Medically Reviewed by
Diana Morgan, MS, CISSN
10 min read
It is very likely that you have heard or read about the benefits of MCT oil. It may because of you are following a keto diet or because of its health benefits. This supplement’s growth in popularity has resulted in a whole slew of claims about its benefits. It’s true, MCT oil does offer great benefits. But it’s important to dig deeper and focus on what MCT oil is and what benefits are supported by evidence.
As stated above, “MCT” stands for medium chain triglyceride. MCTs come from a variety of sources, such as coconut oil. Put simply, triglycerides are a type of fat that exists in your blood. Triglycerides are made up of a chemical chain (structure), which can vary in length. MCTs contain a chain of carbon atoms that is “medium” in size (often 6-12 carbons in length).
Now, even if you don’t have a great interest in chemical structures, it’s still important to know what MCTs are. Like any triglyceride, MCTs contain fatty acids within their structure (e.g. caprylic acid). Unlike triglycerides that are composed of long fatty acid chains, MCTs are often easily digested and the body can rely on them more quickly. This combination of easy digestion and rapid benefits has helped to boost the popularity of MCTs.
Given the explosion in popularity that MCT has experienced, there are a lot of benefit claims connected to MCT. This post won’t include an analysis on all of these claims, but three are important to cover.
Weight Benefits: This is one of the primary reasons that MCT oil is increasing in popularity. There is no easy way to control weight, so any assistance with the process can be tremendous. MCT oil may have the ability to help you achieve your weight loss goal. At this point, there is no evidence that MCT oil can directly decrease a person’s weight. There is some evidence, however, that MCT oil can increase the feeling of fullness. This will decrease your interest in consuming more food and, in turn, help you decrease your weight. Think about that feeling you get after eating a large meal. Chances are that you have little interest in eating more after consuming a large meal. Right?
Energy Support: Remember, MCTs are simply a type of fat and our bodies use fats for many purposes, one of which is as an energy source. MCTs may offer great energy benefits because of their short chain length. As mentioned above, the short length of the fatty acid chains allows our bodies to reap the benefits of MCTs more easily than other fat sources.
Lactate Reduction: MCT oil may help reduce lactate buildup in muscles. This benefit will likely be most beneficial to athletes or any person undergoing intense exercise. When our bodies face reduced oxygen level, we enter a state of anaerobic activity. A consequence of this type of activity is the production of lactate. Lactate production occurs most commonly in the muscles. Elevated levels of lactate can cause fatigue, cramps, and muscle pain. There is some preliminary evidence that supports the use of MCT oil for lactate reduction.
If you are interested in trying MCT oil, you can rely on two sources. First, there are several whole food products that contain MCTs. As an alternative, a dietary supplement may be more ideal for some people.
MCT oil can be found in several food sources. For example, coconut oil and palm kernel oil are very rich in MCTs. These food products are easy to find and incorporate into your diet.
If you are not interested in relying on whole foods, you can also try an MCT oil supplement. A supplement may be beneficial for its ease of use and its strict composition, which won’t likely include many (or any) additional ingredients beyond MCTs. Food, on the other hand, will include other natural components (e.g. long chain triglycerides) since no food contains MCTs purely.
If you are simply interested in getting some additional MCTs into your routine, you may also want to consider a product that incorporates MCT oil into it. These products go beyond a pure MCT oil supplement since they contain MCT oil among other ingredients. For example, a protein powder made from MCT oil can incorporate the benefits of MCTs into a very important supplement. The combination of MCTs and protein powder is popular because MCTs are easily digested and provide an alternative energy source to the protein.
If you are interested in adding MCT oil to your regimen, you can consider taking an MCT oil supplement. Those supplements normally contain isolated MCT oil. But that is not the only option. Given the fact that most people are also interested in taking a protein supplement, you may want to find a product that combines both MCT and protein into one product.
A high quality protein powder that is made with creamy MCT oil may be the perfect solution for you. These products are available in flavors such as vanilla and chocolate, which make daily consumption an easy task. Do you follow a plant-based diet? Not to worry, these products are also available in vegan-friendly formulations.
The amount of MCT oil that one person consumes may differ from what others consume. Make sure to follow the usage directions for any form of MCT oil you take — whether that's oil or a protein powder and of course check with your doctor if you have questions. Most people will take a max of a few tablespoons daily (not all at once). You should speak with your physician if you want to learn the ideal amount based on your health status. Most people will simply mix MCT oil in with their food (e.g. on salad) or into their beverages (e.g. smoothie). If you are getting your MCT oil from a separate supplement, such as a protein powder, then you will want to stick with that product’s dosing recommendation. For example, a protein powder may come with a recommendation of one serving daily. You don’t want to take more of that product simply to get more MCT oil.