The list of health benefits of MCT Oil or medium-chain triglycerides, a type of fat, includes fat loss, appetite suppression, increased energy, improved cognition, improved athletic performance, to name a few. Read on to see why I use it, how it differs from coconut oil, how to take it and more!
A balanced, nutrient-dense diet rich in healthy fats is essential to us being our very best! Every single cell in our body needs fat to function, most especially our brain cells. Our brain is actually the fattiest organ in our body at over 60% fat. You already know my feelings on the importance of healthy fats in a well-balanced, nutrient-dense whole foods diet, but you can read more about the Benefits of Healthy Fats.
At this point I have to imagine you’ve heard the buzz surrounding MCT Oil. One of the quickest sources of clean fuel for both the body and the brain, MCT oil is hands down one of the best ways to power up your performance or kick start a nutrition program.
What is MCT Oil?
“MCTs” are medium-chain triglycerides, a form of saturated fatty acid that has many health benefits, ranging from improved cognitive function to better weight management. MCTs are a type of fat that can be readily used for energy by your body and do not have to be broken down before use. They are precursors to ketones and help your body burn fat instead of burning carbs. Ketones are one of the brain’s two primary fuel sources, and also a vital source of ATP energy for the body. ATP energy is what allows every single muscle in your body to move. While ketones from fat, rather than glycogen from carbohydrates, are the primary source of fuel for those on a ketogenic diet, but you don’t have to fully go keto to benefit from MCT oil and ketones.
MCTs get their name because of the length of their chemical structure. All types of fatty acids are made up of strings of connected carbon and hydrogen. Fats are categorized by how many carbons they have: short-chain fats (like butyric acid) have fewer than six carbons, medium-chain fats have between 6–12 carbons and long-chain fats (like omega-3s) have between 13–21.
Most fats consumed are taken into your body then must be mixed with bile released from your gallbladder and acted on by pancreatic enzymes to break it down in your digestive system. Medium-chain fats are digested easily and once they reach your intestine they are sent via the bloodstream directly to your liver, where they have a thermogenic effect and the ability to positively alter your metabolism. MCTs even pass the blood-brain barrier to supply your brain with an instant boost of energy. MCTs are absorbed more quickly than longer chain fats, as there is less work for the body to do, in breaking down the carbon bonds, meaning they can be used quicker as fuel, rather than being stored as fat.
Medium-chain Fatty Acids May Help With:
- Appetite reduction and maintaining a healthy weight — by helping satiety and increased fullness 1https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25636220
- Reducing withdrawals when cutting out sugar
- Reducing stored body fat — by increasing your metabolic function
- Increasing energy and improving athletic performance without crashes
- Improving mental clarity, focus, cognitive and neurological function, with possible implications in neurodegerative diseases 2https://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2016/08/22/mct-oil-health-benefits.aspx
- Improving fat digestion, MCTs are easier to digest than LCTs (Long Chain Triglycerides)
- Balancing hormone levels
- Improving mitochondrial function and subsequent reduced risk for diseases such as atherosclerosis, diabetes, cancer, cardiovascular disease, autoimmune diseases and epilepsy
- Improving moods
- Reducing inflammation
- Prevention of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) 3https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23576797
- Fighting bacterial infection and viruses, help encourage a healthy gut environment by combatting harmful bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites.
- Absorbing fat-soluble nutrients from various foods
Why I Use MCT Oil:
For therapeutic reasons (I am seeking to get my autoimmune kidney disease into remission) I have been experimenting with a low carb, high fat ketogenic eating style since the start of 2017. MCT Oil is a wonderful compliment for me, as it provides a great source of quick, clean, lasting energy, it greatly improves my mental focus and brain function, it allows me to extend my fasting period as I follow a compressed eating window practice, it has helped with lowering inflammation levels and I have seen great changes in my athletic performance and energy in my workouts. Additionally, I have found that the addition of healthy fats to my morning coffee slow down the absorption of the caffeine, reducing any possible jitteriness that the caffeine would normally or potentially cause.
What are the differences between MCT Oil and Coconut Oil?
MCT oils can be divided into four subcategories. These are:
- C6 (also called Capron acid or Hexanoic Acid)
- C8 (also called Caprylic Acid or Octanoic Acid)
- C10 (also called Capric Acid or Decanoic Acid)
- C12 (also called Lauric acid or Dodecanoic Acid)*
MCT oil is isolated and derived from coconut oil (but some also come from palm oil), so while all coconut oil contains MCTs, it is not 100% MCT oil; coconut oil contains a high percentage of lauric acid, which acts more like a long-chain fatty acid (as opposed to medium-chain). It’s the medium-chain triglycerides that are more highly ketogenic, meaning MCT oil is much more effective at stimulating ketosis (the body’s fat burning state). Coconut oil, because it contains MCTs carries these same benefits, but without being as potent and concentrated as pure MCT oil. Because of this, coconut oil does not convert quite as efficiently into ketones and therefore does not contribute as much of an energy boost as the straight MCT. Nor does it suppress hunger or help feed your brain the way C8 and C10 do.
Coconut oil is about 50% lauric acid. Coconut oil is nature’s richest source of lauric acid, while in MCT oil it is either missing, or present in minuscule amounts. Lauric acid (or C12) requires a pit stop in the liver for processing rather than getting immediately converted into energy like the other MCT’s (C8 and C10).
