What Is MCT Oil? The Ultimate Guide to MCT Oil Supplements

By: Bulletproof Staff
March 4, 2020

What Is MCT Oil? The Ultimate Guide to MCT Oil Supplements

  • What is MCT oil? It’s a quality fat found in coconut oil. It’s also your ticket to fat-burning, brain powering ketone energy.
  • There are different types of MCTs. For the best of the best, reach for Bulletproof Brain Octane C8 MCT Oil. It’s pure C8, the most ketogenic MCT.
  • Add MCT oil to coffee, smoothies and more for sustained energy, fewer cravings and a sharper you.

You might have seen people adding MCT oil to their smoothies or blending it into Bulletproof Coffee. But what is MCT oil, what is it made of and what does “MCT” stand for, anyway?

MCT oil is a quality fat that comes from coconuts. It’s also a versatile supplement, a keto essential and your ticket to sustained energy. Here’s how it works (and how to find the best of the best).

What is MCT oil?

Hand grabbing MCT oil from bag

MCT oil is a fat, like olive oil or coconut oil. “MCT” is short for medium-chain triglycerides. Triglycerides are the molecules that make up most fats. MCTs are found in coconut oil, palm oil, goat milk and even breast milk.

Your body turns MCTs into molecules called ketones. Studies have shown that ketones are a source of energy that help burn fat, curb cravings and power the brain.[1] [2] [3] [4]

If you’re following a low-carb, high-fat diet like the ketogenic diet, supplementing your diet with MCT oil helps you get more quality fat in your diet and boost ketone production. With more ketones in your system, you’ll feel fuller, longer and improve cognitive performance, among other benefits we’ll talk about below.

The best part? You don’t have to follow keto to benefit from MCT oil. Bulletproof Brain Octane C8 MCT Oil has been shown to double ketone energy in a healthy brain, regardless of diet.

How does MCT oil work?

“MCT oil is digested differently as it gets absorbed directly from the gut into the liver, bypassing the physiology of being stored as fat,” says Kelly Schmidt, a registered dietitian and author of “What’s the Deal With Paleo and Primal Eating?

That means your body breaks down MCTs more quickly than the long-chain triglycerides found in other fatty foods. Your liver converts MCTs into ketones—the fuel source your body produces when it burns fat for fuel.

MCT oil health benefits

MCT oil on table with vegetables

“MCT oil increases energy, endurance, metabolism, satiety and brain function, especially when compared to other forms of fat, including olive oil,” says Schmidt. MCTs are largely missing from the typical Western diet, so adding MCT oil to your daily routine can be a powerful way to get the benefits of multi-tasking smart fats.

So, what is MCT oil good for? Check out these benefits:

Sustained energy

Hand pouring Brain Octane C8 MCT Oil over soup

High-quality MCT oil turns into ketones within minutes, providing your brain with a fast jolt of energy and mental clarity—without the blood sugar crash.[5]

“When someone’s carbs are low enough, MCT oil can be converted into ketones, which unlike glucose, can cross the blood-brain barrier and be used as a fuel source for brain cells,” says Schmidt.

What this means is, if your body is low on energy stores, your own natural metabolic systems can fast-track MCT oil into a fuel that’s immediately available for your brain. Some people describe this feeling like “turning the lights on in their brains.”

Weight management

A woman pouring a green smoothie from a blender into a glass

MCT oil is fat-burning fuel, no matter what kind of diet you follow.[6] Your body does this by turning MCTs into ketones, alternative forms of energy which increase your metabolic rate (aka your metabolism) and burn body fat.[7] [8]

And although MCT oil and keto are a perfect match, you don’t have to follow the keto diet to benefit from MCT oil’s effects. “People on the Standard American Diet may still lose weight from MCT oil from the positive effects it has on hunger hormones, the boost in metabolism and reduction in inflammation,” says Schmidt, although the body weight loss won’t be as dramatic as someone following a ketogenic diet.

That’s because you’re already producing ketones on the keto diet. MCT oil helps you stay in ketosis and reap those ketone benefits. In fact, the ketogenic diet has been shown to help lower risk factors for disease like insulin resistance and support fat loss.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6472268/ Get the details about keto and weight management.

