snacks which will protect you from the hangry situation plus ensure good health.

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First Published: Nov 01, 2017 08:55 IST