Consider the following scenario: It’s the middle of the workday, and your energy levels have plummeted. You can’t concentrate, your heart is racing, and you’re irritable, or even panicked. You are not alone if this sounds familiar. What you’re feeling is known as “hanger” or “hunger-induced anger,” and it’s more prevalent than you believe; so prevalent, in fact, that the word “hangry” was added to the Oxford English Dictionary back in 2018.
Katherine Basbaum, RD, a dietitian at UVA Health, explains that “hangry” moments stem from the connection between your brain and blood sugar levels. When you’re hungry, the glucose levels in your brain begin to drop, resulting in brain fog and a loss of self-control. The end result? Your patience grows thin, tiny irritations become vexing, and you may even feel a bit wobbly. Headaches, sweating, and exhaustion are all symptoms of low blood sugar. So, if you see any of these symptoms appearing between meals, a “hangry” mood could be on the way.
Recognize your “hanger” indicators
To regain control of “hangry” episodes, it is critical to understand the early warning symptoms and appropriately express your sentiments. Taylor Fazio, MS, RD, a dietitian and wellness adviser at The Lanby, advocates expressing your feelings through words. Instead of merely identifying your sentiments as “bad,” go deeper and be more precise. Are you worried, twitchy, or exhausted? Recognizing these emotional cues can alert you to low blood sugar symptoms, prompting you to go for food before things worsen.
It’s crucial to note, however, that not all irritation or anxiety is caused by hunger. Sometimes your emotions are legitimate and unrelated to your stomach. To manage your needs effectively, you must distinguish between true and “hangry” feelings.
Snack wisely: carbohydrates and protein to combat “hanger”
When you’re on the brink of ‘hangry,’ the immediate solution is to eat. Not all snacks, however, are made equal. The natural tendency is to grab for high-carbohydrate choices such as candies or pastries. While they can deliver a momentary energy boost, they frequently follow with another blood sugar collapse. According to Basbaum, the idea is to regulate your blood sugar rather than raise it. Protein can assist with this.
Carbohydrates like fruit, toast, or crackers should be combined with high-protein foods like Greek yogurt, almonds, or nut butter, according to Fazio. If you have access to a blender, another great option is a protein-rich smoothie. Pre-packaged peanut butter crackers or chocolate milk can provide a good balance even at rest stations with limited options.
Remember, there are no wrong food choices when you’re “hangry.” If you want chips, go ahead and indulge, but try adding some protein, such as beef jerky, to help keep your blood sugar constant.
Prevention is the best treatment
Finally, the greatest method to deal with ‘hangry’ times is to avoid them in the first place. A proactive approach is to consistently fuel your body with nutrient-dense meals on a predictable timetable. Both Basbaum and Fazio propose that you evaluate your major meals (breakfast, lunch, and supper) to ensure that they have protein, fat, and carbohydrates, including fiber. This balanced approach aids in the maintenance of your blood sugar and mood.
Remember that no single meal or snack constitutes a “healthy” diet, and worrying over dietary restrictions might backfire. If you find yourself constantly ‘hangry,’ adopting minor changes to your eating habits will help keep your blood sugar—and mood—in check.