MCT Powder - What Is It, Benefits, How to Consume It & More
Written by Faye C.
on February 12, 2020
MCT powder is a dietary supplement containing medium-length triglycerides. Its popularity has grown swiftly in recent years, in large part due to the multitude of benefits it offers, including weight loss, increased metabolism, reduced risk of heart disease, and more.
This guide to MCT powder will define what the powder is, how it can positively affect your diet, how to consume it for maximum benefit, and other helpful information.
What Is MCT Powder?
To fully understand what MCT powder is, we first must define the acronym MCT.
MCT stands for medium-chain triglycerides.
Triglycerides, in general, make up the majority of the fats we consume. Within these fats, all triglycerides contain fatty acids, of which there are three main types: long-chain fatty acids (LCFAs), medium-chain fatty acids (MCFAs), and short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs). The chain length refers to how many carbon atoms are in each of the fatty acids.
Most of the oils and oil products you use to make things like stir fry and salad dressings (olive oil, for example) are longer-chain triglycerides, which means they have the highest number of carbon atoms in their fatty acids. Medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs), on the other hand, have (you guessed it) a medium number of carbon atoms — between six and 12, to be exact.
What Does MCT Powder Have to Do With the Keto Diet?
The keto (or ketogenic) diet is one that emphasizes eating more protein and healthy fats and fewer carbs. This high-protein, high-fat, low-carb diet essentially forces the body to go into ketosis, which in turn, helps you reduce body fat over time.
What Is Ketosis and How Does It Affect Blood Sugar?
Your body uses glucose or sugar for energy first and foremost. But when it doesn’t have blood sugar to expend as energy, it goes straight to body fat. If you’re trying to lose weight, this is great news.
The metabolic process of ketosis occurs when the body does not have enough glucose or blood sugar to burn for daily energy. Therefore, in order to continue working and helping you do everything you need to do each day, it will use stored fats as energy. Ketosis may happen naturally, but it can also be encouraged by eating a diet high in fat and protein and low in net carbs.
Foods Emphasized on the Keto Diet
If you are on the keto diet (or some forms of the paleo diet or Atkins diet), you will eat a lot of:
- Meat and poultry
- Eggs and high-fat dairy
- Nuts and seeds
- Nut butters
- MCT oil, olive oil, canola oil, coconut oil, palm oil, butter, and other healthy fats
And you will cut out or limit:
- Cakes and cookies
- Pasta and rice
- Starchy vegetables (like potatoes)
- Crackers and pretzels
- Ice cream
Eating a diet like this and being sure to incorporate MCTs will put your body into ketosis which will, in turn, help you burn fat more readily and rapidly.
What are the Benefits of Medium-Chain Triglycerides?
The MCTs in MCT powder contains medium-chain fatty acids, and when it comes to your health, this is good.
The short answer is that medium-chain fatty acids metabolize faster in the body.
In particular, medium-chain triglycerides do not need to go through the additional digestive steps that long-chain triglycerides do. Instead, they go directly to the liver and are metabolized rapidly there. Because of this, they are less likely to turn into body fat. If you're hoping to drop body weight or are looking to help your body produce more ketones, this is good news, and it means you’ll want to incorporate more medium-chain triglycerides or MCTs into your diet on a regular basis.
Using MCT powder is a great way to do this.
MCT powder contains all or some of the four types of MCTs:
- Lauric acid (12 atoms of carbon)
- Capric acid (10 atoms of carbon)
- Caprylic acid (8 atoms of carbon)
- Caproic acid (6 atoms of carbon)
Are there other benefits? Yes! In addition to promoting the process of ketosis and being an excellent component of the ketogenic diet, MCT oil powder has additional benefits as well.
Benefits of MCT Oil
- It can improve brain function.
Some experts have called MCTs the perfect “brain fuel” because of the way they are absorbed into the body and used quickly as energy for the brain. They pass directly through the blood-brain barrier and, in turn, promote better cognitive function overall.
MCTs can also be helpful with some diseases and illnesses related to the brain. Some studies have even shown MCT supplements to be helpful in reducing the prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease as well as seizures caused by epilepsy.
- It helps with fat loss in other ways.
We already know that MCT powder can reduce body fat by putting your body into ketosis and forcing it to use stored fat for energy instead of sugar alone. But it can help with weight loss in other ways as well.
