The Ultimate Guide to MCT Oil and MCT Supplements
By: Bulletproof Staff
December 8, 2019
You might have seen people adding MCT oil to their smoothies or blending it into coffee. What is it, and how does it work? MCT oil is a food that comes from coconuts — you can use it just like you would use oil to make salad dressings. But it’s also a dietary supplement, and it’s loaded with benefits like more energy, more brain power and fewer cravings. Here’s how it works, how to use it and how to find the best of the best.
What is MCT oil?
“MCT” is short for medium-chain triglycerides. Triglycerides are the molecules that make up most fats, like those that occur naturally in coconut oil, palm oil, goat milk and breast milk.
Your body turns MCTs into molecules called ketones. Initial focused, small-scale studies have proven that ketones help burn fat, curb cravings and power your brain.    Some MCT oils are commonly sourced from palm oil, which has negative impacts on the environment. Bulletproof MCT oils are made from pure coconut oil.
If you’re following a lower-carb, high-fat diet like the ketogenic diet or the Bulletproof Diet, supplementing your diet with MCT oil can ensure you’re getting enough fat to stay in ketosis. (That’s the state in which your body burns fat, rather than carbohydrates, for fuel.) MCT oil’s ketone-boosting effects also help you feel fuller, longer and boost your brain power, among tons of other benefits we’ll talk about below.
The bottom line: MCT oil is a food and dietary supplement that gives you more energy and curbs cravings. And it’s a great way to boost ketones if you’re trying to lose fat on a ketogenic diet, or a cyclical keto diet like the Bulletproof Diet.
MCT oil benefits
“MCT oil increases energy, endurance, metabolism, satiety and brain function, especially when compared to other forms of fat, including olive oil,” says Kelly Schmidt, RD, author of “What’s the Deal With Paleo and Primal Eating?” 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. Here’s why MCT oil is so good for you:
MCTs cause your body to burn fat, no matter what kind of diet you follow (we’ll dig into the science below). Your body does this by turning MCTs into alternative forms of energy called ketones, which increase your metabolic rate (aka your metabolism) and burn the fat you already have. 
And no, 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 weight loss won’t be as dramatic as someone following a ketogenic diet.
Quality fat is satiating, so 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.
This is part of the reason why Bulletproof Coffee works so well: It’s made with Brain Octane MCT oil, which produces four times more ketones than coconut oil alone. When you drink a cup of creamy Bulletproof Coffee, you feel full and focused for hours.
More brain power
High-quality MCT oil turns into ketones within minutes, providing your brain with a fast jolt of energy and mental clarity. “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 by your brain — giving you almost instant brain power. Some people describe this feeling like “the lights turned on in their brains.”
Supports the gut
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.
Boosts your workout
Studies show that MCT oil can help you exercise longer and may improve your stamina.
- In one study, mice who ate a diet rich in MCTs showed more endurance during a swim test compared to mice that were fed long-chain triglycerides (LCTs).
- In another study, recreational athletes who ate foods containing MCTs for two weeks could do longer sessions of high-intensity exercises.
- People who supplemented with MCT oil lasted longer and built up less blood lactate during high-intensity interval training (HIIT). 
How do MCT oils work inside your body?
“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 Schmidt. That means your body breaks down MCTs quicker 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.
What’s the triglyceride chain, and why does it matter?
What’s better about “MC” or “medium-chain” triglycerides than short-chain (SCT) or long-chain triglycerides (LCTs)? The chain they’re talking about is the triglyceride carbon chain, which you can think about 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. 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 (like goats), 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 lead to a “disaster-pants” situation. 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.
Types of MCTs
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 like goats, 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 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. Plus, C8 produces four times more ketones than coconut oil, which means more ketone benefits like amplified energy and metabolic burn.
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 XCT oil is a blend of C8 and C10 MCT oils, so it’s more budget-friendly than Brain Octane 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.So if you want lauric acid — and you do because it definitely has some benefits — then just eat some coconut oil.
C-14 and above
AKA the other fats in coconut oil. These are LCTs, also known as long-chain fatty acids. The exact percentage of LCTs in coconut oil depends 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. Bulletproof Brain Octane oil is pure C8 MCT oil, aka the best MCT for maximum ketogenic benefits.
