As a backpacker, I am always looking out for items that will make my experience in the backcountry better. This can be a new sleep pad, lighter footwear, or in this case, better food options. Anyone who keeps up with the latest diet crazes will probably know about Bulletproof coffee. It is just regular coffee that has butter and MCT oil added to it (it’s actually better tasting than it sounds). What I am going to focus on in this post is the MCT oil and how adding it can be beneficial to my backpacking meal plan.
First, I’ll do my best to explain the dietary benefits of MCT oil (Medium Chain Triglyceride) because I am by no means a nutritionist. Derived from coconut and/or palm oil, this fatty acid is tasteless and can be added to coffee or prepared meals but is not good for cooking due to low boiling point. Some people have experienced digestive issues and it is recommended to start with only 1/2 to 1 tablespoon a day until you know your tolerance. I have used 1 tablespoon a day with no issues.
The important benefit of MCTs is that they are metabolized through the liver instead of digestion so they can provide energy faster than other fats. They can help to balance out the gut bacteria and help improve gut health over time. One type of fatty acid in MCT is Lauric Acid, which has been shown to help improve immune system function. As you can see, there are a lot of benefits to using MCT oil in the backcountry, as well as in your everyday diet.
Second, I want to point out the nutritional facts that make MCT oil a great addition to a backpacking meal plan. The long standing rule about food in the backcountry is getting a ratio of 100-125 calories per ounce of food. A lot of hikers will use olive oil to supplement calories in their prepared meals. I have been a fan of this technique and usually bring a container of olive oil on multi day trips. So let’s do a quick comparison of these two oils. Per tablespoon, olive oil provides 120 calories and MCT oil is 130 calories, so there’s a small benefit there. Another advantage with MCT oil is that it is flavorless and can be added to hot beverages and foods, like oatmeal. Finally, the long chain fatty acids, such as those found in olive oil, take time to be metabolized through digestion, unlike the medium chain fatty acids, such as MCT oil, which are metabolized faster through the liver.
It is too soon to tell if MCT oil will be a permanent replacement for olive oil in my backpacking meal plan. Right now, I am planning a six day trip through the Ozark Mountains and this will give me a good idea if MCT oil is a worthy addition to my meal plan for future trips.