Best Keto MCT Oil: Our Top Pick for 2024

  • By Performance Lab
  • 10 minute read
Best Keto MCT Oil: Our Top Pick for 2024

There’s been a lot of buzz around fats, but one, in particular, has received a fair bit of attention: MCT oil.

Medium-chain triglycerides, shortened to MCTs, are a type of saturated fatty acid that has been linked to all sorts of essential health benefits—better cognitive function, weight loss, improved athletic performance, and the list goes on.

But with a Western diet loaded with refined carbs and sugar, where are the medium-chain triglycerides coming from?

They’re fats missing from most people’s diets—unless you follow a ketogenic diet—because we’ve believed that saturated fat is bad—but it’s time that changes. Current research shows plenty of benefits to consuming good-quality saturated fats, so we’re digging into the research.

This article covers everything you need to know about MCTs and medium-chain triglyceride oil (MCT oil)—what it is, how it compares to other fats, the benefits of consuming it, and how much to take.

In a rush? Then click here to find out more about the best keto MCT oil - Performance Lab MCT!

What Is MCT Oil?

If you’ve heard anything about healthy fats, you’ve probably heard about coconut oil and its derivative, MCT oil.

Medium-chain triglycerides, more commonly known as MCTs, are a type of saturated fatty acid naturally found in coconut and palm oil and some dairy products.

Although it’s primarily derived from these sources, medium-chain fatty acids don’t have the same fatty acid profile as palm or coconut oil; it differs in their composition, which gives MCT oil its unique properties not inherent to coconut oil.

Most MCTs on supermarket shelves are comprised of pure medium-chain fats extracted from whole food sources—coconut or palm fruit—via a process called fractionation, which isolates specific fatty acids.

Typically, you’ll find a mix of two MCTs: caprylic acid (C8) and capric acid (C10), but you can also find pure caprylic or pure capric acid. Most are a blend of 50-80% caprylic acid (C8) and 20-50% capric acid (C10).

But why more caprylic acid? The shorter length means more rapid absorption.

Although caproic acid (C6) and lauric acid (C12) are still medium-chain fats, they’re typically removed from most MCT oil products to improve palatability and absorption.

In summary, there are four MCTs you’ll commonly find, the middle two of which are most common to MCT oil products:

  • Caproic acid (C6)
  • Capric acid (C8)
  • Caprylic acid (C10)
  • Lauric acid (C12)

But regardless of what MCT oil you consume, they all offer benefits for overall health, especially for people who have trouble digesting other forms of fats.

That includes anyone with fat malabsorption disorders, digestive issues (leaky gut, etc.), Crohn’s disease, gallbladder disorders, and more.

How Does MCT Oil Differ From Other Fats?

While MCT oil is derived from coconut oil, it possesses different properties that make it more beneficial for specific health parameters. And compared to other fats like olive or vegetable oils, a long-chain fatty acid, MCT is in a class of its own.

In general, there are three types of fatty acids we’ll come across 1, 2:

  • Short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs): Composed of 1-5 carbons and are produced in the gut and consumed through food, and contribute to gut health. They play a significant role in fuelling colonocytes (cells in the colon).
  • Medium-chain fatty acids/triglycerides (MCTs): Composed of 6-12 carbons and are absorbed through the intestinal lining and transported to the liver intact. They are used preferentially by hepatic mitochondria for energy production.
  • Long-chain fatty acids (LCFAs): Composed of 13-21 carbons and are found in food sources like fatty food and oils. They are preferentially metabolized in the intestine, where they must be incorporated into chylomicrons before they can be metabolized or stored.

We gravitate towards MCT oil over coconut oil because it’s metabolized differently than other fats.

MCTs are rarely stored in adipose tissue and are absorbed in the gut intact and travel to the liver, where they are used as an immediate energy source. If you’re following a ketogenic diet, MCTs are great for boosting ketone production, which is a high-energy substrate.

