MusclePharm develops meal replacement for war fighters

By Hank Schultz contact

- Last updated on GMT

iStock zabelin.jpg
iStock zabelin.jpg
MusclePharm has formulated a special ‘tactical’ meal replacement product in a partnership with the United States Air Force School of Aerospace Medicine (USAFSAM).

Through a cooperative research and development agreement (CRADA) initiated in late 2015, MusclePharm and USAFSAM are sharing resources to develop and produce a specially formulated Air Force powder supplement containing essential electrolytes, vitamins, minerals and proteins to meet the specific needs of special tactics airmen when in combat.

Paul Falcone, senior research and development manager, and his team at the MusclePharm Sports Science Institute (MPSSI) are collaborating with Dr. Reginald O'Hara and his Exercise Physiology Research Team at USAFSAM, part of the Air Force Research Laboratory's 711th Human Performance Wing. The goal of the collaboration is to formulate a unique powder supplement for special tactics airmen that will enhance energy, performance and cognition during sustained operations missions in extreme conditions.

Meal replacement for the long haul

There was interest in developing a meal replacement-type product that could be provided directly into their CamelBak system,​ Falcone told NutraIngredient-USA.  The goal was to supply them with nutrients to get them through 24-48 hours.

The challenge in developing the products was a steep one, Falcone said.  While the company has long experience with different products matrices and shelf life scenarios, this was a completely different formulation, with different stability targets it had to meet.  Falcone said his first choice for protein was whey, but it couldn’t hold up under those conditions, even some of the newer offerings that have been developed with greater shelf life in mind. He ultimately settled on a collagen protein that provided the required stability.

It was a very different challenge for us from a stability standpoint. We generally are not expecting someone to mix up a protein product and then leave it sit out for a day,” ​he said. Everybody is working toward shelf stability, but that is before the product has been opened.  This was about oxidative stability (i.e., after the products has been opened and mixed up).

High carbohydrate levels

Another change for MusclePharm from a formulation standpoint was to include a hefty dose of carbohydrate.  Falcone said a lot of different sources were considered, including fancy branded slow burning carbohydrate ingredients, but again, they couldn’t clear the stability bar.  He settle on a maltodextrin/fructose blend as the best solution.

Most of our products are very low carb, because that is what consumers want. And our products are designed as supplements, whereas this is meant to be a meal replacement. At the end of the day, you have two basic fuels for the body: carbs and fat.  And fat is not very water soluble,​Falcone said.

We looked at some of the more resistant starches or glucose polymers. We wanted to give them the best type of slow releasing carbs we could because those would be ideal.  But we just couldnt get the stability we wanted,​ he said.

Falcone said the product could help fill in a need in the military, that is, providing adequate nutrition in an easily ingested and absorbed form when troops are not eating enough either because of heat or exhaustion. A session at the recent meeting of the International Society of Sports Nutrition in Phoenix on nutrition lessons from the military put a spotlight on the problem.

One of the major takeaways is that war fighters are expending huge amounts of calories, but they are not necessarily eating all of the MREs ​[shelf stable field rations].  And they found when they provided a snack, like a bar, for extra calories, soldiers were eating the bar and then just eating less of the MREs,​ Falcone said.

The product will now go through a rigorous set of field tests, Falcone said.

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