Yes, you know who you are ….. the burst of outrage or anger, feeling moody and irritable, reverting back to your two year old tantrums, and others simply call you – “Snappy-Tom”. Sound familiar? Some of us unlucky ones can become hangry if we have gone too long without food due to work or life’s pressures. Why is it that “Snappy-Toms” come out to play….. there is actually a physiological and biochemical reason for this. Our bodies run like a machine and are designed to be fuelled regularly throughout the day to function at its best. Some people have quite a fast metabolism, and have often burnt off their breakfast within 2-3 hours, while others have a slower metabolism and may not get hungry for 5 hours. When your body has used the fuel from breakfast for energy, over the next few hours the body’s blood glucose levels start to fall, and some subtle symptoms start to show –
- firstly a little niggle or hunger pang (that may be present for only 10 minutes)
- a slight drop in concentration, memory and some brain fog
- cranky and irritable
- intense sweet or salty carbohydrate cravings
- and in extreme cases, dizzy, lightheaded and shaky
If your blood glucose levels fall low enough, your brain will see itself in crisis, and it struggles to perform. Many other organs in the body can use other nutrients as fuel, but the brain can only use glucose. Your body works to correct this low blood glucose level, by making and releasing hormones such as adrenalin, cortisol, glucagon and growth hormone to get some glucose flowing into your bloodstream. The first two hormones are our body’s stressor hormones that respond to stressful situations, and can make our body a little more “jumpy” or “rattled” than our usual calmer state.
A common after effect of feeling hangry is the need to have some foods that are quick and convenient, often highly processed and contain much needed carbohydrates, sugar and often salt so that the body can break them down quickly to increase the blood glucose levels stat. Because the body is in a state of stress it does not allow you ample time preparing a nourishing turkey and salad sandwich on toasted wholegrain sourdough…. rather it has you begging for crisps, rice snacks, lollies, chocolate or sweet biscuits. When it finally gets the taste of its fuel supply, it won’t let you stop. It makes sure to top up the reserves just in case and can often lead to over-eating of these foods that have little nutritional value.
The best way to avoid the hangry, is to really understand your body and how it works and don’t go 5-6 hours during the day without food. If you work with it, it will work with you. Every person’s body is different and unique, so start to listen to your body’s signs and symptoms as this is valuable feedback. Ideally, the body does like to be fed every 3-4 hours during the day – so set up a eating pattern that includes a wholesome breakfast, nourishing snack mid-morning, nutritious and tasty lunch, small snack in the afternoon (if you need it) and then a protein and vegetable rich dinner. Including a mid-morning snack is valuable to curb off the 3pm slump or the extreme hunger at dinner time or the craving sweets after dinner. Having three meals and one nourishing snack a day is a great way to fuel your body – just remember that your body doesn’t need constant snacking, unless you have a medical condition that requires this.
Try these nourishing snacks …..
- handful of raw mixed nuts and piece of fruit
- layered jar of Greek yoghurt, nuts and berries
- small tin of baked beans
- wholegrain crackers with hommus or avocado with chopped tomato and basil
- small piece of frittata or zucchini slice
- homemade oat & nut slice or bliss balls
- small pot of Greek yoghurt with diced cucumber, mint, s&p
- mezze platter – grape tomatoes, roasted capsicum, olives, wholemeal lavash crackers, fetta cheese
- tin of tuna with corn crackers
- strawberries dipped in nut butter
- fruit smoothie – milk, yoghurt, berries or banana, cacao and small spoon of almond meal
- boiled egg with vegetable crudites (carrot, cucumber, capsicum, green beans, radish) & beetroot dip
- spelt crispbread with hommus, roasted pumpkin, crumbled fetta and toasted pepitas
- capeseed fruit toast with nut butter
- small wholemeal carrot, sultana & walnut muffins