The emptier your stomach, the worse your mood: if you’re always irritable when you’re hungry, you might be hangry. We explain what the phenomenon is all about and what you can do about it.
“You are not you when you are hungry.” A well-known chocolate bar manufacturer advertises with this slogan. A skilled ninja becomes the clumsy Mister Bean and a badass rapper becomes the singing Elton John – all because they have nothing in their stomachs. Are you familiar with that? Do you also behave differently if you haven’t eaten for a long time? There is a term for this: Hangry! We explain what that means and what you can do about it. Don’t worry: It doesn’t (always) have to be the candy bar.
What does being hangry mean?
The word “hangry” is a mixture of “hungry” and “angry” – in German: hungry and angry. And that describes it very aptly. Because hangry is the name given to the phenomenon that we become irritated and annoyed when we are hungry. Even little things make us go crazy.
What is the reason for the bad mood when hungry?
Blood sugar levels are to blame for our imbalanced self when we are hungry. We absorb carbohydrates, proteins and fats from food. Our body breaks them down into amino acids, fatty acids and sugar and thus supplies our organs with energy.
If we haven’t eaten for a long time, the glucose level in the blood drops. The body sounds the alarm: there is a lack of energy! To be on the safe side, it switches to a kind of energy-saving mode. We can no longer concentrate properly and less important skills are reduced – including controlling emotions! If something happens that we don’t like, it’s harder than usual for us to contain our displeasure.
This is reinforced by stress hormones that our body releases. They put us on alert so that we look for new food as quickly as possible. Side effect: We become nervous and easily irritable.
The phenomenon can even damage relationships
In one study, Ohio State University gave 107 married couples voodoo dolls (yes, really!) to represent their partner. Whenever they were angry with him or her, they should stick a needle into the doll. The subjects’ blood sugar levels were measured in the mornings and evenings. The result: the lower the blood sugar level in the evening, the more needles were stuck in the partner voodoo doll – the more irritated the people were. Being hangry can even lead to trouble in the relationship.
What to do when you’re hangry?
The most obvious and at the same time most sensible answer is: eat. As blood sugar levels rise, so does our mood. It is therefore best to plan meals regularly and always have small snacks with you when you are out and about. Emergency helpers against a hangry mood: dextrose. It helps quickly and should not be missing in any handbag.
Unfortunately, reaching for glucose also has a downside: Sweets or fast food may help very well in the short term, but the blood sugar level then falls again just as quickly as it rose. Only foods rich in nutrients and fiber, such as fruit or whole grain products, offer long-term protection against the hangry low. Almonds are also delicious and practical snacks for on the go.
If you don’t have anything to eat right now, it can help to make you aware that you’re hangry. That’s the advice of two scientists from the University of North Carolina. In an experiment, they tested how differently people who are hangry react. Participants who were aware that they were hungry were less likely to be angry than those who were not concerned about their feelings. So always ask yourself: Is the reason for my negative feelings really the friend talking too loud or the slow-moving car in front of me? Or maybe you are just hangry? If it’s the lack of food, slow down. Anger doesn’t help you or anyone else.
Distraction can also brighten your mood in the short term, the experts advise. So music on, hangry off… And maybe grab a quick bite after all!