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Raw Coconut Oil Benefits for Athletes

by
author image Marie Dannie
Marie Dannie has been a professional journalist since 1991, specializing in nutrition and health topics. She has written for "Woman’s Own," the "Daily Mail," the "Daily Mirror" and the "Telegraph." She is a registered nutritionist and holds a Bachelor of Science degree with honors in food science from the University of Nottingham.
Raw Coconut Oil Benefits for Athletes
Coconut oil in the bottom of a bowl made from a coconut shell. Photo Credit evafox/iStock/Getty Images

Coconut oil is made from the flesh of mature coconuts after they have turned brown and woody on the outside. The thick white coconut meat is processed into coconut oil, which is then used for cooking and, in some cases, topical treatments for skin and hair. Coconut oil is rich in healthy fatty acids, which may help increase endurance and reduce levels of body fat. Because of this, athletes sometimes take it as a supplement.

Coconut Oil and MCTs

Coconut oil is rich in lauric acid, a medium-chain triglyceride, or MCT, which is a type of fatty acid that may have numerous health benefits. MCTs are easily digested by the body, which uses them as a form of direct energy because they are so easily absorbed and processed. According to NYU Langone Medical Center, coconut oil contains up to 15 percent MCTs. When taking MCTs as a supplement for athletic performance, the recommended dosage, according to the medical center, is 85 milligrams a day.

May Boost Endurance

NYU Langone Medical Center reports that MCTs may help enhance exercise ability. A study published in April 2009 in the “Journal of Nutritional Science and Vitaminology” found that the easy digestibility of MCTs may increase energy metabolism during both high- and medium-intensity exercise. The two-week human study found that MCTs reduced the body’s reliance on carbohydrates as a source of energy and cut the amount of lactate produced during exercise, leading to greater exercise endurance.

May Reduce Fat Levels

MCTs in coconut oil have also been associated with changing body composition, reducing the amount of overall fat. In an article published in the March 2003 issue of “Obesity Research," researchers who conducted a human study concluded that a diet high in MCTs led to lower body-fat tissue, throughout the body, in test subjects over the course of four weeks. Researchers concluded that a diet high in MCTs helped increase energy expenditure and may help kick-start weight loss. An animal study published in “Diabetes” in November 2009 also found that MCTs led to lower levels of body fat. The study, which was conducted over a period of four to five weeks, found that a high-fat diet supplemented with MCTs led to lower overall body-fat percentages.

How Much Coconut Oil

While coconut oil contains MCTs, it also has a number of unhealthy fats, including saturated fat. A 1-tablespoon serving has 13.6 grams of total fat, 11.8 grams of which are saturated. MCTs make up no more than 15 percent of the total saturated fat content, so this still leaves a little over 10 grams of saturated fat per serving of coconut oil. According to the American Heart Association, you should get a maximum of 5 to 6 percent of your daily calories from saturated fat. This means that if you consume 2,000 calories a day, you should have, at most, 16 grams of saturated fat. Based on this, a 1-tablespoon serving of coconut oil represents 63 percent of the recommended daily limit for saturated fat.

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