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In some schools of nutritional thought, good and bad rule. Fat is bad, carbs are good, and too much protein and too few carbs are dangerous. But a bodybuilder’s diet is more about shades of gray: Generally speaking, no one nutrient or food is all bad or all good. Sure, some things are more bad than others; for instance, it’s hard to find anything good about trans fats. But on the whole, a bodybuilding diet tends to be more forgiving.
Here’s a good example. Most people know saturated fats are bad…except they’re not. At least, not always. It’s true that sat fats are more likely to be deposited in fat stores – not to mention your arteries – but that’s more of an issue when a large proportion of your diet is made up of carbs.
In a low-carb diet, however, there’s room to eat more fat, since the calories you’re not getting from carbs have to be replaced somehow. We generally recommend you focus on healthy fats such as olive oil, avocados, nuts, peanut butter and salmon, but there’s always room for a good steak, and every bodybuilder’s breakfast should include more than one egg.
Another reason mainstream advice on saturated fats is misguided is that not all sat fats are the same. In fact, some aren’t readily stored as fat and don’t contribute to heart disease risk. They’re called medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) because their chemical structure is shorter in length than other fats, and they’re found in coconut oil and palm kernel oil.
MCTs’ size allows them to do things that other fats can’t, one of which is be directly absorbed into the bloodstream after ingestion. Most fats go through a slow, laborious digestion process before they can be burned or stored, but MCTs bypass all that. They also skip right past the steps other fats have to take to be transported into cells to be burned. The end result is that MCTs are burned as fuel much more readily than other kinds of fats, which means they’re less likely to join fat stores.
MCTs also exert an influence on bodyfat that goes beyond this quirk. In study after study, scientists have found that consuming MCTs is directly linked to a reduction of bodyfat and an increase in energy expenditure (metabolism). In a study published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, subjects who consumed 10 grams of MCTs at breakfast, lunch and dinner saw a greater increase in metabolism than subjects who consumed 10 grams of long-chain triglycerides, a type of fat found in olive and corn oils. Another study, published in Obesity Research, found that fat-burning increased and bodyfat decreased among subjects eating MCTs.
Despite all of MCTs’ apparent benefits, some doubt remains regarding their potentially deleterious effects on cardiovascular disease risk. They are, after all, saturated fats. Yet when scientists compared MCT oil consumption as part of a 16-week weight-loss diet with olive oil (which contains primarily healthy monounsaturated fats) consumption, they found no negative effect of either oil on blood glucose levels, cholesterol or blood pressure.
The upshot is that MCTs are enormously different from other saturated fats. Try taking 1 tablespoon of MCTs once a day, with food, and work up to 1-2 tablespoons 1-4 times per day.