Fifty – even five – years ago, to suggest that people increase their consumption of saturated fat would have been met with scorn, laughter, or both.
Ah, how science has changed these times.
Today, coconut oil – a highly-saturated fat derived from a tasty, refreshing, tropical fruit (yes, coconuts are, technically speaking, fruit) – is a darling of the nutritional world.
But does coconut oil really live up to the hype, and how can it help build muscle and burn fat?
Let’s find out.
What is Coconut Oil?
Coconut oil – less commonly referred to as “copra oil” – is a thick, white, edible fat, extracted either mechanically or with solvents from the flesh or kernel of mature coconuts. It has a long history of use, being mentioned in texts dating as far back as 1500 BC.
High in saturated, medium chain fatty acids – including lauric, myristic, capric and palmitic acid – coconut oil is solid at room temperature, and melts at approximately 24 degrees Centigrade.
The oil, when unrefined, smells and tastes of coconuts, and has a long shelf life (of approximately two years).
The Benefits and Uses of Coconut Oil
Coconut oil boasts a plenitude of uses, from topical, to medicinal to improved body composition.
Coconut Oil for Hair and Skin
As a topical agent, it’s often used to moisturize and soothe dry skin, heal damaged cuticles and split ends, as well as treat fungal infections, acne, psoriasis, dandruff and other skin conditions. Apply a small amount of oil directly to skin, hair or nails, and massage in, one to three times daily – though do allow it to absorb fully.
In the Body
As a medicine, coconut oil shows promise in the treatment of a number of diseases – not least among which is the memory-robbing Alzheimer’s disease.
As mentioned previously, coconut oil is largely comprised of MCFAs (medium chain fatty acids). MCFAs are digested in the liver, resulting in the production of ketones – an end-product of fat metabolism.
Far from being a useless metabolite, however, ketones are rapidly utilized by the brain – and unlike glucose, require no insulin for conversion into usable energy.
An Alzheimer’s-affected brain is unable to create its own insulin, and as such, is “running on empty”. When MCFA-rich foods like coconut oil are consumed, the resultant ketones can be utilized as a fuel source helping to power and restore neurological functioning.
Equally exciting is coconut oil’s potential to improve cardiovascular health.
Old dictums warned against the perils of saturated fat consumption – claims now being proven unfounded by current scientific research. In fact, the naturally occurring saturated fatty acids found in coconut oil increase levels of HDL (high density lipoprotein, or, “good”) cholesterol, while converting LDL (low density lipoprotein, or, “bad”) cholesterol into HDL.
The result is improved cardiovascular health, and a reduced risk of heart disease.
You may see an emerging pattern: much of coconut oil’s magic lies in its abundance of medium chain fatty acids.
What other health benefits do they have?
MCFAs act as natural antibiotics, attacking kidney and urinary tract infections, as well as topical and systemic fungal infections.
Of particular interest to those engaged in strenuous or repetitive physical activity, coconut oil may reduce the inflammatory symptoms of arthritis better than some medications, due to a powerful antioxidant, analgesic and anti-inflammatory effect.
The above are a few of coconut oil’s known medicinal benefits. Coconut oil may be consumed straight, out of the jar, on a spoon – but for the best of both worlds – the health and the gustatory – make this marvellous oil part of your daily diet.
How to Use Coconut Oil
Cold-pressed, unbleached coconut oil imparts to food a delicious but not overpowering aroma and flavour, and the stable molecular structure allows it to withstand high cooking temperatures.
Use coconut oil for baking, frying, sautéing – even as a dairy-free alternative to butter on toast.
It also goes well in smoothies – a tablespoon lends a wonderful creaminess to blended protein and fruit drinks, while providing a heart-healthy caloric boost.
You can buy coconut oil in a jar or tub from most supermarkets, health stores or sports supplements retailer.
How Much to Use Daily
There is no set ideal daily dose for coconut oil, it should be used in replace of other cooking oils and butter, that’s the best place to start introducing it into your diet.
Use coconut oil to make up part of your recommended daily fat intake.
For example, you’ve calculated your daily macronutrient ratios, and fat comes out at 50g per day. Simply add coconut oil into your diet to reach this number.
1 table spoon of coconut oil will provide around 15g of fat and 120 calories.
Coconut Oil for Bodybuilders
Weight training to build muscle places significant demand on your central nervous, musculoskeletal and immune systems. According to a study found in the journal Neurobiology of Aging, coconut oil can improve brain function by virtue of the ketones produced when the oil is consumed.
A well-functioning body starts with a well-functioning mind, and physical exercise requires concentration and effort.
And, just as coconut oil fuels the brain, so too does it fuel the body.
Ketones can be utilized systemically as an energy source – even without abandoning carbohydrates to induce a state of ketogenesis.
Including MCFAs in your daily diet can boost and sustain energy levels, allowing for better performance in the gym.
While coconut oil won’t give you an excuse to keep pushing harder than you should, it can give your immune system a boost, helping to stave off infections, thanks largely to the antimicrobial lauric acid.
That’s not all…
As mentioned earlier, coconut oil is made largely of natural saturated fat, but it also contains higher levels of Monounsaturated fats than Polyunsaturated fat.
Research shows that the type of fats we eat impacts testosterone levels. A higher balance of saturated and monounsaturated fats can lead to higher testosterone level.
Testosterone is a powerful anabolic hormone, simply adding some coconut oil into the diet could lead to higher levels of testosterone.
Coconut oil’s antioxidant properties make it an excellent adjunct, reducing free radicals which may contribute to osteoporosis. Additionally, the tropical oil increases calcium absorption, and consequently, improves bone density.
Coconut Oil for Weight Loss
Here’s the million-dollar question: can coconut oil help you lose weight?
The answer, according to research, is yes, it can. But only when you’re in a calorie deficit.
We know that medium chain fatty acids are rapidly digested and metabolized, and consuming coconut oil produces ketones, a quickly-assimilable, non-fattening energy source.
Furthermore, it was observed as far back as 1985 that capric acid – even a single dose – causes a decrease in food consumption, paralleled by a reduction in body weight, likely as a result of improved thyroid function, and an increase in the burning of stored body fat.
Coconut Oil Conclusion!
It would appear that coconut oil does in fact live up to a lot of the hype that currently surrounds it.
It’s healthy, all-natural, skin-soothing, performance-enhancing and great-tasting.
Of course, as with even the best things in life, moderation matters. One to three tablespoons of oil per day, depending on your needs, is sufficient.
- Coconut Oil for Alzheimer’s Disease
- Hypometabolism as a therapeutic target in Alzheimer’s disease
- Effects of dietary fat and fiber on plasma and urine androgens and estrogens in men: a controlled feeding study.
- Effects of a fat-containing meal on sex hormones in men.
- Diet and serum sex hormones in healthy men
- Effects of dietary fatty acids and carbohydrates on the ratio of serum total to HDL cholesterol and on serum lipids and apolipoproteins
- The effects of a low-carbohydrate ketogenic diet and a low-fat diet on mood, hunger, and other self-reported symptoms.
- Fatty Acids and Derivatives as Antimicrobial Agents