Essentially, MCTs function much like carbs do—they provide a rapid energy source for the body but forego the nasty blood sugar fluctuations that come along with simple carbohydrates.

Because of these unique properties, MCTs have hopped onto the radar of anyone looking to optimize performance—mental and physical.

Benefits Of Taking MCT Oil

There is no shortage of benefits linked to MCT oil.

There's something for you, whether you’re looking to lose weight and improve blood sugar regulation or more energy and better athletic performance. And if you're on a ketogenic diet, it's a staple fat you won't want to exclude.

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Increases energy expenditure

There’s an idea in the health community that coconut oil is superior to other oils for fat burning—and there’s some truth behind it.

While ingesting coconut oil isn’t going to rev your metabolism to any great extent, it can increase caloric expenditure through diet-induced thermogenesis—the natural generation of heat due to the consumption of specific foods.

Compared to olive oil, 20 grams of MCT oil daily can help overweight people lose weight and burn fat 3. Other studies find that MCT can increase two hormones that help to regulate appetite and promote feelings of fullness, which could help in losing weight: peptide YY and leptin 4.

But be mindful that MCT oil isn’t calorie-free, so loading up on it in hopes of shedding a few extra calories could backfire if you’re consuming more calories than you’re burning.

Increased energy levels

If you’re looking for a power-packed food for energy production, MCT is where it’s at—and if you can’t afford a carb splurge, it’s an even better option.

As we mentioned before, MCT oil is metabolized differently than other fats, which means it’s a much better substrate for energy production. MCTs are absorbed directly into circulation and sent to the liver, where they’re oxidized for an immediate source of energy 5.

Compared to long-chain triglycerides like those found in olive oil, MCTs skip the lengthy incorporation process into chylomicrons and the lymphatic system, making them much more efficient for rapid energy 6.

Regulates appetite

Looking for weight loss or better appetite regulation and to consume fewer calories? Add MCT oil into the mix—it could be beneficial for promoting weight loss and reducing body fat.

It’s said that MCTs may help to regulate gut hormones, but their ability to control appetite may be more from its thermogenic and satiety properties rather than hormone mediation—which, combined, can help support weight management.

On top of that, its effect on insulin and glucose function can also benefit appetite and weight loss. A 1992 study found that 10 diabetics injected with insulin needed 30% less sugar to regulate blood sugar levels when consuming MCT oil compared to olive oil 7.

May improve exercise performance

If you thought your pre-workout was the way to boost your workout performance, try MCT.

While it may not be entirely effective for increasing strength and power, endurance athletes may benefit. Increasing lactate levels impedes performance and accelerates fatigue, but studies show that MCT oil may reduce lactic acid buildup.

An older study found that athletes consuming 6 grams—about 1.5 teaspoons—of MCT before cycling had lower lactate levels and lower fatigue perceptions than cyclists who took LCTs 8. They also found that taking MCT oil before training altered substrate utilization from carbs to fat during exercise.

But while MCTs may be associated with some positive outcomes for exercise performance, the results are still too mixed to confirm.

Supports brain function

There’s a fair bit of research showing the positive benefits of MCT oil on various brain conditions, including epilepsy, Alzheimer’s, and autism.

However, more research is still needed to confirm the benefits. Here's what we know:

  • Epilepsy: The ketogenic diet was introduced as a possible therapeutic approach to reduce seizures in people with epilepsy. Because a high-fat diet increases the production of ketones, it can help to reduce the frequency of seizures 9. But because MCTs are so readily converted to ketones, they may have a positive effect on managing epilepsy. One in-vitro study even found that capric acid (C10) was more beneficial for controlling seizures than a common anti-epileptic drug, which may be due to its ability to block receptors in the brain that trigger seizures 10, 11.
  • Alzheimer’s: Alzheimer’s is a cognitive disease that impairs your brain’s ability to use glucose 12. Because a ketogenic diet, including MCT oil, provides an alternative energy source besides glucose—ketones—it could benefit the health of neurons. Just one dose of MCT oil can improve short-term cognition in people with Alzheimer’s, but typically you’re looking at daily doses of 20-70g for modest improvements in symptoms 12, 13.

