The Science of Being Hangry

Urban Dictionary defines Hangry; A state of anger and irritability resulting from being hungry.

When you’re hungry do you turn into an insatiable beast that must be fed at all costs?
Do people run in fear when they hear these two words “I’m hungry” screeched from the empty belly of the abyss?
And do you find that as soon as food is delivered, all is right with the world again? Do you cover your head in shame at the things you’ve said or done whilst in your rage?
If you answered “YES” to any of these questions you may suffer a common, yet seriously irritating ailment known as being “Hangry”.

I don’t know about you, but I’m not too proud to admit that I (plus anyone in the general vicinity) have big issues when I’ve left it a little too late to eat.
I feel like my whole world has turned upside down, I get anxious, I can’t think straight, I get the shakes, I cannot control my mood or any offensive words that take flight from my mouth and sometimes I even have difficulty breathing. Pretty extreme right?
Some of you that have never suffered a case of the hangry’s may think I need serious help, but keep reading, I want to explain how and why this phenomenon happens.

Hunger is our bodies low fuel light. When the pangs set in it’s time to find some food and nourish ourselves, sooner rather than later. For some people this fuel light comes on quicker & stronger than others and hypoglycaemia sets in.

Hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar levels) usually affects people with Diabetes, and is caused by too much Insulin (a hormone that lowers blood sugar levels). Insulin triggers the release of hyperglycaemic hormones (Glucagon), which is great because it means the body is doing what it should however, the downside to these hyperglycaemic hormones is that they can cause anxiety, nervousness, tremors and a feeling of weakness (not so great). Plus another interesting tid bit is that despite checking your blood sugar level in times like these, most times it won’t show an abnormally low result (unless you’re diabetic) because the body is doing it’s job perfectly to maintain the status quo, go body!!

When I found out about this I was very excited, I’ve never known why I feel so terrible when I’m hungry, it all makes sense now… Kind of!

A “normal” blood sugar range for someone without diabetes is between 4 & 6 mmol/L. I’ve checked my blood sugar on many occasions when experiencing Hypoglycaemia and it’s never lower than 4 mmol/L. This leads me to another interesting subject which I may digress into for just a moment if you don’t mind… What is normal? I find that what is normal for some people isn’t normal for others in all matters in life. Maybe 4 mmol/L is too low for some? But is fine for Joe Blow? Who knows, but I believe that with “normal” or “average” ranges, they are just that; averages!

So how do we combat being Hangry? (I say “we” because I’m sure it doesn’t just affect me).
Making sure I eat breakfast has made a huge difference for me. If I skip breakfast and/or morning tea, I tend to have a hanger episode later in the day (or earlier if I’ve left lunch too late). The best breakfasts I find are ones that include eggs, the protein keeps me full and satisfied well until lunch time.
If you have gone too far and have succumbed to hanger, finding a quick, healthy, nourishing food source is imperative; Raw seeds/nuts, a piece of fruit or fresh fruit juice are great sources of energy that will tide you over until something more substantial can be eaten, plus they’re highly portable meaning you can carry them with you *In case of emergency, break out the nuts*.
Please I urge you not to reach for sugar laden, high GI foods with no nutritious value. You’re not diabetic, you will not die… yet, you have time to make a good decision about what you’re going to use to slay the beast.

Eat a protein rich meal with some carbohydrates (rice/bread/potato/corn) a couple of hours before you exercise! A few months ago I was really struggling with my energy levels at Roller Derby, the reason: I was eating about 3-4 hours before training and I’d run out of steam, needing some more food half way through the session… gahhh!!

All that said, sometimes life is really effing busy and we don’t have time to eat well, it’s also hard to think when you’re hangry. I’ve found for both these issues it’s easier if you are prepared and have healthy snacks in the fridge/cupboard that you can shove in your mouth at a moments notice. I like to make bulk batches of delicious and healthy muffins, it means there is always something good to eat (I’m often a Nazi when it comes to what’s in my food and rather prepare it myself, then buy store bought filler).

I usually bake a batch of CocoCoconut Berry Muffins & Egg Muffins (recipe below) on a Sunday evening and they tend to last me all week. I store them in the fridge to increase their shelf life, but if you haven’t eaten them within 2 weeks I’d chuck them out (seriously they’ll be gone long before two weeks). Having a choice of eating either sweet or savoury is important too, because I can be fickle; sometimes I “need” something sweet, sometimes I “need” something savoury… And sometimes I “need” both! 🙂

CocoCoconut Berry Muffins
Makes 12-16


1/2 cup of Cocoa Powder
1/2 cup of Coconut Flour
1 tsp of Bicarbonate Soda
1/2 tsp of Salt
2 tsp of Vanilla
1/2 cup of Coconut Oil
1/2 cup of Maple Syrup
6 Free Range Eggs
1 cup of Fresh or Frozen Berries


  • Preheat oven to 180°C
  • Grease muffin tray or better yet use a silicon muffin tray
  • Mix dry ingredients together in a bowl (I recommend sifting the Cocoa)
  • Add the wet ingredients, not the berries just yet. Whisk well, until smooth
  • Fold in the berries
  • Fill muffin tray approx 2/3 full
  • Bake for 20-25 minutes, until the top is firm and a knife comes out clean when poked in the middle a muffin
  • Allow to cool in tray for 10 mins then pull out of tray and cool on a rack
CocoCoconut Berry Muffins - The picture doesn't do them justice

CocoCoconut Berry Muffins – The picture doesn’t do them justice

Egg Muffins
Makes approx 12

Ingredients: (Approximate measurements, I usually use whatever I have left in the fridge)

8 Free Range Eggs
1 large Zucchini, grated
2 Cloves of Garlic (because I love it, you can use one if you’re not such a fan)
2 or 3 Shallots/Green Onions, sliced finely
1 cob of fresh Corn, kernels removed
1 cup of uncooked Polenta
1 cup of fresh Ricotta Cheese
1/4 cup of Pecorino Cheese, grated
2 tablespoons of Pepitas
1 tablespoon of Chia Seeds
1 tablespoon of chopped fresh herbs (think Basil &/or Thyme)


  • Preheat oven to 180°C
  • Grease muffin tray or better yet use a silicon muffin tray
  • Mix all ingredients together
  • Pour into muffin tray
  • Bake for approximately 30 mins, or until the tops are golden
  • Allow to cool in tray for about 10 mins and then pull out of tray and cool on rack

– Cass xo –

Kudos – I got some info for this post from:
Marieb’s Human Anatomy & Physiology 7th Edition