A 10-week diet challenge with zero effort required? Surely there has to be a catch. Siena Yates finds out.
Lose 6.9kg in 10 weeks.
That's it. That's the promise, based on the average weight loss from previous customers.
As well as providing healthy DIY recipes and home workout guides, MuscleFuel provides ready-to-eat meals with no refined sugar, which are low on carbs, supposedly providing the "perfect amount" of lean protein, carbs and veges.
The packaging is mostly recyclable and biodegradable as they're "committed to running an eco-friendly and sustainable operation". However, there is a lot of soft plastic involved so unless you're near a soft plastics recycling point, that's problematic.
Prices range from $94.43 (for seven Lite meals) to $173.88 (for 12 Maxi Meals) per week.
MuscleFuel isn't by any means the first of its kind. The likes of Jenny Craig and Weight Watchers have been providing diet meals for years.
Jenny Craig launched in 1983, but Weight Watchers launched its first product range - which included heat-and-eat meals - in 1968, just five years after the company was created.
The difference is MuscleFuel has the modern-day convenience we've come to expect. It doesn't require a membership, you can cancel at any time without copping a fee and you can order from your phone and have it delivered to your door - just like Ubereats only better for you.
This isn't some new-fangled diet trend; it's mostly just cutting down portion sizes.
According to a report in Australian Family Physician (the journal of The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners), weight gain occurs "when there is a positive energy imbalance" - that is, you're consuming more energy than you're using up, so to lose weight you have to flip that, by introducing a calorie deficit - eat less, move more.
According to AFP, an energy deficit of 1050–4200 kilojoules (or around 250–1000 calories) per day is required to manage a 1kg a month to 1kg a week weight loss.
According to the ODHP in the US, estimates of how many calories you should consume a day range from 1600-2400 calories for women and 2000-3000 for men but it depends on a range of variables like body type, age and physical activity levels.
Musclefuel's Lite meals come in at 300-400 calories and the Maxi meals at 450-600 calories, so if you're used to eating 2000 calories a day and switch to eating two light meals a day plus a healthy breakfast, you'll likely hit a calorie deficit of around 800.
MuscleFuel is great if, like me, you hate cooking and never have time for it anyway. I put my first order in online and it arrived promptly the next Saturday morning. The week that followed was incredible. I'd go to work with a ready-to-go meal in my bag for lunch and come home and chuck another one in the microwave for dinner. No thinking about what to eat, no wasting money, no cooking, no cleaning, no effort whatsoever. Dream result.
The sheer convenience was - at first - enough to outweigh the reality that the food very quickly became a bit boring. At the end of the day it is still a diet designed for weight loss so things are going to be a little blander than usual and you're going to wind up with a lot of meat and veg. That said, some of the meals were genuinely tasty and became fast favourites (shout-out to the Garlic Chicken and Hemp Chipotle Chicken) but others... well... they kept me alive and functioning.
The hard part, as with any diet, is sticking to it. You'd think it would be easy with food delivered straight to your door, but by week three or four the meals had lost their novelty and I was skipping them in favour of the tastier options my colleagues were bringing to their desks (I know, I know, no self-control - sue me).
I think in the end I only dropped about 3kg, but that was entirely my fault. Had I stuck to it religiously (and not kept skipping the gym) I could've easily hit the promised 6-7kg target.
If you're lazy like me and just want all the work taken out of dieting, MuscleFuel is for you. I've done the whole "weigh all your ingredients, use no oil or seasoning, survive on grilled chicken and steamed veges" diet and it sucked. It worked, but it sucked. With MuscleFuel, you can't expect gourmet, Insta-worthy meals, but you can expect more than dry chicken breast and broccoli and - I can't reiterate this enough - It. Takes. Zero. Effort. If you're a foodie, you will be disappointed. A friend of mine quit after one week. But if you're in it to lose weight (and that is the whole point of the 10-Week Challenge) you really can't go wrong. But you absolutely get out what you put in.