It is fairly common for you to hear people talk about having cases of MREs in a tone that is on the border of bragging. Some people feel that military rations are so high-tech and perfect for those wanting to survive. Most of this is due to the variety and the fact that you can get alot of calories with little work. However, there is alot more to MREs than just a bit of variety in high caloric foods.
WHAT IS AN MRE?
A Meal Ready to Eat(MRE) is basically a meal designed specifically for troops in the field or away from a base that offers all the cuisine they would normally indulge in. Each MRE comes with a caloric value of 900-1200 calories, giving a potential total of 3600 calories a day. The MRE is designed to provide the vitamins and calories needed to sustain a fighting soldier during combat, but to also be lightweight and easy to use in the field. Most MREs come with a flameless heater in order to offer a method of enjoying the main meal, though all components are perfectly palatable when eaten cold. Many countries have yet to integrate this highly convenient heating method, resulting in US MREs still being the standard by which countries hold their own rations to.
The US MRE is designed to provide the fighting soldier with the calories needed to sustain their energy levels in combat. These calories are composed of abnormally high levels of certain key vitamins, minerals, and macronutrients that the body uses in high quantities during high physical and mental stress. These vitamins and minerals are pumped into the meals and sides along with colorings, flavoring, and preservatives. The peanut butter spread, for example, has 250 calories and is basically just regular peanut butter pumped full of vitamins not found in normal peanut butter.
The specific micronutrient(vitamins and minerals) and macronutrient(protein, carbs, fats) numbers that an MRE has is based on what the government has found a soldier to need in a 24 hour period in combat. The studies the government conducted in order to find this out can be traced back to WW2, with continued studies done from then on. In an MRE, you will find many things like sugar in order to give an instant energy boost, along with high concentrations of vitamin C. Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin that supports muscles and bones, which are constantly being used and abused in combat.
Note that in almost all of the components, there is a huge level of sodium. Sodium is necessary for you to retain water. Someone on the move alot, carrying alot of stuff will use up alot of water. Also, you will note that there is not much protein in these meals since protein takes alot of time and energy to process in high quantities. Fat is supplemented with high levels of sugars and carbohydrates, which are much easier for your body to process in a short period of time. Note that this is not good for your liver, kidneys, or brain in the long run to be running off of sugars and carbs.
Though the calorie count in an MRE is high relative to the collective size and weight, this does not make it a good option for those in need of a long term sustenance solution. Even for those in combat, the military does not like having people live off MREs for more than a couple weeks without providing vitamin and caloric variety. This is because the high concentrations of limited nutrients can, for lack of a better word, POISON your body in the long term whether you are active and especially if you are not.
Given that MREs are designed for people in need of high quantities of vitamins, consistent consumption of them may cause certain illnesses that are caused by an imbalance of vitamins and minerals. Things like having too much Vitamin C can be very bad for people not constantly on the move and exerting lots of energy. Some symptoms of having too much Vitamin C would be stomach cramps, diarrhea, and even kidney stones. Having too much of almost any vitamin can lead to kidney stones and digestion issues eventually. It may not be something you can get right away, but it is something you can get after constant consumption for more than a month without bodily exertion. There is a reason that the military doesn't want it's troops eating an MRE three times a day for more than a month, especially when they are only mildly active. I don't think this is the kind of issues you want to deal with when a doctor and medical resources are not an option.
I am not a dietitian, but I am pretty familiar with the ramifications of having too many MREs for too long. My recommendation for those stockpiling MREs is to use an MRE in a manner of supplementation to other foods. Take multivitamins, work out daily, and be sure to be selective of the contents you are consuming during the day. An MRE can be a very quick source of energy and nutrition, but it needs to be used wisely in order to avoid hurting your body in the short or long term. Many people having an MRE after a while of not having one will experience diarrhea or painful cramps and constipation, which is generally a sign of your body responding to having too high of a micronutrient or macronutrient concentration without needing it. In the end, make sure you are watching what you are putting in your body. Nutrient-dense food is not always the best choice for our bodies, unless used in moderation while undergoing heavy activity. This is just my opinion based on my experience, of course.
Do It Rite
Alaska-Based Youtube Vlogger, Retired Marine, Firearm and Gear Tester.