By Flex Staff
I’m constantly being asked to explain the pros and cons of all the different oils that can be used for cooking, and people are always surprised at how vehemently opposed I am to most vegetable and nut oils, and how I’m a fan of coconut oil instead.
I advise everyone to steer well clear of vegetable oils. They’re not a substance you need to be ingesting if your goal is to put on muscle while burning fat and increasing your performance. Bear in mind, however, that I’m not addressing any animal oils or fats in this article. I’m only addressing people’s preferences with regard to stuff like olive oil, and why our options are so limited.
I can’t recommend most vegetable and nut oils because they contain very high ratios of omega-6 fatty acids to omega- 3s. Omega-6 fatty acids are far too inflammatory for what we need, and we’re already inundated with them because of everything else we’re taking in. They also compete for all the enzymes necessary to convert all the other fats in your system to things you need.
If you consume too much omega-6, your body becomes pro-inflammatory. Your ability to create all the fatty acids you need from the raw materials your body has available is also greatly inhibited. The solution? Cut out most vegetable and nut oils from your diet, and replace them with better alternatives.
THE MCT SOLUTION
Medium-chain triglycerides (MCT) bypass many of the normal mechanisms for fatty acid absorption. Most fats take up to two or three hours before they spark any kind of surge in available free fatty acids (FFA) for energy. MCTs, in contrast, pass into your system directly.
This gives you a large spike in your FFA levels, which can create significant ketone production. Ketones will help fuel your cells and improve your cardiac muscle efficiency. MCTs will also circumvent the enzymes needed to cleave longer fatty acids in order to use them for energy.
Simply put, there’s no rate limit. MCTs can get in and fuel your cells better. The bypassing of this channel also makes it impossible for your body to go into rhabdomyolysis—a breaking down of damaged muscle tissue, which, if it doesn’t kill you, will send you to the hospital for a few weeks.
MCTs’ real magic happens when you first wake up. Ingesting them then will give you an immediate boost in FFA, which will jump-start your ketone production and keep you producing ketones for a longer period of time. After that, whatever fats you eat early in the morning will be available a few hours later. As a result, if you’re eating fat all day, you have a constant source of FFA. After your first meal, there’s no difference between taking a spoonful of coconut oil and a spoonful of butter.
The prescription: Take 10 grams first thing in the morning. Then, depending on whether you’re adding carbs to your post-workout shake or not (we don’t combine carbs and fat), have another 10–20 grams after you train.
COCONUT OIL: THE PROS & CONS
Coconut oil is composed of approximately 66% MCTs. That’s the good news. The not-as-good news is that the rest of the stuff in coconut oil isn’t quite as scintillating. Although some people love cooking with coconut oil—I like it with eggs and bacon—you’re better off just using straight MCT oil. It’s a liquid, so it’ll mix with everything—and you’ll be getting only what you need.
The best time to use coconut oil is when you’re frying fatty foods. It has a relatively low viscosity, and the ability to penetrate membranes, so it’s very effective in this case. If you’re frying bacon in coconut oil, you’ll actually be replacing some of the fat in the bacon with fat from the coconut oil. It’s still quality fat, but it’s more of the fat that’s recommended for active people.
THE REST OF THE VEGETABLE OILS
Olive oil and avocado oil are higher in monounsaturated fat, which is neither an omega-3 nor an omega-6. It’s actually an omega-9. This is good in small doses because it helps cell membranes function more effectively; but according to cell membrane dynamics, it’s also the easiest fat to move into fat cells for storage—and the hardest one to get back out.
Flax oil is total junk. It contains omega-3 fatty acids, but they’re not functional fats in the body. They need to be converted—but since we have so many other fats using the same enzymes, very little of this happens. You may as well just skip it, because it won’t do anything for you.
Coconut butter is worth a brief examination here as well. It contains a fatty acid called stearic acid. This is pretty much the saturated counterpart, if you will, to what’s in olive oil. Bacon also has a high quantity of stearic acid. This is extremely good for cell membranes, because it provides the rigid structure that prevents cells from collapsing.
WHAT YOU’LL SEE AND FEEL
If you drop all the vegetable oils and start using MCT oil immediately before your strength training sessions, you may notice slightly more muscular endurance. This is due to the positive effect ketones have on the efficiency of cardiac muscle. By ingesting MCT, you’re essentially getting more output while expending less energy—which, in turn, can get you a few extra reps over the long haul.
To put things into perspective: As long as you’re doing everything else right in terms of your diet and supplementation, MCT consumption should accelerate your fat loss. This is a major “as long as,” though. Most people don’t do enough things right to notice a difference.
So take a pass on all the vegetable and nut oils, but focus on getting the rest of the program right before thinking MCTs will put you over the wall.