Here’s What Happens When You Eat Nothing but MREs


Have you heard the news? The Army has an offer for those of you who are particularly brave. You no longer have to join the Army if you want to serve your country. You just have to eat their food.

U.S. Army researchers invited men and women to help improve their Meals, Ready-to-Eat — if those volunteers can eat nothing else for three straight weeks.

Participants would eat and drink the provided rations for 21 days, then go back to a normal diet for 10 days, according to the study. It’s open to people between the ages of 18 and 62 who “meet additional screening criteria.”

The goals of the study go beyond improving the taste, the Army Times reported. Researchers say they’re hoping to add other nutrients to the food and to look at its impact on bacteria inside the digestive system, potentially improving what they call “gut health.”

Don’t worry. You’ll be properly compensated for your service.

Volunteers can’t have alcohol to help swallow the food — they’ll need to avoid all outside food and drink for those first three weeks, officials say. The Army will pay volunteers $200 each for completing the study.

All kidding aside, I don’t think you could give me enough money to eat MREs every day for three weeks. Or at least, the Army doesn’t have enough money to compensate the number I have in my head. I’m willing to bet that a lot of you reading this feel the same way. For those of you who haven’t tried MREs before, let me fill you in on what’s going to happen to the poor bastards who volunteer for this study.

It’s probably not a coincidence that the researchers are trying to study the effects these meals have on gut flora. If you read the ingredients list for these meals, you’ll find that they contain a lot of the same garbage you would find in junk food. Lots of chemicals and GMOs, and much much more. If you had a prepared MRE dish in front of you, and you closed your eyes before taking a bite, you’d probably recognize the taste as something remarkably similar to that of fast food, convenience store take out, or TV dinners. Though it’s prepared in a way that allows the food to last much longer, that’s pretty much all it is.

So what do those junk foods do to your gut flora? As some studies have shown, they can absolutely obliterate vast swaths of your stomach’s bacteria within a matter of days. This might help explain why MREs are notorious for causing constipation (which is also caused by their lack of fiber and high calorie content). Other signs of poor gut flora include inflammation, bloating, gas, fatigue, and diarrhea.

So if you ate nothing but MREs for three weeks, it’s safe to say that your body would be kind of a mess. Granted, some people don’t seem to have any problem with digesting MREs, but for most us, three weeks would be devastating. In the past, a lot of veterans have reported severe constipation for the first few days, sometimes followed by the exact opposite for another few days.

However, it is possible for your body to adapt to this stuff. After all, many of our servicemen have had to eat MREs for months at a time when on deployment, so it’s certainly possible, even if it’s not desirable. Given enough time, your bowel movements would probably return to a (somewhat) normal state, and the other side effects would subside. The horrible ingredients in these meals would still be doing damage to your body, but eventually you’d return to functional state.

Once you stop eating them though, you might run into a few more problems. That’s why this study wants to follow their volunteers for a while after they go back to eating normal food. After eating MRE’s for three weeks, your digestive system would have adapted to the food. Going back to real food could be a real shock to the body. Diarrhea, gas, and cramps would probably be felt for at least a few days, until the digestive tract “relearned” how to digest real food.

Overall, I can say without a doubt, that I do not envy the volunteers for this study. While some people seem to be able to handle MRE’s without any severe symptoms, eating them for three weeks would be a wretched experience for most of us. That is after all, one of the reasons why they’re paying people to do it.

On a final note, if you have any MRE horror stories, feel free to share them in the comments.

Joshua Krause was born and raised in the Bay Area. He is a writer and researcher focused on principles of self-sufficiency and liberty at Ready Nutrition. You can follow Joshua’s work at our Facebook page or on his personal Twitter.

Joshua’s website is Strange Danger

This information has been made available by Ready Nutrition

Originally published January 5th, 2016
The Ready Nutrition Vegetable Garden In A Can
If you found this article useful, please Vote for Ready Nutrition as a top prepper web site.
share this article with others
related reading
featured today

Leave A Comment...
Ready Nutrition Home Page

  • patriotism-matters

    I read a lot about people warning for MRE and constipation. So i’d thought i’d share what we used to resolve that problem.

    This recipe will regulate most stomachs, and is perfectly field expedient. No accurate measurements needed.

    in a zip lock bag, combine

    I chocolate bar.
    I handful of raisins
    I handful of hazelnuts. or Almonds.

