With obesity and type 2 diabetes on the increase, people are turning to ketogenic diets which reduce carbs and sugar and increase fats and MCT to help switch the body into fat-burning mode. Nutritional Therapist Jackie Newson explains how MCT provides an efficient source of fuel that can be readily utilised by brain and body cells, when sugar levels become depleted.
Don’t go confusing coconut oil and MCT! Coconut oil and MCT are quite different. Coconut oil is the cold-pressed oil extracted from fresh coconuts and contains long-chain triglycerides (LCT), which your body stores as fat, alongside medium-chain triglycerides (MCT) and small amounts of omega 6 and omega 9.
MCT oil is made by extracting the medium-chain triglycerides from coconut oil. These fats are unique because they get burned for fuel, rather than stored as fat, making them ideal for supporting different types of weight loss strategies1.
Fast-acting keto fuel
There are four types of MCT – C6, C8, C10 and C12 – all naturally present in coconut oil. It’s C8 which is the most effective fuel for fat burning. So, choose an MCT product that’s been enriched with extra C8.
Normally, dietary fats endure the lengthy process of digestion and have to overcome various obstacles for absorption and be transported via the lymphatic system to gain entry into the bloodstream. MCT fats cleverly bypass digestion, get readily absorbed straight into the bloodstream, are quickly escorted to the liver and converted into ketones for fuel2.
MCT powder is popular with:
• Paleo and ketogenic diets
• Intermittent fasting strategies
• Low carb, high-fat diets (LCHF)
• Sports and endurance athletes
• Busy and demanding lifestyles
• Bulletproof coffee recipes
Sourced From Coconuts
Food sources of MCT include coconut oil, palm kernel oil, cow’s milk, goat’s milk, butter and ghee. Always good to put the environment first and avoid MCT products sourced from palm oil. Instead opt for MCT sourced from coconuts and extracted without the use of solvents.
Some MCT powders are blended with organic ghee and butter from grass-fed herds, perfect additions for a low-carb high fat-diet which help to naturally turn up the keto fuel factor.
MCT powder vs oil
There are many benefits to using an MCT powder over an MCT oil. Some people experience digestive discomfort when using an MCT oil, especially at high doses. This is much less likely to happen with MCT powder which delivers the MCT into the digestive system in a much gentler way.
If you try adding MCT oil to a hot or cold drink, you’ll discover that it floats, forming an oil slick which leaves your lips feeling greasy. MCT powder however completely dissolves and creates a delicious creamy luxurious mouthfeel with no greasy after-effects.
One downside of a low carb, high fat or ketogenic diet is a sluggish bowel. Changes in gut microbiome may occur from eating less fibre due to cutting back on fruit, starchy vegetables, wholegrains and legumes.
Some MCT powders also contain heat-stable Bacillus coagulans and Bacillus subtilis microbiome spores which can survive your harsh stomach environment and are stable in hot drinks3,4,5. Studies indicate that supporting your balance of healthy gut bacteria helps keep you regular and may also support weight loss6,7.
Facts About MCT Powder
Ketones support your health and metabolism in more ways than just fuelling fat burning. Ketones also provide a source of fuel for brain cells, cutting through brain fog and fuelling focus and performance8.
Obesity, Type 2 diabetes, dementia and many other modern chronic diseases are strongly linked to weight gain, inflammation, insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome. Research studies show that high fat, low carb, low sugar diets and intermittent fasting strategies may help address many of the physiological imbalances and risk factors associated with these inflammatory conditions9,10,11.
The success of these wellness protocols is based on the principle of burning stored fat through a process known as ketosis. MCT fats play a key role in helping the body efficiently switch into ketosis12.
The mitochondria are specialised units present in all cells and their main job is to produce energy from sugar, or when sugar becomes unavailable, from fats. Most fats need to hitch a ride on a protein called carnitine to be slowly transported into your mitochondria. But MCT fats gain free access without having to wait for an available carnitine shuttlebus2.
The speedy transport of MCT provides a surge in cellular energy which helps your body efficiently switch from burning sugar for fuel, into burning fats for fuel – known as ketosis – a powerful tool for weight management13.
Power up your workouts
Here’s why athletes, bodybuilders and fitness enthusiasts choose MCT powder:
• MCT fats are rapidly absorbed14
• MCT fats don’t slow down gastric emptying15
• Ketones provide fuel to muscle cells 16,17,18
• MCT powder easily dissolves in pre or post-workout smoothies
Many types of weight-loss strategies, restrictive diets and intermittent fasting protocols have their challenges such as hunger pangs, sugar cravings and fatigue, typically experienced initially while the body adjusts. If these challenges continue to be an issue then motivation drops, progress dips and you may end up ditching your new diet.
