MCT Oil: Eat Fat to Burn Fat?
Get the facts about MCT oil and decide for yourself.
The days of the low-fat diet are long gone. And we’ve come to realize that not all dietary fat is bad. But is it possible that some fats are so good they actually burn body fat?
Well, there’s a lot of buzz around healthy fats called MCT’s. And while studies are mixed, there is some compelling evidence that they do aid in fat loss. So what are they and how do they work?
What Are MCT’s?
MCT stands for medium-chain triglyceride. It’s a type of fat found in foods like coconut oil.
Specifically, “medium-chain” refers to the number of chemical bonds. In other words, MCT’s have fewer bonds. While long-chain triglycerides (LCT’s) have many bonds.
The benefit of fewer bonds is that your body breaks the fat down faster. And that makes MCT’s a great source of energy. Moreover, fast absorption may promote weight loss.
MCT Oil for Weight Loss
MCT oil is gaining popularity due to it’s potential to help people lose weight. But how can eating fat help you burn more fat?
One way MCT’s contribute to fat burning is through thermogenesis. Or heat energy produced by your body after you eat food.
This heat energy is called the Thermic Effect of Food (TEF) and it increases your metabolic rate. The faster a food burns, the higher the TEF and the more calories you burn.
MCT’s have a very high TEF due to their rapid absorption. As a result, metabolic rate increases up to 3 times more with MCT’s compared to LCT’s1.
So how many more calories can you burn?
Increase Calories Expended
As you just learned, thermogenesis increases calories burned following meals containing MCT’s. In fact, you could burn up to 180 more calories2 with just 1-2 tablespoons of MCT’s per day.
Over 28 days that could result in more than 1 pound of weight loss3. Which isn’t a lot on its own, but all you have to do is eat MCT’s.
And together with other factors, like calorie intake, the results can be much greater.
Decrease Calories Eaten
Another way MCT’s could help you lose weight is by decreasing the total calories you eat.
To illustrate, one study compared people on high fat, high calorie diets containing varying amounts of MCT’s. Interestingly, the group that had the most MCT’s ate 250 calories less per day on average4.
When combined with the 180 calorie increase in metabolism, that’s a 400+ calorie swing in your daily energy balance. And that could have a big impact on your body composition.
Increase Fat Loss
So far we’ve seen how MCT oil increases the calories you burn and decreases the calories you eat. But does that translate into actual pounds of fat loss?
In a study by McGill University3, subjects were put on identical diets. But one group was given fat from MCT oil. While the other group was given fat from olive oil (LCT).
At the end of the study, the MCT oil group lost more than 2.5 times as much fat. And lost significantly more upper body fat compared to the olive oil group.
Fat loss in pounds during 4-week trial. Adapted from St-Onge et al.
As you can see, the total fat loss during the 4-week trial was 1.83 lbs. Over the course of one year, that adds up to almost 24 lbs of pure fat loss. Just by consuming MCT’s instead of olive oil!
On top of that, subjects were fed a maintenance number of calories and not asked to exercise. Therefore, fat loss could be significantly more when combined with a calorie deficit and consistent exercise.
How to Use MCT Oil
MCT oil is a flavorless liquid or powder that you can add to drinks and meals. The best time to take it is in the morning and/or before you go to the gym. And a typical dosage is 1-2 tablespoons per day.
In addition, you can use coconut oil for cooking. Which has some MCT’s and adds a subtle flavor. But be aware that coconut oil doesn’t contain as many MCT’s as MCT oil.
MCT Oil vs Coconut Oil
Coconut oil is a waxy substance made from coconuts. And it contains the highest concentration of MCT’s in any food at 55%.
On the other hand, MCT oil is refined coconut oil. So it contains 100% MCT’s.
While coconut oil does contain MCT’s, it also contains other fats that slow down absorption. So if you’re looking to use MCT’s for weight loss, then you should include an MCT oil supplement.
Best MCT Oil Supplement
I use Organic MCT Oil from Viva Naturals. It’s available in liquid and powder forms (I recommend liquid). And the bottle lasts about a month if you use 2 tablespoons per day.
Below is a link to buy it on Amazon or browse around for similar products.
MCT oil helps burn fat by increasing calories burned and decreasing calories eaten
You will lose more fat if you use it as part of a diet & exercise plan
An MCT oil supplement is more concentrated than coconut oil
Take 1-2 tablespoons a day in the morning and/or before workouts
1) Seaton, Timothy B., et al. “Thermic effect of medium-chain and long-chain triglycerides in man.” The American journal of clinical nutrition 44.5 (1986): 630-634.
2) Dulloo, A. G., et al. “Twenty-four-hour energy expenditure and urinary catecholamines of humans consuming low-to-moderate amounts of medium-chain triglycerides: a dose-response study in a human respiratory chamber.” European journal of clinical nutrition 50.3 (1996): 152-158.
3) St‐Onge, Marie‐Pierre, et al. “Medium‐chain triglycerides increase energy expenditure and decrease adiposity in overweight men.” Obesity research 11.3 (2003): 395-402.
4) Stubbs, R. James, and Chris G. Harbron. “Covert manipulation of the ratio of medium-to long-chain triglycerides in isoenergetically dense diets: effect on food intake in ad libitum feeding men.” International journal of obesity and related metabolic disorders: journal of the International Association for the Study of Obesity 20.5 (1996): 435-444.