MCT’s: What are they?
Medium Chain Triglycerides, henceforth referred to as MCTs, are atomically shorter length, saturated fats ranging from 6-12 carbon atoms. Standard dietary fats, akin to what you might find in your daily diet, are known as Long Chain Triglycerides (LCTs). These can include, but are not limited to, Vegetable Oils, Olive Oil, Avocado, the majority of the fat in animal products, and all unsaturated fats. MCTs are made up of caprylic, capric, and lauric fatty acids. Capric and Caprylic acids are found naturally in high concentrations in coconut oil, palm kernel oil, and goat milk. As a matter of fact, capric and caprylic acids were specifically named after the Italian word for Goat which is Capra. Lauric acid is found exclusively in Coconut oil and actually makes up over 50% of its fatty acid content. Another option for consuming MCTs, and probably the most common way is to buy pure MCT oil, which is sometimes called fractionated coconut oil/palm kernel oil or liquid coconut oil. This unique extract of sorts, consists of both capric and caprylic acids in a blend, or of caprylic acid by itself
MCT oil is created in a laboratory by isolating the Caprylic and Capric fatty acids from the coconut or palm kernel oil via a fractionating machine. This specialized extraction process results in a clear colorless, or faintly yellow liquid oil that is slightly soluble in water. The vast majority of MCT oils on the market however contain only the 8 and 10 carbon atom triglyceride molecules.
The 6 carbon atom, as well as the 12 carbon atom (Lauric Acid) are often left out of the resulting MCT liquid despite the fact that they make up over 50% of Coconut oil’s triglyceride makeup. This is somewhat of a disappointment considering that Lauric Acid is what gives coconut oil its distinctive antimicrobial properties. However, you can still reap the benefits of Lauric acid by either eating coconut oil, or purchasing Monolauren (the antimicrobial metabolite of Lauric Acid, online or from your local health food store.
Coming back to the subject of MCT oil, if one were to just eat pure coconut oil, he/she would need to consume 6 tablespoons to equal the Caprylic and Capric Fatty acids found in just 1 tablespoon of MCT oil. But why are MCTs, specifically the 8 and 10 carbon atom triglycerides so important to include in your daily life?
How they work
Conventional types of long chain triglycerides are metabolized in a slow, drawn out process though the lymphatic system before they even get a chance to reach the liver. MCTs on the other hand do not need to be broken down by the lymphatic system and go straight to the liver from the small intestine extremely quickly, thereby giving the body quick energy, similar to that of a carbohydrate. During their rapid metabolic process, the MCTs also create hordes of ketones, which can be used for fuel in the process. All this results in a quick, carbohydrate-like energy that will not affect insulin levels or be stored as fat in the body. In fact MCT’s have even been known to increase fat oxidation, so not only will they not be stored as fat, but their thermogenic properties will help burn fat as well.
How they translate to college success
MCTs, are especially helpful during cutting, recomp, and very low carbohydrate, ketogenic diets. So for all you guys and girls looking to get leaner for spring break or the summer, MCT should be your go-to nutritional source. As a rule, I would recommend that everyone consume virgin coconut oil and virgin palm kernel oil on a regular basis, both for the MCTs, and the health benefits. However, when dieting or trying to increase cognitive function, MCT oil is a better choice. In just about any diet you are on, MCTs can aid in often low energy levels, all while turning you into a fat burning machine. Of all the ways to cut, the best is without a doubt the Ketogenic diet, which has been proven in study after study to absolutely melt fat off of you. Remember Arnold and all those famous 1970s bodybuilders from the Golden Age? Every single one of them followed a strict ketogenic diet year round 6 out of the 7 days of the week (Sunday was cheat day). Unfortunately the ketogenic diet does come at a cost. The lack of carbohydrates can often cause people to experience fatigue, lethargy, and irritability, lack of motivation, brain fog, and loss of cognitive function. It can also make your muscles feel flat as you lose your glycogen stores. With the addition of MCT oil into a ketogenic diet, you won’t have to worry about any of those issues. As mentioned earlier in the article, MCTs, insofar as an energy source is concerned, act like carbohydrates without any of the typical carbohydrate effects. There will be no insulin spike, and no crash, just quick hitting, sustained energy that will keep you awake, alert, and clear headed all day, not to mention they’re also great brain food. In fact, many so called “biohackers” and people that practice self-improvement swear by the mental and physical benefits of MCT oil. Some go as far as to add 1 or 2 tablespoons into their morning coffee to create a cognitive enhancing synergy drink. Finally, being saturated fats, MCTs can also help with overall hormone production. Fats, especially saturated fats are considered necessary in order to regulate the production of sex hormones.
