Medium Chain Triglycerides (MCT’s) a/k/a The Lean Fats

We’re going to get a little technical this time around, so I’d like you to try and listen carefully. In today’s world of buzz words, the term “fat free” seems to have become a grandiose delusion that if consumers eliminate all fat, he or she won’t be fat! To a degree that’s true, but it’s an unhealthy approach and only a small percentage of the entire equation.

People used to believe that the way to lose weight was just to eat less. But whether the weight you lose is muscle or fat depends on how you do it. Just like certain diets help you stay lean while you’re gaining muscle, the proper diet will help you hold onto your muscle while you’re losing fat. And believe me, when it comes to fat loss, there are no miracles or shortcuts. It takes a good lean diet and plenty of aerobic exercise.

Instead of starving yourself, it’s important to give your body all the nutrients and calories it needs to be healthy. As I’ve said in previous articles, when you drastically reduce calories, your body thinks it’s starving, so it slows down your metabolic rate to save fuel, and you actually lose more muscle than fat. And since muscular tissue burns more calories per hour than fat tissue, if you lose muscle mass, your metabolic rate automatically slows down, and paradoxically, the cutting of calories actually promotes fat storage by increasing the activity of the fat storage enzyme called lipoprotein lipase.

There are fats, however, known as MCT’s, which we’ll talk about in a moment, that contribute less to fat stores than conventional fats or even carbohydrates. And to understand why, you first have to understand the basics of how fats are metabolized in the body. Conventional dietary fats found in foods are called “long chain triglycerides” (LCT’s), and are made up of long chain fatty acids (LCFA’s) which are 16-22 carbon atoms in length. These are the jiggling blobs that wind up being stored on your body, effectively lowering your self-esteem every time you glance in a mirror.

If you think about it, your body is about 70% water, and fat is not very soluble in water (oil and water don’t mix). Your poor body has to go through living hell to digest, absorb and metabolize LCT’s, not to mention what your gall bladder has to go through to convert them into little fat droplets known as micelles, which eventually meet up with protein carrier molecules which help transport the triglycerides. These protein-fat complexes are called chylomicrons and are released from the intestines into the lymphatic system, eventually reaching the bloodstream through the thoracic duct (the main duct of the lymphatic system). Once in the blood stream, the fats are circulated throughout the body, and insulin causes the fat cells to absorb the fat molecules and store them as body fat. Ugh!

On the other side of the spectrum, however, there are fats known as medium chain triglycerides (MCT’s) which are made up of “medium chain fatty acids” (MCFA’s) and are only 6-12 carbon atoms long. Unlike LCT’s, which are prone to being stored as body fat, MCT’s have a smaller molecular structure and are more soluble in water, allowing the body to absorb them easier. And because of their simplicity, MCT’s are transported directly from the small intestine into the liver by the main portal vein. They are then turned into organic compounds called ketones which the muscles can use for energy, and by the time the liver has completed it’s turn with these little gems, the MCT’s are pretty much used up, leaving very little left to be stored as fat.

So, there you have it. You basically have two kinds of fat to work with: Saturated and unsaturated fats which like to stick around and be stored in the body for later use (conventional fats), or the second kind which likes to use itself as fuel almost immediately (MCT’s). This, I want to make very clear, does not mean that you should delete conventional fats from your diet. Quite the contrary. In addition to your intake of MCT’s, unless you’re specifically dieting or cutting up for competition, you’re daily dose of unsaturated fats should stay somewhere between 20 and 30 grams per day. Without them, your hormones will eventually falter, your hair will fall out, your skin cells will shrivel up and die, and your body will actually begin to horde its own fat for fear of never having fat again.

Okay, by now, you’re probably saying to yourself, how does this all fit in with my exercise program? Well, if you’ve been training for a while and know anything about the recruiting of muscle and the burning of fat, you know how important it is for you to eat before each workout. Without calories before an exercise, your body goes into a cannibalistic state and begins to tear down and eat up it’s muscle tissue. The body’s not stupid and knows that there’s not enough nutritional value in fat to support its needs over an extended period of time, and will dig into to its muscle to find amino acids for fuel. This is why it’s so important to eat the right amount of carbohydrates before you work out. You need to supply the body with the necessary fuel, bearing in mind that fat doesn’t burn in the presence of carbohydrates and will wait until the carbs run out.

The smart thing to do before a workout is to take a dietary supplement of MCT’s, coupled with a modest portion of carbohydrates. That way, the body will have enough fuel to perform properly and will eventually dig into its own body fat storage to finish the job. My favorite supplement of MCT’s come in an ultrapurified form of fractionated coconut oil that has undergone a chemical purification process which strips out all the long chain fatty acids (LCFA’s).

As you know, different foods have different effects on your body. Foods like cheeseburgers and french fries tend to make you fat. On the other hand, it’s hard to get fat eating tofu and vegetables. Scientists call this “food efficiency” — the calories consumed of a particular food divided by the resulting weight gain. The higher the food efficiency, the more that food contributes to weight gain. Foods with a low food efficiency, like MCT’s, are more prone to be burned for energy instead of being converted to body weight, and within fifteen to twenty minutes you’ll begin to feel an energy rush. It’s not like drinking a cup of coffee. It’s more like a deep internal surge that powers you through your schedule.

MCT’s occur in small quantities in a variety of foods, and are present naturally in breast milk and the blood of the human fetus. Commercially, MCT’s are prepared by the hydrolysis of coconut oil and are fractionated by steam distillation. MCT oil has a caloric density of 8.3 calories per gram; one tablespoon equals 14 grams and contains 115 calories. In 1950, MCT’s were primarily used for the treatment of fat malabsorption in hospitals, but eventually found their way into the sport’s world, allowing athletes to obtain additional energy without getting fatter.

Because of their immense popularity, there are several different MCT products to choose from at your local health food store. Just be sure to buy the purest form available. Make sure it’s packaged in a dark brown bottle to keep light from denaturing the coconut oil, that it’s not inundated with unnecessary flavorings, vitamin E, lecithin, purified water, apple pectin, etc., that the company didn’t, in any way, denature or contaminate the coconut oil during its processing, and finally, make sure the company that you’re dealing with is a company that you can trust and you’re sure is ethical.

The company that I found that had all the qualifications I was looking for was a small manufacturer in Cincinnati, Ohio, called Parrillo Performance. I not only could taste the quality in their product “Cap’ Tri”, but I also saw immediate results. I don’t know what stores sell their product, but you can call them at 1-800-344-3404, and tell them Spice sent you. I was turned on to them by a very respectable professional, Dr. Michael D. Richard, who has gone out of his way to educate me on this particular subject.

Good luck with all this technical info, and I hope you’ll give this new supplement a try. And remember, “Variety is the Spice of Life”.

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