The Future of Fitness Explained: a primer on MCT oil and some of its supposed benefits
If you love to learn about new exercise and fitness trends, The Future of Fitness explains it to you in a way you can understand and separate the hype cycle from actual results.
You may have heard of MCT oil as the silver bullet to supercharge your exercise routine, brain power, weight loss, fight Alzeheimer’s disease, and decrease sugar cravings. It provides you with energy and puts you into ketosis (see The Future of Fitness Explained: The Keto Diet if you need a refresher on Ketones and Ketosis). But MCT oil has also been accused of causing unpleasant side effects and has been called an expensive health trend whose only effect is taking your money.
What is MCT oil? Medium chain triglycerides (MCTs) are partially man-made fats. MCTs are made by processing coconut and palm kernel oils in the laboratory. Because of the shorter chain length of the fatty acids, MCTs are rapidly broken down and absorbed into the body. Unlike longer-chain fatty acids, MCTs go straight to the liver and can be used as an instant energy source or turned into ketones. Unlike regular fatty acids, ketones can cross from the blood to the brain. This provides an alternative energy source for the brain, which ordinarily uses glucose for fuel.
How can I use MCT oil? You can’t cook with MCT oil, owing to its low smoke point, which is far lower than most commonly used oils. It is most often taken as a dietary supplement. MCT oil is flavourless, tasteless, and colourless. This means it can be added to salads in dressings or used in beverages.
Does it work? MCT oil has been called a super fuel since your body absorbs MCTs more rapidly than long-chain triglycerides. They can be quickly broken down and they can be used as an immediate source of energy. This can create the mental sense of clarity that many people experience when using MCT oil. When it comes to weight-loss claims, some research suggests that replacing other dietary fats with MCT oil may be beneficial. However, MCT oil is high in calories. A tablespoon of MCT oil contains 14g of fat, 100% of which is saturated and 115 calories. Benefits like detoxification and improved athletic performance are supported by little, mixed, or no evidence.
Should I Try It? It’s very rare that I tell people to stay away from a product. But for some people, myself included, MCT oil can cause significant gastrointestinal distress. You might have seen the word “liver” in almost every paragraph of this summary. High doses of MCT oil may increase the amount of fat in your liver in the long term. That’s why MCT oil is not appropriate for people with liver damage or disease. If you have any liver or gallbladder issues, you should stay away from anything that includes MCT or uses the word “bulletproof” in its name or labelling.
If you know your health history and haven’t experienced these types of issues, you can consult with your doctor or see how your body reacts. If you feel uncomfortable, stop immediately.
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