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MCT Oil Supplements: Some serious benefits

Here at Amino Z, we are always on the lookout for new supplements that are not only making a splash in the health industry, but actually have some evidence to support their use -- and one type that has been making the rounds of late are MCT oil supplements.

But what are they, and do you need to be taking them?

What are MCTs?

In short, MCT stands for “medium-chain triglycerides,” and they are a unique type of fat found in things like coconut oil.

In fact, you could probably blame MCTs for the coconut oil craze we have seen sweep the fitness industry over the last few years… but that is a topic for another day.

Now, what are MCTs?

Well, firstly the word triglycerides is the technical term that we use for fat. In most circumstances, triglycerides serve one of two main purposes -- they are either burned for energy, or stored as body fat.

It is important to note that all triglycerides are composed of a single glycerol molecule, and three fatty acid molecules. However, the number of carbon atoms attached to these fatty acids molecules dictates the type triglyceride.

Most of the fat you consume on a daily basis is made up of long-chain fatty acids, which contain 13–21 carbon atoms. On the other hand, short-chain fatty acids are composed of fewer than 6 carbon atoms.

And then we have the medium-chain fatty acids found in MCTs, which contain between 6 and 12 carbon atoms.

The primary medium-chain fatty acids found in our diet are:

  • Caproic acid or hexanoic acid (6 carbon atoms)
  • Caprylic acid or octanoic acid (8 carbon atoms
  • Capric acid or decanoic acid (10 carbon atoms)
  • Lauric acid or dodecanoic acid (12 carbon atoms)

All of which have been shown to have a number of positive effects on the body -- but more on that later.

What are MCT Oil Supplements?

With all this in mind, MCT Oil is a highly concentrated source of medium-chain triglycerides.

MCT oil is made through a very unique process called “fractionation”, which involves extracting and isolating the MCTs from coconut oil, and then collecting them in their own form of oil.

Most good quality MCT oils generally contain either 100% caprylic acid, 100% capric acid, or a combination of the two. The reason  being that these two particular medium-chain fatty acids appear to have the most positive impacts on health and function.

Now, given the fact that MCT oil does come in oil form, your ability to consume it can be somewhat limited -- which is what led to the development of MCT oil supplements such as MCT oil powder and capsules.

These very simply offer MCT oil in a more “user friendly” format.

MCT Oil Benefits

Now, the reason that MCT oil supplements have become so popular is because medium-chain triglycerides appear to be metabolised differently to many of the other triglycerides found in the food you eat.

And this can have some interesting effects on your body.

1.   Faster Fat Loss

When it comes to fat loss, there is no magic bullet -- the key comes down to making sure that you exercise regularly and maintain a consistent energy deficit over the duration of weeks and months.

However, it does appear that MCT oil supplements can make the fat loss process easier [1].

The supplementation of MCT oil has been shown to increase the release of two hormones known as “peptide YY” and “leptin.” These two hormones can increase feelings of fullness and satiety, which can make it easier to adhere to a diet.

In fact, research has shown that those individuals who use MCT oil supplements daily tend to snack less throughout the day, all while experiencing lower hunger signals and greater reductions in body weight and waist circumference.

Again, it is not magic, but it will help.

2.   Better Exercise Performance

There is even some evidence to suggest that MCT oil can improve training performance in a big way by preventing the accumulation of lactate in your muscle tissue [2].

Research has demonstrated that athletes who take MCT before exercise generate lower levels of lactate, while simultaneously reporting that the exercise felt easier, compared to those taking other fatty acid supplements.

This may have the potential to improve the quality of your training sessions, causing increases in training volume and better gains in strength, size, and fat loss.

3.   Enhanced Brain Function

One of the more interesting effects associated with MCT supplementation comes down to ketones [3].

When MCTs are metabolized for energy, they produce ketones as a bit of a byproduct.  However, far from being useless, these ketones actually act as an alternative energy source for the cells within your brain.

This has been shown to improve brain function and mental acuity.

Interestingly, this finding has led to some research exploring the potential application for MCT oil as a treatment and preventative for neurodegenerative disorders like Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.

From a training perspective, this is likely to cause improvements in focus and attention that can improve the quality of your training sessions -- leading to more progress of the duration of a longer term block of training.

4.   Lower Blood Cholesterol

Moving away from performance and more into the realm of “health”, MCT oil supplements have also been shown to cause some significant alterations in blood cholesterol levels.

More specifically, they appear to lower LDL cholesterol, while increasing HDL cholesterol. This is quite important because high LDL cholesterol levels are associated with an increased risk of heart disease, while HDL appears to prevent its onset.

As a result, MCT oil supplements could offer a very useful way to stave off heart disease and keep you healthy and lifting well into your golden years.

5.   Improved Blood Sugar

Finally, research has also shown that MCT is can lower resting blood sugar levels [5].

High blood sugar levels are one of the primary factors that contribute to the onset of diabetes, which is one of the most prevalent diseases in the world as we know it. Moreover, high blood sugar may lead to reductions in insulin sensitivity, which could blunt recovery after exercise.

This means that MCT oil supplements may not only prevent your risk of disease, but also enhance your recovery after training -- making them a great option for anyone interested in this whole health and fitness thing.

MCT Oil Side Effects

On a positive note, there is no evidence to suggest that MCT oil interacts in a negative manner with other medications, nor that any serious side effects are associated with its consumption. Although, some minor side effects have been reported.

These include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Stomach pains
  • Slightly upset stomach

It is also important to note that most of these can be avoided by simply starting with lower doses, which you can increase gradually as you become accustomed to MCTs.

And of course, if you are considering adding a MCT oil supplement to your routine, we would recommend you talk with a medical professional first. As safe as it is, you want to make sure that it is a good fit for you on an individual level.

Summary

MCT oils have become one of the most commonly used health supplements on the planet.

Used by elite athletes, weekend warriors, and general pundits alike, they appear to offer a useful and effective method of increasing fat loss, boosting exercise and mental performance, and reducing your risk of diabetes and heart disease.

As an added bonus, they also appear to be very well tolerated -- although you should always seek advice from a healthcare professional first.

 

References:

  1. St-Onge, Marie-Pierre, and Aubrey Bosarge. "Weight-loss diet that includes consumption of medium-chain triacylglycerol oil leads to a greater rate of weight and fat mass loss than does olive oil." The American journal of clinical nutrition 87.3 (2008): 621-626.
  2. Gomes, Rodrigo Vitasovic, and Marcelo Saldanha Aoki. "Does medium chain triglyceride play an ergogenic role in endurance exercise performance?." Revista Brasileira de Medicina do Esporte 9.3 (2003): 162-168.
  3. Liu, Yeou?mei Christiana. "Medium?chain triglyceride (MCT) ketogenic therapy." Epilepsia 49 (2008): 33-36.
  4. Kaunitz, Hans. "Medium chain triglycerides (MCT) in aging and arteriosclerosis." Journal of environmental pathology, toxicology and oncology: official organ of the International Society for Environmental Toxicology and Cancer 6.3-4 (1986): 115-121.
  5. Khodabakhshi, Adeleh, et al. "Feasibility, safety, and beneficial effects of MCT-based ketogenic diet for breast cancer treatment: a randomized controlled trial study." Nutrition and cancer 72.4 (2020): 627-634.
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