If you know anything about the keto diet, you’ve certainly heard about MCT oil; it's a stapel in the offices here at Koncious Keto.
Ketosis has become nearly synonymous with this pure and clean supplement, and for plenty of good reasons.
MCT oil is a potent way to reach your daily fat macros, get a powerful boost of energy, drop any excess pounds, and help you stay in ketosis.
It’s the fat that will help you lose fat and feel downright amazing—and all you need is a small dose daily.
Here’s all the exciting proof behind it.
What is MCT Oil?
Medium chain triglyceride oil, better known as MCT oil, is a highly efficient energy source extracted from whole food sources like coconut and palm oils.
It has been shown to induce ketosis, stabilize blood sugar, suppress the appetite, and aid in weight loss.
Because of these amazing benefits, MCT oil has become a widely popular supplement, especially among anyone looking to get into ketosis and stay there.
MCT oil helps the body use and metabolize fat quickly and efficiently, way more so than that other energy source we’ve too often depended on—glucose (sugar).
You’ve probably heard that MCTs are one of the key aspects of coconut oil.
But compared to MCT oil, which will give you a pure shot of 100% MCTs, coconut oil only contains roughly 55-60% MCTs.
This is why MCT oil has become a keto dieter’s go-to fat and the not-so-secret weapon for initiating and maintaining ketosis.
What Are Medium Chain Triglycerides (MCTs)?
Many of us have too long feared fats. All of them. So much so that we’ve resorted to too many tasteless meals and failed diets.
Thankfully, the keto diet has helped us break through this myth.
But as you’ve probably figured out by now, not all fat is created equal, and medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) may be the most superior of them all.
MCTs are made up of medium-chain fatty acids. Medium-chain describes the fat’s unique chemical structure, which contains 6-12 carbon atoms.
This makes it far easier for our bodies to digest versus the longer-chain fatty acids found in most foods.
When consumed, MCTs are immediately broken down, absorbed, and taken to the liver, where they are quickly converted into energy (ketones) rather than stored as fat.
This is opposed to long-chain triglycerides (LCTs), which require extra things like bile and enzymes to break down and take a much longer and arduous trip through the digestive system.
MCTs are found naturally in a few whole foods, including:
- Coconut oil (contains about 60% MCTs)
- Palm kernel oil (more than 50% MCTs)
- Full-fat dairy products like cheese, butter, milk, and yogurt (around 10-12% MCTs) (1)
Broken down further, there are four main types of MCTs, all which work slightly different:
- Caproic acid (C6): With only 6 carbons, this MCT is the quickest to absorb and convert into ketones. However, only small amounts of this can be found in coconut oil and MCT oil.
- Caprylic acid (C8): Most MCT oil supplements contain the biggest percentage of this MCT. The more included in the supplement, the quicker it will boost your ketone levels. Caprylic acid also contains some antimicrobial properties (2).
- Capric acid (C10): Because it’s got a few extra carbons, this MCT works just slightly slower in its conversion to ketones.
- Lauric acid (C12): Coconut oil is actually made up of about half lauric acid, which also contains antimicrobial properties. But since this is the longest chain MCT, it is the most inefficient and slowest to metabolize. For this reason, most MCT oils do not contain lauric acid.
7 Benefits of Medium Chain Triglycerides (MCTs) and MCT Oil
Because of their ability to be absorbed so quickly in the body, MCTs have been linked to a variety of benefits, some that you’ll experience almost instantly.
Here are 7 ways MCTs can impact your body, giving you plenty of reasons to consider adding it to your regular ketosis routine.
1. MCT Oil Supports Ketosis
You can think of MCT oil as your daily dose of ketones. Remember that ketosis comes down to your body using ketones (not glucose) as fuel.
When you take MCT oil, you’re already kickstarting that process.
MCTs naturally increase ketone production almost as quickly as you consume them. As you already know, ketones are highly efficient energy sources that bring with them some powerful benefits.
Keeping your ketone levels up is the only way you can maintain that fat-burning, health-promoting state of ketosis.
One of the easiest ways to do this is by supplementing with MCT oil.
