If you are an endurance athlete, there’s something you may want to stock up on for peak performance. A Public Library of Sciences (PLOS) study reveals that medium chain triglycerides (MCT) – the saturated fatty acids found in coconut oil – boost exercise endurance in athletes. While past studies show MCT oil improves athletic performance, this study is the first to explain how this occurs as it relates to two unique bodily processes — metabolism and mitochondria creation.
Mice fed MCTs performed better on a treadmill test
Researchers fed three groups of mice different diets for a total of 21 days, including 7 preliminary days before exercise began. Mice received either a control diet, regular chow (20 percent protein, 70 percent carbohydrate, and 10 percent of fat), or an MCT diet (with 11.6g/kg of MCT added to the regular chow). Then they observed the mice perform on a treadmill for 14 days to assess the effects of MCT oil on workouts in hot conditions. The MCT-fed mice ran two times faster than the regular chow-fed mice.
The researchers noted the mice performed better due to higher protein levels, affecting both metabolism and a cellular process known as mitochondrial biogenesis, which increases the number of mitochondria in cells. Mitochondria are organelles in cells responsible for both energy production and skeletal muscle function.
MCTs enhance metabolic and cellular processes
Consuming MCTs delivers ketones to your bloodstream. Because your body can’t directly use fat for energy, the liver converts fatty acids from food into ketones. These ketones get released into the bloodstream, absorbed by the brain and other organs, and delivered to your mitochondria to use as fuel.
In a) podcast, research scientist Dominic D’Agostino, Ph.D, Assistant Professor at the College of Medicine Molecular Pharmacology & Physiology at the University of South Florida, sums up this process. “During that process [ketosis] you’ve up-regulated fat transport, you’ve enhanced mitochondrial function, mitochondrial biogenesis. The mitochondria are basically the little organelles that are burning fat in your cells and you’ve enhanced the number of mitochondria and their ability to oxidize fat for energy.”
Supportive research shows MCT consumption is linked to increased endurance
Other studies point to the benefits of MCT consumption and endurance:
- Another mice study found that rodents fed an MCT-rich diet fared better in swimming tests.
- People who supplemented with MCT oil lasted longer and built up less blood lactate during high-intensity interval training (HIIT).
Add MCT oil to your daily diet for better performance
Regardless of what type of athlete you consider yourself to be – ultra-endurance or weekend warrior – MCT oil may help your performance. According to research, if you teach your body to prefer fat like MCTs for fuel, you can still work out intensely without feeling weak.each morning. (You’ll know you need to taper back if you get diarrhea.) Over the next couple weeks, build your way up to 1-2 tablespoons per day. Brain Octane contains only the most powerful type of medium-chain fat, which means it converts to ketones faster than other types of MCT oil. In fact,