Why You’re Not You When You're Hangry

Jun 22, 2023Nicole Saliba

We’ve all been there. 

You forgot to prep your lunch the night before. A meeting runs late and you miss your lunch break. You decide to push through a long drive without a visit to the drive-thru. 

Then all of a sudden…

You hate anyone who so much as asks you a question. A coworker slurps their coffee obnoxiously on every sip. Your spouse is snoring in the passenger seat after insisting you 





Wow…okay. That really escalated, didn't it? Take a deep breath before you say something you’ll regret. You're not you when you’re hangry - and we’re going to tell you why. 

What is Being Hangry?

The term ‘hangry’ describes the feeling of being angry when hungry - hence the blending of the two words. People describe being hangry as becoming irritable or otherwise acting out of character when they’re hungry.

So if you’ve ever found yourself snapping at someone close to you while you were starving, you know being hangry is no joke.

If you can’t relate to that, odds are you’ve just never realised and your friends probably talk about it. If you can’t point out the hangry one in the group - you are the hangry one. 

Is Being Hangry Actually Real?

Hangry was added to the Oxford dictionary in 2015 after it had become a commonly used word in English-speaking countries. While it became famous through internet culture, its first confirmed use was actually in a 1992 short story. Good to know people were getting hangry even before the internet! 

Unlike many of the phrases and phenomena popularised on the internet, there is real science behind being hangry. 

What Causes You to Become Hangry?

When you go without food, your body releases two kinds of chemicals that can make you angry when hungry.


Ghrelin is a hormone that is released when your stomach is empty. Think of it like the low-fuel warning light in your car, but instead it warns your brain that you are running low on food. When this happens, your brain shifts finding food higher up its priority list. 

Unfortunately, this powerful bio-chemical reaction was designed to make sure you didn’t go hungry in pre-modern times when food wasn’t readily available. So while you may be planning to skip lunch to finish your yard work in one go, your brain is thinking if you don’t start hunting soon you might not catch anything before you starve.

Hangry symptoms caused by ghrelin include:

  • Anxiety or sadness
  • Stress
  • Brain fog or the inability to think clearly
  • Inability to control your impulses
  • Reward-seeking behaviour
  • Inability to sleep

What do these feelings have in common?

They make you feel bad, make your impulse control worse, and make eating an irresistible reward. In other words, they make finding food your number 1 priority, whether you want it to be or not.


The second hangry chemical is cortisol, which is released when your blood sugar levels drop. Blood sugar levels can be thought of as your energy levels. When they drop, you need to eat to replenish them. The problem is, just like ghrelin, your body doesn’t realise that it isn’t fighting beasts with a spear in the jungle anymore. 

To maintain your energy levels, cortisol is released, which is an adrenaline that triggers a fight-or-flight response. If you were still hunting your food and escaping deadly predators, falling blood sugar levels could slow you down and make you more vulnerable. Cortisol is designed to keep you sharp.

Hangry symptoms caused by cortisol include:

Without a predator or prey to focus on, rather than a twig snapping or a growl seizing your focus, it’s your partner chewing with their mouth open or sniffling too much. Your increased panic or irritability towards things that normally wouldn’t phase you is how you release this tension. 

Is Being Hangry a Cause for Concern?

Being angry when hungry certainly isn’t serious in a life-threatening sense - although if you find your blood sugar levels dropping even after eating you should get checked for diabetes.

But just because it isn’t deadly doesn’t mean it isn’t a problem. You might not think you’re that bad, but have you considered the people close to you? If they’ve got an emergency action plan to avoid you when you’re hangry it might be time to make some changes!

How to Avoid Becoming Hangry?

Everyone has different tolerances to becoming hangry. Studies have shown that people with higher levels of self control and self awareness are less affected by being angry when hungry. 

Additionally, everyone’s metabolism is different. You may find yourself getting hangry faster than your friends. There are even some signs that your genes could be to blame.

With that said, here are 5 ways you can avoid becoming hangry - and to stop being the person your colleagues know not to talk to after 3pm! 

1. Avoid Junk Food and Sugary Snacks

Junk food and sugary snacks are often the first thing you’ll reach for when the hunger pangs strike. That's because your ghrelin-induced lowered impulse control and reward seeking behaviour will encourage you to eat things that are easy and tasty.

The problem is, they contain a lot of sugar and carbs, but very little protein and fibre. This means you’ll feel great for a while, but then you’ll crash and feel hangry all over again. Not to mention these foods aren’t good for your waistline!

2. Avoid Drinking Caffeine on an Empty Stomach

Caffeine is a powerful stimulant that is great for energising you before you head to work. The problem is, if you drink too much of it, or you drink it on an empty stomach, it can cause the same anxious hangry symptoms that you are trying to avoid. Plus, if you drink coffee with a lot of sugar in it, it can cause blood sugar level ‘hangovers’, similar to junk food. 

3. Eat Three Meals Per Day

Likely the common reason you get angry when hungry is because you’ve skipped a meal. If you make sure you eat breakfast, lunch and dinner with about 4-5 hrs in between, you should find yourself getting hangry much less. 

4. Eat Balanced Meals

How much or how often you eat are important questions, but people often overlook what they eat. To be filling enough to stop you from becoming hangry, your meals should be a balance of carbs, proteins and fats. Aside from being hangry, eating balanced meals is good for your overall mental health as well.

Just eating carbs is great for quick energy and feeling immediately full, but they don’t provide lasting energy. Fats slow the digestive process, and protein is the best nutrient for keeping you feeling fuller for longer. By eating more balanced meals you’ll find yourself feeling less tempted to snack in between. 

5. Plan your Meals

If your schedule is constantly changing and you find yourself not knowing when your meals will be, try meal planning. By planning your meals, you remove the temptation to eat junk food, and you also won’t feel pressured to skip a meal that you haven’t prepared. 

This allows you to meal prep. Meal prepping can be a great way to take advantage of when you do have time to make the meals for when you don’t have time! 

Have You Considered Ready-Made Meals?

If you do find yourself becoming hangry and raiding the pantry for any sugar or carb loaded snack you can find, have you considered ready-made meals?

At Activate Foods, we don’t believe that just because you are time poor you should have to eat unhealthily. Healthy eating is key to avoiding becoming hangry, so it’s essential that you can eat healthily at your own convenience. 

We offer delicious, home-made meals for a variety of dietary conditions, and they can be home delivered! If you’re interested in the best defence against being angry when hungry, visit our website to learn more about our fantastic range. 

If you’ve noticed that your friends get nervous when you only order a salad at lunch, it’s time to act! Register an account today and start shopping. 

Remember, you’re not you when you’re hangry!

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