MCT helps support ketosis when used alongside a high fat, very low carb diet. When the body is in ketosis, blood sugar and insulin levels tend to stay within normal ranges, smoothing over those highs and lows responsible for sugar cravings, mood swings, brain fog, fatigue and energy dips10,13.
Feel Fuller For Longer
Research has shown that MCT may influence the secretion of hormones which help regulate appetite, leading to reduced food intake and improvements in weight control19,20.
The most challenging part of any intermittent fasting strategy is usually the first few hours of your morning. MCT delivers nourishment during these last few hours of your fast helping you achieve your desired total fasting hours with ease.
A morning keto drink made by adding MCT powder to tea or coffee is a delicious keto experience which helps keeps you distracted from food until brunch.
Fasting and Keto Diets
By far the greatest interest in intermittent and ketogenic diets today is from those looking for a quick and easy way to lose weight21,22,23.
Thriving while fasting!
Intermittent fasting, ketogenic and LCHF diets aren’t new, they’ve been around for centuries and mimic the eating patterns of our ancestors who experienced an abundance of hunted or gathered foods, followed by times when food was scarce.
It’s this ancestral style of feasting and fasting that has equipped our bodies to thrive while fasting by using a fail-safe method of converting stored fat into ketones for fuel, when foods containing sugar and starch just aren’t available.
There are lots if styles of time-restricted eating and intermittent fasting (16:8, 5:2, The 5C Reset) that help you get used to the fasting and feasting lifestyle. These all typically involve eating your daily calorie intake within a set time frame (normally around 6-8 hours) and then just drinking water, black tea or coffee or herbal teas to encourage fat burning24.
Adding MCT powder to your morning tea or coffee helps to sustain you through those last few hours of fasting and makes intermittent fasting an easy long-term lifestyle strategy.
What does a ketogenic diet involve?
You’ll need to reduce your daily carbs right down to 30g to 50g a day, around 5% to 10% of your daily calories. Achieve this by cutting out sugary foods, starchy vegetables, refined carbs and grains.
At least 75% of your calories should come from fat and using MCT is a great way to instantly supercharge your diet with a fat that fuels ketosis. Butter, cheese, olive oil, nuts, seeds, nut butters, eggs, oily fish and cold-pressed oils should all be on your shopping list.
With careful planning the ketogenic diet is a highly nutritious way of eating, based around whole unprocessed foods, fish, meat, dairy and plenty of non-starchy vegetables.
Best results in 20 days
Recent research suggests that the keto diet is most effective over brief periods of about 20 days. A six-month maintenance period which involves following a Mediterranean diet seems to be the ideal formula for long term success25. Switching between intermittent fasting, keto and the Mediterranean diet helps to prevent diet burn out.
Health benefits of ketosis
• easy weight loss26
• more efficient metabolism
• reduction in fat deposits
• better insulin management27
• more stable blood sugar balance
• feeling fuller quicker
• focus on body conditioning
• better quality of sleep
• better management of inflammation28
How to Use MCT Powder
MCT powder is an incredible versatile ingredient which readily dissolves in hot drinks, smoothies, soups and keto snacks such as energy balls. By far the popular way is to use MCT powder is in your favourite bulletproof coffee recipe. For more ideas on how to include MCT powder into your diet take a read of our MCT Recipe Blog.
MCT powder can be easily mixed into a variety of foods and drinks. It adds a luxurious creamy taste to smoothies and soups and can be stirred into yoghurt or you can even use it in a keto mayonnaise or ranch-style dressing.
You can even bake with MCT since these fats are stable up to 150C so for low-temperature recipes, such keto brownies and keto bread, MCT powder is a delicious and versatile ingredient to use.
You can take MCT throughout the day!
Although most people like to start the day with MCT you can also add MCT to a smoothie or cup of afternoon tea to quieten down cravings and hunger pangs so that you can avoid unhealthy in-between meal snacking. A great support if you are following a low carb weight loss diet.
Does taking MCT powder in the morning break a fast?
Anything other than water, black tea, black coffee or herbal teas does break a fast and stop autophagy. However, the benefit of MCT is that even though you have consumed calories and nourishment, the MCT fats and C8 help to keep your body in fat burning mode. When you eat carbs or protein, sugars are released into your bloodstream and this puts the breaks on fat burning.
Are there any side-effects from taking MCT?
Some people experience digestive discomfort when first taking an MCT oil, especially at high doses. However, MCT powders deliver MCT fats into the digestive system in a much gentler way, so side-effects are less likely to occur. If you do experience abdominal discomfort, cramping, gas, bloating, and diarrhoea, then take a break for a few days to allow your digestion to settle and then re-introduce at a much smaller dose, just 1 tsp a day, gradually increasing to 2 tbsp over a few weeks.
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