1. Day 157 ~ revisiting MCT oil (warning: includes SCIENCE)

    So, about a month ago I wrote this post, where I discussed my new purchase of MCT oil. I subbed this into my bulletproof coffee (BPC) recipe, which had previously contained coconut oil instead.

    I promised I’d come back and deliver an update on what I thought of the switch and whether it was worth it (because, really, what sort of conclusions can you draw in a day of use?) and this is it!!

    So potential pros of MCT oil in the BPC recipe were basically increasing the good things coconut oil does for you in terms of metabolism and energy. Negatives were potential digestive issues if not introduced gradually.

    The verdict? Honestly I’m not sure there’s any significant difference >_> 

    Saying that…

    • I think gradual introduction may limit your ability to pick up on differences. I’m not too sure how to test this >_>
    • I haven’t really been too active during this experimental time.

    —————————————————————————————————————-

    TESTING: the influence of coffee and BPC variations

    Ok, so I wrote this post and then decided it was a really inconclusive conclusion for you guys. So decided to test my body with straight coffee and cream vs coconut oil BPC vs my body with ‘acclimatised’ MCT oil BPC. Does it matter what you do with your coffee!


    Note: quantifying mental performance is a subjective task, but physical influences are much simpler, and it’s possible the influence is related - ie it may effect mental tasks in the same manner.

    So, let’s get this SCIENCE started:

    Hypothesis

    • drinking coffee pre-run should improve performance compared to the control group (ie water)
    • drinking bulletproof coffee should have a greater improvement comparative to coffee with cream, as it contains a greater proportion of MCT oil.
    • Increasing MCT oil should increase this influence.

    Assumptions

    • physical ‘improvement’ over the three sessions is negligible.
    • Ignores the influence of weather on performance
    • ignores external physical influences (ie tiredness) on performance.

    Setup

    • In all experiments the amount of liquid is the same
    • It is drunk just before the run in question.
    • the clothes worn are the same
    • asthma inhaler is taken immediately prior to run
    • route of each run is the same
    • the time the run is undertaken is the same, as is the time between waking and setting off
    • Four experiment scenarios; control (water), one (coffee and cream) two (BPC with MCT), and three (BPC with coconut oil) . Each run consists of a 5 minute warm up an then 6 runs of 1.5 minutes, with a 2 minute break in between, and the a 5 minute cool down (C25K W2)
    • in order to avoid the potential influences of physical improvement the tests were performed in a random order.
    • after drinking I waited 10 minutes before starting the warm-up/run

    Results

    Control: no coffee (cup of water) (W)

    • started to feel tired: 6 minutes
    • started to feel very tired: 17 minutes
    • started to feel like stopping: 24 minutes
    • other notes: weather was sunny with a very light breeze. Run was challenging all the way through.

    Test one: coffee with cream (CC)

    • started to feel tired: 11 minutes
    • started to feel very tired: 24 minutes
    • started to feel like stopping: never
    • other notes: weather was light-medium rain but no wind. Think perhaps if I’d had to do another one of two intervals more it would have been very difficult. Generally fine though.

    Test two: bulletproof coffee with coconut oil (CO)

    • started to feel tired: 15 minutes
    • started to feel very tired: 24 minutes
    • started to feel like stopping: never
    • other notes: sunny, alittle wind.

    Test three: bulletproof coffee with MCT oil (CMCT)

    • started to feel tired: 17 minutes
    • started to feel very tired: never
    • started to feel like stopping: never
    • other notes: cloudy, alittle wind.

    image


    Discussion


    Well, unsurprisingly the immediate observation is that coffee increases stamina. Not exactly groundbreaking - but it was interesting to quantify - and especially to feel it. The first run (with coffee) was much much easier than the second where I’d only had water. The challenging moments came, ofcourse, but it was more like “easy-easy-ooh this is a bit harder" then the water run which was pretty tough all the way through. Also notable, on the coffee runs the hard moments came at the end of the runs, whereas the water run the hard moments were as likely to come in the middle or start of a run.

    As the summary graph shows, the three experiments involving caffeine have a much steeper gradient compared to that of water. This indicates that in each case it takes increasingly longer to become tired in the first instance - in other words that I have a higher degree of stamina.

    the graph also shows that with increasing amount of MCT there was a definite increase in the ‘amount’ of stamina. With coconut oil (which contains ~55% MCT oil) vs 100% MCT oil (which apparently is actually derived from coconut oil), there is actually a measurable increase in my stamina.

    With coffee I could run 100% longer that the water run, with BPC and coconut oil I could run 200% longer, and with BPC and MCT oil I could run 250% longer.

    Conclusion

    So, how did my hypotheses fare up?

    • drinking coffee pre-run should improve performance compared to the control group (ie water)

    This was indeed the case. With coffee my performance (specifically stamina) was significantly improved. 

    • drinking bulletproof coffee should have a greater improvement comparative to coffee with cream, as it contains a greater proportion of MCT oil.
    • Increasing MCT oil should increase this influence.

    This was indeed the case. BPC shows a significant improvement compared to coffee with cream. Further, increasing levels of MCT correspond to increasing stamina during runs. Using MCT oil in BPC does result in greater performance that using coconut oil.

    In this conclusion, though, I’ve ignored other influences which may be significant. Weather, for example, can effect mood and more significantly wind can offer some pretty impressive resistance, especially as I’m running along a coastline. If the wind is against you trust me, you know about it!!

    The most important of the potential other influences is ‘general physical improvement’ ie that my body would adapt and improve as the week went on. If I’d done this uber seriously I would have notes the same factors in my runs the week before an after, in order to quantify my improvement trends - and then removed these influences from the above data in order to clarify the influence of the coffee as much as possible. But I didn’t do that, sorry! ;p But ‘if I was to repeat this experiment’ I would do this in order to make the results more reliable.

    I would also have done this over several weeks, to see if the results are consistent.

    Interesting followup question…

    I was interested to know what the influence of caffeine actually was. For example is it a mask; is my body still exerting itself but I don’t notice in the same way. Or is it a replacement; is my body using the caffeine so I’m not actually getting the benefit or running in the same way as if I did it ‘without help’.

    Reddit user /u/loopy212 answered this question for me very well: “It stimulates your system, which raises your heartrate and provides all sorts of other benefits including blocking tiredness and such. Your body naturally is going to get the energy from somewhere else: fat or muscle if you don’t have any immediate source of energy to burn." (also if you want to know more about the benefits/effects of caffeine go here!)