What is MCT oil and how can it help someone who’s on the keto diet? You may have heard fitness and health enthusiasts using this supplement for various reasons. Weight loss and increased energy levels, for example (* , *).
This article examines the benefits of MCT oil in more detail, the dosage needed to experience its effects, ways to use it, and everything else you need to know.
MCTs stands for medium-chain triglycerides. People who are on a high-fat keto diet use MCT oil as a convenient source of dietary fat. Since it’s quickly metabolized in the body, it’s an ideal supplement to meet your energy needs, along with other advantages which we’ll discuss later in this article (*).
It’s also interesting to note that your body can digest and absorb MCTs better than most foods, even for individuals with gastrointestinal disorders. There’s no need for MCT molecules to undergo further packaging or modification, and they don’t require bile or pancreatic enzymes unlike long-chain triglycerides or LCTs (*).
MCTs are usually extracted from coconut oil, but they’re also found in other sources, such as palm kernel oil and dairy products (butter, cheese, and yogurt). Among all sources, coconut and palm oils are most abundant in MCTs (*).
MCT oil is composed of three intermediate carbon length saturated fats that are bound to a glycerol backbone. MCTs are distinguished from other other triacylglycerols due to the number of their carbon chains ranging from 6-12 (*).
The length of their carbon chains determines their effects. You may have noticed an MCT supplement with these labels indicating their carbon chain length:
- C6 (Caproic Acid) – This is the shortest MCT molecule and it constitutes less than 1% of coconut oil. Furthermore, C6 is rarely used in supplements (*). Some say this is because C6 has an unpleasant taste and smell.
- C8 (Caprylic Acid) – Compared to pure coconut oil, C8 is nearly four times more effective at raising your body’s ketone levels (*). It’s considered the “most ketogenic” MCT oil, along with C10 (*).
- C10 (Capric Acid) – Although C10 is a bit slower in ketone production compared to C8, it’s still highly effective in helping you reach ketosis (*). This is probably why manufacturers sometimes combine them in MCT supplements.
- C12 (Lauric Acid) – This is the longest MCT and it accounts for 44-51% of all the fatty acids in coconut oil. Furthermore, C12 has antibacterial, antiviral, and antiprotozoal properties (*). While ineffective at raising your ketone levels, it’s often added to soap and cosmetic products.
As a source of fat, MCT oil serves many purposes and in fact, it can be incorporated into your daily life. Here are the different ways to take advantage of MCT oil:
- Conveniently meet your fat macros: Whether you’re on the keto diet or not, taking MCT oil can ensure your body gets enough healthy fats for energy and to help you feel full. One tablespoon or 15 ml of MCT oil has 14 grams of fat (*).
- Pre-workout or post-workout supplement: Taking MCT oil before your workout ensures that you have a quick and clean source of energy for better performance. In that case, take it an hour before your session. On the other hand, consuming MCTs after a workout keeps you satiated, which reduces your energy intake.
- An ingredient for your morning cup of coffee: Instead of having plain black coffee, add one tablespoon of MCT oil. You may also add grass-fed butter to make bulletproof coffee! This combination gives you creamy and delicious coffee without the carbs.
- Added to salad dressing: Replace commercial dressings with a healthier version made with MCT oil, avocado, apple cider vinegar, garlic, fresh lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Combine these ingredients in a food processor until creamy.
- Added to baked goods: If you like making baked recipes on keto, you can use MCT oil to substitute other oils in your recipe. Just keep in mind that that MCT oil has a smoke point of 302°F, which is lower than coconut oil (*).
- Fruit smoothie or protein shake ingredient: For added satiety, add MCT oil to your low-carb protein shakes and berry smoothies. This will make your drink even more keto-friendly.
- Incorporated into your intermittent fasting regimen: Take MCT oil before you enter an intermittent fasting period or as part of your meal when your fast ends. However, note that eating too much fat (this applies to protein as well) after a fast may result in diarrhea. Be mindful of your intake. Stick with the lowest possible dose, especially if you’re new to both fasting and MCT oil.
Using medium-chain triglycerides as part of your keto diet can contribute to increased ketosis, weight loss, cognitive health, exercise performance, and more. Here are common MCT oil benefits:
Since MCT oil is quickly metabolized in your liver, it raises your ketone levels immediately. A study found that supplementing with MCTs results in higher beta-hydroxybutyrate (BHB) levels compared to LCT supplements (*).
A related benefit is that MCT oil can reduce the symptoms of keto flu by increasing your ketone levels. You’ll feel symptoms of brain fog, weakness, nausea, and headache within a week of starting the keto diet. So, you’ll want to make sure that you add MCT oil as one of your fat sources as a keto beginner.
Lose extra weight
MCT oil works on your body the same way the keto diet operates — it increases fat oxidation (*). Another mechanism by which MCT oil consumption leads to weight loss is by promoting a feeling of fullness (*).
“Ironically, this fat may also aid in weight loss. The body processes MCT oil in such a way that it causes an increase in calories burned during the process,” said Lisa Richards, a nutritionist and author of the Candida Diet.
