Medium-chain triglycerides (MCT) are an excellent supplement for people on keto and other high-fat diets. MCT supplies your body with clean and easily accessible energy.
In this article, we’re going to review what exactly MCT is, how it can help you, and the difference between MCT oil and powder as a supplement.
Medium-chain triglycerides are fats that are found in foods, such as coconut oil. They metabolize differently than the long-chain triglycerides (LCT) found in most foods.
These fats are quickly absorbed by the body and used for immediate energy. These fats are comprised of four different types of triglycerides: C6, C8, C10, and C12.
There are two primary ways to boost the amount of MCT in your diet: through supplements such as MCT oil and MCT powder, and through whole food sources.
Whole Food Sources
These are a few of the richest sources of medium-chain triglycerides shown with the percentage of MCT fatty acids:
- Coconut oil: More than 60%
- Palm kernel oil: More than 50%
- Dairy products: 10-12%
While rich in MCTs, the composition of each of these sources varies. Coconut oil, for example, is made up of all four types of MCTs plus a small amount of LCTs.
Coconut oil is one of the best natural sources of this fatty acid. This is due to its smaller amounts of capra fatty acids and greater amounts of lauric acid, which is about 50%.
MCT oil is a supplement taken that contains a highly concentrated amount of MCTs and is made through a process called fractionation. This mainly involves the extraction and isolation of the MCTs from sources like palm kernel or coconut oil.
In its oil form, MCT typically contains either 100% capric acid, 100% caprylic acid, or a mixture of the two.
MCT oil limitations
While MCT oil is a 100% natural and is an effective energy source when made in the right combination of MCTs, it comes with its setbacks:
- Not easy to carry around: Since it’s a liquid, this makes it difficult to take to the gym, for example. You would need to carry the whole container with you or put it in a smaller container that won’t spill.
- Gives drinks an oily texture: While it can be a nice addition to your morning coffee, the oil tends to rise to the top of your drink, giving it an oily texture.
- Could result in digestive problems: Studies have shown MCT oil to result in some unpleasant side effects, such as irritability, diarrhea, and even vomiting. However, this typically occurs when consuming too much or on an empty stomach.
- Not easy to incorporate into recipes: Cooking with MCT oil can get tricky. Similar to olive oil, it has a low smoke point which can limit the number of foods you can put in it. It’s also limited to low-heat and raw dishes like smoothies and salads.
Just like MCT oil, MCT powder is a form of medium-chain triglycerides. Its production is similar to protein powders and is called spray drying. With MCT, however, it’s converted from a liquid to a solid. Liquid MCT oil is spray dried and micro-encapsulated with a powder carrier shell to give it both the appearance and convenience of a powder.
This conversion from oil to powder has some upsides, which include:
- Easier on your digestive system
- Being a powder makes it easier to incorporate into recipes
- Can combine with other supplements more easily
MCT powder is generally made up of starch derivatives and milk proteins: ingredients which are not used in MCT oil.
MCT Oil vs. Powder: What’s the Difference?
Both forms of MCT provide a natural and efficient energy source, but also come with strengths and weaknesses, some of which we already covered.
MCT oil pros
- One pro to opting for MCT oil is that there is a generous amount of research and studies that buck up its benefit claims. It’s been shown to make ketones more immediately available, improve brain function, aid in weight loss, and plenty more.
- There isn’t as much tampering with MCT oil as there is with MCT powder, so the possibility for fillers or any additives is far less.
- MCT oils are great for low-heat cooking. You can top your salads, pastas, or other low-heat dishes with some MCT oil for a nice energy boost.
MCT oil cons
- It’s a pain to carry around or travel with, and there’s always a risk of spilling.
- It has some potential digestive issues, such as stomach discomfort, and can be especially hard on people with sensitive digestion.
- It makes your drinks oily
- It doesn’t easily combine with other supplements and has to be taken on its own.
MCT powder pros
- A big pro to using powder instead of oil is that it’s much more convenient to carry around without any risk of spills.
- Since it’s in powder form, it can easily be mixed with other supplements like collagen or exogenous ketones.
- Easier on the digestive system, allowing you to consume more than oil at once
- Much easier to incorporate into cooking dishes and recipes
- It has a nice, creamy texture
- Comes with some bonus health benefits when mixed with high-quality fiber.
MCT powder cons
- Since there is more tampering in production, there is more of a possibility that additives or fillers are included. These can spike blood sugar levels and even kick you out of ketosis, so powders needs to be more closely inspected when purchasing.
- Needs a carrier shell to be transformed into a powder. This gives manufacturers the ability to use poor quality fibers that will ultimately leave the product with an unbalanced ratio of MCTs to non-MCTs.
- Not as much research on MCT powders
MCT oil and powder similarities
- Both are nutritionally equal
- Provide an excellent source of energy
- Helps reach and maintain the state of ketosis
- Both are tasteless
Which Should You Choose?
The form of MCT you choose depends on what your goals are and how much medium-chain triglycerides you want to get.
MCT powder is overall much more flexible. You can easily cook with it and take it to the gym if you want, making it more convenient. It’s also softer on the stomach if you have digestive issues. MCT oil, on the other hand, may not be as convenient.
However, since it’s not as manipulated during conception, you don’t have to worry about low-quality fibers, fillers, and additives like you would with MCT powder.
If you’re looking to begin taking MCT supplements, be it oil or powder, you’re already on the right path. The next step is deciding which best fits your lifestyle and goals.