You may have heard of MCT oil or seen it on the shelf with the other supplements and found yourself wondering what it is exactly or if the claims you've heard are actually true. MCT is believed to boost energy levels and burn fat. But what exactly is it and how does it work?
MCT stands for medium chain triglycerides. These fats are different from the long chain triglycerides (LCT) that are found in most foods. MCTs are found in a few natural food sources like coconut oil (for some creative uses of coconut oil, check out the BodyRock Meal Plan). MCTs are primarily composed of caprylic and capric fatty acids and it looks like a yellow, odorless liquid at room temperature.
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When your body absorbs MCTs, it does so quickly. They skip the normal digestion process that the LCTs pass through. MCTs bypass the lymphatic system and head straight for the liver where they get metabolized. This means, they quickly become accessible as an energy source and are less likely to get stored as fat cells. And, according to Dr. Laurie Cullen at the Women's Institute, when MCTs are included in a meal, the thermogenic effect is increased and more calories are burned! More calories burned means fewer calories stored in the body and a potential reduction in body fat!
It takes your body a great deal of effort to digest LCTs. They are not water soluble and set off a complex digestive process. When it comes to MCTs, things are a little different. Because the molecule length is so much shorter, they are a little more water soluble and a lot easier for your body to metabolize. They travel directly from the small intestine to the liver where some of them are turned into ketones which are used as an energy source by your muscles. Some MCTs are used up in thermogenesis, and others get converted to ATP (the molecules that carry energy through your cells), leaving little left over to get stored in the body as fat.
It is worth noting, however, that the majority of the findings regarding MCTs and fat burning have been found through animal studies and not ones done on humans. So while animals who have been given MCTs over LCTs, do store less adipose, experience a metabolism boost, and gain less weight, there have been few studies done to understand how this all functions in human subjects. This is why, as with all supplements, it is important to consult a health care professional before you begin, especially if you have diabetes, high cholesterol levels or experience gastrointestinal disruptions.
This, of course, does not mean that MCTs can't help you reach your goals. Even if further study finds that the fat burning claims are over blown, the easily accessible, fast energy MCTs provide is real, and useful, when it comes to your fitness routine!
Tell us what you think! Do you take MCT oil? Have you noticed a difference in your fat loss and energy levels?