Those with prediabetes or diabetes may benefit from taking MCTs. Early evidence suggests that MCTs are well-tolerated in individuals with type 2 diabetes and that MCTs may increase insulin sensitivity (* , *).
You need energy for physical activity, and studies suggest that MCTs improve exercise endurance, which may be possible through an increase in mitochondrial mass and function (*).
Glucose is the brain’s main fuel source, but ketones can replace glucose when its supply is inadequate. By increasing ketones through MCT oil, patients with neurodegenerative diseases (where glucose uptake is compromised) experience improvement in their cognition (*).
Another important benefit of MCTs is that it boosts your immune system defenses. Kylie Winfrey, a practicing Medical Doctor with a focus on Family Medicine and Medical Research, states, “MCTs may improve the quality of life for people who have HIV or AIDS.”
Among the medium-chain fatty acids, lauric acid and monolaurin (the derivative or lauric acid) are considered the most effective antimicrobial agents (*). Research also shows that they have a broad-spectrum inhibition. They can destroy S. aureus, C. Albicans, herpes simplex virus (HSV), and more (*).
According to a 2016 study in Nutrients, “MCT-enriched diets could therefore be used to manage metabolic diseases through modification of gut microbiota.” Since the gut microbiome is crucial for your metabolic health, MCTs may be used to overcome digestive and metabolic problems (*).
While studies show that a wide range of MCT doses are effective, the most common dose for MCT oil is 1 tablespoon or 15 ml at least once each day (*). If you want, you can take up to 3 tablespoons in a day — for example, one at breakfast, one before your workout, and one after your workout.
However, if you’re new to MCT oil, it’s best to start off slowly, especially if you have a sensitive stomach. You can begin with 1 teaspoon once a day and slowly increase your intake over a period of 1-2 weeks.
If you use our Perfect Keto MCT powder, you can take half a scoop which is equivalent to 5.5 grams or 5.5 ml.
Where can you get MCTs if you don’t have MCT oil? Surprisingly, MCTs are found in various sources. For example:
- Coconut oil
- Palm kernel oil
- Goal milk
- Cheese (goat cheese, feta cheese)
- Full-fat yogurt
MCT oil is safe but large doses can lead to side effects, such as:
- Stomach pain
To avoid these side effects, always start with small doses and increase it slowly until you can tolerate it. Also, if you are taking other medications for a health problem, let your doctor know that you’re interested in taking MCT oil (*).
Here are more questions and answers on the topic of MCT oil:
What is the difference between MCT oil and LCT oil?
MCT stands for medium-chain triglycerides while LCT stands for long-chain triglycerides. The main difference between them is their chain length. While MCT oil has 6–12 carbon atoms, LCT oil has more than 12 carbon atoms.
MCT oil can be found in coconut or palm kernel oil. Meanwhile, examples of LCT oil include soybean oil, corn oil, safflower oil, and sunflower seed oil (*).
What’s the difference between MCT oil and coconut oil?
Coconut oil is a source of MCTs — about 54%. In fact, coconut oil is considered a quality source of MCTs compared to palm kernel oil. On the other hand, MCT oil is a concentrated source of MCTs.
If you’re looking to stay healthy, coconut oil is already a good option. However, if you want to gain all the advantages of pure medium-chain triglycerides and fuel your body with ketones, MCT oil is the best choice.
What’s the difference between MCT oil and MCT powder?
Both can be used as dietary supplements and ingredients for keto foods and drinks. Aside from their texture, they differ in terms of their convenience and side effects. For example, MCT powder can be taken with you anywhere you go without having to deal with spills. MCT powders are also easier to digest than MCT oil.
Read this article to learn more about the differences between MCT oil and MCT powder.
Is it OK to take MCT oil everyday?
Yes. MCT oil is generally safe to take daily. If you’re planning to supplement with MCTs as part of a healthy diet — keto, for example — follow the recommended dosage indicated on the label.
Also, remember that too much MCT oil adds extra calories to your diet, which may result in weight gain (if you’re trying to lose weight). It’s a good idea to consider your MCT dosage along with other sources of dietary fat, such as meat, fatty fish, avocados, and nuts.
Does MCT oil cause bloating?
Yes, it may trigger bloating and other digestive problems like diarrhea and vomiting only when consumed in large amounts at once. Those who are taking MCT oil for the first time are advised to slowly work their way up. For example, you can start with just 1 teaspoon (5 ml) for a couple of days, then increase it to 1 tablespoon (15 ml).
Is MCT Oil Good for You?
MCT oil can be beneficial in many ways. If you’re not already using it, give it a try to enhance ketosis, weight loss, exercise performance, cognitive health, immune function, and manage your blood sugar and gut health.
As you’ve learned in this article, there are plenty of ways to fit MCTs into your lifestyle. For convenience, consume MCT oil right away or add MCT powder to your coffee (as a creamer) or any drink. If you feel a little creative, use it as an ingredient for recipes.
Try Perfect Keto’s MCT oil powder. It’s available in various flavors, including Salted Caramel, Strawberry, Cinnamon Toast, and Vanilla.