Medium Chain Triglyceride (MCT) oil is a unique type of fat, metabolized rapidly to provide large amounts of energy, with little risk of storage. Even though many people use MCT oil for weight loss or to improve a ketogenic diet experience, this particular type of fat also provides numerous health benefits. And because of their function in the body, MCTs are an excellent option for improving energy levels and even athletic performance.
Medium Chain Triglycerides Defined
Before getting into the specifics of how MCT oils can positively influence your health, it’s best practice to understand what these fats are and what makes them so different from other types of fat.
In the name Medium Chain Triglyceride, the word “chain” is entirely appropriate. That’s because fatty acids consist of “chains” of carbon molecules and the length of this chain is what determines the type and function.
For example, short-chain triglycerides (SCT) contain up to 6 carbons per chain, MCTs contain roughly 6-12 carbons, and long-chain triglycerides (LCT) typically contain more than 12 carbons per chain.
The difference between these fatty acids is vital because the chain length determines how the body digests and uses them for energy or storage. MCTs, for example, are more rapidly metabolized than LCTs. LCTs require a complex transport system for usage, whereas MCTs do not and are used immediately used for energy.
As MCTs function differently in the body, these fats are an attractive option for providing fast and effective energy that other fat sources cannot offer.
How MCTs Are Used Differently Than Other Fats
Medium Chain Triglycerides have a specific chain length that allows for rapid metabolism and usage, which differs from long-chain triglycerides.
When you consume LCTs, these fats require a complex transport system to travel through the blood and to enter mitochondria, which are cells in the liver that help metabolize fat. MCTs, on the other hand, do not require these mechanisms, allowing them to enter mitochondria freely (1).
Once MCTs are ingested, these fats diffuse directly through the intestine, into the blood. After absorption, these MCTs travel through the blood and immediately enter mitochondria in the liver for rapid metabolism (2).
Since the process of metabolizing MCTs is so efficient, these fats are preferentially metabolized for energy rather than storage, whereas LCTs are more likely to be stored. As a result, MCT oil becomes an attractive option for rapid energy production, with little risk of storage.
Why You Should Take MCT Oil
Apart from the fact that MCT oil provides exceptionally rapid energy, research suggests that MCTs also offer a host of other performance and health benefits, warranting their use. Even more exciting is that MCTs can be used regardless of you preferred dieting method, to promote many of the following advantages.
MCTs Improve Fat Loss
Whereas most dietary fat options don’t significantly influence metabolism, the rapid conversion of MCT oils to usable energy does, and research seems to agree. By using MCT oil daily, subjects of one fascinating study displayed higher average energy expenditure and higher rates of fat metabolism (3).
These findings mean adding MCTs to your daily regimen could help you burn more calories from fat tissue, as opposed to muscle.
MCTs Improve Endurance
Since MCTs are so rapidly utilized, they’ve become a smart option for improving sports performance as of late. Researchers have found that regular use of MCTs can enhance the rate of lactate clearance from muscles, while also reducing your perceived rate of exertion. Mostly, MCT oil allows you to exercise at a higher intensity and for longer durations (4).
MCTs Make Ketosis A Breeze
Ketosis is a biological state where your body functions mostly on ketones, which are molecules that are byproducts of fat metabolism. Since MCTs metabolize immediately, these fats can quickly produce ketones to help you enter or at least maintain a state of ketosis.
The ability for MCTs to produce ketones is beneficial, primarily if you’re practicing a ketogenic diet. But even if you’re not a keto practitioner, MCTs can rapidly produce ketone bodies, which can be used as an alternate fuel source, regardless of your diet composition.
MCTs Improve Insulin Sensitivity
Insulin is a hormone that shuttles sugar from your blood into tissues, such as muscle. But when blood sugar is chronically elevated, this makes insulin less effective, resulting in disease, metabolic dysfunction, and obesity.
