Does MCT oil help you get into ketosis faster?
This is an intriguing question. Entering ketosis is actually quite a difficult thing to achieve, despite what the supplement industry would have you believe. It usually takes at least 2 days of consuming a high fat, very low carb and low protein diet to enter ketosis. To enter ketosis in 2 days, people also usually need to be eating a significant caloric deficit, or have a very high metabolism.
For the vast majority of people, it takes up to a week of completely avoiding carbs and protein to enter ketosis – something almost none of us are willing or even capable of doing.
That’s why so many people are looking for ways to speed up the process of getting into ketosis. People are desperate to get into ketosis faster, as the week-long slog of avoiding carbs and protein just to start ketosis can be grueling (few people ever get there).
One method people often tout for getting into ketosis faster is the use of MCT oil. According to some supplement manufacturers (a telling sentence), the best MCT oil can actually put the body into a ketogenic state. If you’re trying to enter ketosis, then they say MCT oil can get you there a lot faster.
Is this true?
Can MCT really put you into a ketogenic state faster?
Let’s take a look at MCT oil and find out.
What is MCT oil?
MCT oil is an oil made up of 100% medium chain triglycerides, or MCTs. These fatty acids have a medium-chain length (hence the name), and are typically obtained by processing coconut oil or palm oil.
MCTs do have some very interesting physiological properties.
For example, MCTs can be readily used by the brain for fuel. Their structure allows them to be almost instantly converted to ketone bodies. Ketone bodies can quickly enter the brain and be used for fuel. As pure fats, they don’t spike insulin levels, meaning MCTs can act as pure brain fuel without interrupting a fast.
The consumption of MCTs has also been found to greatlty increase mitochondrial efficiency. Some studies have even found that the consumption of MCTs increases motochondrial density within cells. This means MCTs enhance energy metabolism, once again without spiking insulin or interrupting a fast (or interrupting ketosis).
These impressive benefits of MCT oil consumption have led some people to call them an ideal supplement for people following a ketogenic diet. Others have gone further, saying that MCTs actually help you get into ketosis faster; some have gone as far as to say that MCTs trigger ketosis!
Are these claims true? Do MCTs trigger ketosis? Can MCTs help you get into a ketogenic state faster?
Do MCTs speed up ketosis?
Contrary to what many supplement manufacturers tell you, MCTs do not trigger ketosis. It is not possible to trigger ketosis by consuming any substance!
Ketosis describes the state where your body is only using ketone bodies for energy. While MCTs can be converted into ketones very rapidly and then used by the brain, this is not ketosis. Once the ketones are used, the brain will go back to using the sugar in your blood for fuel. In fact, it will never stop using that sugar for fuel; it’s just that some cells will start using ketone bodies, but all the rest will still use sugar.
So no, MCT oil consumption does not trigger ketosis.
But can it put you into ketosis faster?
Well, in a way yes it can.
How MCT oil “speeds up” ketosis
MCT oil can put you into ketosis faster in the sense that it helps you stick to a keto diet for longer. MCT oil provides energy without spiking your insulin levels. It is a source of pure fat which provides ready, fast-acting energy for your brain. This is extremely useful when you’re trying to get into a ketogenic state, as the temptation to cheat after 2 days of eating nothing but fat, fiber, and small amounts of protein can be intense. This is why so few people manage it!
But the consumption of MCTs does not help you get into ketosis faster just by virtue of you consuming them. You still need to avoid carbohydrates completely, and not eat too much protein (less than 10% of calories) to enter ketosis. Even then, it takes days; almost nobody enters ketosis, and fewer stay there for very long!
The benefits of MCT oil extend well beyond anything related to the keto diet or ketosis.