7 Real Hangry Symptoms You Feel When You’re Hungry & Why

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man and woman sharing a sub sandwich
Self

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, but according to Merriam-Webster dictionary, the word that we know to mean "irritable or angry because of hunger" has been around since at least the early 1900s. 

What happens when you get hangry?

When your blood sugar gets too low, your body releases hormones called glucagon and growth hormone, which signal the body to release glycogen to help your blood glucose levels to rise back up.

However, if you haven't eaten in a while, then your body has to find other ways to find glucose because your brain depends on it. You become hangry because your brain finds it difficult to perform its functions without glucose, therefore making you irritated and causing you to experience hunger and anger — or hanger.

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When your blood sugar is low, it also releases stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline. When you're hungry, your brain also releases a chemical called neuropeptide Y, and increased levels of neuropeptide in braid fluid cause increased levels of aggression. Those hormones and that chemical make you very aggressive and cause you to be angry because you're hungry, or in other words, hangry.

Being hangry is not a sign of diabetes.

However, if you're experiencing dizziness, sweats, or shakes when you are hangry, you might want to go get tested for diabetes because low blood sugar can be life-threatening for someone with diabetes. 

Hangry behavior involves you being more irritable, annoyed, and more negative at everything around you.

Being hangry can legitimately affect your relationships, so married couples, try not to get hangry around each other. 

It's important to recognize the symptoms of being hangry so you know whatever you did or may do when you're hangry, is not something you intentionally decide to do or say. 

Common hangry symptoms:

1. Brain fog

When you’re hungry, your body’s glucose reserves drop. As mentioned earlier, 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. Jitters

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. Weight gain

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.

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4. Low nutrient levels

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 that 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.

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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 hangry symptom. 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 snacks in your pocket or purse so you’ll never have to worry about getting hangry at the wrong time.

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Kate Harveston is a leading women's health journalist and the founder of So Well, So Woman.

This article was originally published at Thought Catalog. Reprinted with permission from the author.