Fewer cravings

Cup of Bulletproof Coffee on tray

Healthy fats are satiating. MCT oil helps you feel fuller, longer—without having to think about a mid-morning snack.

There’s science behind it: MCTs raise ketones. Ketones suppress ghrelin (aka your hunger hormone) and increase cholecystokinin (CCK), which makes you feel full.[9]

This is part of the reason why Bulletproof Coffee works so well. It’s made with Bulletproof Brain Octane C8 MCT Oil, which produces four times more ketones than coconut oil alone.[10] When you drink a cup of creamy Bulletproof Coffee, you feel full and focused for hours.

Gut support

Closeup of gut microbes

If your gut lining isn’t as protective as it should be, toxins, bacteria and food particles can pass through your gut, entering your bloodstream and putting you at risk for serious illness. In animal studies, MCTs in the digestive tract help the gut be more selective, blocking unhealthy toxins and bacteria from entering the bloodstream.[11]

Boosts your workout

Man jogging outdoors

Studies show that MCT oil can help you exercise longer and may improve your stamina.

  • In one study, mice with food intake rich in MCTs showed more endurance during a swim test compared to mice that were fed long-chain triglycerides (LCTs).[12]
  • In another study, recreational athletes who ate foods containing MCTs for two weeks could do longer sessions of high-intensity exercises.[13]
  • People who supplemented with dietary MCT oil lasted longer and built up less blood lactate during high-intensity interval training (HIIT). [14]

Want to learn more about food and exercise performance? Find out how MCT oil can help you fuel up for home fitness, from Brain Octane C8 MCT Oil to the MCT oil found in Bulletproof Complete Daily Energy Collagen Protein.

What is MCT oil made of?

Person pouring MCT oil bottle

We’ve talked about “medium-chain” triglycerides, but what about short-chain triglycerides (SCTs) or long-chain triglycerides (LCTs)? The chain refers to the triglyceride carbon atom chain, which is like a tail off the end of the molecule.

The longer the chain, the longer it takes your body to turn those triglycerides into energy. That means the shorter the chain, the better—but only up to a point.

In a study of 17 obese women, those given MCT oil supplements showed improved fat-burning metabolism compared to those given LCTs.[15] While these results might point to a “shorter the better” rule for triglyceride chains when it comes to helping you burn fat, there are some pretty big issues with SCTs.

First of all, they tend to smell pretty bad, but most concerning is that they can be disastrously hard on digestion. Depending on your sensitivity, even ingesting a small amount of concentrated SCTs can upset your stomach.

Bulletproof MCT oils are different. As long as you start with a small dose (1 teaspoon) and work your way up, you’ll get the big benefits of MCT oil—without the side effects.

Here’s a summary of the different types of MCTs:

Caproic acid (C6)

Technically, C6 quickly converts to ketones, but there isn’t enough of it in coconut oil to make a difference. Plus, it tastes and smells harsh, and often results in stomach upset.

If your generic MCT oil makes your throat burn or has a weird flavor, one reason may be that the distillation process didn’t remove enough of the C6.

Caprylic acid (C8): ~7% of coconut oil

Brain Octane C8 MCT oil is 100% C8 caprylic acid, and it’s the all-around best MCT for ketogenic energy.

It only takes three steps for your body to turn it into energy for your cells.[16] Plus, C8 produces four times more ketones than coconut oil, which means more ketone benefits like amplified energy and metabolic burn.[17]

Capric acid (C10): ~7% of coconut oil

This is the second shortest form of MCT. It takes more time to turn into ketone energy, but it’s more affordable than C8. 

Bulletproof MCT Oil is a blend of C8 and C10 MCT oils, so it’s more budget-friendly than Brain Octane C8 MCT Oil, but still meets Bulletproof’s rigorous quality standards for purity.

Lauric acid (C12): ~49% of coconut oil

C12 is what you’ll mostly find in coconut oil, but your body doesn’t treat it like an MCT. Rather than immediately getting converted into energy, lauric acid requires a pit stop in the liver. This is why it is more accurately described as a long-chain triglyceride (LCT), not an MCT.

