Russian study supports MCT supplementation as source of energy for high intensity training

By Adi Menayang

- Last updated on GMT

Getty Images / jag_cz
Getty Images / jag_cz

Related tags MCT Energy Fat Triglyceride

Researchers in Russia analyzed changes of fatty acid levels in the blood plasma of national team cross-country skiers. Results suggested possible role of MCT for exercise benefits, such as improved endurance.

The researchers wanted to compare the concentrations of medium-chain and long-chain saturated fatty acids by exercise loads at different intensities.

They hypothesized that the bodies of endurance athletes use medium-chain fatty acids more than long-chain fatty acids through high intensity exercise, “and that medium-chain fatty acids may therefore represent an excellent energy source because they oxidize more rapidly.”

At the end of the trial, they found that levels of medium-chain fatty acids such as capric acid and lauric acid significantly increased in the blood after skiers did a sprint distance. Meanwhile, they found no significant differences in long-chain saturated fatty acids.

The results were published last week​ in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition​.

Supplementing using MCT

“A practical aspect of this study indicates possible using of supplements containing medium chain fats in form of triglycerides under high intensity loads, for example, in sprint,”​ they wrote in their reports.

They cited past studies conducted on medium-chain triglyceride use for energy.

“It has been suggested that medium-chain triacylglycerol (MCT) ingestion could elevate the concentration of free fatty acid in plasma, reduce muscle glycogen use, and, hence, improve endurance capacity,” ​they wrote, citing a 2004 study​ by British researchers published in Nutrition​.

Results observed by the Russian researchers in this present study were consistent with existing literature on the subject, in that the body prioritized the use of medium-chain fatty acids during high-intensity exercise.

For example, a 1999 study out of South Africa found that cyclists who ingested MCT and cycled for two hours experienced raised serum free fatty acid​ and higher ketone body concentrations.

Another study from 2000​ concluded that “medium-chain triglyceride ingestion may be more effective in reducing muscle glycogen breakdown under conditions in which fatty acid availability is limiting, such as during high-intensity exercise.”

Study details

Fifteen healthy males, members of the Russian national skiing team, participated in the study. All athletes had a minimum of five years of cross-country skiing practice as part of their main training schedule.

All participants consumed a standardized meal on testing days. In the summer of 2014, participants first went through a bike test, in which they rode on an ergometer bike until exhaustion. Blood was drawn at rest, at the peak of the ergometric test, and at the conclusion of the exercise (at exhaustion)

In the fall of 2014, the same participants then conducted a 1.3-km sprint ski race (high intensity), and on the next day a 15 km medium distance race (medium intensity). Blood was drawn after competitions.

Source: Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition
Published online,
“Priority use of medium-chain fatty acids during high-intensity exercise in cross-country skiers”
Authors: A. Yu. Lyudinina, et al.

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