Fortunately, research suggests that use of MCT oil can help reverse this process by improving the sensitivity of your body tissue to insulin. As a result of consistent supplementation, MCT oil can help improve insulin resistance and potentially prevent issues such as obesity or a malfunctioning metabolism (5).
MCTs Improve Cognition
Having low blood sugar can lead to brain fog and fatigue. Fortunately, the rapid metabolism of MCT oils allows for ketone production, which can immediately increase cognition and fortunately, research agrees (6).
Essentially, regular use of MCT oil can ensure that your brain is functioning at full capacity, even if your blood sugar is low.
Where To Get MCTs
While you can indeed consume MCTs via food sources, such as coconut oil, doing so isn’t entirely efficient. Even coconut oil contains different types of fatty acids, which means you might not be receiving as much MCT oil as expected.
Fortunately, the list of health benefits from MCTs has warranted new ways to consume pure MCT oils, to ensure that you’re getting the most accurate dose possible.
Extracted MCT Oil
Extracted MCT oil is a popular option since each tablespoon yields roughly 15 grams of pure MCT oil in each serving. Keep in mind though, since MCT oil is not water soluble, a blender will be required to mix directly into a beverage. Otherwise, using MCT oil in place of other oils like olive or coconut is entirely acceptable as well.
MCT Oil Tablets
Arguably the most convenient option would be MCT oil tablets that you can consume at will and the benefits of such a supplement are quite apparent. Since you can take MCT tablets with you and eat them at will, supplementing with MCT oil has quite literally never been easier.
Emulsified MCT Oil
In response to difficulty mixing MCTs, many companies have formulated “emulsified MCT oils.” This means that when emulsified, your MCT oil should mix perfectly with beverages even without a blender. This is an excellent alternative to traditional MCT oil consumption if you prefer a quick boost in your drinks.
Use MCT Oil For Your Best Self
Regardless of your preferred dietary style, MCT oils are an attractive option for rapid energy production as well as improving overall health. Since MCTs metabolize differently than other types of fats, the body uses them almost immediately rather than risking storage, providing benefits you can’t get elsewhere.
Fortunately, with the rise in popularity of MCT oils, this has allowed the manufacture of new and easy to use forms of MCTs such as through tablet form, which can be used virtually anywhere and at any time.
Consider using MCT oil to improve energy levels as well as overall health.
- Nakamura, M. T., Yudell, B. E., & Loor, J. J. (2014). Regulation of energy metabolism by long-chain fatty acids. Progress in lipid research, 53, 124-144.
- Babayan, V. K. (1981). Medium chain length fatty acid esters and their medical and nutritional applications. Journal of the American Oil Chemists’ Society, 58(1), 49A-51A.
- St-Onge, M. P., Bourque, C., Jones, P. J. H., Ross, R., & Parsons, W. E. (2003). Medium-versus long-chain triglycerides for 27 days increases fat oxidation and energy expenditure without resulting in changes in body composition in overweight women. International journal of obesity, 27(1), 95.
- Nosaka, N., Suzuki, Y., Nagatoishi, A., Kasai, M., Wu, J., & Taguchi, M. (2009). Effect of ingestion of medium-chain triacylglycerols on moderate-and high-intensity exercise in recreational athletes. Journal of nutritional science and vitaminology, 55(2), 120-125.
- Han, J., Hamilton, J. A., Kirkland, J. L., Corkey, B. E., & Guo, W. (2003). Medium‐chain oil reduces fat mass and down‐regulates expression of adipogenic genes in rats. Obesity, 11(6), 734-744.
- Page, K. A., Williamson, A., Yu, N., McNay, E. C., Dzuira, J., McCrimmon, R. J., & Sherwin, R. S. (2009). Medium-chain fatty acids improve cognitive function in intensively treated type 1 diabetic patients and support in vitro synaptic transmission during acute hypoglycemia. Diabetes, 58(5), 1237-1244.