MCT oil is definitely one of the most talked-about products in the supplement industry right now. Over the last 5 years, fitness blogs have produced a mountain of content on MCT oil, its benefits, side effects, and so on.
There are now dozens of different MCT oil supplements on the market. They usually promise amazing results, and they all claim to be specifically tailored to one function – “best MCT oil for fat loss”, “MCT oil for keto”, and so on.
We recently noticed that there has been an explosion in MCT-based supplements, which got us thinking – what is the best MCT oil on the market today?
What makes one MCT oil better than another?
Does MCT oil even work as the manufacturers claim?
Should you really be spending your hard-earned cash on these products?
In this article, we’re going to look at what MCT oil is, what the benefits of consuming MCT oils are, and whether there are any health risks with regular consumption. We’ll then talk about what makes a good MCT supplement, before listing the best MCT oils on the market today.
What is MCT oil?
MCT stands for Medium Chain Triglycerides. These are – as the name suggests – a group of fatty acids joined together with a medium length chain of 6-12 carbon atoms.
Typically, a medium chain triglyceride is three fatty acids with a tail of six or eight carbon atoms. This is why MCTs are sometimes called medium chain fatty acids.
MCT oil, then, is just the name we give to these medium chain fatty acids when they are in oil form.
There are four different MCTs:
- Caproic acid
- Caprylic acid
- Capric acid
- Lauric acid
MCTs are not found naturally in many foods, at least not in large amounts. Cow’s milk is about 80-90% long-chain fatty acid, and about 5-10% medium-chain fatty acid.
To get a large amount of MCT oil, you have to turn to either palm kernel oil or coconut oil. While dairy products are typically only 5-15% MCT, coconut oil is around 50% MCTs. Coconut oil also contains far more caprylic acid and capric acid (thought to have the most health benefits) than dairy.
That’s why the vast majority of MCT supplements on sale today are derived from coconut oil.
What makes a good MCT oil?
Even when using the best coconut oil you can buy, you aren’t getting a large amount of MCTs.
Coconut oil is only 50% MCTs. It is extremely calorific and high in fat, particularly saturated fat. Yes, some of these saturated fats are MCTs, but some aren’t. In any case, you really want to keep saturated fat intake as low as possible to avoid heart problems and growing visceral fat levels.
The quantity of MCT – and the ratio of the different MCTs – can also vary a lot depending on the oil you are using.
As stated above, coconut oil is around 50% medium chain triglycerides. But not all MCTs are the same.
Coconut oil made for cooking is not typically high in caprylic and capric acids. It can actually be very high in lauric acid, which is known to cause digestive issues. This is because lauric acid is the cheapest MCT to refine.
That’s why high quality, pure MCT oils have become so popular.
MCT oil vs coconut oil
Most of the articles that talk about the benefits of coconut oil seem to just talk about the benefits of MCT oil.
They often use these terms interchangeably.
But they are wrong to do so – MCT oil supplements are not the same as coconut oil.
At least, the best MCT oils should not be interchangeable with coconut oil.
So which should you use – MCT oil or coconut oil?
This is an easy question to answer – in almost every case, it is better to use a proper MCT oil supplement over a simple coconut oil.
Coconut oil contains lots of medium chain triglycerides, but it also contains lots of other stuff: other saturated fats, water, and various other natural compounds that are not beneficial to health or performance.
MCT oils are supplements that provide 100% MCTs.
That means you get none of the other stuff that comes with coconut oil – the water, the plant matter, the other saturated fats, and so on.
The best MCT oils will strip back on the less helpful and gut-distressing lauric acid, and instead provide a high concentration of capric and caprylic acids.
What are the benefits of MCT oil?
There are hundreds of articles out there titled “the amazing benefits of MTC oil”.
To read some of the most popular health and fitness blogs, you’d be forgiven for thinking that MCT oil is a kind of magical cure for all that ails you.
In reality, MCTs are a nutrient like most other nutrients – they are a source of energy for your body.
MCTs do not have the kind of performance-enhancing effects that nootropics, prebiotics or energy boosters do.
However, they do offer benefits that separate them from the kind of fats that you will be getting from your normal diet.
MCTs can be rapidly converted into ketones. These ketones are highly efficient at crossing the blood brain barrier. When glucose levels run low, your brain can use ketones directly for fuel.
MCTs can therefore be seen as a kind of “instant fuel” for your brain.
Furthermore, the most beneficial MCTs (caprylic and capric acid) have been shown to have a number of positive effects on performance and metabolism.
