Feeling Hangry? Here’s what you need to know

blog brain corporate health & wellbeing food and mood hanger hangry healthy lunch intermittent fasting workplace wellbeing Mar 15, 2024

Have you ever experienced a quick shift in your mood when you feel hungry? Perhaps you’ve found yourself losing patience quickly as your hunger grows and you snap at your co-workers, but then once you’ve had a few bites of your lunch that irrational rage dissipates, and you realise you may have overreacted (slightly). Does this scenario sound familiar? Welcome to the well-known phenomenon of "hanger"!

What is hanger?

“Hanger” refers to the irritable or grumpy feeling people experience when they're hungry, with research showing fluctuations in anger and irritability are strongly linked to hunger [1]. While you’re likely familiar with the sensation, are you familiar with what mechanisms can lead to it?  

What causes hanger?

When we haven’t eaten for a long time, our blood sugar levels drop which can have several effects. Since our bodies use glucose as a primary energy source, low blood sugar levels can lead to feelings of fatigue, weakness, and irritability [2]. Glucose is also our brain’s primary source of fuel, and why levels can impair our cognitive function, making it difficult to concentrate or regulate emotions. Additionally, the hormone ghrelin, often referred to as the “hunger hormone”, signals to the brain that it's time to eat. Ghrelin can affect our mood by having effects on brain regions that are associated with stress and emotion regulation [3].  So, we may become irrationally upset by minor inconveniences when we feel hungry.

Our current lifestyles don’t necessarily help us prevent hanger either. Many of us juggle very busy schedules, which can make it difficult to establish regular eating patterns. It can also leave us time poor, and choosing more ultra-processed foods that may give us a hit of energy but fail to give us more sustained energy sources.

How can you prevent hanger?

 Look at your current pattern of eating and the foods you are choosing. Are you going long periods of time without eating? Are you choosing nutrient-poor foods? Establishing a regular eating pattern and including balanced meals and/or snacks can help you prevent hanger. If you’re intermittent fasting, focusing on choosing nutritious foods rich in fibre like whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and legumes, can also help regulate mood and keep hanger at bay. You may also find that incorporating stress-reduction techniques throughout the day can help counteract the physiological and psychological effects of hanger mentioned above.

A Final Word

Being able to recognise the warning signs of hanger can help you act and prevent it from ruining your mood, productivity, and perhaps a regretful overreaction to any of one your co-workers! Check your hunger levels when you start to feel hanger creeping up on you and choose nutrient-rich foods and/or stress-reduction activities that can help prevent hanger from taking a hold of you!


[1] Swami V, Hochstöger S, Kargl E, Stieger S. Hangry in the field: An experience sampling study on the impact of hunger on anger, irritability, and affect. PLoS One 2022. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0269629.

[2] Anderberg RH, Hansson C, Fenander M, Richard JE, Dickson SL, Nissbrandt H, Bergquist F, Skibicka KP. The Stomach-Derived Hormone Ghrelin Increases Impulsive Behavior. Neuropsychopharmacology. 2016 Apr;41(5):1199-209. doi: 10.1038/npp.2015.297. Epub 2015 Oct 1. PMID: 26424164; PMCID: PMC4793128.

[3] Verberne AJM, Korim WS, Sabetghadam A, Llewellyn-Smith IJ. Adrenaline: Insights into its metabolic roles in hypoglycaemia and diabetes. Br J Pharmacol 2016. https://doi.org/10.1111/bph.13458.