The Science behind “Hangry”

A recent article came out from CNN about “The Science Of ‘Hangry’, Or Why Some People Get Grumpy When They’re Hungry.” I’ve definitely been guilty of snapping at someone when I am hungry or just being generally irritable.

In summary, glucose is responsible.  Carbohydrates, proteins, and fats become simple sugars (glucose) when they are digested which are then distributed to organs throughout the body as energy.  As time passes from your last meal, your energy will deplete as your glucose levels fall.  The brain is critically dependent on glucose levels and so when these levels fall, you may find it difficult to concentrate, to do simple tasks, and even just think.  Also, if your glucose levels fall to a certain threshold, your brain will send signals to certain organs to synthesize and release hormones that increase the amount of glucose in the bloodstream. Two of these hormones are cortisol and adrenaline which are known as “the stress hormones.”  These hormones are involved in the “Fight or Flight” response so it is understandable when you are hungry you may feel on edge.

What You Can Do

1) Eat something! Make sure it is something nutrient enriched to replenish those nutrients into your body!

2) Use the acronym H.A.L.T.


A therapeutic tool that individuals can use on their own to assess their basic needs and how it is affecting their behaviour. HALT can serve as a reminder to all of us that we need to take care of our basic needs every day.  Take a moment each day to check in with yourself. Ask, “Am I hungry, angry, lonely, or tired?”

H=ungry. Your stomach is empty and your blood sugars are low.  You need to replenish.  It’s important to remember to meet nutritional needs as it allows our bodies to operate to the highest potential. And you’ll feel better 🙂

A=ngry. Feeling angry, stressed, or frustrated are all a normal, healthy emotions to experience. The important thing is to HALT and take time to understand what is causing your anger, and know how to properly express it. Maybe you are angry with a situation, a person, or maybe yourself.  It’s important to respond in a constructive way like going for a walk to calm down, venting to a friend, meditation, or exercise.  Take time before you make any decisions. Don’t react in a destructive way!

L=onely. Loneliness can occur when we are by ourselves or when surrounded by many people. We isolate ourselves when we don’t feel like others can understand us, withdrawing into ourselves out of fear or doubt. Being alone is a self-imposed situation. If you’re feeling lonely, HALT and ask yourself if you have reached out to anyone lately.

T=ired. Fatigue takes a toll on our mind and body. It compromises our ability to think and cope.  Ask yourself “Am I getting enough sleep? Am I tired?” A good night’s sleep or a leisurely nap may be all you need to change your outlook for the day. If your day is particularly hectic, take a short break by listening to music, going for a walk, or simply taking a deep breath. Recharge your battery.

It only take a minute to stop, HALT and ask yourself are all your basic needs being met.  Am I hungry, angry, lonely, or tired?


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