How to add lean muscle with MCT oil.

by Paul Horowitz

MCT oil has over the last 10 years gained huge popularity with people looking to build muscle and stay lean. It has many reported benefits, including increasing energy, maintaining a full feeling longer, increasing metabolism, aiding recovery and losing fat but maintaining muscle mass. While some health benefits may have been over-hyped, there’s a growing body of evidence that suggests MCT oil is a useful addition to a body builder, weightlifter or athlete’s diet.

In short, MCT oil can,

  • Boost metabolism, helping you to burn calories and lose fat.
  • Improve your ability to burn other dietary fats.
  • Encourage ketosis, an important fat burning state.Effectively stabilise blood sugar levels between meals.

MCT stands for Medium Chain Triglycerides. The “medium chain” refers to the length of the chain of fatty acids in a fat or oil. About 60 - 65% of coconut oil is MCT and it metabolises much more quickly and differently to the Long Chain Triglycerides (LCTs) found in most of our processed foods, vegetable and soy oils. These shorter chain fatty acids are sent directly to the liver where they are almost entirely burned for fuel. Many Pacific Island populations traditionally eat diets containing upwards of 50% of calories coming from coconut fat and these people remain lean and muscular into old age.

MCT Oil is quickly digested and absorbed

MCT is also sometimes referred to as Medium Chain Fatty Acid (MCFA). Whatever the terminology, they require less energy and fewer enzymes to break down, so they are easily digested and absorbed quickly. This oil is so easy to digest that it is often included in infant formula and is used to help people with digestive problems.(3) A heavy meal after a workout is the last thing you want, but the positive benefits of eating nutritious food after a workout are well documented. That’s where a post workout shakes or a smoothie, including MCT oil, may help prevent muscle catabolism (break down), improve protein synthesis and reduce recovery time. Combine with the benefits of whey protein, which is also easily digested, rapidly absorbed and increases insulin and immune system functions, for a super post-workout meal.

MCT Oil stimulates insulin

Insulin regulates blood glucose (or sugar) levels. For a long time, body builders thought fats should be avoided post-workout. However, MCT oil benefits those looking to build muscles by increasing the insulin spike created by a post-workout meal, and in turn improving muscle building. The bodybuilder’s post-workout drink or meal should contain the right nutrients to stimulate insulin secretion, as this is the hormone that will pump nutrients into the muscles. As reported in the "Journal of Surgical Research" by M Garfinkel and colleagues, coconut/MCT oil is highly insulinotropic, and hence a spoon of this oil makes a great addition to the bodybuilder’s post workout shake. (5) Moreover, because it is easily digested, it does not slow down the absorption of other nutrients, as long-chained fatty acids would. Both whey protein and MCT oil stimulate insulin secretion and both assist immune system function. This important when tough training regimes can lower immune system function leading to tiredness and sickness.

MCT oil is the perfect partner for low or reduced carb diets

Many body builders and athletes are moving away from high carbs in preference to healthy fats because of the benefits they see in their training energy and muscle building. Ketogenic diets, which are high fat and low carb, have been used in various forms in body building to speed muscle building and recovery. MCT oil can induce Ketogenesis and increase Intra Muscular Fatty Acids (IMFA) which are an important alternative fuel to glucose produced and preferred by the body for energy from consuming carbs. This is important for those in training who are prone to fat gain or health problems from taking high levels of glucose in the form of high carb diets. In 2003, a study conducted by C Beermann and colleagues found that this oil helps to burn other fats and increases your metabolic rate, thus aiding in lowering your body fat levels, according to Thus, coconut oil or MCT oil is often used by bodybuilders pre-contest, when they want to reduce body fat but retain muscle mass.(5)

MCT oil refuels IMFA

Muscles are fuelled from glycogen (from carbs and protein) and intramuscular triglycerides (IMTG) from dietary fat. “Researchers suggest that IMTGs are important for muscle building and strength gain because they provide energy for the muscles, have a muscle-cell volumising effect which directly stimulates muscle cell growth and because they form part of muscle cell membranes. It appears that the body’s IMTG storage capacity can be improved through exercise, particularly aerobic exercise, and through eating a high fat lower carbohydrate diet(6).” Adding MCT oil can help to refuel your IMGT stores even faster.

How to consume MCT oil

Start slowly with small amounts and gradually build up to 1 – 3 tablespoons a day. Adding it to post workout shakes is a good way to start. MCT oil can be also added to stir fry vegetables, baked foods and meats.


1.Bruce Fife, The Coconut Oil Miracle – p. 126

2.http://joe.endocrinology “Acute effects of fatty acids on insulin secretion from rat and human islets of Langerhans”

3. “Coconut Oil benefits Bodybuilders By Speeding Post Workout Recovery”

4. “The Surprising Truth About Coconut Oil”.