Meal replacement powders, or MRP's for short, are a concept developed in the mid-90's by Bill Phillips and Dr. Scott Connelly with the introduction of Met-Rx. The idea was to present a convenient shake that could be considered a “perfect meal” – something with high protein, moderate carbohydrates, low fat, and a complete profile of vitamins and minerals. Taken in between meals or in place of a meal, you can provide your body with complete nutrition in one easy shake.
- For muscle growth, MRP's allow the critical “every three hours” concept of meal timing to be easily achieved.
- For fat loss, the same is true: 5-6 smaller meals over 3 big ones allows your metabolism to stay active throughout the day, thereby promoting better fat loss results. One of the critical mistakes “dieters” make is the idea of starving themselves to lose “weight” – I can't tell you how many times I've heard the phrase “ If I just tape my mouth shut, I'll lose weight”. There are several key mistakes here – you want to lose fat, not weight – which translated means muscle, fat and water – and you want to keep your metabolism working, if you don't eat you slow down your metabolism thereby slowing down your fat loss efforts. Using an MRP along with regular meals allows the dieter to eat often enough to keep their metabolism active and they are eating quality nutrition, not quirky fad diet foods.
- Provides complete nutrition in a convenient, easy to use and tasty form, usually a pre-measured packet.
Originally, Met-Rx was the only choice, it came in two separate containers and you had to mix them together into one shake. This idea was short lived and soon gave way to the hugely popular “packet” version we still see today. Along with the product was included a training and nutrition booklet providing nutrition tips and a routine to help those trying to get into shape. At the time, the idea was inspired by the liquid nutrition used with burn victims who had to depend on liquid meals to maintain muscle mass while they healed. In fact, this was the original intention of Dr. Connelly, until Bill Phillips discovered the idea and they decided to market the product to athletes. Probably the biggest competition to Met-Rx came from Bill Phillips himself – he soon parted ways with the company and went on to form one of the most successful supplement companies of the era: EAS (Experimental and Applied Sciences – there's a story behind this, the EAS name is rumored to actually be the first letters of the first names of the three founders). They introduced MyoPlex as their meal replacement and added a more hardcore “Deluxe” version to the line-up to appeal more to bodybuilders, adding in popular nutrients of the time: extra glutamine and HMB to name a few. Today, there are numerous choices out there, mostly very similar to the original Met-Rx and MyoPlex formulas. Met-Rx at the time used a unique milk protein (Metamyosyn) but most products today will offer whey protein or perhaps a blend of proteins. As well, several products out there take advantage of macro nutrient ratio manipulation: MHP, for example, promotes a macro nutrient profile of 45-35-20 ( carbs to protein to fat), making their “Macrobolic MRP” unique in the marketplace. Some are more low carb than others, some will add quite a few hardcore nutrients, such as Muscle Tech's MesoTech which has creatine, extra glutamine and extra BCAA's in the formula. Additionally, there are several women's formulas with lower calorie levels that are designed more for fat loss. On average, the typical MRP will have 30-45 grams of protein, 25-30 grams of carbs with a low sugar content and around 2-3 grams of fat with “Lite” formula's cutting these numbers approximately in half.
While MRP's are a simple product, thought must be put into the proper choice. MRP's are not just a bodybuilding supplement, in fact they have really broken into the mainstream and are now used by anyone interested in fitness. So, what is your goal and your level of training? Are you interested in fat loss? Then you have to choose one lower in carbs and calories. Are you a hardcore bodybuilder looking to maintain proper meal timing and get those hardcore nutrients? Then choose one with a little more calories, higher protein and maybe some added creatine and other hardcore nutrients. Are you an athlete and what is your sport? More importantly, what are the calorie requirements of your sport? Along with this, you want to choose one that fits your macro nutrient preferences and you will want to choose one that offers a quality whey protein source.
The use of MRP's is simple, yet critical. The concept of eating every three hours and perhaps more importantly getting in your protein requirements is so huge from a muscle growth ( or muscle maintenance if fat loss is the goal) standpoint that your success literally hinges on your ability to maintain your nutrition. While whole food meals should always be the mainstay of your eating plan, adding in two MRP packets a day can be a lifesaver – all you need is a shaker and your liquid of choice. You can even pre-make the shake and take it with you. The implications here are many: do you travel for your job? Take a packet or two with you! Are you on the go and usually miss lunch? Take some packets! Do you work alone and can't sit down to a meal – like I used to, working in retail – then take some packets! So, we see how MRP's can fit into your eating program, making it much easier to achieve your goals. As always, carefully read the label before buying and always follow any instructions provided.