The Science Behind Being "Hangry": A Doc Explains What's Actually Going On In Your Body

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Feeling tired, grumpy, stressed out and hungry all at the same time? We've all been there.

Turns out hangry is a real thing and these are the classic symptoms (hangry was added to the Oxford English Dictionary in March, after all.)

Physician and best-selling author Dr. Ian Smith is here to explain why it happens and exactly what’s going on in your body when it does.

First, some basics: The body gets energy from carbs, proteins and fats that are consumed — aka essential “macronutrients” — which are broken down into sugar for future use.

While normal blood sugar count ranges between 70 and 140, when your blood sugar dips below that, “your body goes into what’s called a fight or flight response,” Dr. Ian notes, and starts to release adrenaline and cortisol — aka the stress hormone — because it thinks something is wrong.

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“One of the byproducts of these hormones — which you need, actually, as they help your blood sugar get back up — is you get stressed. You become anxious, you become grumpy and start snapping at people,” says Dr. Ian.

Sounds all too familiar -- are we right?

The hormones can cause other physical side effects, including dilated pupils, an elevated heart rate, elevated blood pressure and muscle tension.

“These are all part of the fight-or-flight response of these hormones,” Dr. Ian says.

Now, while your initial response might be to reach for sugary foods — your body is needing a blood sugar boost, after all — don’t let yourself be tempted by sugary foods or snacks. “While you will get an initial burst from the sugar, you will experience a crash, too, ultimately exacerbating the situation.

Your best bet to curb the side effects of being hangry is to reach for healthier snacks that are balanced with those macronutrients, Dr.  Ian says, suggesting smart snacks such as chips and guacamole, kale chips, hummus, and fresh fruits and vegetables, all of which have a hunger-squashing combo of natural sugars, fiber and protein.

“Smart snacks will make you feel full longer, will prevent hunger pangs, and will get rid of those anxious, stressful, grumpy symptoms,” says Dr. Ian.

Amen to that!

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