We all know that feeling — the grumpiness and even downright anger that follows you around when you start to get hungry. It also has a name: hangry. Most of us recognize that term now thanks to the Snicker’s candy bar and the “You’re not yourself when you’re hungry” ad campaign. What actually happens to your body when you start to get hangry?
1. Brain Fog
When you’re hungry, your body’s glucose reserves drop. Your brain gets most of its energy from glucose, so you might find yourself in a brain fog where even the most straightforward decision takes a monumental effort. Don’t be surprised if you start feeling confused or have trouble speaking Stuttering and slurring your words are also common side effects.
This brain fog is often the first symptom you notice before the anger and irritability start to show themselves. If you feel like you can’t think straight or you’re having trouble making decisions, try to figure out when you last ate.
2. Adrenaline Shot
Your brain doesn’t like being hungry. If it doesn’t get enough glucose, it starts to go into panic mode, releasing epinephrine and cortisol that regulate your body’s use of glucose. This triggers your body’s fight-or-flight response and can make you feel jittery, shaky or even lead to anxiety and panic attacks — all because you don’t have enough glucose in your body.
3. Famine Mode
If your brain is hungry, it assumes the rest of your body is too and puts you into famine mode. This means it latches on to every carbohydrate it can find, storing it as fat in your body. In the long term, this can lead to weight gain. You need to feed your metabolism to keep it going. If you don’t get enough calories and nutrients, your body will shut down, slowing your metabolism, and start storing fat because it instinctively believes you’re currently experiencing a famine.
4. Missing Nutrients
Glucose isn’t the only thing that you get from your food. Your body relies on the fatty acids, amino acids and nutrients absorbed from the food you eat to keep your body running correctly. If you’re not getting enough of these essential vitamins and minerals, it’s going to make you hangry.
The same thing can happen if you eat nothing but junk and fast food. These snacks might be tasty, but they don’t contain the nutrients you need to stay healthy.
5. Shrinking Muscles
Another negative thing happens when you don’t get enough nutrients is a loss of muscle mass. This is due to your body storing fat but still needing energy. In some cases, especially if you’re active while you’re hangry, it can start to burn your muscle protein for energy. It’s not as efficient as the glucose you get from carbs, but it can suffice in a pinch. Unfortunately, it also means your muscles can start shrinking. Don’t go to the gym hangry — you won’t do yourself any favors and may end up losing all that hard work when your body starts to nibble on your muscle tissue.
6. Dizzy Spells
Low blood sugar is another side effect of getting hangry and might manifest as dizzy spells or tremors. If your hands are shaking when you’re trying to do simple tasks, or you get dizzy when you try to stand or move, it’s a sign you’re low on glucose and need to get a healthy snack as soon as possible.
7. General Grumpiness
Grumpiness is probably the most common symptom of hangriness. Everyone around you seems like they’re trying to do their very best to annoy you. You might start snapping at people without meaning to. The entire world just sucks and is out to get you. This is the culmination of all the problems listed above and is the textbook definition of being hangry.
If you find yourself angry or irritable for no reason, have a snack. Snickers was right in its ad campaign: You aren’t yourself if you’re hungry. Keep a protein bar or some other healthy snack in your pocket or purse so you’ll never have to worry about getting hangry at the wrong time.