    Keep close to body for about 1 hour, then move to an exterior pocket. The body heat will melt / combine the ingredients. Then they’ll solidify into a makeshift chocholate bar that looks about as awful as you can imagine
    (We called it Sh-t mix for it’s appearance more than its’ effect)

    The raisins help with constipation, the hazelnuts with the runs, and the chocolate is quick energy for whatever you’re doing that day.

    Eat a bite every so often while working, marching, or whatever. About one bag a day will keep you completely regular. No matter how many MRE’s you eat.

  • 1st Cav A/229th AHB

    After eating C-Rations, a good MRE or LRPS as they called them in Nam, was a treat. No, they are far from 5 star, but actually, not bad at all.

    • Nubmaeme

      I’ll take C-Rats over MREs any day.

      • 1st Cav A/229th AHB

        Maybe the MRE’s are different than what we had in Nam, called Long Range Patrol’s (LRP, pronounced “Lurps”)??? They had a Chile Con Carne that was great, beef stew wasn’t bad at all either. Mix 1.5 pt hot water??? Maybe I was extra hungry, and any thing was good. We all thought the LRP’s were ok. Our c-rats were dated 1956 as I remember, someone pointed out one time. LRP’s or C-rats, the compressed “fruit cake” was BAD.

        Thanks for your service.

      • Nubmaeme

        I never got to try the Nam-issued LRPs but I know some who were there and had to eat them. I had the 70’s to the early 90’s versions of the MREs. Still don’t like them today. I’d forgotten about the fruit cake in the C-Rats! Gee, thanks for the memory.

        Nam was tough on everyone, especially guys in your position. Glad you made it home. And thanks for your service too.

  • DrSique

    I have been a Monster Mass fan for years. Tastes good and has a great protein content. As for the MRE study, why not save a huge amount of time and money by simply including a probiotic capsule in every meal. I’m just sayin’

    • FalconMoose

      Good idea!

      • J_a_s_o_n

        Give that man a medal!

  • Catherine McCoy

    Ive never eaten one. What do they taste like?

    • Nubmaeme

      The best way to find out is to go to your local surplus store and buy one. Some places will sell them individually. It is very difficult to explain how they taste to someone who hasn’t had the delightful experience of dining on an MRE.

    • Harry Merkin

      Everyone should experience it once. I was in the service during the C-Rat years. Try one of those too. Any Army surplus store should have both. It will make you appreciate those who serve.

  • Your body does NOT adapt to this kind of food or any food , it simply reacts to what it is given. Basically as a chemical process or reaction. MREs are not healthy at all, but they are intended for less than ideal conditions, not for long term normal diets. Amazingly many prepper types bought them and think they can survive on them ? Good luck with that. There are other things you could eat with MREs and help them digest better.There is a much better way ! Our gut microbials are very important indeed for our overall health. Realize 70% of Americans are either over weight to a point that it greatly affects their health or they are simply obese and very unhealthy. So for many folks it is a mute point because they have no idea what health actually is ? Kinda putting the cart in front of the horse, Hey ? All the answers are at my site for free !

  • Craig Reynolds

    Why not go and make this offer to some homeless people. I’m sure getting 3 meals a day for 3 weeks would be a treat and they could certainly use that $200

    • Great idea! However, they’d (the military) would have to feed those same homeless folks 3 weeks of “normal” food – I pray to God I NEVER have to find out what is “normal food” for a homeless person!

  • disqus_sYjTaYBA4G

    its the iron content that constipates you- iron helps build your blood up (which comes in handy to not be anemic if you get shot). the other thing is if you build up red blood cells in your body, you’ll be able to move more oxygen when you have to exert yourself (i.e. running…). But I just looked at some of this stuff and there is so much iron in it you won’t be able to poo for a week. I know, I have patients on this and when I give them an iron pill, i give them a stool softner as well. RN

    • Faegir Volva

      How much iron do runners need?

  • Sideliner1950

    So, JK, here we are now, Dec. 31, 2016…New Year’s Eve, all these many months after your intriguing article was published. Did the tests take place? Have you received and published any feedback from the research? What was learned, what conclusions were drawn, what actions were taken?



    Should have been tested better to begin with because they are requiring the solders in field training for 2 to 4 weeks to live off them and sleep out in the weather. I thought it was a high tech Army these days and momile everything and smart everything.?

  • Johnny Utah

    Umm…..if they aren’t healthy for you, WHY DO THEY USE THEM??? The stupidity & cluelessness of some organizations is astounding. If they are only meant to be eaten for a week or two, then just stock up on normal dry food. GOODNESS!!!!

Ready Nutrition Articles By Category
Looking for something specific on our site? Start your search in our list of articles by main category topic.