If you’ve heard of the keto or paleo diets, then you’ve probably heard of MCTs. You haven’t?!? Well, allow me to give you the MCT lowdown and show you how they may benefit your health.
What are MCTs?
MCTs are medium-chain triglycerides, a form of saturated fatty acid that has numerous health benefits ranging from improved cognitive function to better weight management. They’re metabolized differently than long-chain triglycerides (LCT) found in most other foods.
MCTs are found in tons of foods that you may already have at home in your fridge. Here’s a list of common foods containing MCTs as a percentage of total fats (source):
· Coconut oil: 15%
· Cheese: 7.3%
· Milk: 6.9%
· Butter: 6.8%
· Yogurt: 6.6%
Most people who follow keto and paleo diets get their MCTs from MCT oil. MCT oil is refined coconut oil, packed with a concentrated dose of MCTs that provides users more MCTs per tablespoon than traditional coconut oil. (15g per tablespoon vs. 2g per tablespoon)
Why All The Hoopla For MCTs?
In the health and fitness world, any product that supports weight loss/management is a must-have product... that’s the case with MCT oil.
One study concluded that replacing LCTs with MCTs in your diet may lead to weight loss and improved body composition. Your body uses the fat in the coconut oil to burn faster and convert into ketones quicker for your body's use.
Another study concluded that MCT oil derived from coconut sources are more effective than olive oil when used in a weight loss plan. The leading forms include C8 and C10, with 8-carbon chains and 10-carbon chains effectively that convert quicker in your body, allowing for sustained energy and an afterburner to your workout.
Why doesn’t the general public know about how MCT oil benefits weight loss?
Mainly because of “fat fright.” Many people are still convinced that all saturated fat is bad for them. (Thank you, 1980s health experts!) For that reason, MCTs are largely missing from “standard Western” diets, which are known for being extremely low in saturated fat.
However, people are now realizing that low-fat diets aren’t necessarily the best option, and that fats can be implemented into diets in healthy ways.
Many traditional populations living in tropical areas eat a large amount of coconuts and other MCT-rich foods daily. These same people deal with little to no chronic diseases compared to more modern areas. Luckily for them, they skipped the “low-fat diet” train back in the ‘80s.
Your Body Metabolizes MCTs More Efficiently Than Other Fats
Picture this: MCTs are Cinderella while LCTs are the wicked step-sister. Now let’s get technical for a second.
Because MCTs have a shorter length of fatty acids than LCTs, it’s easier for the body to break them down where they’re then rapidly absorbed by the liver.
From there, MCTs are used to give the body an instant energy source as they convert directly into ketones, which are substances produced when the liver breaks down large amounts of fat. When carb intake is kept low, rapid weight loss can occur because MCT’s calories are turned into energy and used as fuel, not stored as body fat. (One of the major reasons why people are drawn to the keto diet.)
This is why MCT oil is the more effective oil for weight loss versus coconut and olive oil.
4 Health Benefits of MCTs
1. Reduces Risk of Metabolic Syndrome
A 2010 study found that MCT oil can help prevent the development of metabolic syndrome — a term given to a cluster of metabolic disorders such as obesity, dyslipidemia, hypertension and impaired fasting glucose levels.
2. Improves Brain Function
According to a 2004 study, MCTs in coconut oil support memory function, and may improve symptoms from Alzheimer’s disease.
3. Improves Digestion & Ability to Absorb Nutrients
Both MCT oil and coconut oil are beneficial for balancing bacteria in the gut microbiota. This has positive effects on digestive symptoms, energy expenditure and the ability to absorb protein and other nutrients from the foods you eat.
4. May Help Prevent Sickness
MCTs have powerful, natural antibiotics that contain properties that may prevent illnesses such as pneumonia and urinary tract infections.
Get on board
MCTs are the best fat and yet most people don’t even know about them. But now you do!
You can use MCT oil and mix it in your pre-workout or post-workout protein shakes to improve training intensity and recovery. You can even use it in your morning coffee to help get your day started right.
Regardless, if you’re paleo, keto or some other type of dieter, incorporating MCTs into your nutrition plan should provide you with a world of benefits!