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Quick MCT Oil Summary Points

  • MCT or medium chain triglycerides are fats which are shorter in length than your average fat found in cooking oils and high fat products such as cheese and butter.
  • Two notable sources of MCT oils include palm and coconut oil.
  • MCT oil is thought to be metabolised faster, which is the reason why it's been used as both a fat loss support ingredient and one to support endurance.
  • MCT oil generally works best with other ingredients such as carbs and protein for best effects.
  • The recommended dose of MCT Oil starts at 5g/day.

What is MCT Oil?

MCT (or medium chain triglyceride) oils are naturally occurring fats that are shorter in length than the typical fat. The fats we are often familiar with often have long chain lengths, of over 12 carbons (long chain triglycerides or LCTs). MCTs only have 6 to 12 carbons, which give them completely different chemical and biological properties compared to other fats and oils. They have been well studied for their ability to aid in weight and fat loss, as well as also providing some potential to improve exercise performance.

Where Does MCT Oil Come From?

Many foods we consume do not contain many MCTs. However, two notable sources of MCTs include palm and coconut oil.

MCT Oil Benefits

MCT oils are more water soluble and have different properties compared to long chain triglycerides.  Consequently, they are also digested differently, and much quicker compared to long chain triglycerides. This gives them a unique set of biological effects.

MCT Oil Benefits for Exercise

MCT has been studied extensively in the field of exercise and sports science. It was hypothesised that because MCTs are digested much quicker than other fats, they may be able to provide a good, rapidly available fuel source for endurance athletes. There is some evidence to support this theory. It has been found that supplementing athletes with 6 g MCTs/day was able to increase cycling time to exhaustion by almost 76%, increase fat usage, while significantly reducing lactic acid levels, compared to supplementing with LCTs (Nosaka et al, 2009). Another study showed that MCTs were inferior to carbohydrates in boosting endurance. However, the addition of MCTs to carbohydrates resulted in a synergistic effect between the two nutrients, giving best endurance performance (Van Zyl et al, 1996).

MCT Oil Benefits for Fat Loss

Countless studies have documented that the benefits of MCTs for fat loss. Unlike many other fats, MCTs are transported in the blood, which makes them far less likely to be deposited into body fat. They are also metabolised rapidly, and increase energy burning (Clegg, 2010).

The beneficial effects of MCTs kick into action almost immediately after they are consumed. It has been shown that thermogenesis increased as a result of consuming MCT rich meals, and it did so to a greater extent for obese people (Scalfi et al, 1991). When maintaining MTC consumption, this effect has been shown to last up to two weeks, with thermogenesis slowing down in the later days (White et al, 1999). But fret not! Despite the reduction of thermogenesis after a few weeks, MCTs have been shown to be very effective for long term weight loss, as a result of its effect on appetite suppression. It has been shown that consuming MCTs resulted in a reduction of body weight and total voluntary energy intake compared to LCTs (Han et al, 2007). Another study showed that supplementing with only 5 g MCTs/day for 12 weeks while dieting, was sufficient to cause an additional 58% loss of body fat compared to those receiving LCTs (Nosaka et al, 2003).

MCT Oil Negatives and Side Effects

MCTs do not work well on their own to boost exercise performance. They need to be augmented with other nutrients to work effectively. To do this, it has been reported that fairly large doses have been explored (85g/hour), and doing so results in gastrointestinal upset. Combining MCTs with carbohydrates has been shown to help with reducing these side effects (Clegg, 2010).

Other than stomach upsets associated with consuming large amounts of MCTs, these naturally occurring substances are safe for consumption. Consider smaller doses and taking it with food to reduce side effects.

MCT Oil Recommended Doses and Ingredient Timing

The effect of MCT on weight loss has been shown to be effective at doses as low as 5 g/day. This is therefore the recommended dose (Nosaka et al, 2003). It can be broken up into smaller doses throughout the day, and it is recommended that it should be taken with food.

MCT Oil Supplements

MCT can be found as a stand-alone supplement. It is also a common ingredient in many protein powders such as weight gainers, micellar casein, blended proteins, and also some pre workout supplements.

Stacking MCT Oil

To experience the benefits of MCT in boosting exercise performance, it should be stacked with carbohydrates and protein. This is actually a very common blend, as these ingredients occur simultaneously in weight gainers. It can also be taken in conjunction with fat burners and fat metabolisers as a weight loss aid.

Clegg (2010), Medium-chain triglycerides are advantageous in promoting weight loss although not beneficial to exercise performance. International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition, 61: 653–679
Nosaka et al (2003), Effects of margarine containing medium-chain triacylglycerols on body fat reduction in humans. J Atheroscler Thromb, 10: 290-298.
Nosaka et al (2009), Effect of Ingestion of Medium-Chain Triacylglycerols on Moderate- and High-Intensity Exercise in Recreational Athletes. Journal of Nutritional Science and Vitaminology, 55: 120-125
Han et al (2007), Effects of dietary medium-chain triglyceride on weight loss and insulin sensitivity in a group of moderately overweight free-living type 2 diabetic Chinese subjects. Metabolism, 56: 985-991
Scalfi et al (1991), Postprandial thermogenesis in lean and obese subjects after meals supplemented with medium-chain and long-chain triglycerides. Am J Clin Nutr, 53: 1130-1133
Van Zyl et al (1996), Effects of medium-chain triglyceride ingestion on fuel metabolism and cycling performance. Journal of Applied Physiology, 80: 2217-2225
White et al (1999), Enhanced postprandial energy expenditure with medium-chain fatty acid feeding is attenuated after 14 d in premenopausal women. Am J Clin Nutr, 69: 883-889

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