Q: Is Coconut Oil (which is rich in MCTs) and/or MCT supplements beneficial for athletic performance enhancement and/or general health?
A: Clinical research once responsibly condemned the “toxic health-compromising effects” from consuming Coconut Oil. This research specifically referred to “Hydrogenated Coconut Oil.”
Coconut oil is rich in fat. Too many fatty acid calories can compromise health. Health benefits from 1-3 tablespoons per day of extra-virgin-unadulterated Coconut Oil are remarkable. This is due are to a high content of medium-chain saturated fatty acids such as capric acid, caprylic acid, and lauric acid. Unlike most other dietary oils, virgin Coconut Oil cannot nor does not contain trans-fatty acids (due to its very low content of unsaturated fatty acids). Coconut Oil does not contribute to the development of cardiovascular diseases and may indirectly reduce the risk of may types of cardiovascular diseases (due to the absence of polyunsaturated fatty acids).
The health benefits from 1-3 tablespoons Extra Virgin Coconut Oil are:
1. Prevents Ischemic Heart Disease
2. Inhibits or kills harmful microbes such Helicobacter pylori, Hemophilus influenzae, Listeria monocytogenes, Staphylococcus aureus, Aspergillus niger, Giardia lamblia Protozoa, Cytomegalovirus (CMV), and HIV virus
3. Increases the body’s Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR)
4. Lowers elevated total serum cholesterol levels
5. Stimulates the conversion of cholesterol to pregnenolone
6. Increases HDL (“good”) cholesterol levels
7. Increases production of Interleukin 10
8. Lowers LDL (“bad”) cholesterol levels
9. Lowers VLDL (Very-low-density lipoprotein – “bad”) cholesterol levels
10. Lowers elevated serum Triglycerides levels
11. Lowers Interleukin 1 (beta) levels
12. Lowers Interleukin 6 levels
13. Lowers Tumor Necrosis Factor (TNF) levels
14. Lowers Lipoprotein (a) levels
USE ONLY: Extra Virgin Coconut Oil
1. HYDROGENATED COCONUT OIL – It does NOT possess health benefits
2. RBD COCONUT OIL – This is a refined, bleached, deodorized Coconut Oil. RBD Coconut Oil is subjected to high heat, filtered through clays to remove impurities, and processed with sodium hydroxide to prolong shelf life, due to the lesser quality dried Coconut (copra) used in its production. This one will not do as much harm as #1, but it is not as good as the extra-virgin selection.
Keep in mind extra virgin coconut oil has an excellent addictive flavor; therefore limit yourself to 1-3 tablespoons/day.
I have not heard of coconut oil being used during exercise, but rather as a general health substance. Supplements of Medium Chain Triglycerides (MCTs) have been around for a long, long time, coconut oil is loaded in them, and the majority of the studies done have looked at endurance cyclists to determine the effectiveness of MCTs on increasing endurance performance. Researchers have studied both the use of muscle glycogen when MCTs are consumed and the effect that MCTs have on cycling times. In these studies the endurance cyclists engaged in moderate to intensive exercise while ingesting an MCT supplement, an MCT supplement plus a carbohydrate supplement, or a placebo (an inactive substance). The results of these studies suggest that MCTs oil does not reduce the use of muscle glycogen or improve endurance performance.
*** Jeukendrup AE. Oxidation of orally ingested medium chain triglyceride (MCT) during prolonged exercise. Med Sci Sport Exerc 27 (Suppl.): S101, 1995.
*** Jeukendrup AE, et al. Effect of medium-chain triacylglycerol and carbohydrate ingestion during exercise on substrate utilization and subsequent cycling performance. Am J Clin Nutr 67: 397-404, Seaton TB, Welle SL, Warenko MK, Campbell RG. 1986. Thermic effect of medium-chain and long-chain triglycerides in man. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 1986, 44:630-634.
*** Van Zyl CG, Lambert EV, Hawley JA, Noakes TD, Dennis SC. 1996. Effects of medium-chain triglyceride ingestion on fuel metabolism and cycling performance. Journal of Applied Physiology, 1996, 80:2217-2225.
One well-known nutritional scientist writes that studies using MCTs with healthy, non-obese men and women not on low-fat diets reported that the subjects fat oxidation increased and protein oxidation was reduced, both good things. The subjects didn’t lose weight but the MCTs were burned for energy, which helped to spare muscle tissue. The problem is that for this effect to occur 51% of the diet must come from MCTs and that much fat in the diet, no matter how seemingly beneficial it may be, is too much. In addition, high amounts of MCTs have been known to cause stomach distress in a lot of people. That’s why I’m not a big fan of the use of MCTs during exercise – they may be helpful, though the research suggests otherwise (or, at the very least, is inconclusive), and the amount that is required is quite high, which may create some significant stomach distress during exercise.
We use what is called lysolecithin in Perpetuem. Dr. Bill Misner writes, “Lysolecithin is a modified form of phosphatidylcholine in which one fatty acid residue has been removed from the glycerol moiety of phosphatidylcholine. A benefit from consuming lysolecithin with carbohydrates and proteins in solution is prevention of retrograde-staleness with maximum nutrient absorption.” Basically, with the lysolecithin component you have a unique and healthy fat that not only provides a calorie source (and helps to lessen hunger pangs), it also increases the “shelf life” of the protein component. Protein, once mixed in solution, will eventually spoil unless you add a lot of preservatives to the mixture (which we don’t want to include in any of the fuels). Using lysolecithin allows us to maintain the integrity of the protein component for a longer period of time and without having to resort to artificial preservatives.
Bottom line: As an athletic performance-enhancing substance, it does not appear that coconut oil and their naturally occurring MCTs have been proven to be beneficial. For general health, however, it appears that coconut oil possesses a number of benefits.