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As with any type of fat, MCT oil is not without its fair share of negative effects if consumed in large amounts. The typical daily dosage for MCT oils can range anywhere from 1-3 tablespoons. Any more than 3 tablespoons, with the exception of pure caprylic acid, will likely lead to unpleasant, adverse effects, mostly in the form of indigestion, stomach upset, and diarrhea. While there is no particular dosing schedule that needs to be followed, it should be noted that the best times to consume these fats are first thing in the morning, before a workout, or when energy and cognitive enhancement are desired.
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Brands and Types
As far as standard coconut oil or palm kernel oil goes, any Organic Unrefined Virgin version of either one will suffice. The brand in that case does not matter. However, be sure that neither of the brands are refined, as the refinement process alters the properties of the fats, making them unhealthy. During the refinement process, the solvents that are used to extract the oil from the coconut meat can, and often do hydrogenate the coconut or palm kernel oil, resulting in some of the fats becoming trans fats, which are the bad kind. As far as MCT oil is concerned, that’s where it gets a bit tricky. MCT oil can either be from Palm Kernel oil or Coconut oil. The coconut oil based MCTs are far superior for energy and brain function as opposed to the Palm Kernel MCTs. So here’s how I break it down
Best for overall health and Testosterone boosting (from the saturated fat)
- (Any Brand) Organic Unrefined Virgin Coconut Oil
Top picks for MCT specific oil:
Top Overall Pick: Bulletproof Brain Octane Oil (Pure 8 carbon chain molecule Caprylic Acid) ($46 for 32oz)
Best Value Coconut Based MCT Oil: Left Coast Performance MCT Oil ($21 for 32 oz)
Best Budget MCT Oil: Now Sports MCT oil (Made from Coconut and/or Palm Kernel oil) ($15 for 32oz)
Bulletproof Brain Octane Oil: This top quality oil consists purely of the 8 carbon MCT known as Caprylic acid. Of all the different types of MCTs, Caprylic acid, which makes up for approximately 9% of coconut oil’s MCTs, has been shown to give the maximum effects on energy, brain function, and ketone production. In fact, this oil produces ketones so easily, that you can eat carbohydrates, and still remain ketogenic. Not to say you should eat tons of carbs and still expect to lose weight. However, it is a great thing to include during cheat day or with the occasional high carbohydrate meal. In addition, Caprylic Acid is much less harsh on the stomach than Capric Acid, meaning you can consume more of it without adverse effects. Unfortunately this oil also comes at a price, more than double what many less expensive MCT oils cost. Still, you would need 18 tablespoons of coconut oil to equal the Caprylic Acid in just one tablespoon of brain octane oil. If this fits your budget, I would definitely recommend using it.
Left Coast Performance MCT Oil: As college students, many of us are on a budget and cannot quite afford to dish out $46 for top end MCT oil. Well that’s alright, because there’s always the next best thing, and that is Coconut Based MCT Oil. While most brands of MCT oil are derived from Palm Kernel oil to keep costs down, the MCTs derived from coconut oil are far superior to that of Palm Kernel Oil. They are not only much easier on the stomach, but they are also utilized by the body much more readily than cheaper MCT oils. Coconut based MCT oils are often quite a bit more expensive than many budget priced MCT oils, but this particular brand seems to be a bit less pricey than the rest, only a few dollars more than even our budget priced pick. It is produced by a small family owned company with no middleman, so they are able to sell their product directly to the public. In addition it is extracted in a GMP Facility and guaranteed to be free of any toxins, heavy metals, and other contaminates. Best of all, the company offers a 100% money back guarantee.
Now Sports MCT Oil: Now we are aware that money is not always readily available while going to college, so for those “broke college students”, who are on a raman noodle and natty ice budget, you can still enjoy the benefits of MCT oil with our budget pick. Now Sports MCT oil is mada from either palm kernel oil, coconut oil, or a blend of both. There is no way to really tell as each batch is different depending on what the company feels like using or what is readily available to them. This oil may be slightly harsher on your stomach, so be careful not to ingest too much. Begin at 1 tablespoon to assess tolerance, then increase to 2 tablespoons per day, and eventually 3 tablespoons if you can handle it. While most budget MCT oils are pretty much the same, Now Foods has always carried a good reputation for producing high quality, budget priced supplements without additives or contaminates. In fact, it is one of my go to supplement companies for many of my supplements, including my protein, which I will get into further on a future article.
