MCT Oil

The energy of the mind is the essence of life.

― Aristotle

You may recall that back at The Beginning I mentioned drinking a version of “bulletproof” coffee. As I mentioned then, the real thing is done with MCT oil, but I was using plain old coconut oil and dodging spears from the Bulletproof Faithful for my heresy.

Then a few posts back, I went on and on about coconuts and coconut oil. If you recall, I mentioned that drinking coffee with butter and coconut oil resulted in feeling full and energetic. When we ran out of coconut oil and then got some more two weeks later, I was able to narrow down that it was likely the coconut oil that made the biggest energy difference.

The most reasonable physiological explanation for that is the body’s use of the medium chain triglycerides that make up about 68% of the fat in coconut oil. This particular length of fatty acid doesn’t have to be broken down by the digestive system in the same way as long chain fats. It goes instead to the liver, where it is directly taken up and used for energy.

MCT oil is basically coconut and/or palm oil where all but the MCTs have been removed, thus making it quite a bit more potent. In all my reading and research I had noticed a lot of people who really loved MCT oil–and not just dieters. Seems the people who love it the most are actually bodybuilders.

I find bodybuilder forums to be quite fascinating, actually. These are guys who don’t really care what you or anyone else thinks. I suppose if you can crush people’s heads like melons with your too-big-to-fit-into-a-shirt muscles, you don’t really feel threatened by much.

Because of that, these guys don’t seem to buy into the FDA’s food pyramid. They buy into what works, and a lot of them have been low–carbing it for a while. They also love MCT oil and claim it helps them build muscle faster. Not “stupid illegal drug” faster, but just more quickly than you would otherwise. A lot of dieters love it, too. They swear that it helps them lose fat, particularly abdominal fat, faster. Of course other dieters say they notice nothing when taking it.

I’m a skeptic by nature, which is probably why I’m here writing this at all. I read all this about MCT oil, but I didn’t feel compelled to believe anything till I tried it for myself, and I didn’t feel any incredible compulsion to rush out and try it right away. It took a while to get around to, but now we proudly present for your approval: a totally N=1 observational study about MCT oil.

Excited?

I should say first off that what I expected from MCT oil was exactly nothing. I personally figured there would be no real difference from coconut oil. After all, I do already consume a lot of fat. What difference could a few grams of MCT make? Second, I should clarify that I’m not a big believer in supplements. I think a healthy diet shouldn’t require you to take pills. If it does, it’s not a healthy diet. And I don’t think there’s any magic pill that makes you lose weight, gain muscle, or anything else. At least not in a healthy way. I was willing to try the MCT oil because I considered it just a concentrated amount of coconut or palm oil, not some kind of chemical or “natural herb” that we never were meant to eat in giant quantities.

I’ve been taking about 9g per day, which is nothing to the 30g per day or more that the bodybuilders and coffee people are taking. I also typically have about 2 tablespoons of coconut oil a day. After taking MCT oil for about three weeks, here’s what I’ve found:

1. I have more energy when I take it. Noticeably more and quickly. It’s not magic. I’d liken it more to a very pleasant version of morning coffee, but with none of the jitteriness or sleeping problems at night. I definitely notice it, and if I’m feeling tired staring at the computer for a few hours, 3 more grams will pick me right up.

2. I’ve lost weight a little faster, especially around my stomach. Again, nothing magic. Just a little faster than before.

3. I’ve gained muscle a little faster. I do some weightlifting, but results have been more noticeable since I started taking the MCT oil.

4. I’m warmer when I take it. Not uncomfortably so, but this seems to coincide with the extra energy. The general feeling is that I’m running faster. Metabolism is sped up. Of course I can’t verify this.

So what does this prove? Nothing whatsoever. You do what you think is best for you. But I think I can safely say you’re not going to hurt yourself giving MCT oil (or plenty of extra coconut or palm oil) a shot. And you might get a little boost from it–it probably depends on the person.

For more info, some studies here, here, here, here and here. (Though on that last one I don’t think it was fair to put the MCT up against long chain fats from margarine. Margarine has a host of other problems. Putting it against a similar natural fat like lard or butter would have been a better test.)

 

 

 

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