Coconut oil: can it really benefit sports performance?

Speaking as a Registered Dietitian and Sport and Exercise Nutritionist (SENr) the question of what is the best type of fat/oil to use is always a tricky one to answer as it requires a fundamental knowledge of the structure and nature of their fatty acid composition. That is because when we eat foods containing fat we are consuming a blend of their fatty acids which are classified according to their structure and the number of carbon atoms in their chain. In recent years research has focused on these different types of fatty acids and their properties as they may have different health benefits depending on the length of their carbon chains. Heart health guidelines still currently advise using fats and oils with a high proportion of saturated fatty acids sparingly in order to keep total intakes of saturated fat at or below 10% of daily calories. Advice also includes keeping intakes of hydrogenated vegetable fats (including hydrogenated coconut/palm oil) in processed foods e.g. manufactured cakes, pastries and biscuits to a minimum. Coconut oil is indeed one of the richest sources of saturated fat in vegetable oils with about 86-90% of all its fatty acids being saturated whereas olive oil, has a high proportion of heart-healthy monounsaturated fatty acids and small amounts of saturated fat. However what is interesting about the saturated fatty acids in coconut oil is that around 60% are medium chain triglycerides (MCTs) which are metabolized differently to the saturated fatty acids found in butter, milk and animal fats which have shorter and longer carbon chains respectively. MCTs require fewer enzymes and bile acids for digestion and...