Shedding body fat and getting ripped takes determination, willpower and discipline. People are always looking for that ‘miracle supplement’, or ‘silver bullet’ to make it easier. Truth be told, nothing will make it easy. You are still going to have to work your butt off. However, there are a few tips and tricks that could help get you there quicker. One such tip is increasing your intake of Medium Chain Triglycerides (MCTs) or MCT oil.

What is MCT oil?

MCT oil is a fat produced from coconut oil and palm kernels. Sometimes people  just refer to it as coconut oil. 

Now before you ask,  “how is increasing my fat intake going to help?” you need to realize that not all fats are created equal. 

Most dietary fat is made up of Long Chain Triglycerides (LCT’s), consisting of 12-18 carbon atoms per chain. Medium Chain Triglycerides on the other hand are shorter, consisting of 6-10 carbon atoms per chain. Because of this difference in structure, the two fats have vastly different properties.

What makes MCTs useful?

Due to the reduced chain length, MCTs are absorbed and then metabolized very rapidly. They are very efficiently converted  into fuel for immediate use, instead of being stored as fat. They are used as energy much faster than glucose and have over twice the calories per gram, making them an excellent energy source during intense exercise. 

MCT oil can help you get in shape for the following reasons:

    1. It improves endurance and athletic performance:

MCT’s ability to rapidly be used as a fuel source and improve athletic performance has attracted the attention of athletes in recent years.

Animal studies have shown the ability of MCTs to improve athletic performance and endurance. In one such study whereby mice were subjected to swimming capacity tests, those fed a diet containing MCTs outperformed those fed a diet containing LCTs (1). 

The researchers also found that the mice fed MCT’s produced the key energy ‘creating’ enzymes (3-oxo acid CoA-transferase, citrate synthase and malate dehydrogenase) at much higher levels than the mice fed the LCT diet. The MCT-fed mice also burned fat at higher rates which further enhanced energy production (1).

    2. It promotes fat burning (Thermogenesis):

Human studies have shown the ability of MCT oil to enhance thermogenesis (fat burning). 

In one study, researchers fed six lean and six obese young men a meal containing either LCT’s only, or a mixture of LCT’s and MCT’s. In both the obese and lean individuals, thermogenesis was enhanced after consuming the meals containing MCT’s (2). 

Another study conducted in Czechoslovakia concluded that the administration of MCT’s can improve the long-term success of diet therapy in obese patients (3).

    3. MCTs  increase metabolic rate:

There is mounting evidence to support the fact that MCTs increase your metabolic rate. 

Studies have shown that replacing dietary LCTs with MCTs increased the daily energy expenditure (metabolic rate) in men and women (4). So,assuming your calorie intake and exercise remain unchanged, any increase in metabolic rate through the addition of MCTs to your diet will result in the loss of bodyfat. 

MCTs have also been shown to improve satiety of meals, meaning you feel fuller, and satisfied quicker, making you less likely to over-eat and ingest too many calories.(5).

Check out the video below of a nutritionist sharing his views on the use of MCT oil/coconut oil, and how it can help speed up your metabolism:


  4. MCTs  maintain muscle mass:

MCTs assist in preventing muscle breakdown in a number of ways.

Firstly, they promote the production of ketones, which are used as an energy source in the muscles before amino acids (which become available through muscle breakdown), thereby delaying muscle catabolism (breakdown).

Secondly, they are able to act as amino acid ‘carriers’, helping to assimilate proteins inside the muscle, which further aids in preventing muscle loss and breakdown.  
MCTs have also been shown to delay muscle glycogen depletion, as they are used preferentially over glycogen as a fuel source, thereby preserving muscle glycogen and improving endurance. This fact is especially useful for endurance athletes (runners, cyclists etc.) 

If you are looking to get lean and ripped, then preserving your glycogen levels during training is not always beneficial. (For a better understanding and explanation of this, check out our article on interval training.)