Specifically, MCTs have been shown to:
- Improve mitochondrial efficiency
- Protect brain cells and mitochondria from free radical damage
- Increase the number of mitochondria within brain cells
- Increased energy expenditure
- Greater satiety
These are not small benefits. MCTs – specifically capric and caprylic acid – can not only provide potent fuel directly to your brain, but they can drastically improve mitochondrial capacity in your brain.
Mitochondria are your cells’ engines. More, better functioning mitochondria means more raw brain horsepower.
Who should use MCT oil?
We’ve gone through the benefits of using MCT oils.
But who actually stands to benefit from these supplements?
As we see it, there are specific groups of people who should consider using MCT oils as part of their daily diet/supplement regimen:
- Bodybuilders looking to maximize satiety and energy during a cut
- Athletes in need to greater focus and energy on an empty stomach
- People following a low/zero-sugar diet
- People who need to maximize brain energy for long periods without relying solely on caffeine
- People undertaking intermittent or prolonged fasting
- Anybody who wants to promote weight loss and energy levels without using stimulants or fat burners
Top 3 – The Best MCT Oils Right Now
By now you know pretty much all you need to know about MCTs, MCT oils, and what makes a supplement a good one.
It’s time to go through the top MCT oils on the market today.
Here is our definitive list of the most effective, best value MCT oil supplements on sale right now:
- Performance Lab MCT – Best overall
- Bulletproof Brain Octane
- Viva Naturals Organic MCT Oil
Now we’ll take you through our picks in a little more detail.
Performance Lab MCT
Performance Lab have firmly established themselves as the supplement brand for people who put quality, purity and scientific pedigree before hype. Their impressive range of supplements focuses on total performance optimization, covering cognition, sleep, vision, and sports performance. They recently launched their MCT oil, and true to form, it is the purest, most refined, highest quality MCT oil on the market.
Benefits of Performance Lab MCT:
- Purest hit – 60% caprylic acid and 40% capric acid
- Contains no stomach-distressing lauric acid or less potent caproic acid
- Derived from 100% non-GMO, organic coconuts – no nasty palm kernel oil!
- Triple filtered and free of chemicals – just pure MCT oils
- Flavor-neutral and mixes easily with all liquids
Consider before buying:
- Premium products come with a premium price tag
Learn more: Performance Lab MCT review
Where to buy: PerformanceLab.com
Bulletproof Brain Octane
Bulletproof is the brainchild of Dave Asprey. This brand is best known for “keto” gimmicks like “bulletproof coffee”, where you put butter in your coffee because this supposedly supercharges your brain – total garbage of course. But Bulletproof Brain Octane is actually a very high quality MCT oil. Of all the premium MCT oils on the market, this one comes closest to matching Performance Lab’s quality and potency.
Benefits of Brain Octane:
- Highly pure MCT oil
- Provides only caprylic acid – no stomach upsetting C6 or C12 MCTs
- Flavorless and odourless – great for adding to drinks and recipes
- No chemicals used in purification – just water, heat and pressure
- 100% coconut sourced
Consider before buying:
- Does not provide any capric acid, which has its own health benefits, including antiviral and antimicrobial properties
Where to buy: Directly from Bulletproof
Viva Naturals Organic MCT oil
Viva Naturals produce a diverse range of health and performance-related supplements. Their focus is on pure, organic, natural supplements which support general health, vitality, brain function, and weight management. Viva Naturals Organic MCT oil is one of the best MCT oils on sale today because it adheres to the same principles – it is a pure, safe supplement which closely resembles MCT oils as they are found in nature. While it has a few problems – such as the inclusion of lauric acid – it is still a top MCT oil providing excellent value for money and great results.
Benefits of Viva Naturals Organic MCT Oil:
- Extremely pure MCT oil
- Derived from 100% organic non-GMO coconuts – no palm kernel oil
- Provides large doses of capric and caprylic acids per teaspoon
Consider before buying:
- Contains a relatively large amounts of lauric acid – perhaps users should consider just using coconut oil!
Our pick – The top MCT oil right now
If you’re looking for a pure, potent, high-quality MCT oil supplement, then we think Performance Lab MCT is the obvious choice. This is without doubt the best MCT oil on the market today. It has almost every other MCT oil out there beat hands down on quality, oil composition, purity, and value for money.
The fact that Performance Lab MCT is taste and odor neutral, easily mixed, and triple filtered using natural methods really seals the deal for us.
