If you’re feeling sluggish, foggy or struggling to keep up with tasks, conversations, or deadlines at work, chances are your brain is not getting enough fuel.
The human brain is a miraculous piece of biological machinery. Accounting for approximately 2% of our total body weight, the brain is a busy organ and demands over 20% of our incoming energy supply.
One of the first places we should be looking if we’re feeling foggy and can’t think clearly is how well are we fuelling the brain’s energy demands?
MCT: The Best Brain Energy Hack
One substance with exceptional brain-fuelling capabilities is Medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs). MCTs are a special type of saturated fat that can be rapidly converted into ketones. Ketones provide an immediate and desirable source of energy that the brain and muscles can put to use quickly. Not only is the energy they provide rapidly assimilated, but it’s also long-lasting, which can be ideal for overcoming mental fatigue, and improving focus, performance and endurance.
What are Medium Chain Triglycerides?
MCTs are a special type of ‘friendly’ saturated fat that can be typically found in foods such as coconut oil, palm kernel oil, and dairy products, including butter. While it’s true that saturated fats, in general, have been associated with negative health effects, MCTs exhibit unique characteristics that differentiate them from other ‘unfriendly’ saturated fats. It’s important to understand that not all fats are created equal.
Healthful Healing Fats vs Bad Fats
Saturated fats, such as those found in animal fats and plant (seed) based oils, can be detrimental to our health when consumed in excess. They have been linked to an increased risk of cardiovascular diseases and elevated levels of LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol, often referred to as "bad" cholesterol. This is primarily because long-chain saturated fats are more difficult for the body to break down and metabolise.
On the other hand, MCTs are composed of shorter fatty acid chains, which make them easier for the body to digest and utilise as a rapid source of energy. Unlike other types of dietary fat, they do not require digestive enzymes and bile salts in order to be broken down and absorbed. Instead, they can be transported directly into the liver and deployed for immediate energy needs.
Unlike glucose, MCT provides protective and therapeutic benefits to brain health. Its unique ability to elevate ketones is a great hack for brain and cognitive health, as ketones are normally only produced under carbohydrate-restricted dietary conditions. Ketosis has been used since the early 1900s as a therapeutic tool in many neurological conditions, including epilepsy, Alzheimer’s and traumatic brain injury. Research shows that ketones not only provide energy but are also an anti-inflammatory balm to the brain.
Protect and Fuel Body and Mind with MCTs
Due to their unique structure, research shows that MCTs offer a range of positive potential health performance benefits:
Rapid energy source: MCTs are quickly absorbed by the liver and readily converted into energy. This makes them a readily available fuel source, making them popular among athletes and individuals following ketogenic diets. Because of our brain’s high energy demands, this helps meet energy needs for optimal performance.
Improved cognitive function: MCTs can provide an alternative energy source for the brain, which is particularly beneficial in conditions where brain glucose metabolism is impaired, such as Alzheimer's disease or certain types of epilepsy. The brain can efficiently use the ketones produced from MCT breakdown as a source of energy.
Weight management: MCTs have been suggested to aid in weight loss and weight management. They are believed to increase satiety, potentially reducing overall calorie intake. Moreover, MCTs have a thermogenic effect, meaning they can slightly increase the body’s metabolic rate. Improving metabolic health has positive spill-over effects on brain and nervous system wellbeing.
Antimicrobial properties: MCTs are rich in lauric acid, which have demonstrated antimicrobial effects, particularly against harmful bacteria and fungi. They can help support a healthy gut microbiome and may further support immune function. Infections pose a threat to brain health, with many people reporting post-viral fatigue following an illness. By supporting both energy needs and immune resilience, we better support long-term brain health.
Support nutrient absorption: MCTs have been shown to enhance the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins, minerals and omega-3 fatty acids. Consuming MCTs with a meal can facilitate better absorption of essential nutrients to power our body and brain needs.
Modulate inflammation: Studies suggest that MCTs can help to modulate inflammation by increasing anti-inflammatory cytokines and downregulating pro-inflammatory ones. Controlling systemic inflammation is important to protect the brain from the harmful effects of neuroinflammation.
Medium-chain triglycerides represent an easy and efficacious way to enhance cognitive, athletic, mental and immune performance markers. They have the potential to benefit our health in a range of ways that support the longevity of our body and mind and help us to resist pathways to chronic illness.
How To Incorporate MCT Into Your Daily Life
There are a number of ways to boost your MCT intake on a daily basis.
MCT oil can easily be found at supermarkets and health food stores, and can be added to smoothies, coffee, salad dressings, yoghurt or overnight oats.
Or for a simple and delicious protein-rich alternative, you can try our plant-based advanced absorption ioPea plant protein which has been combined with 6 grams of MCT per serving. MCT Protein is a yummy vanilla or chocolate flavoured powder that is tasty when mixed with plain water or versatile enough to add to your favourite fruit smoothie, yoghurt, chia pudding or overnight oats.
Incorporating MCT into your daily dietary habits can fuel your body and mind so that you can think and feel your best, everyday.
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