Lauric acid is not the same as monolaurin, an extremely potent antimicrobial that is derived from lauric acid. Lauric acid has a few antimicrobial benefits, but it’s simply not the most effective way to fuel your brain and body because it does not create energy in the brain the way that C8 and C10 do.[18]

So if you want lauric acid (and you do because it definitely has some benefits), then just eat some coconut oil. Learn more about the difference between MCT oil vs. coconut oil.

C-14 and above

These are LCTs, also known as long-chain fatty acids, and they refer to the other fats in coconut oil. The exact percentage of LCTs in coconut oil depends on variables like the region the coconut was grown and its time of harvest.

LCTs are good as a fuel source, but they are also widely available in other oils, and you won’t benefit from eating a lot more of them compared to eating true medium chain fatty acids.

The bottom line: C8 and C10 are the best types of MCT oils overall, whether you follow the keto diet or just want more energy. Brain Octane C8 MCT Oil is pure C8, aka the all-around best MCT for ketogenic benefits.

MCT oil vs. MCT powder

A scoop of MCT oil powder, which contains hydrolyzed MCT oil.

MCT oil powder is a convenient way to bring MCTs on the go, but how does it compare to MCT oil? It depends on your preferences and the MCT oil powder you choose.

With MCT oil, what you see is what you get. It doesn’t require a carrier oil or extra additives. For instance, Brain Octane C8 MCT oil is 100% triple-distilled C8 MCT oil. It’s expeller-pressed, sourced completely from coconuts and it isn’t mixed with any unnecessary chemicals. Learn more about what makes Bulletproof MCT oils different.

MCT oil powder is produced via a process called spray drying, in which MCT oil is sprayed onto a carrier material, which forms a powder.

So, when you’re considering MCT oil powders, ask these questions:

  • What type of MCT oil are you getting? C8 is the best MCT oil because your body most easily converts it into ketones. C10 is a close runner-up. The manufacturer should disclose what type of MCT you’re getting in your powder, usually on the nutrition label. Bulletproof uses a mix of Brain Octane C8 MCT Oil or C8 and C10 MCT Oil, depending on the product.
  • What is the carrier powder? Some carrier powders will actually kick you out of ketosis because they spike your insulin levels. Acacia gum and resistant dextrin are keto-friendly choices you’ll find in Bulletproof products. If you see maltodextrin or glucose on another company’s ingredient list, just say no.
  • What is the MCT oil made of? MCT oil is also found in palm kernel oil, but the palm oil industry is problematic, to say the least. Bulletproof MCT oils are sourced from coconuts, a more sustainable choice.
  • What are the other ingredients? The ingredient list on your MCT oil powder shouldn’t be a mile long. If it’s flavored, make sure the manufacturers aren’t sneaking in artificial sweeteners or added sugar. Bulletproof products with MCT oil powder are sweetened with plant-based sweeteners like stevia, never artificial sugar.
  • How much fat do I get? Because each serving also contains a carrier powder, you might not consume as much fat as you would if you used liquid MCT oil alone. Double-check how much dietary fat you get per serving. Bulletproof Original Creamer clearly states that each serving contains 10 grams of quality fat from MCT oil and grass-fed butter.

Another note on carrier powders: Acacia gum and resistant dextrin are great carriers because they’re actually good for your gut.[19] [20] Acacia gum, the carrier powder used in Bulletproof Original Creamer, is a resistant starch. Although it’s technically a carbohydrate, resistant starch isn’t digested by your body. Instead, it functions as a prebiotic, which feeds your good gut bacteria.

The bottom line: MCT oil powder is convenient, but the ingredients matter. If you want to add MCT oil to your diet in powder form, make sure it doesn’t include added sugars or artificial fillers.

Ways to use MCT oil

Person holding Brain Octane Softgels

Okay, so you know what it is—but how do you use MCT oil? Good news! It’s easy to add to plenty of what you’re eating and drinking right now. Think of MCT oil as a type of fat you’d use in the kitchen. It has a low smoke point (about 320°F), so don’t toss it in a wok. But it’s an easy add-in for anything from smoothies to salad dressings. Here are a few ideas:

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This article has been updated with new content.