*MRE Effects: An Overview*
By: Monte
17 May 2012

Before I found the The Rubicon, I spent many a day perusing through various survival preparedness sites. I saw a common plan among people of various prepping stages in their lives, and it involved something near and dear to my heart. Meals Ready to Eat, or simply MRE's. It is because of MRE's, I wrote this article. (I dedicate this article to the now discontinued cheese and veggie omelet MRE. Those of you that know what it was, yes…. I liked it, and I traded for it often. It made me very popular. It was delicious, and I miss it. :P )

Saving up MREs for disasters is smart. They are shelf stable, easy to store (whether in boxes or individually), and IMHO, are quite tasty. However, MREs should not be your sole source of sustenance during an emergency, which seemed to be the recurring theme with many people. Comments like "I have 50 boxes of MREs stored and ready to go!" Made me think, "Wow dude, have you ever eaten 50 boxes of MREs? Do you know what that is going to do to you?" MREs are like a drug. They have side effects while you're using them, and they come with their own unique set of withdrawal symptoms. Of course, like everything else in life, the symptoms vary in severity from person to person. What I hope to accomplish in this article is to bring to light several issues that average person ( who is not used to eating MREs) may face when begin to consume them, and continue consuming them for long periods of time in a disaster situation.

When you first start to eat MREs you're going to notice that nothing happens for a day or two. Eventually, you're going to realize, "man, I haven't gone to the bathroom in couple days……I might have a problem here." Enter effect #1: MRE's stop you up. They're not purposely built to do that, as many people think, it just happens due to their ingredients. They contain a truly massive amount of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. Remember, their sole purpose is just to provide energy. Thankfully, this effect will be reduced once your body gets used to processing MREs instead of fresh food.

Effect #2: MREs are really not that healthy for you. They provide some very basic nutrition in the form of vitamins and minerals, but it is the absolute bare minimum to survive. (Vitamins and minerals are not cheap, and don't forget, everything with the Gov is lowest bidder). So plan to supplement or add additional items to your diet. My personal preference is not trying to survive off of MREs alone. It can be done, (I have done it), but I found that it is not an enjoyable experience. First, standard military boxes have only 24 meals, (that's 1 different meal 3x a day for only 8 days, then they start to repeat). The Long Range Patrol and Cold Weather MREs do have a completely different menu, but their food is freeze dried so requires more work to eat. (I prefer to stay away from freeze dried MRE food, I find that you can never add the right amount of water, and your meal is either soupy or crunchy) Eventually, you get bored of the meal choices, they start to lose their appeal to your appetite, and it gets harder to eat them. Next, after eating them for long periods, you start to crave everything but the MREs you're eating. I believe that this is your bodies attempt to let you know that it is not getting enough of what it needs. Usually, taking a multivitamin, or occasionally treating yourself to some fresh fruits and veggies will do wonders for the cravings and you're moral. I know I personally would have traded my bag of M&M's and packages of pound cake for a salad or an apple on almost every occasion if anyone had them.

Also, a very important note, the nutritional value of MRE's is as a whole unit. You have to eat the whole MRE to get the complete set of vitamins, minerals, fats, proteins, etc. For example: if you eat the main meal, but skip the crackers, (they suck I know) you've missed out on the starch portion of the MRE. I you eat the crackers and not the cheese, you've gotten the starch portion, but missed out on some fat, calcium, iron, protein, etc. The best thing to do is eat the MRE in its entirety. It does not have to be done at once you can eat it piece by piece, as long as you eat the whole thing.

So now you know what happens when you eat MREs for long periods of time. When you stop eating MREs, and switch back to real food, you get to experience what I call the "withdrawal" symptom of MREs. Now, just like when you start eating them, the symptoms and severity may vary, but this was also a common occurrence for me and my buddies. Once your body has gotten used to digesting MREs, it is going to have to get used to digesting real food. As with most upsets in your digestive system, this can lead to bouts of diarrhea. Based on my experiences, after eating MREs for six straight months and then switching back to people food, all digestive issues cleared up after a few days. (Now me and my buddies may have gotten it a little worse than most, but 10 tacos from Taco Bell a person and a 6 pack of beer are NOT wise choices for a first meal off the MRE wagon, though boy…..was it worth it ) This is just something to plan for if you are having issues with water, are prone to digestive issues, or have children that have also eaten MREs with you.

I hope that this article made you more aware of what will happen to you physically when you pull that box of MREs out of storage. MREs make a great addition to any disaster store, but they should not be your sole source of sustenance while waiting out the hard times. Thank you for reading my article and any feedback is greatly appreciated.

All materials at this site not otherwise credited are Copyright © 1996 - 2012 Trip Williams. All rights reserved. May be reproduced for personal use only. Use of any material contained herein is subject to stated terms or written permission.