You woke up this morning, realized you were late for class so you grabbed a cold pop tart and ran off to a full day of classes. Now it’s 12:05 and you’re so hungry you’re salivating, waiting outside your campus’s sandwich spot… where you were supposed to meet your friend at 11:55.
The past 10 minutes have been pure agony. Can you be a good patient friend, or can you go in and order first?
Who are you kidding? Patience flew out the window during your 10:30 lecture. Your frustration about your hunger and your friend’s lateness begin to boil over. You send a severely passive-aggressive text and head into order your sandwich, because you need this.
What happened? You’re normally a pretty cool, level-headed person, but all of a sudden you lost it over 10 minutes and a sandwich. This phenomenon, known colloquially as hanger or being hangry, is being particularly angry because of and during hunger.
As someone who suffers from this phenomenon pretty frequently, I have been wondering what causes this feeling for a while, and decided to figure out if there is a scientific reason, instead of just letting my friends and family believe I just have the most insane inner-bitch.
After doing some digging, it seems to boil down to one very simple, pretty common sensical thing: low blood sugar.
Essentially, it isn’t just that your stomach is running on empty, but rather that your brain is. Your brain needs fuel, aka glucose, to function properly. Unfortunately, one of the first tasks to go when your glucose runs low is impulse control. This explains anger or temper tantrum type behavior of hangry people.
So when you have to wait an extra 10 minutes for your friend (which should usually be no big deal) this emotion is harder to control, leading to anger that boils over due to your lack of impulse control, aka hanger rage.
So how can you prevent low blood sugar and hanger? Here are some simple tips:
Eat a good breakfast.
Studies have shown that people who skip breakfast tend to be more prone to being in a bad mood.
Avoid simple carbs, too much sugar, and processed foods.
Eating refined carbs (white breads, pastries, etc.), sugary foods like many breakfast cereals, or processed foods like frozen waffles and poptarts, especially for breakfast, can cause later hanger because the carbs and sugars are too easily processed and can cause a sugar rush (and then crash).
Go for protein and fiber.
Protein and fiber are better choices to sustain you for the day. Try this gourmet microwave oatmeal, or go with some good old scrambled eggs and some fruit.
Carry small, healthy snacks.
Try some homemade trail mix with nuts and whole grains, a powerbar or even a protein shake to give your blood sugar a pick-me-up when you’re between meals and starting to feel the hanger coming.
Though these tips are definitely easier said than done with how hectic college life can be, they really are simple fixes for what can be a major problem. Follow them, and you’ll stay full and happy longer, and avoid getting hangry.