FOCUS ON…MCT Oil for Runners
You may have read a great deal in the media and in magazines about how MCT oil as a supplement could enhance your running performance.
As a result, maybe you are considering using it to support YOUR training. If so, then this episode is for you.
We outline exactly what MCT oil is and WHY it is thought to support endurance exercise….BUT….does it?…continue listening to find out.
- Outline WHY we are talking about Coconut derived MCT oil today
- Explain WHAT MCT oil is and how it is thought to support a runner….or not!
- Give TIPS on how to introduce it into YOUR meal and supplement plan…if indeed it would be appropriate for YOU
Uncovering WHY we chose to speak about this subject. Runners, just like the general population, are often looking for the “magic bullet” to help improve their performance as well as their general health. But we know the magic bullet doesn’t exist…although food and nutrition is known to help support health and performance.
BUT…could MCT oil support performance or not? This is the question we aim to answer from an evidence-based point of view beginning with some background information on MCTs and the evidence for their use in medical conditions including: liver dysfunction and malabsorption conditions including Coeliac and Crohn’s Disease.
In the 1990s the world of Sports Nutrition then began to explore the use of MCT oil as an additional energy source to the well-established use of carbohydrates….and it continues to be researched today.
Exploring WHAT Medium Chain Triglycerides (MCTs) are; in short, they are a form of saturated fats, which are generally synthesized from coconut oil and get their name from the length of their chemical structure.
Moving on to delve into HOW MCT oil may support a runner, if indeed it can!! A review paper written in 2022 suggests that, at present, the evidence for its use as an ergogenic aid is limited and not substantiated sufficiently for a nutritionist or other qualified practitioner to be recommending it.
This review paper and other research papers suggest some of MCT oil’s limitations may be due to its tendency to cause digestive symptoms when taken orally in amounts greater than 30g per serving. Some digestive symptoms are severe including” vomiting and diarrhoea mostly occurring during or following exercise.
Discussing MCT oil and its potential to support a healthy body composition. This is an area of research that has had more positive outcomes. An appropriate or optimal body composition would certainly help enhance a runner’s performance, therefore MCT oil may indirectly improve running performance. MCTs are thought to help maage body composition due to their ability to:
- Increase satiety at each meal
- Reduce food intake overall
- Be burned as heat (thermogenesis) therefore very little deposited as body fat
There is very limited information, however an older study (2003), having obese women as participants, concluded that MCTs (when compared to Long Chain Triglycerides) had more significant positive effects on:
- Energy expenditure
- Body composition
- Fat Oxidation (the use of fat as fuel)
The same study also concluded that using MCTs instead of LCTs in a targeted energy balanced diet offered better protection from long-term weight gain and suggested this was due to MCTs effects on energy expenditure and fat-burning abilities.
BUT…this is data from one paper only and it is quite an old paper, however more recent research does appear to support this theory.
Providing some TIPS on introducing MCT oil into a meal and supplement plan, if appropriate!! The most important piece of advice is to avoid MCT oil as a supplement if considering using it purely as an ergogenic aid.
BUT, MCT oil could be beneficial for:
- Weight and body composition management and maintenance
- Immune support – due to its antimicrobial properties against viral, bacterial and fungal infections
- Balance of gut bacteria
REMEMBER to seek professional support in making the decision whether to introduce MCT oil into a supplement plan
Some general TIPS when considering MCT oil as a supplement include:
- Be mindful of the amount of MCT oil taken because amounts greater than 30 grammes as a serving could lead to digestive symptoms
- Increase intake of MCT oil gradually until a personal tolerable level is established
- Consider beginning with five grammes per day for several days. If no symptoms experienced, increase by five grammes and again observe for symptoms over several days. Follow this rule until 30g per day or a personal tolerable level is reached, whichever comes first. If/when symptoms are experienced reduce the dosage by five grammes and this would then be the personal tolerable level
- Don’t exceed 30g of MCT oil per day because research does not currently recognise this
Outlining some foods containing up to 65% MCTs including:
- Coconut oil/butter
- Fresh coconut
- Dairy products e.g. butter, yogurt, milk
- Palm oil, although its use is controversial
If/when considering purchasing MCT oil always check its quality beforehand. For example:
- Check how the MCTs were extracted, were chemicals and solvents used?
- Check ingredients for fillers and other non-necessary ingredients
- Choose organic wherever possible
- Choose brands from reputable suppliers. For example: Jarrow Formulas and Nutiva
1) MCTs (or Medium Chain Triglycerides) are a form of saturated fatty acids and are generally synthesised from coconut oil
2) Since the 1950s they have been researched for their nutritional properties to support general health. And since the 1990s there has been a focus on their potential as an ergogenic aid in sport principally as an additional energy source to glycogen
3) There is a great deal of hype around using MCT oil as an ergogenic aid BUT the science behind the hype is currently limited
4) There is more substantiated research into its potential to support general health including:
- Heart health
- Weight management/body composition
- Immune health
And a potential positive by product of supporting these areas of health could be improvement in running performance
5) MCT oil is 100% MCTs, however Coconut oil contains 62%-65% MCTs, and remember smaller amounts can be found in dairy-based foods including: butter, milk, and yogurt
6) Finally….If you are considering purchasing MCT oil remember to check the quality of the product you purchase…choose organic wherever possible and check the labels for additional and unnecessary ingredients
The suggestions we make during this episode are for guidance and
advice only, and are not a substitute for medical advice or treatment.
If you have any concerns regarding your health, please contact
your healthcare professional for advice as soon as possible.
Aileen Smith and Karen Campbell host RUNNERS HEALTH HUB. A place for like-minded female runners who are looking for simple ways to support running performance, energy, endurance, and general great health.
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