*While technically labeled an MCT by scientists, C12, lauric acid, behaves much more, biologically speaking, like an LCT (long chain triglyceride), meaning you don’t get the fast ketone energy to fuel your brain and body that you do from other MCTs. In it’s own right, lauric acid does have many of it’s own benefits, such as having antimicrobial benefits, which are effective in fighting various infections.
Both MCT and coconut oil also provide anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties and can also offer anti-microbial support, to help rid the gut of harmful pathogenic bacteria, parasites, fungus, etc.
How to Select a Quality MCT Oil?
For liquid MCT Oil, I generally opt for Brain Octane Oil which is 100% C8, which is best for brain performance. C8 is 18 times more effective than straight coconut oil. Bulletproof’s XCT oil which is both C8 and C10, is 6 times more effective at delivering medium chain triglycerides than regular coconut oil. C10 is slower to turn into energy than C8, but is more affordable. Avoid C6s as they can cause digestive distress. Additionally, if your MCT oil brand of choice makes your throat burn or has a weird flavor, one reason may be that the distillation did not remove enough of the C6. Coconut oil is highest in C12 (Lauric Acid) MCTs, so if an MCT oil is C12 derived, I suggest you save your money and just opt for coconut oil, you will get the same benefits. There are plenty of brands of MCT oils on the market, so it’s best to do your research on where they are derived from, how they are expressed and what type of MCTs they contain.
When I am traveling, on the go or if my gut is feeling a little more sensitive than usual, I opt for Perfect Ketone’s MCT Powder which is pure MCT derived from coconut and consists of 70% C8 (Caprylic Acid) and 30% C10 (Capric Acid). I really love how convenient the powder is, I love that there is less mess and I truly find it is easier on my gut and digestion than the liquid oil. This would be a great option if you are new to MCT oil.
When buying MCT oil, always look for oil or powder that has been expressed or refined without the use of solvents. Many liquid MCT oils are manufactured via chemical/solvent refining, which can mean they require using chemicals like hexane and different enzymes and combustion chemicals. Not good, clean or safe. Additionally, many MCT Oil Powders have additives, thickeners and chemicals added, so best to be sure you are choosing an MCT Oil Powder that is clean and free of any junk, like Perfect Ketone’s MCT Powder.
Here are some easy-to-digest (pun intended) cliff notes on the differences between MCT oil in liquid and powder forms:
The Benefits of MCT Oil Powder vs Liquid MCT Oil:
How to Consume MCT Oil?
MCT Oil and MCT Oil Powders can be blended effortlessly into coffee, tea, pre or post-workout beverages, smoothies, plain water, etc. While some folks suggest using in salad dressings, homemade mayos, etc, I would caution against using too much, a little goes a a long way with MCT oil and a few too many tablespoons of dressing or mayo slathered on your sandwich could lead to an upset tummy, depending on how sensitive you are.
Perfect Ketones suggests the following for their MCT Oil Powder:
For fat loss: Use a scoop in between meals or in the morning to put your body into an effortless fat burning mode.
To perform: Use a scoop before or during workouts to decrease need for oxygen and increase energy.
For focus: Use a scoop on an empty stomach to have an increased mental output and sharper focus.
For ketosis: Use a scoop with or after a meal you’ve consumed that has carbs to get back into the state of ketosis.
It is important to start using MCT oil slowly. Because it is so readily and quickly used by the body, it can lead to digestive distress if you jump in too quickly (however less so with the MCT oil powder than the liquid). For some, the results from too much MCT oil too quickly can lead to what is commonly referred to as “disaster pants” – use your imagination with that one. It is generally considered safe and smart to start with 1/2 to 1 teaspoon and work up to 1 to 3 tablespoons a day, as your stomach and digestion permits. Amounts tolerated can vary person to person, so go light, go slow and listen to your body.
If you have had your gallbladder removed, consuming straight MCT oil may be easier on your digestion than other longer chain fatty acid prominent oils, as (to remind you) MCTs require little to no bile to be broken down, whereas long chain fatty acids do require the assistance of bile, which is stored in the gallbladder. That said however, as a straight fat it can still be taxing on your system, being without a gallbladder, maybe more so than the average person, so please go slow, start small and I would strongly consider consulting the opinion of your health care provider and/or including bile salt and/or digestive enzyme supplementation (which I would highly suggest, with gallbladder removal, regardless of consuming MCT oil).
How Much is Too Much MCT Oil?
Like any other food or supplements, it is totally possible to have too much of a good thing and to take your consumption of MCTs and even coconut oil too far. Additionally, bio-individuality needs to be taken into account. Always. We are all different. Some research suggests excessive amounts of MCT or coconut oil may cause inflammatory or immune issues in the body. The research goes on to show that incorporating ample amounts of SCFA (short-chain fatty acids) and fiber are important to offsetting 4https://bengreenfieldfitness.com/article/nutrition-articles/dark-side-coconut-oil-cautionary-tale-coconut-oil-extremists/. It’s best to ease into MCT oil and see how it works for you. Again, I find the MCT Oil Powder to be a much more gentle and easier option than the liquid oil.
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