MCT

(medium-chain triglycerides)

Nonessential Micronutrient

OVERVIEW

Summary

Honestly, you really shouldn’t care much about this supplement since evidence is minimal that it improves performance and strong that it comes with negative side effects. If you’re looking for useful fats, stick with essential fatty acids, which have a wide range of positive effects on performance and health.

Other names for MCT

medium-chain triglycerides

Where to find MCT

Sources of MCT include coconut oil, palm kernel oil, milk fat, and butter.

PERFORMANCE BENEFITS

Why athletes use MCT

While marketing hype may try to convince you otherwise, there’s little real reason for an athlete to use this supplement. There are many better choices for performance. Whether it’s boosting metabolism, ramping energy reserves, or just combating fatigue, you can do a lot better somewhere else. If you like bloating, bad breath, and high cholesterol, though, this may be your product.

Ways that MCT can enhance Fat Loss:
  • Possibly increase metabolic rate to support weight loss
Ways that MCT can enhance Energy & Endurance:
  • Potentially provide a quick energy source because MCT’s are burned quickly
  • Possibly boost endurance by sparing glycogen, and using fat, the muscles storage form of energy

HEALTH BENEFITS

Signs of MCT deficiency

No deficiency conditions are known to exist.

Potential uses for MCT

Research indicates that MCT may be useful in the treatment of:

  • Hypoglycemia
  • Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS)

DISCUSSION

More about MCT

MCT (medium-chain triglyceride) is a special kind of fatty acid that was first formulated in the 1950’s as a calorie source for people with the inability to digest fats or who need to gain weight quickly, such as those suffering from cancer and other diseases. MCT’s are absorbed more quickly than their chemical cousins, long-chain triglycerides (LCT’s), because they’re shorter and more soluble in water. This makes it possible for MCT’s to pass directly from the intestines into the bloodstream. In contrast, most fatty acids must pass from the intestines and then into the lymphatic system before they can enter the bloodstream. This longer process makes LCT’s harder to digest.

Quick bursts of energy?

There are numerous claims that MCT’s may boost energy quickly since they are not as easily stored in the body as fat deposits, and they can pass freely into the mitochondria, a key area of the cell where energy is produced. Most other forms of fatty acids rely on a slower process that requires carnitine to shuttle them into the mitochondria. But if boosting energy for performance were just about the speed the body uses an energy source, athletes would be eating sugar all day. Other factors, such as how long the fuel can maintain glucose levels, come into play, and MCT’s haven’t shown superior performance in this part of the production.

Burn fat faster?

Some experts have suggested that MCT’s may also have a thermogenic effect, which means they boost the body’s metabolic rate and the ability to burn fat. In the past, this has made MCT’s popular among athletes who want to reduce bodyfat and spare muscle. But unfortunately, most have found that the reality falls far short of the hype. And as we scour the science, the evidence of results is also seriously lacking.

In conclusion

Sadly, MCT’s are nothing more than a somewhat harmful form of fat that some suggest may give the body a quick boost of energy. While they’ve been around for quite some time, the science hasn’t really weighed in their favor. And the real-world feedback continues to give a negative report. Plus, this “unique energy source” appears to be associated with undesirable side effects and poor effects on performance and possibly health. So you’re better off simply looking elsewhere…

NOTES ON USAGE

Amount

Two tablespoons up to 4 times daily or up to two 500-mg capsules daily is typically suggested.

Timing

MCT’s are typically recommended before meals or exercise. Some studies suggest athletes won’t benefit from less than 50 grams during exercise. Larger amounts may help but should be taken with carbohydrates, or they could actually impair performance.

Synergists of MCT

No synergists have been noted.

Safety of MCT

Gastrointestinal upset may result if MCT’s are taken on an empty stomach or in large quantities.

According to two reports, MCT’s may raise serum cholesterol and triglyceride levels.

People with liver ailments, diabetes, or high cholesterol should not take MCT’s.

Large amounts may inhibit absorption of fat-soluble vitamins.

Toxicity of MCT

No known toxicity.

Bans and restrictions

None reported.

RELATED RESEARCH

  • Angus, D.J., et al., “Effect of Carbohydrate or Carbohydrate Plus Medium-Chain Triglyceride Ingestion on Cycling Time Trial Performance,” J Appl Phsiol 88.1 (2000) : 113-9.
  • Ball, M.J., and White, K., “Comparison of Medium and Long Chain Triglyceride Metabolism in Intensive Care Patients on Parenteral Nutrition,” Intensive Care Med 15.4 (1989) : 250.4.
  • Horowitz, J.F., et al., “Preexercise Medium-Chain Triglyceride Ingestion Does Not Alter Muscle Glycogen Use During Exercise,” J Appl Physiol 88.1 (2000) : 219-25.
  • Ivy, J.L., et al., “Contribution of Medium and long Chain Triglyceride Intake to Energy Metabolism During Prolonged Exercise,” Int J Sports Med 1 (1980) : 15-20.
  • Jeukendrup, A.E., et al., “Effect of Medium-Chain Triacylglycerol and Carbohydrate Ingestion During Exercise on Substrate Utilization and Subsequent Cycling Performance,” Am J Clin Nutr 67.3 (1998) : 397-404.
  • Jeukendrup, A.E., et al., “Metabolic Availability of Medium-Chain Triglycerides Coingested with Carbohydrates During Prolonged Exercise,” J Appl Physiol 79.3 (1995) : 756-62.
  • Vanzyl, C.G., et al., “Effects of Medium-Chain Triglyceride Ingestion on Fuel Metabolism and Cycling Performance,” J Appl Physiol 80.6 (1996) : 2217-25.