Bulletproof Brain Octane and Viva Naturals Organic MCT oil both have their benefits. However, the lack of capric acid in Brain Octane oil, and the presence of lauric acid in Viva Naturals’ MCT oil, means they cannot possible feature as our top pick.
Considering the minimal price difference between products, Performance Lab MCT is the clear winner here.
How to use MCT oil for maximum effect
It’s one thing being able to find the best MCT oils, but it’s quite another knowing how to use them properly!
MCT oils are not supplements that you just take and benefit from. You need to use any MCT oil – even the best ones – in the right way if you are going to get any benefit from them.
So, how do you use MCT oils?
First things first – MCT oils only provide benefits when they replace components of your diet. They do not confer any benefits in and of themselves.
That means if you’re trying to lose weight, simply adding MCT oil on top of your normal diet is not going to work; quite the opposite, you will quickly gain weight rather than lose weight. MCT oils contain calories, and lots of them (like all oils).
To aid with weight loss, you should use MCT oils in place of foods you are eating already.
So instead of pouring salad dressing or olive oil over your salads, try MCT oil. You could add it to your smoothies or morning coffee instead of the fats you are using now (it is much better for you than butter if you are currently buying into that gimmick).
That way, you are not consuming any extra calories, but you are enjoying all of the effects that MCT oils have which other oils and fats do not – instant brain fuel, better blood sugar control, lipolysis stimulation, etc.
If you aren’t using MCTs for fat loss but instead for cognitive performance, you should take a slightly different approach.
For maximum brain-boosting effects, we recommend using MCT oils as your main dietary oil. Olive oil has many health benefits, but none are directly related to cognitive performance. MCT oil, by contrast, acts as ready fuel for your brain cells, increases mitochondrial efficiency, and may actually increase the number of mitochondria in your brain cells!
So all things being equal, it is better to use MCT oil than olive oil, be it as a salad dressing, cooking oil, or a smoothie addition.
Whatever your reason for using MCT oils, we advise you to use them in a way that genuinely helps you achieve your goals.
We see many people simply consuming MCT oils for the sake of consuming them. They start adding them to their diets in an ad hoc way. The only thing they get as a result is an expanding waistline and triglyceride levels that are dangerously high.
Instead, use MCT oils sparingly and intelligently.
Doing so will increase mental energy, help with weight management, and more.
Stacking MCT oils
MCT oils make great additions to a supplement stack.
When used alone, medium chain triglyceride oils do not have much of an effect on performance.
You wont start using an MCT supplement and suddenly feel more focused, or energetic, or leaner.
However, when used in combination with other supplements, MCT supplements can really make a big difference.
The stacking effect means you can use multiple supplements and get benefits that are far greater than the sum of the parts. The benefits of using a prebiotic with MCT oil are not just the benefits of the supplements added together; these supplements work together to dramatically increase immune system function, cognitive performance, digestive health, and cardiovascular health.
What you choose to stack with your MCT oil supplement depends on what you want to achieve – what your goals are, as well as dietary restrictions.
Cognitive performance stack
A good stack for maximizing cognitive performance is MCT oil combined with a nootropic.
Nootropics use herbal extracts, amino acids and natural concentrates to heighten focus, enhance memory function, and reduce stress and anxiety.
As nootropics place an increased demand on the brain, they stack extremely well with MCT oils. Medium chain triglycerides provide the brain with the extra energy it needs to function under such increased demand. On top of that, the best MCT oils will stimulate physical adaptations to increase mental energy going forward (by increasing mitochondrial density in your brain cells).
Try taking a spoonful of top-quality MCT oil first thing in the morning when you take your daily nootropic.
Fat loss stack
Most of the people using MCT oil are using it to help with fat loss.
As explained above, medium chain triglycerides are just dietary fats. Consuming them does not by itself make you lose weight. Adding MCTs to your diet will just make you gain weight, not lose weight.
Instead, you need to use MCT oils in place of fats you are currently using while maintaining a caloric deficit – only then will you lose weight.
That said, when used correctly, MCT supplements can definitely help with fat loss. They increase satiety, promote energy levels, and help with blood sugar control.
A good way to really maximize fat loss is to combine a top MCT supplement with a high quality fat burner.
Gut health stack
The best way to promote gut health is to eat plenty of water soluble fiber, limit alcohol intake, and reduce consumption of red and processed meats to as little as possible (ideally zero).
But these aren’t the only ways to promote gut microbiome health.
