If you are new to the game, there is a very good chance that you are wondering what the buzzwords you keep seeing on those low-carb and keto diet forums all mean. Of all the popular terminologies used by people in the know, MCT oil has to be one of the most common. What does it mean, and how do you choose the best MCT oil for keto and your specific needs?
MCT stands for “Medium Chain Triglycerides.” These are fats in the form of oil or sometimes even powder in MCT oil powder. They typically occur through natural sources such as coconut oil, dairy foods, palm kernel oil, etc. MCT oils typically come in four types:
While they do occur naturally, the best manufacturers have learned to isolate them to extract and produce concentrated forms of these acids for the benefit of those doing the Keto diet.
To understand why MCT oil is such a big deal in the Keto world, you first must understand how the Keto diet works. While the process is comprehensively complicated, the following explanation will give you a simplified overview, highlighting why choosing the best MCT oil is important for your Keto success:
Our human bodies need energy all the time, even when you are sleeping. Primarily, this energy is drawn from the mitochondria in our cells, which act like cells within the cells.
These mitochondria use a process called cellular respiration to release the energy found in the food we eat into a form that can be used by our bodies. This is when carbohydrates and sugars are broken down to form glucose, the primary food-derived energy source.
Now, if you are on a low-carb diet like the Keto diet, you won’t have enough carbs for your body to break down and turn into the energy you need to live. At this point, your body will turn to a Plan B of sorts, and two things will happen:
Plan B being used by your body is typically referred to as ketoses, and that’s why you see people who are correctly following the Keto diet losing a lot of body fat fast. It’s because all the energy they need to live their day to day lives is now being derived from their fat deposits. Inevitably, those deposits begin to deplete, thus the notable weight loss.
However, the body doesn’t exactly use fat directly. Just as is the case with carbohydrates and cell respiration, your mitochondria need to turn this fat into a form of energy that the body can use. Instead of turning that into glucose as it would on a carb-rich diet, it turns the fat into ketones.
Now, this is where things get interesting and where MCT oil comes into play.
When people who follow a regular carb-rich diet, glucose is their primary source of energy. That is why you often find performance athletes using glucose gels or drinks when they need an instant energy boost.
When someone follows the ketogenic diet, their primary source of energy is no longer glucose associated with carbs but fats, which are associated with ketones. So when these people need an instant boost of energy, they don’t just take a tablespoonful of glucose powder (although they can if they wanted to), they turn to MCT instead.
As you have seen above, MCT stands for “Medium Chain Triglycerides,” and it’s a type of fat in the form of a liquid oil or powder. What we hadn’t mentioned was that this type of oil or powder could be easily taken up by the body and quickly converted into ketones when someone observing the Ketogenic diet needs a burst of energy boost.
So, essentially, you can say that MCT oil or powder is the glucose of the Keto world.
Like most things that have to do with your health, to discover which one is best for your specific needs, you need to look at the product itself and how it works in your body.
When it comes to MCT oils, the key is in the length of the fat molecules found in the specific type of oil you are considering. Some have short fat molecule chains, and others that have slightly longer molecule chains. The shorter the fat molecule chain in the MCT oil you buy, the easier it is for your body to digest it and get that energy boost you need.
If we are to go into Chemistry lessons: the MCT oils that have shorter fat molecule chains tend to have a lot of “C6” chains in the formula. The ones that include lots of “C10” and “C12” in them tend to have longer molecule chains and take a bit longer to digest and utilize.
Simply put, MCT oil blends that have lots of “C6” in their formulas will provide you with a rapid burst of energy while the C10s and the C12s will act as longer, more sustained energy sources.
There are, however, those MCT oils that tend to fall in between the gaps. These are the C8s of the pack, and they tend to provide you with both a quick energy boost as well as a sustained and extended power release.
This will depend on what you want to achieve. If you are an athlete or are exercising and need a quick boost of energy, then you might want to go for something that falls within the C6 – C8 range. These are short fat molecules that are easier to digest and utilize. They make excellent alternatives to glucose gels.
If, however, you are looking for something with longevity and that gives you more endurance, then you have to pick an MCT oil option that falls between the C10 – C12 range.
For anyone else looking for something that will give then a general energy boost for their typical day-to-day activities, then the C8 – C10 range will work just fine.
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