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New To Fasting? MCT Oil Makes It Easier, Says A Functional Medicine Expert

Jamie Schneider
mbg Beauty & Wellness Editor
By Jamie Schneider
mbg Beauty & Wellness Editor
Jamie Schneider is the Beauty & Wellness Editor at mindbodygreen, covering beauty and wellness. She has a B.A. in Organizational Studies and English from the University of Michigan, and her work has appeared in Coveteur, The Chill Times, and Wyld Skincare.
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February 27, 2021

If you've just begun to dip your toes into the intermittent fasting waters, here's something you likely already know: Fasting can be hard. Especially in the beginning, when your body adapts to your time-restricted eating window; you might experience those wretched hunger pangs as your body gets used to the new schedule. 

You should, of course, listen to your body and honor its signals—make sure you haven't chosen a plan that's too intense for you at the moment. But if you need a little extra support during the fasting period, functional medicine expert and mbg Collective member Will Cole, D.C., IFMCP, has you covered: The key, he says, is MCT oil.

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"If [you] are new to fasting, I almost see it as this sort of gateway food," he shares on the mindbodygreen podcast.

How MCT oil can make fasting way easier.

To understand how MCT oil makes fasting easier, you'll first need to learn the science behind this healthy fat: MCT oil stands for medium-chain triglyceride oil, and it's typically extracted from coconut oil, kernel oil, and dairy fats—like grass-fed butter or ghee.

As its moniker suggests, MCT oil is a medium-chain saturated fat, as opposed to a long-chain saturated fat. "They're utilized and metabolized in the body completely differently," adds Cole. "That specific type of saturated fat behaves differently." 

According to Cole, MCTs are easily absorbed by the body, which means "it's a good tool for people that are in a fast to work on satiety." In fact, research shows that MCTs help you feel fuller for longer by balancing your appetite-controlling hormones. 

"Your metabolism loves it," Cole adds. Specifically, MCTs can help your body's metabolism become a fat burner rather than sounding the alarm bells once the glucose from food is all burned up. Research has shown that lauric acid in particular—an MCT found in coconut oil—can create a more sustained ketosis (or when your metabolism burns fat for fuel instead of glucose), and another study shows they can even increase your metabolic rate.

Translation: During a fast, you want your body to burn fat for fuel so that it's sustained for longer without consuming extra calories. This training period takes time, though, especially if you're brand-new to the fasting game. MCT oil can aid the body a bit during this process: "I almost see it as this sort of gateway food to fat adaptation," says Cole, and it can help you evade those gnawing hunger pangs. 

How to incorporate MCT oil into your fast. 

One of the most popular ways to consume MCT oil is to stir it in a cup of black coffee (which experts say has such minimal calories, that it shouldn't interfere with fasting's perks). Feel free to blend in some coconut oil, grass-fed butter, or ghee into your java (or purchase a bottle of straight MCT oil, which is often flavorless). You can also pour it into your tea—whatever you like to drink in the mornings. 

Or, says Cole, "You can just have it off the spoon." Whenever you're feeling peckish, a spoonful of coconut oil or ghee can help keep you satiated until your eating window opens. 

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The takeaway. 

If you're new to fasting, incorporating healthy fats like MCT oil can make the venture a touch easier. As Cole explains, it's a great tool to have as your body adapts to burning fat for fuel, and you may experience fewer hunger pangs as a result.

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Jamie Schneider
Jamie Schneider
mbg Beauty & Wellness Editor

Jamie Schneider is the Beauty & Wellness Editor at mindbodygreen. She has a B.A. in Organizational Studies and English from the University of Michigan, and her work has appeared in Coveteur, The Chill Times, and Wyld Skincare. In her role at mbg, she reports on everything from the top beauty industry trends, to the gut-skin connection and the microbiome, to the latest expert makeup hacks. She currently lives in New York City.