An enormous number of athletes swear by MCT oil claiming that it makes them more energized.
This begs the question, what is it in this substance that makes a lot of people say that it boosts their metabolism and transforms their body into a high-powered fat-burning plant.
Many nutritionists around the world have started recommending it to their clients as an excellent weight-loss tool. Even supplement companies have taken to selling it and marketing it as one of the best fat burning supplements you can find on the market.
Many professional athletes claim that it drastically improves their performance enabling them to train for longer periods of time.
What is MCT ?
MCT is an acronym for medium chain triglycerides. LCT which is an acronym for long chain triglycerides are the opposite of MCT and they are much more common in the majority of food products.
MCTs are largely made of capric and caprylic fatty acids and comes in the form of a yellowish, translucent liquid with no smell when kept at a room temperature.
MCTs can be found naturally found primarily in coconut oil and some other products. It’s been widely used as a means to add extra calories to food products for small children.
In recent years, professional bodybuilders and fitness enthusiasts have also started consuming MCT as a part of their regular diet, taking advantage of the fat burning and energizing properties.
So, you might wonder what the science is behind all of these claims and how exactly would it help you to burn off the excess fat.
According to numerous studies done over the years, once MCTs enter your bloodstream, they skip the digestion process, which LCTs, on the other hand, must go through.
The key to MCTs effectiveness is that they give rapid energy to the body and they aren’t as likely to be stored in the fat tissue, in comparison to LCTs.
It has also been proven that when the meal has MCTs in it, the thermogenic effect is increased leading to a drastic increase in the amount of burned calories. If you burn more calories, fewer of them are deposited as fat, which leads to an overall decrease of body fat levels.
A large number of proponents of ketogenic diets and MCT oil tell us that the power of MCTs to maintain energy levels can be explained in the following manner: when MCTs are metabolized, they resemble much more and take the properties of a carbohydrate instead of fat. Let’s remind ourselves that carbohydrate is the body’s preferred choice of energy.
Unlike other types of fat, MCTs do not pass the lymphatic system and are instead taken straight to your liver where they are metabolized, releasing energy in the process, exactly like a carbohydrate would.
This, in turn, releases ketones as a byproduct which can also be used by the body as an energy source or fuel.
We can uncover the mystery of how MCTs increase calorie expenditure by explaining the mechanism of how fats are processed in your body.
According to current research, the most common fats usually found in food products like LCTs have around 16 to 22 carbon atoms in their molecules. This amount of carbon atoms is also found in the fat deposited in your body.
MCTs, on the other hand, have around 6 to 12 carbon atoms in their molecule. The difference between these two types is the main reason why MCTs go through a different process in the body than other types of fats.
If we go down even further and take into consideration that around seventy percent of our bodies are made of water (and fats aren’t very water-soluble), the body is forced to go through a series of complex digestive processes to absorb and process the fats.
The gall bladder releases bile helping in dissolving the LCTs which releases small amounts of fat called micelles.
Cells in the walls of intestines create protein carries molecules which will act as triglyceride transporters. These complexes made up of protein and fat are named chylomicrons which are released into the lymphatic system from your intestines.
These substances enter the bloodstream via the thoracic duct. Once they enter it, they are transported throughout the entire body. The hormone insulin forces the fat cells to take in the fat molecules and deposit them as fat tissue.
The fact the MCTs have a tighter molecular structure makes them more soluble in water, which makes it a lot easier for the body to absorb them and eliminates the need for a series of complex digestive processes.
While common fats are much more likely to be deposited as body fat tissue, MCTs are taken directly from your intestines to your liver by your portal vein.
Once inside the liver, one part is transformed into ketones, which will serve as an energy source for the muscles. Another part will be used for thermogenesis and another small portion will be transformed into ATP, which is the cells’ energy currency.
All of this means that once MCTs are metabolized in your liver, there is very little left that can be stored as fat tissue.
Should you use MCT ?
The fact remains that not all nutritionists are convinced of its fat burning characteristics. So far, these characteristics have only been proven to be effective in animals.
Numerous studies have confirmed that when MCTs are substituted for LCTs, animals gain a lot less weight, accumulate less fat tissue and experience increased metabolic rate.
However, the research of how MCTs affect fat loss has not been that extensive on humans. Furthermore, the total fat amount ingested by animals that would affect performance is far bigger than an average human would consume.
As we previously mentioned the body is primarily made up of water (~70%) and fat isn’t dissolved efficiently in water. The body needs to go through a series of complex digestive phases so that it can dissolve, absorb and process the fats.
Many nutritionists have also suggested that there might be potential risks to ingesting MCT oil to your health.
Several studies have shown that MCTs consumption can raise the levels of cholesterol the same way palm oil does which is also a fat that is well-known to raise cholesterol.
The majority of doctors advise against consuming MCT oil if you are diabetic, have intestinal issues or high levels of cholesterol.
Any amount of surplus calories, regardless of the food it is coming from, has the potential to be deposited as fat; however particular foods can be converted and stored a lot easier than others.
Common dietary fats such as LCTs, have the exact same molecular structure as your body fat, making the surplus calories coming from these fats much less likely to be stored as fat.
Considering that MCTs are metabolized by your liver, they are instantly burned and turned into energy.
This is why MCTs are believed to be less likely to be stored as body fat, thus making them an excellent addition to diet used to support strenuous physical activity or muscle growth without the accumulation of fat deposits.