If you haven’t heard the term ‘hangry’ yet, it’s an amalgam of hungry and angry. Put simply, it’s irrational (and often uncontrollable) fury due to extreme hunger.

We’ve no doubt you’ve felt this explosive combination or, at least, the wrath of it before. The prescription? Food, immediately!

We know it sounds ridiculous, and can even be hilarious (given the abundance of food in our western society). But perhaps only in hindsight because when you’re in the hangry boat it’s not fun for anyone. Ever lashed out at someone when your stomach’s empty? Yeah, not good.

So, why do we go from peckish to furious when we need to eat?

According to Doctor Amanda Salis from the University of Sydney, getting aggressive in times of hunger is a survival mechanism, passed down from our ancestors.

She told Huffington Post:“if our predecessors just stood back and politely let others get to the food before them, there is a good chance that they may not have gotten enough to eat, and they would have died — possibly before they could pass their genes on to the next generation.”

“So it was likely the individuals that were aggressive when hungry had a survival advantage, and we hence carry their genes to this day, whether we live with a shortage or abundance of food,” she said.

Perfect. Now we have a genuine excuse for our hanger. Early man.

What happens to our brains when we feel like we’re starving


Doctor Brad Bushman, a psychology professor at Ohio State University, explained to Time Magazine “the brain needs fuel to regulate emotions, and anger is the emotion people have the most difficulty regulating”.

“Your brain’s primary fuel source is glucose, which your body makes from the foods you eat. And as far as fuel consumption goes, the brain is a very demanding organ. It uses 20 to 30 per cent of the energy you consume,” he said.

So essentially, if we don’t eat, our blood sugar drops dangerously low and our brains become glucose-starved. This incites the primal hangry response we talked about earlier.

Hanger management and how to tame the beast

Obviously, the solution is simple – eat something before you get too hungry! But, sometimes we get ourselves into situations where there’s minimal food around (sigh, we don’t know how either).

So, here’s some tips for avoiding hanger:

  • Always pack emergency snacks. The hangry-prone already know this but it’s important not to forget! You’ve probably heard of the horror movie Snakes on a Plane? What about No Snacks on a Plane? Now, that’s scary
  • Dr Sails says we should try to avoid quick-fix junk food snacks because they “generally induce large rises in blood-glucose levels that come crashing down fast and ultimately, they may leave you feeling hangrier”
  • Dietitian Cassie has some good recommendations for “getting off the blood sugar roller coaster”. “Do this by … eating protein, fat and carbohydrates every few hours to keep your blood sugar levels stable”. She has more tips on her website.

But, if you do succumb to a rage blackout when you need to eat (because the people you’re with are fastidiously going over Yelp reviews), at least now you have science to back you and also – you’re not alone.