In fact, alongside MCT oil, you could even up your carb intake (to an extent, of course) and still stay in ketosis.
That’s how powerful these fats can be.
2. MCT Oil Promotes Weight Loss
Too many of us have been conditioned to think that all fat is bad, that any fat consumed (no matter what type or where it comes from) will inevitably stick to your hips.
Fortunately, science has come a long way. We now know that fats can serve us particularly well, especially certain saturated ones (particularly coconut oil) that have been demonized the most (3).
Now there’s an overwhelming amount of evidence that shows MCTs can promote weight loss, and they do so in various ways (4).
Along with increasing ketone production, MCTs:
- have fewer calories than other fats (about 10% fewer than LCTs)
- are rarely stored as fat
- increase calorie burning
- help control appetite by increasing hormones related to satiety
As mentioned above, instead of storing MCTs, our bodies will quickly use them for energy.
This process also enhances thermogenesis (the process of burning calories and fat), which will give you a nice bump in your metabolism.
Taking a small serving of MCT oil can even curb your appetite, too.
One study found that people who took MCT oil as part of their breakfast ended up eating less for lunch than those who supplemented with coconut oil (5).
All that noted, don’t expect that MCT oil alone can be your weight loss magic pill. It can promote weight loss, but only alongside a healthy lifestyle.
Following a ketogenic diet is a major part of that.
3. MCT Oil Helps Increase Energy & Performance Levels
Forget caffeine and sugar packets!
With its fast-acting conversion to ketones, MCTs will give you a pretty immediate boost in energy without any potential crash.
A big part of this is due to their role in stabilizing blood sugar levels. When you use ketones instead of glucose for energy, blood sugar will not be affected.
This helps keep you from hitting that dreaded afternoon slump or feeling any major drops in energy throughout the day.
For ketosis beginners, MCT oil may be a lifesaver.
It can help you avoid some of those frustrating keto flu symptoms, including fatigue and energy dips, and eventually help you reach keto-adaptation quicker so you can start feeling ketosis’ benefits sooner.
MCT oil has also become popular among athletes and avid exercisers, because of its ability to boost energy and also burn more fat during exercise.
It’s even been shown to reduce lactate buildup, which helps with quicker muscle recovery and extend the amount of time you can handle high-intensity exercise (6).
4. MCT Oil Can Enhance Cognitive Function
The brain loves fats, because it mostly is fat, and ketones, in particular, are its preferred fuel.
This means MCT oil’s ability to quickly produce ketones will also help you think clearer, focus better, and even retain and remember more.
These ketones may even help stave off inflammation and disease in the brain.
In fact, researchers are starting to look more into the potential of MCTs in the treatment and prevention of Alzheimer’s disease, as well as Parkinson’s and autism (7).
5. MCT Oil Can Help Protect Against Diabetes
As mentioned above, MCTs can help control any erratic blood sugar levels, which is beneficial for your energy, mood—and let’s face it—sanity!
And without those crazy blood sugar fluctuations, you’ll better control any sugar cravings.
On top of that, MCTs have also been shown to improve insulin sensitivity (8).
All of these things are especially useful for diabetes prevention and management, even for those with type 1 diabetes (9).
6. MCT Oil May Boost the Immune System
MCTs are natural antivirals and antibiotics that can protect us even straight out of the womb. Mother’s milk is rich in MCTs, which helps the child develop a healthy immune system.
As we grow older, MCTs can be just as helpful. Other studies have found that MCTs have the power to kill harmful bacteria and fungi and may help improve overall immunity (10).
A lot of this is actually linked to your gut, which leads us to MCT’s next benefit.
7. MCT Oil Can Help Heal Your Gut
Anything good for your gut has a wealth of widespread benefits for everything from your digestion to your mood. Here’s yet another way MCT oil can work its magic.
Both MCT oil and coconut oil have been found effective in balancing bacteria in the gut microbiota. This means they can support “good” bacteria, which can help reduce inflammation and even your risk for anxiety and depression (11).