Virgin Coconut and Palm Kernel Oil: If you’re not someone who’s on a cutting regimen or a ketogenic diet, it is still important to incorporate MCTs and Vegetable Based Saturated fats into your diet. If you don’t want to spend a ton of money on processed MCT oils, you could always just substitute Coconut or Palm Kernel Oil for vegetable oils, olive oil, and butter when cooking or baking. Coconut oil works fantastic as a butter substitute and also adds a lot of rich, unique flavor to many dishes and baked goods. I mostly like to use it for sautéing vegetables or cooking eggs. Sometimes I even add a spoonful to my coffee or protein shakes. The other great thing about using coconut oil, instead of just pure MCT oil is the addition of the Lauric Acid. When lauric acid is digested by the body, it converts into monolaurin which is both antibacterial and antiviral, making it a great tool during cold and flu season. I would not however recommend Palm Kernel oil for baking, as it has a rather strong, savory type flavor. It does go superbly with meats, vegetables, and other savory dishes. Aside from the MCTs (which are in fact types of saturated fats), Palm Kernel Oil has a much higher concentration of Monounsaturated fats as compared to coconut oil which consists entirely of saturated fats. That’s not to say that saturated fats are bad. In fact saturated fats play a key role in hormone production, so they are great if you are looking to naturally raise your testosterone levels. However, monounsaturated fats are those so called “good fats” everyone is always talking about. For overall health, it is important to incorporate these fats into your diet as well. For health purposes both of these oils should be incorporated into your daily diet, not just one or the other. Finally, be sure that you never, ever get the refined versions of either of these oils, as the refinement process changes the makeup of the fats, converting them into unhealthy fats. In fact REFINED coconut oil is one of the absolute worst fats you can put in your body.
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College Success Takeaways
So to just to clarify, how can MCTs help you, the students in your day to day lives?
- Overall Energy Increase
- Enhanced Fat Lipolysis/Thermogenesis
- Decrease in brain fog/better cognitive function
- Immune system protection during cold and flu season (Coconut oil only)
- Great tool to include in your pre workout regimen (MCT Oil only)
- Overall health benefits
- Long term enhanced hormone production
Medium Chain Triglycerides play an important role in overall health. While as a college student, you might not be overly concerned with that right now, it’s important to really understand that without proper health, your body will not perform optimally, and most definitely not be in an environment conducive to muscle growth. Remember, muscle growth is a very expensive luxury to the body, and only when it is healthy and working well will it even consider building muscle and/or burning fat.
So, whether you consume Coconut oil, Palm Kernel oil, Brain Octane oil, or any type of MCT oil, it is important to incorporate them into you daily diet. Also what’s not to love about MCT oils when you essentially get the benefits of both a carbohydrate and a fat? What could be better than a 2 in 1 macronutrient? Over the past several decades Doctors and the medical industry has put on a smear campaign on saturated fats, claiming that they cause heart disease, and other cardiovascular issues. This simply is not the case. In fact since American’s have begun consuming less fat, their testosterone levels have been steadily declining. Refraining from high levels of fats and saturated fats are not the way to keep your heart healthy. The way to keep you heart healthy is to stop eating sugar and refined carbohydrates (which convert to sugar in your body). Not counting sugar, these refined carbohydrates consist of all forms of grains and starches, including whole grains, corn, rice, oats, and even quinoa. As the sugar or converted sugar go through the body it attaches itself to the walls of the arteries, roughening the otherwise smooth arterial walls. This gives the ingested fat a chance to become trapped as it passes through the arteries while in the blood stream. Without sugar, the walls of the arteries are generally smooth and fats can pass right through them. The only carbohydrates I recommend consuming are vegetable carbohydrates, such as carrots, peas, red skinned potatoes, and sweet potatoes, which I actually consider to be one of the healthiest foods you can eat. Fruits in limited quantities are also good if they fit into your current macronutrient intake. Remember, fats are not the problem, refined carbohydrates are.
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