Medium Chain Triglycerides are also especially useful for people on low carbohydrate diets, where there is always the risk of muscle breakdown, especially for those still engaging in intense exercise (like bodybuilders). By providing a good source of energy, MCTs  prevent the use of amino acids being used for energy – as often occurs when there are no carbohydrates to provide energy (i.e. when glycogen levels are depleted.)

How do I use MCT oil and where can I buy it?

The general recommendation is that MCT oil is safe for humans up to a dosage of 1g per kilogram of bodyweight, However, some side-effects reported by beginning users of MCT oil include nausea and gastric difficulties. This can be managed by beginning with very small doses and increasing the dosage gradually as tolerated, working your way up to 1-2 tablespoons per day. 
MCT oil can be used as a salad dressing, but should not be used for cooking as the high temperatures will cause it to break down, adversely affecting the taste.

MCT oil can be purchased at many health food stores and pharmacies. It can also be ordered online.It comes in the form of pure liquid oil or capsules. There are also several sports drinks, energybars and meal-replacement beverages containing MCTs, although the dosages in many of these is too low to extend any of the benefits which MCT offers. My advice, especially if you are taking to MCTs to get lean, would be to go for the pure oil or capsules.

Is MCT Oil Safe?

In addition to some of the side effects mentioned above (nausea, gastric difficulties, diarrhea), there are some further warnings about using MCT oil:

  • Ketone bodies are produced as a by-product of MCT metabolism, so the use of MCT’s by diabetics is not recommended. 
  • People with liver disease should also stay away from MCTs, as MCTs are rapidly delivered to the liver and their presence can put unnecessary stress on the liver.
  • People with hepatic encephalopathy, should not take MCT.
  • Extended use of MCTs may increase cholesterol levels.

MCTs have been shown to improve endurance and athletic performance, accelerate fat burning, speed up your metabolism and maintain muscle mass. 

So yes, they can be extremely beneficial in helping you achieve your fitness and athletic goals, but they are not to be abused as there are many potential side-effects. Few studies have been conducted to determine the long-term effects of their use. 

My suggestion is to use MCT oil, but use it sparingly. Don’t use it all the time. Start slowly to figure out how your body responds to it. Use it for a specific purpose, to either provide you with a boost during your hardest training sessions or when you’re in the final phases of your low-carb diet, getting ripped.

As the cliche’ goes, ‘anything in moderation’

1. Fushiki T, Matsumoto K, Inoue K, Kawada T, Sugimoto E. Swimming endurance capacity of mice is increased by chronic consumption of medium-chain triglycerides. J Nutr 1995 Mar;125(3):531-9 
2. Scalfi L, Coltorti A, Contaldo F. Postprandial thermogenesis in lean and obese subjects after meals supplemented with medium-chain and long-chain triglycerides. Am J Clin Nutr 1991 May;53(5):1130-3.

3. Hainer V, Kunesova M, Stich V, Zak A, Parizkova J. The role of oils containing triacylglycerols and medium-chain fatty acids in the dietary treatment of obesity. The effect on resting energy expenditure and serum lipids. Cas Lek Cesk 1994 Jun 13;133(12):373-5. 

4. Flatt, J. P., Ravussin, E., Acheson, K. J. & Jequier, E. (1985) Effects of dietary fat on postprandial substrate oxidation and on carbohydrate and fat balances. J. Clin. Investig. 76:1019-1024. 

5.  Stubbs, R. J. & Harbron, C. G. (1996) Covert manipulation of the ration of medium- to long-chain triglycerides in isoenergetically dense diets: effect on food intake in ad libitum feeding men. Int. J. Obes. 20:435-444.

Disclaimer: I am not a medical doctor, registered nurse, dietician or other healthcare provider. The information I have provided is based on my personal experience and thorough studies on the subject matter. The possible risks of using any nutritional supplement should always be discussed with your doctor. For more information, please see the full Disclaimer page

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