Protects heart health

While fat has always been touted for being the worst of the worst when it comes to cardiovascular health, evidence suggests otherwise.

A 2010 study published in the Journal of Nutraceuticals and Functional Foods found that consuming MCT oil can help protect against the development of metabolic syndrome—a cluster of symptoms and conditions that are risk factors for cardiovascular disease.

They include abdominal obesity, dyslipidemia, impaired fasting glucose levels, and hypertension14.

Another study found that MCTs may offer more protection for cardiovascular health than long-chain fatty acids by helping to improve lipid profile and reducing total cholesterol levels15.

Although the exact mechanism of how MCTs benefit cardiovascular health isn’t apparent, their potent anti-inflammatory and anti-obesity effects likely mediate it.

MCT Oil vs. Coconut Oil: Which Is Better?

One question typically comes up concerning MCT oil: what’s the difference between MCT and coconut oil? Although MCT oil is derived from coconut oil and consuming coconut oil provides some MCTs, they have different properties and benefits.

The primary difference between the two oils is that MCT serves as a much more concentrated source of MCTs, hence the name.

It generally comprises only two MCTs—capric acid and caprylic acid—whereas coconut oil contains fatty acids other than medium-chain triglycerides. Coconut oil is one source of medium-chain triglycerides, while MCT oil is entirely MCTs.

Here are some of the main differences:

  • There are four kinds of MCTs that differ based on the number of carbons—in MCTs, this ranges between 6 and 12 carbons.
  • Coconut oil comprises about 50% lauric acid (C12) and contains the other three in different ratios.
  • MCT oils are typically comprised of either capric acid, caprylic acid, or a mix of both
  • Coconut oil is a rich source of lauric acid, which has a different action in the body compared to other MCTs.

One of the primary reasons some people view pure MCT as superior to coconut oil is the breakdown between the two.

As coconut oil contains significantly higher proportions of lauric acid, which is metabolized slower than shorter MCTs, it doesn’t offer the same health benefits. However, there are several well-documents benefits that coconut oil has that MCT oil doesn't have.

One of the big problems with conventional MCT supplements is that you don’t know what you’re getting. Because MCT is fractioned from coconut and palm oil, it does undergo more processing than other oils.

So, while MCT manufacturers claim it is a more pure and potent source of MCTs than coconut oil, there is the potential for “filler oils” like corn oil and other fats that are known to cause health issues when consumed in excess.

There’s nothing wrong with MCT oils; make sure you’re getting it from a reputable source that offers pure C8 and C10 MCT oil—like Performance® Lab MCT.

How Much MCT Oil Should You Take?

Considering medium-chain triglycerides are naturally found in certain foods, most people can tolerate them. If side effects occur, they’re generally mild and temporary and include nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, abdominal cramping, or stomach upset.

But because high doses of MCT can have a laxative effect and cause digestive upset, it’s best to start with a small dose and work your way up to the desired amount.

Start with one teaspoon and gradually work up to 1-2 tablespoons per day. If you’re experiencing digestive issues, consume MCT oil with food.

What To Look For In An MCT Oil Supplement

Now that you know why you should be taking MCTs, what should you look for when shopping for a good MCT oil?

As we said, MCT oil supplements can be dodgy if you’re not buying a reputable brand. With filler oils and poor manufacturing processes, the risks could outweigh the benefits of poor-quality supplements.

When looking for an MCT oil, you want purity to be your number one—it should contain only capric acid (C8), caprylic acid (C10), or a mix of both. Here's one for you: Performance Lab® MCT.

It's the ultimate MCT oil upgrade loaded with beneficial C8+C10 MCTs only, sourced from 100% organic non-GMO coconuts, cold-extracted with hexane-free technology, and 3X distilled for the purest MCT product you can get your hands on.


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