Using prebiotic supplements can selectively increase the density of healthy, beneficial gut bacteria in your intestinal tract. This changes the balance of your gut microbiome to be more conducive to health and performance. By increasing beneficial gut bacteria, you decrease harmful gut bacteria (as one species thrives, others starve).
Studies have found that re-balancing your gut microbiome can significantly improve several different aspects of health and performance, including cognitive performance, immune system function, and cardiovascular health. That is to say nothing of the improvements you’ll see in body fat levels, satiety, nutrient absorption, and digestive comfort.
MCT oil side effects
Side effects are not a real concern for people using MCT oil.
If you’re using a good quality MCT oil supplement – and you’re using it in sensible amounts – then you are highly unlikely to experience any side effects whatsoever.
The use of MCT oil has been extensively studied in clinical trials. None of the trial reports we have read ever mention notable adverse effects, participant drop-outs, or long-term health concerns.
However, if you are consuming excessively large quantities of medium chain triglycerides, then you will inevitably run into some health problems.
For one thing, having elevated triglyceride levels is a risk factor for developing heart disease. Using MCTs in an intelligent, measured way can reduce cardiovascular disease risk, but adding in large quantities of MCTs to your diet will elevate your chance of having a heart attack or stroke.
Then there are the milder potential side effects of MCTs:
- Digestive discomfort
- Stomach cramps
You should stick to the supplement manufacturer’s instructions when using any MCT supplement. If you experience any side effects whatsoever, stop using it immediately.
If you have any kind of heart disease – or an elevated risk of heart attack – then you should not use any MCT oils at all. Medium chain triglycerides are just dietary fats. They are not suitable for people with heart disease or an elevated risk of heart attack, stroke, etc.
CAUTION – Dislcaimer
You need to talk to a doctor before using any MCT oil. Even the best MCT oils might be risky for you depending on your medical history, dietary requirements, lifestyle, and so on. Always consult with a qualified medical professional before using any supplements. We are not doctors, and this is not medical advice.
What is the best MCT oil for weight loss?
There is no such thing as “MCT oil for weight loss”. MCT oils can help with weight loss – and fat loss in particular – but no MCT is particularly good at promoting fat loss. If you are using a good MCT oil, and using it right, then it will aid with fat loss. Combining a top quality MCT oil with a good diet, and regular exercise will result in weight loss. Combining this with a fat burner will compound your results.
Instead of using an MCT oil advertised as being “for weight loss”, just use the best MCT oil you can find.
What is the best MCT oil for ketosis?
Just like with weight loss, there is no “best MCT oil for keto”. Some MCT oils are of a higher quality than others, and some represent particularly good value for money. No MCT oils are especially good for ketosis – the highest quality MCT oil is the one you should use if you are following a ketogenic diet.
One thing we would note is that consuming MCT oil does not put you into ketosis. The only way to enter ketosis is to consume no protein or carbohydrates for a prolonged period. As this only really leaves dietary fat, the only practical way to enter ketosis is to fast for a prolonged period – usually over 24 hours. Consuming nothing but MCT oil for 24 hours would put you into ketosis, but this wouldn’t be great for your health!
How much MCT oil should you use per day?
MCT oil supplements are safe to use so long as you stick to the manufacturer’s usage instructions. Consuming excessive amounts of medium chain triglycerides per day will invariably cause side effects ranging from stomach cramps and diarrhoea to an elevated risk of heart disease and heart attack.
So how much should you use per day?
For increased mental energy, take 1 teaspoon of MCT oil with your morning coffee.
To aid with weight management, add 1 teaspoon to your post-workout smoothie.
For general health and mental energy, swap out your vegetable cooking oil, salad dressing or butter for MCT oil (or coconut oil if you cannot afford high quality MCT oil).
You should not be consuming more than about 2 teaspoons of MCT oil per day.
Should I mix MCT oil and coffee?
We see absolutely no benefit in mixing MCT oil into your morning coffee.
Consuming these substances at the same time does not deliver any extra benefits to consuming them separately; there’s no stacking effect to be had here.
The only benefit to adding MCT oil to your coffee is if you would struggle to consume it otherwise, either because you don’t cook in the morning or you don’t like the taste of MCT oil and coffee acts as a good medium.
The whole idea of mixing fats like butter or MCT oil into your morning coffee is ridiculous – the benefits people seem to experience from doing this all come from the placebo effect. Even the theory makes no sense! It’s all hype and insinuation; none of it is backed up by research.