Coconut oil is an amazing superfood that has been consumed for centuries as an integral part of native islanders diets, referred to commonly as the ‘tree of life’. It consists of ninety-two percent saturated fat - that’s right, saturated fat - a health promoting form called medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs). MCTs are a vital fuel for the body, helping to improve exercise stamina, enhancing digestive function, and also boosting your immune system!
When you exercise, it is more advantageous to use fats as an energy source rather compared to carbohydrates, because fats contain 9 calories of energy compare to only 4 for carbohydrates and proteins. That's like having a fuel-efficient car that gets 90 kilometers per liter compared to one that only gets 40 kilometers per liter! It’s an easy choice when trying to maximize exercise efficiency and athletic performance. Unfortunately, most fats take too long to break down so they cannot be used during exercise as a fuel source. One of the great benefits of coconut oil and its high concentration of MCTs which are rapidly oxidized or ‘burned’, creating instant energy and improved stamina. A 2009 study in Japan investigated the effects of 2 weeks of MCT consumption on exercise endurance and found that those who consumed MCTs had a significantly longer time to exhaustion than the placebo group.
As well, coconut oil’s MCTs are a primary fuel source for enterocytes or intestinal cells. Optimal intestinal cellular function is vital for proper digestion and absorption of nutrients. Coconut oil enhances the uptake and absorption of calcium, magnesium and amino acids. These are all very important nutrients in muscle function and recovery. As well, good digestion function provides the right environment to support probiotic colonization, the ‘good’ bacterial microflora of the gut. Coconut oil also acts as a potent anti-oxidant, preventing our cells from being damaged by free radical molecules produced during exercise and activity.
Coconut oil is also very beneficial to the immune system, containing antimicrobial, antibacterial, and antiviral properties. How does this translate to better performance for the athlete or active person? It is well documented that intense exercise can impair immune function, so if we can add foods that boost our immunity, we can maintain high overall training volumes and intensity without suffering setbacks from colds and flus.
So what about everything you have read about saturated fats being ‘bad’ for our health? Dr George Blackbur, a Harvard Medical School researcher, recently stated that “these (coconut) oils have been consumed for thousands of years with absolutely no evidence of any harmful effects to the populations consuming them.” Just remember, the saturated fats you find in french fries and greasy fast food are not the same as the health promoting fats found in coconut oil. Add some to your diet today and feel the benefits for yourself!
Dr Marc Bubbs ND, CISSN, CSCS
(Use the PROMO code MCT30 and save 30% OFF your next order!)
- Nosaka N et al. Effect of ingestion of medium-chain triacylglycerols on moderate- and high-intensity exercise in recreational athletes. J Nutr Sci Vitaminol (Tokyo) 2009 Apr;55(2):120-5.
- Lambert EV et al. High-fat diet versus habitual diet prior to carbohydrate loading: effects of exercise metabolism and cycling performance. Int J Sprt Nutr Exerc Metab. 2001 Jun;11(2):209-25.
- Aoyama T, Nosaka N, Kasai M. Research on the nutritional characteristics of medium-chain fatty acids. J Med Invest. 2007 Aug;54(3-4):385-8.
- Takeuchi H et al. The application of medium-chain fatty acids: edible oil with a suppressing effect on body fat accumulation. Asia Pac J Clin Nutr 2008;17 Suppl 1:320-3.