MCT oil vs. coconut oil
Coconut oil is great for cooking and baking, but if you want fat-burning, brain-powering ketones, MCT oil is better. That’s because coconut oil contains different strains of fats (see C12 and C14 above). Not all of these strains are equally effective for energy storage and fat loss.
You might have heard that coconut oil is a source of MCTs. The reality is that you can’t get enough of the really useful MCTs (C8 and C10) from just eating coconut oil alone. For the biggest return on your energy investment, you want pure, distilled C8 MCT oil like Bulletproof Brain Octane MCT oil. C10 is a close runner-up — and you can find it in Bulletproof XCT oil.
Plus, unlike coconut oil, Bulletproof MCT oils are liquid at room temperature and they don’t taste like coconuts. You can use them in pretty much anything, from Bulletproof Coffee to salad dressings.
The bottom line: Yeah, you can add coconut oil to your coffee, but why bother? MCT oil gives you more of the useful MCTs that your body can use to boost your metabolism most efficiently.
MCT oil vs. MCT powder
MCT oil powder is a convenient way to bring MCTs on the go, but how does it compare to MCT oil? It depends on the MCT oil powder you choose. Not all products are created equal, and some MCT oil powders might even kick you out of ketosis.
With MCT oil, what you see is what you get. It doesn’t require a carrier oil or extra additives. For instance, Brain Octane 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 how Bulletproof produces pure, ultra-high quality MCT oils.
MCT oil powder is a little different. It’s 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, you have to 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 clearly disclose what type of MCT you’re getting in your powder.
- 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 safe, but if you see maltodextrin or glucose on the ingredient list, just say no.
- What is the source of the MCT oil? MCT oil is also found in palm oil, but the palm oil industry is problematic, to say the least. Make the planet-friendly choice by buying MCT oil sustainably sourced from coconuts.
- 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 that will wreck your gut. Check out this list of gut-friendly sweeteners that won’t kick you out of ketosis.
- 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. Look for a powder that clearly lists how much MCT oil you get per serving. As an example, Bulletproof InstaMix clearly states that each packet contains 2 teaspoons of grass-fed butter and 2 teaspoons of Brain Octane oil.
Another note on carrier powders: Acacia gum and resistant dextrin are great carriers because they’re actually good for your gut.  Dextrin, the carrier powder used in InstaMix, 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. Learn more about prebiotics here.
The bottom line: When you’re shopping for MCT oils, you want pure, 100% triple-distilled, expeller-pressed, C8 MCT oil sourced completely from coconuts with no added unnecessary chemicals. If you want to add MCT oil to your diet in powder form, make sure it includes C8 MCTs sourced from coconut (not palm) oil with a high amount of oil per serving, and no added sugars or chemicals.
MCT oil vs. Bulletproof Brain Octane oil
The first thing to know is that Bulletproof Brain Octane oil is MCT oil — in its best form. Here’s what makes it so good:
- The most ketogenic benefits: Brain Octane oil is 100 percent C8 MCT oil and nothing else. C8 is the most ketogenic fatty acid in coconuts. That means more ketone benefits like lasting energy, increased fat-burning and fewer cravings.
- Purity: Brain Octane is triple-distilled and lab-tested for purity. No C12, no solvents, no traces of anything. Other companies may use toxic compounds in the refinement process — that’s stuff you don’t want anywhere near your MCT oil.
- Sustainability: Brain Octane oil is sourced from sustainable coconut oil, not palm oil, to protect the wild orangutan population in Southeast Asia. It’s not Bulletproof to destroy rainforests.
- Produced in the USA: It’s more expensive, but it means we can monitor the quality more closely. Plus, it combats outsourcing, and the people processing Brain Octane oil get a fair wage.
The bottom line: For the biggest benefits, make sure your choice is pure, 100% triple-distilled, expeller-pressed, C8 MCT oil sourced completely from coconuts with no added chemicals. And go with C8 MCT oil, like what you’ll find in Bulletproof Brain Octane oil.
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