“I’m sorry for what I said when I was hungry.”
You’ve probably noticed this quote plastered on all sorts of products, from T-shirts and coffee mugs to bumper stickers.
“Hanger” or being “hangry” has definitely become a popular saying in recent years. If you haven’t heard of it before, maybe you’ve experienced it…
Although it’s a slang term and often joked about, there’s perfectly reasonable science behind why we get “hangry”.
When you experience “hanger,” your body’s basically saying “OMG my blood sugar levels are so low and I need to get them up now. Like RIGHT NOW!” Your body is starting to enter emergency mode. This is why we not only experience anger but also a lack of concentration or coordination when blood sugar levels fall.
And as blood sugar levels fall, the brain signals a counter-response. This includes signaling the release of glucagon (stored glucose) from the pancreas as well as the hormones adrenaline and cortisol to help drive the brain and body while it is trying to bring blood sugar levels back into balance. Well adrenaline and cortisol are stress hormones, and so can contribute to feeling “hangry.”
Being “hangry” is a clear indication that blood sugar levels are imbalanced.
The solution to “hanger” isn’t just to make sure you eat frequently enough to not get hungry — it’s to work on keeping blood sugar levels balanced. This is such a critically important, absolutely vital aspect of nutrition and health that we all need to focus on — not just diabetics. I really can’t overemphasize that enough. Because elevated and erratic blood sugar levels promote inflammation, a slow metabolism, suppressed immune function, weight gain, heart disease, cancer growth, and so much more.
And it’s extreme spikes in blood sugar that cause blood sugar levels to plummet or crash to “hanger”-causing lows. So the goal need to be keeping blood sugar levels steady by preventing both highs and lows.
How can we maintain balanced blood sugar levels?
It’s a matter of making small teaks to your diet! Check out these 6 tips:
1. Eat fat and protein with each meal
This is the absolute most important tip — the key to balanced blood sugar levels. Because protein and fat are digested more slowly and so they slow the absorption of glucose into the bloodstream. This ensures your body gets the steady stream of sugar into the blood on which it thrives. Protein and fat also keep us feeling fuller longer, which helps us overcome sugar cravings.
2. Start the day with a breakfast high in healthy fat and protein
Piggybacking off of tip #1… it’s ESPECIALLY important to keep blood sugar levels steady in the morning with a breakfast high in protein and healthy fat. Because maintaining balanced blood sugar levels in the morning will keep them steady through to lunch without the snack-attack or need for coffee.
And eating breakfast in itself is important for blood sugar regulation. When you skip out on breakfast, your body produces the stress hormones cortisol, which in turn elevates blood sugar levels. This is why I drink Shakeology every morning for breakfast.
3. Focus on fruits and vegetables as the primary source of carbohydrates
Fruits and vegetables are packed with fiber, which slows down carbohydrate digestion and so helps prevent a spike in blood glucose and insulin levels.
Sugar and simple carbohydrates, on the other hand, are quickly digested and cause a rapid spike in blood sugar levels — the exact spike we want to avoid.
4. Spice up your life with cinnamon!
A meta-analysis published in the Journal of Medicinal Food that concluded that cinnamon lowers fasting blood glucose by a 3-5%. This is a modest amount, but it is still very interesting and can be helpful!
But don’t go too crazy with this spice — cinnamon contains coumarin, which can damage the liver when consumed in excessive amounts. According to the daily tolerable intake set by the European Food Safety Authority, the limit for an adult who is sensitive to coumarin is about a teaspoon a day. But if you have liver issues, it’s best to only use cinnamon sparsely.
5. Get a good night’s sleep
While this is an important tip for good health generally, it especially supports blood sugar regulation.
Lack of sleep drastically reduces glucose tolerance. This makes it more difficult for cells to uptake glucose, causing elevated blood sugar levels. This connection is so significant that researchers found that “less than 1 week of sleep restriction can result in a prediabetic state in young, healthy subjects.” (Wow!)
6. Exercise regularly
Like tip #5, this is another general health tip that also happens to have a particular impact on blood sugar levels.
Our muscles use more glucose, the sugar in your blood stream. Over time, this can lower your blood sugar levels. It also makes the insulin in your body work better. You’ll get these benefits for hours after your walk or workout.
But be careful not to overdo it! Strenuous exercise can cause the body to make stress hormones, which can actually lead to an increase in blood sugar.
Are you still riding the blood sugar roller coaster? If you’ve successfully gotten off, do you have any tips to share?