MCTs are also natural antimicrobials and can help kill viruses, yeasts, and bad bacteria in the gut that can cause digestive issues like candida, diarrhea, and constipation (12).
MCT Oil or Coconut Oil?
MCT oil may come from coconut or palm oil, but it’s much more effective and efficient given that it’s a pure concentrate form of MCTs—nothing else.
In other words, you’d have to down quite a bit of coconut oil to get the same beneficial effects of just one serving of high-quality MCT oil.
That said, MCT oil only uses two types of MCTs: caprylic (C8) and capric acid (C10). Upon ingesting, both will go directly to your liver to produce ketones that will be immediately used by your body for energy.
Still, while coconut oil may have fewer MCTs (around 60%), it does come with some slightly different benefits, mostly from the additional lauric acid, which makes up about half of the coconut oil.
One of the greatest benefits of lauric acid comes from its antimicrobial properties, which allows it to help fight bacteria, yeasts, fungi, and parasites.
This is why coconut oil is not just a great cooking oil and keto coffee addition—it also works as a wonderful natural skin care product for conditions like psoriasis and acne.
However, if your main goal is to boost ketones and keep yourself in a steady state of ketosis, MCT oil is your better option.
Note: That doesn’t mean you can’t still use coconut oil, though! It’s still a great oil to be used in your daily keto diet.
How Much MCT Oil Should You Take?
When first trying out MCT oil, you’ll want to start small so that your body can adjust to its effects.
Begin with just half-teaspoon doses, up to 2 to 3 times a day. Work your way up slowly—teaspoon by teaspoon—to about 1 to 2 tablespoons a day.
Remember to be patient as you up your dosage. Taking too much at once may cause some digestive discomfort.
Also, make sure you’re buying a sustainably sourced MCT oil that contains a combo of caprylic acid (C8) and capric acid (C10).
Check that there are no other unnecessary ingredients or additives.
What’s the Best Way to Use MCT Oil?
MCT oil is one of the easiest oils to digest. It also has no taste or smell, so it’s quite a versatile oil.
You can simply take a spoonful of MCT oil, pure and plain, but it’s more fun to get a little creative with it.
It can be used as a cooking oil, though it should be kept below a temperature of 320 degrees Fahrenheit.
You can also use MCT oil as a base for salad dressings, condiments, or sauces, or add it to smoothies, pre- and post-workout drinks or shakes, tea, or coffee.
Another great way to add MCT oil to your diet is with “fat bombs” and other seemingly sinful keto treats.
See our list of Keto Diet Snacks That Won’t Kick You Out of Ketosis for more delicious ideas.
What About MCT Powder?
There’s actually a newer, and less irritating, way of consuming MCTs and it’s in the form of a powder.
MCT powder is essentially MCT oil that’s been turned into a powder through a process called spray drying.
It’s a common food industry method that is perfectly safe and may result in an even more effective product.
As a powder, MCTs can be easier to digest and they serve as great mixers for keto drinks and smoothies and a wonderful addition to baked goods.
They also include a beneficial fiber source (typically acacia fiber).
However, MCT powders can be more expensive than MCT oils and you’ll want to make sure there are no extra fillers, sweeteners, or additives, like food dyes, lecithin, maltodextrin, or corn byproducts.
Currently, the majority of research has focused on MCT oils, not powders, but both will work well as a ketosis supplement, no matter your preference.
Why MCT Oil for Ketosis?
Have we not convinced you yet?! Instead of a spoonful of sugar, you’ll be wanting your spoonful of MCT oil, trust us.
If you are already on a ketogenic diet or considering starting on the path to ketosis, supplementing with MCT oil is one of the easiest and most effective things you can do.
MCT oil can be especially helpful for keto diet beginners whose bodies are working overtime to adjust to using ketones as a new fuel source.
If you start to experience keto flu symptoms, you’ll especially want to invest in some MCT oil, so that it can help clear away some of that fatigue and brain fog.
Overall, taking MCT oil will give you an almost immediate boost of ketones to help increase your energy levels and keep your body in that lean and mean ketosis state—no matter how long you’ve been mastering your keto diet.