Countries like the United States have seen wheat and corn heralded with their ability to feed the masses. However, what we’re finding with our Western diets now is that we’re actually not getting enough fat intake, particularly saturated fats.
In a large part this is due to how we’ve socio-culturally shamed fat, but it’s also due to the amount of wheat and corn-based food that are so readily accessible in Western nations.
The ketogenic diet reverses this by embracing fats and minimizig your carbohydrate intake. Once your body’s glycogen, or blood sugar, levels are depleted enough and ketone bodies are released from your high fat intake, your body is convinced to burn excess fat stores, rather than carbs.
Obtaining the right fat levels to sustain a ketogenic diet, as well as the right fats themselves, takes a little bit of practice, but mostly just understanding.
Curbing those cravings
We all know that satiety is the all-important factor in sticking to a diet. If you’re hunger cravings get strong enough, no amount of mental willpower is going to stop you from breaking your nutrition plan – let’s just put it down to biology.
You may have gone high-protein in the past to combat this. That diet certainly curbs your calorie intake by selecting foods that make you feel fuller (and therefore, you lose weight). However, it’s not forcing your body to target and burn excess body fat stores in the same way that a ketogenic diet does.
A high fat diet like the keto diet will often include low-to-moderate amounts of protein by default and this is a great way of curbing hunger cravings.
However, the keto diet is specifically based around high fat consumption. You probably know by now that not all fats are created equal. Understanding the basic science behind this will help you to make good choices on your keto journey.
So, what are MCTs?
Medium-chain triglycerides are often incorrectly used as a substitute for coconut oil. While MCTs can be found in coconut oil, the term itself should not be used interchangeably. MCTs are a class of saturated fat that contains fatty acids.
How do they help?
While the research is still fairly new in this area of nutritional science, there are a large amount of studies that suggest a link between MCTs and what the keto diet is trying to achieve.
Broken down this looks like:
• Small increase in metabolic rate
• May decrease fat mass better than long chain fatty acids
• Appears to increase the percentage of calories derived from lipids in obese persons
• May improve insulin sensitivity in diabetics
• Has been implicated in increasing serum ketones more than other fatty acids
Essentially, nutritional science hasn’t studied this area enough to really conclusively say that MCTs will help to burn fat and balance insulin levels, but it’s all looking fairly positive.
What is MCT oil made up of?
MCTs are generally found in coconut oil, palm kernel oil and some dairy fat. Each has a different composition of fatty acids. MCT oil is typically made up of 50-80% caprylic acids and and 20-50% capric acids.
The oil is created by splitting the right amount of these acids from their natural oil sources and adding this to glycerine to create a triglyceride. As you can imagine, a high standard is required during this process to ensure the right balance of fatty acids, so a premium quality brand of MCT oil is essential to maintaining a keto diet.
MCT oil and ketosis
Quite simply, medium-chain triglycerides produce ketones more easily than long-chain triglycerides. You don’t need to understand the complicated science behind this, it’s just one of those accept and move on parts of the ketogenic diet. What it means for the keto diet is that less overall fat is needed to achieve a state of ketosis.
When we say high-fat consumption, what we really mean is consuming more fats than you’re probably used to in order to reach a state of ketosis. Medium-chain fatty acids allow you to do this efficiently and effectively.
As we mentioned above, satiety is the key to sticking to any nutrition plan. MCTs help you to do this by allowing more carbohydrates (but still little to none overall) yet preserving ketosis.
How to use MCT oil
MCT oil is a controlled and effective way of ensuring that your body is getting enough medium-chain fatty acids to enter into a state of ketosis. Depending on what you’ve set your macronutrient level at, MCT oil is an excellent way of helping you achieve this, particularly if its closer to 50 grams a day.
It can be difficult to achieve this by trying to access these fatty acids directly from their natural sources like coconut or palm oil.
There is very little taste or smell to MCT oil so it can easily be blended into smoothies or used to make the go-to beverage of a keto diet – the bulletproof coffee.
Basically, MCT oil is great for making any liquid feel fuller and creamier, so get experimenting. The lack of flavor makes it difficult to go wrong.
Oils are a great way to up your fat consumption in the right way. Studies have suggested that the consumption of the right oils can, not only swiftly help your body produce ketone bodies, but also provide a form of long-lasting energy – much more so than other ketone supplements.
If you’re brand new to the ketogenic diet, start slowly and introduce a teaspoon at a time.
If your body is not used to fats, it may experience some digestive tract issues at first. If you’ve been doing keto for a while and are looking to find ways to enter ketosis more efficiently, then you may well be able to do a straight substitute of MCT oil.
Either way, you’ll appreciate how these medium-chain fatty acids allow you to make it easier to enter and stay in a state of ketosis.
Related: What is Ketosis?