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Home > Living Well > Health Library > Medium–Chain Triglycerides for Sports & Fitness
Some athletes say that medium-chain triglycerides helps increase endurance.
Medium-chain triglycerides are more easily absorbed and burned for energy than other fats, which suggests they might play a role in supplying energy during exercise. Research results have been quite mixed, however, and the large amounts required can lead to gastrointestinal distress, which limits the usefulness of this supplement, even to the few athletes who might benefit.
Medium-chain triglyceridescontain a class of fatty acids found only in very small amounts in the diet; they are more rapidly absorbed and burned as energy than are other fats.1 For this reason, athletes have been interested in their use, especially during prolonged endurance exercise. However, no effect on carbohydrate sparing or endurance exercise performance has been shown with moderate amounts of medium-chain triglycerides (30 to 45 grams over two to three hours).2, 3 Controlled trials using very large amounts of medium-chain triglycerides (approximately 85 grams over two hours) have resulted in both increased and decreased performance,4, 5 while a double-blind trial found that 60 grams per day of medium-chain triglycerides for two weeks had no effect on endurance performance.6 A controlled study found increased performance when medium-chain triglycerides were added to a 10% carbohydrate solution,7 but another study found no advantage of adding medium-chain triglycerides,8 and a third trial actually reported decreased performance with this combination, probably due to gastrointestinal distress, in athletes using medium-chain triglycerides.9
Consuming medium-chain triglycerides on an empty stomach can lead to gastrointestinal upset. Anyone with cirrhosis or other liver problems should check with a doctor before using medium-chain triglycerides. Two reports suggest that medium-chain triglycerides may raise serum cholesterol and/or triglycerides.10, 11 Medium-chain triglycerides are actually the preferred fatty acid source for cirrhotic patients, but only when used intermittently.12
Medium-chain triglycerides are found in coconut oil, palm kernel oil, and butter. Medium-chain triglycerides are also available as a supplement.
Last Review: 05-23-2015
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