Workout of the Day

Is Coconut Oil Poison?


Google’s algorithm knows me well enough to know that I’m keenly interested in fitness, nutrition, and science, and so unsurprisingly, my daily Google news suggestions have recently been occupied with plenty of articles about a lecture given by Dr. Karin Michels, a Harvard professor, in which she calls coconut oil “pure poison” and “one of the worst foods you can eat.” The lecture and the claims of Dr. Michels I’m sure occupy more than just my news feed, as coconut oil is a bit of a fad food, which also means it garners quite a bit of contention, emotion, and internet arguing.

While I’m not interested in laying out a case either for or against coconut oil (and really, making a case “for” or “against” a singular food without further context is a silly notion), all of the hubbub around coconut oil has me thinking about how the public engages with information in the highly-controversial world of health and fitness.

The undeniable fact of the matter is, people tend to engage with this information emotionally rather than rationally. Find a stranger at a bar and start a conversation about veganism, the paleo diet, CrossFit, high carb vs. low carb, or whether runners should lift heavy weights, and there’s a good chance the conversation may end in a round of fisticuffs.

What this all means, unfortunately, is that in our world where competition for your attention is the hottest commodity, playing to your emotions is what sells. If I want your dollars or your clicks/views, I need to emblazon my name in your memory, and there’s no better way to do that than to either piss you off (emotion) or garner your zealous support (emotion). Flooding the internet with words like “poison” and claims like “one of the worst foods you can eat” is sure to do this. While I don’t know Dr. Michels or her motives and won’t claim to have any right to judge the intentions behind her statements, I also know that what she’s doing looks a lot like playing the game of attention-grabber that largely defines how information is shared today.

While you and I cannot change how media is shared or what sort of ideas well-respected or well-titled individuals disseminate, what we can do is take a step back and arm ourselves with understanding and reasoning. Look for nuance and recognize that reality tends to occupy grey areas more than black and white. Understand that what you read or watch, even if it’s primary purpose is to educate and inform, is still clamoring for your attention, and as such may play to your emotions. This isn’t bad or good, it’s reality; but it’s important to understand that and moderate your opinions accordingly. Find ways to seek disconfirming information about your own beliefs and opinions. Failure to do so is a one-way ticket to either eating your words down the road or unfounded zealotry.

Ultimately, get comfortable not having an answer. As much as we know, there’s a lot more we don’t know.

Is coconut oil good? Is it bad? The best answer is probably that it’s not. It’s not good, it’s not bad; it’s a food with a host of qualities that can make it more or less effective for certain purposes. But that’s not the kind of news title that’s going to get your clicks, and so here we are. It’s your responsibility to engage with these ideas with discernment, nuance, and a healthy dose of skepticism, and to make decisions for yourself.

P.S. If you’re at all interested in reading a balanced review of research on coconut oil and making a decision for yourself, SuppVersity provides one HERE.

Spoiler: the evidence is mixed, and we don’t actually know for sure. Are you surprised?

- PS


  • Power snatch - in 10 mins, establish 2rm


  • In 3 mins, complete:

    • 500m row

    • AMRAP power snatch (135/95)

  • Rest 2 mins

  • In 3 mins, complete:

    • 500m row

    • AMRAP power snatch (95/65)

  • Rest 2 mins

  • In 3 mins, complete:

    • 500m row

    • AMRAP power snatch (65/45)