MCT oil is one of the most popular nutritional supplements on the market today. People all over the world are adding MCT oil to their post-workout shakes, their morning coffee, and their breakfast cereal, while others use it by itself as a nootropic supplement to boost mental energy.
One of the most popular uses of high quality MCT oil is as a fasting supplement.
Fasting, whether intermittent fasting or prolonged fasting, has become extraordinarily popular over the last few years. Or more correctly, fasting has reappeared as a regular part of our lives, although today it is usually dressed up in the language of science rather than being a religious compulsion or a practical necessity as it was in the past!
MCT is usually held up as one of the best supplements to take while fasting. People claim it not only makes fasting easier, it also makes it more efefctive, forcing your body into ketosis faster, ramping up fat loss, and accelerating autophagy.
But this doesn’t seem correct intuitively. After all, in consuming MCT oil, you are consuming calories, and that almost always means breaking a fast.
So does MCT oil break a fast? Does it help with intermittent fasting? How does MCT oil even work?
Let’s try to answer these questions together in more detail.
How does MCT oil help with fasting?
The main way in which MCT oil is said to be useful for fasting is by promoting ketosis. Ketosis is the state in which your body starts using ketones for fuel rather than blood glucose. Most people who fast are either explicitly or implicitly aiming to enter ketosis, as this state is associated with increased fat loss and better cognitive performance.
However, the relationship between MCT oil and ketosis is complicated.
MCT Oil is easily converted into ketones in the liver. This production of ketones is thought to help you enter ketosis faster, as your brain switches to using ketone bodies for fuel rather than glucose. This state of ketosis is also associated with suppressed appetite (prolong satiety), which could make MCT oil even more useful for individuals new to fasting.
But does MCT really speed up ketosis?
Unlikely. The mere presence of ketone bodies does not trigger ketosis; ther eis no clinical evidence showing a link between the presence of ketone bodies in the blood and ketosis. The presence of ketones alone would also not give you any of the benefits associated with fasting. To enjoy those benefits, the goal is really to drive down blood sugar low enough to trigger a spike in human growth hormone (HGH), to encourage lipolysis, and to begin autophagy. Simply having ketones in your blood wouldn’t do this.
Despite not speeding up ketosis, MCT oil is extremely useful when used during a fast.
For one thing, the fact that MCT oil is readily converted into ketone bodies means it acts as instant fuel during a fast without breaking your fast. Aside from delivering ketone bodies (in the inital form of MCTs), MCT oil doesn’t confer any other calories. Fats like MCTs do not make any practical difference to your fasting state, as they simply increase the amount of ketones in your blood. They don’t spike insluin, they don’t prevent lipolysis, and they don’t stop autophagy.
MCT oil also helps during fasting by increasing the energy efficiency of your cells. Studies have shown that MCT consumption increases the number of mitochondria in your cells. As the cellular “engine”, more mitochondria means more efficient energy metabolism.
Does MCT oil stop autophagy?
One of the main reasons that people follow and intermittent or prolonged fasting protocol is to induce autophagy. This is the bodily process whereby old, damaged cells are broken down and eliminated from the body. Because old, damaged cells are being removed to make room for new, healthy, young cells, autophagy can be thought of as a kind of anti-ageing mechanism, and it is broadly associated with better health and physical performance.
Fasting is known to be the most reliable way to induce autophagy.
So, does MCT oil stop autophagy from happening?
The simple answer is, it might. MCT oil may stop autophagy if you consume too much, or if you consume it with something else which does break a fast (and thus halt autophagy). For example, MCT oil consumed with 3 eggs will most definitely break a fast, and thus stop autophagy. So will adding MCT oil to coffee and drinking that mixture. But a small spoonfull of MCT oil taken by itself is unlikely to have a meaningful effect on your body, other than to increase energy levels and support ketosis. This is especially true if you are young, healthy, and getting plenty of exercise.
In short, MCT oil can break autophagy, but a tablespoon of MCT oil, for example, might not be that significant if you’re young, healthy and exercising every day. Of course as always, if you want to be sure not to break autophagy, don’t consume any MCT oil, or any calories at all for that matter.
When to take MCT oil when fasting
When is the best time to take MCT oil while fasting?
The best time to take MCT oil while fasting is whenever you feel the need for an energy boost but you don’t want to break your fast. Most people take MCT oil first thing in the morning with black coffee to get through the morning hours while fasting.
Fasting with only MCT oil
You can fast with only MCT oil. Consuming nothing but water, tea, coffee and MCT oil is perfectly fine during a fast, and these drinks will not break your fast (assuming you don’t add anything else to them). However, consuming nothing but MCT oil during a fast will likely result in digestive discomfort, and taking too much can eventyually break a fast and halt autophagy.
We recommend taking some MCT oil when you feel your energy levels dipping the most. For most people, 4-5 hours into a fast is when MCT oil is most useful. But if you need help staying energized and focused in the morning, then taking MCT oil right away when you wake up will help too.
In Conclusion: Will MCT oil break a fast?
So, does MCT oil end a fast?
No, when used correctly, MCT oil does not break a fast. On the contrary, MCT oil can help you stay in a fasted state for longer, support energy levels and mental performance, and maximize fat loss during periods of fasting.