Fasting: Is it Worth Being Hangry?

Many of us have tried fasting in one form or another. Some of us do it for dietary goals, others for religious beliefs, and still others because they’re simply too busy to eat. We might have different reasons for why we fast, but there’s something about not eating that we probably all agree on: hunger makes us cranky. In case you missed it, there’s a term for being hungry AND moody.  

Hangry (adj.) - When you are so hungry that your lack of food causes you to become angry, frustrated or both. Used in a sentence: Girl, I haven’t eaten since 9. I’m so hangry. Don’t talk to me. 

We’ve probably had first hand experience with this stomach growling, mouth watering, midlife crisis resembling mood. I for one carry around a life saving “snack-pack” just in case my girlfriend gets hangry. “Here love…eat a snickers. You’re not you when you’re hungry.” 

But perhaps I should ditch the snack-pack and embrace her full on crankiness from now on. A research study published in the International Journal of Obesity has shown that intermittent fasting—and the hangry-ness that may follow— is linked to several health benefits.

Intermittent fasting is a dietary technique that involves periods of prolonged fasting followed by regular eating. It can take many forms such as fasting for 14 hours in a day followed by an 8 hour window where food intake is allowed. In this study, the variations that participants used is popularly called the 5:2 diet - 5 days of regular eating per week, mixed with two nonconsecutive days of eating approximately 500 calories. The participants did this for 6 months. And the results may really be worth being hangry. 

They lost an average of 12 and 1/2 pounds, saw a reduction in body fat percentage, waist, hip and thigh size…without even modifying their activity levels. Now imagine all the weight loss possibilities with a consistent exercise plan. Perhaps more important than shedding a few extra pounds, is the fact that intermittent fasting led to a decrease in the risk for various medical conditions like diabetes and heart diseases. 

Type 2 Diabetes (the kind that’s developed over time from poor eating) results from our bodies’ inability to use sugar. The main cause is due to our bodies’ resistance to the hormone insulin. Insulin is produced by our bodies and normally helps our body digest and use sugars. However, over time, if we overload our body with sugars and poor dietary choices, insulin becomes ineffective. That’s when we develop insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes. This is important because intermittent fasting decreased insulin resistance in the research study’s subjects. In other words, it allowed their bodies to be more effective at digesting and using sugars again. Seems awfully worth it in exchange for being a bit hangry. 

On top of that, subjects also experienced a decrease in: blood pressure, lipid (fat) levels, total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol (the BAD kind), and something called C-reactive protein (CRP). CRP is a marker in our blood that increases with inflammation in our arteries. High levels of this protein has been linked to heart diseases like high blood pressure, strokes and heart attacks. In fact, doctors often perform blood exams testing for high levels of CRP in order to assess patients’ heart attack risks. The fact that intermittent fasting led to decreases in CRP suggests its ability to decrease the likelihood of heart diseases. 

Sure, being hangry is uncomfortable —maybe even more-so for the people around you. But consider all the benefits that can come with intermittent fasting: weight loss, decrease in insulin resistance, and decrease in heart disease risk. The next time you think about grabbing that snickers bar to sooth your rage, you might consider passing. 

If you want to read more, check out the full research article here