Even if you haven’t heard the phrase, you would have definitely felt this emotion before. Often it hits you when you’re least expecting it. That deadly combination of hunger and anger arrives perhaps as you’re sitting in traffic in the morning on an empty stomach or in that long meeting just before lunch. And woe betide anyone that gets in your way when you’re running low on fuel.
What Science Says About “Hanger”
It may be surprising but hanger as a phenomenon is actually well documented and supported scientifically. There are a couple of observations as to why hanger is a thing. One evolutionary perspective says that aggression when hungry may be a survival related adaptation. The more aggressive you are when you’re hungry, the more likely you’ll be to get first dibs on the latest hunt. The second observation is that our neurons alert our brains when it’s time to eat. But if we don’t eat immediately, those neurons often keep firing, engaging other parts of the brain responsible for anxiety and stress.
It’s also got a lot to do with your blood sugar levels at the time. The longer you go without food, the more they drop. The more they drop, the less you can exert self-control. Researchers found that people who had on average, lower blood sugar levels, expressed more aggression and anger towards their spouses.1 Of course, this doesn’t give you the excuse to flip the tables at your next meeting or yell at a waiter passing by. The good news that you can stop it from happening. And you might want to try these tips out if you want to keep your personal and professional relationships intact.
How To Fight It
The most obvious way to fight it is, of course, to eat on time. Keep healthy snacks handy with you at all times. Try not to have too much of a gap between meal times and snack often on filling, fibrous fruits, and veg with some protein as these can help keep you feeling full. The worst you can do is give in to your brain’s cravings for sugary, fatty processed foods. These will only spike your blood sugar up and cause a crash soon after. You’ll be left feeling just as cranky as before. Fight your urge to reach for anything and everything and find these foods to satisfy you.
Foods To Eat When You Start To Feel Hangry
Nuts like almonds and walnuts are full of heart-healthy fats that are great for your brain too. They’re also filling and don’t really irritate the stomach.
2. Lean Protein
Protein has been proven to lower the average levels the hunger hormone called ghrelin.2 Try eggs, skinless chicken breast, tuna, or tofu as protein sources at your meals. If you’re looking for a protein filled snack, you can’t go wrong with vegetable sticks and peanut butter. Even a glass of milk or a serving of low-fat Greek yogurt can help ease your stomach.
Choose vegetables to bulk up your snacks and provide fiber. If you’re on an empty stomach, however, you might want to stay away from cruciferous veggies like broccoli, cauliflower, and kale because they can cause gas. Instead try carrot sticks, celery, bell peppers, and cucumbers.
The next time you’re running low on food and want to smash the wall in, be prepared and stock up on plenty of these healthy snacks you can grab on-the-go.
|↑1||Bushman, Brad J., C. Nathan DeWall, Richard S. Pond, and Michael D. Hanus. “Low glucose relates to greater aggression in married couples.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 111, no. 17 (2014): 6254-6257.|
|↑2||Foster-Schubert, Karen E., Joost Overduin, Catherine E. Prudom, Jianhua Liu, Holly S. Callahan, Bruce D. Gaylinn, Michael O. Thorner, and David E. Cummings. “Acyl and total ghrelin are suppressed strongly by ingested proteins, weakly by lipids, and biphasically by carbohydrates.” The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism 93, no. 5 (2008): 1971-1979.|