For example, compared to longer-chain triglycerides like olive oil, MCT oil has approximately 10% fewer calories per serving. As calorie intake is directly associated with weight gain or loss, this naturally makes MCT oil the better choice for dieters.
Additionally, there are several key hormones released when you consume MCT powder. These are called leptin and peptide YY, and they can help you feel fuller for longer, effectively helping you avoid overeating.
- It improves exercise performance.
Another one of the health benefits of MCT powder is the way it can help improve exercise performance. This makes sense in that MCT oil has been proven to increase and improve the metabolism. In one study, athletes who consumed medium-chain fatty acids over long-chain fatty acids were found to have better endurance during strenuous activity.
- It lowers cholesterol.
Heart disease is a leading cause of death among both men and women in the United States today. Fortunately, the high cholesterol that may contribute to heart disease can be quelled by super foods like MCT oil powder.
How Is MCT Powder Made?
We know what MCT powder contains those healthy, medium-chain triglycerides, but how exactly is the powder form made?
MCT powder is made from MCT oil, which is why it’s sometimes called “MCT oil powder.” Most of the time, MCT oil is made from a combination of coconut oil and palm kernel oil. Both of these oils contain both medium-chain triglycerides and longer-chain triglycerides. A process called fractionation removes only the medium-chain triglycerides from coconut and palm kernel oil and creates the new MCT oil. Then, other ingredients are added to make the oil a powder. For example, maltodextrin is often used to create the starchy powder consistency.
Coconut Oil Vs. MCT Oil
Coconut oil and MCT oil are not the same. Many people make this mistake. In fact, MCT oil is technically a partially man-made fat. It is made of 100% medium-chain triglycerides while coconut oil is only made up of about 45 to 53% medium-chain triglycerides. This isn’t to say that coconut oil isn’t helpful on a keto diet — it is. However, when it comes to inducing ketosis, MCT oil has the advantage.
MCT Powder vs. MCT Oil
Both MCT oil powder (MCT powder) and MCT oil offer key benefits as outlined above. Just because they are different substance types doesn’t mean that one or the other is superior.
Thus, deciding between the two really comes down to how you plan on using them. For instance, if you like to eat smoothies more than salads and nut butters more than nut bars, MCT powder will probably be the better choice for you. MCT powder is also ultra-convenient and slightly easier to take with you for lunch or on road trips, for example.
On the other hand, MCTs are such a beneficial overall supplement for most diets that it doesn’t hurt to have both MCT powder and MCT oil on hand in the kitchen.
MCT Powder vs. MCT Pills
MCTs can also be found in pill or capsule form for those who care to take their MCTs as a supplement and not as a natural part of their diet. While this is a good option for MCT consumption, the high concentration of MCTs can be problematic for those with sensitive stomachs. When this happens, it might be better to start using the powder or oil form of MCTs, then slowly transition to a capsule or pill.
What Products Contain MCTs?
There are several foods that naturally contain MCTs. For example, coconut oil and palm kernel oil (from which MCT powder is derived) both contain MCTs. Other foods that have natural percentages of MCTs in them include butter, yogurt, but butters, milk, and cheese — all foods that are encouraged in their full fat forms on the keto diet.
How Can You Incorporate More MCT Powder Into Your Diet?
There are many ways to incorporate MCT powder into your diet — whether you’re following the keto diet or you’re simply looking to improve your overall health with the help of MCTs.
Mix your favorite veggies and keto-friendly fruits with ice, almond milk, and a few scoops of MCT powder for a delicious and nutritious, keto-friendly smoothie.
Because nuts are so packed with healthy protein and fat, nut butters are the perfect addition to the keto diet in most any form. When they’re also packed with MCT powder like SuperFat’s Macadamia MCT + Probiotics Nut Butter, however, nut butters become an amazing super food that certainly shouldn’t be missed when going keto.
One of the best ways to use MCT powder is to add it to your coffee as creamer. It is possible to purchase MCT powder that’s been made specifically into a creamer for coffee, but remember you can also just put a few teaspoons of standard MCT powder into your coffee along with any other desired ingredients.
Looking for more information on the keto diet? Check out our full-length guide for beginners!
Author: Faye C
|Faye is a guest contributor for SuperFat who writers professionally in the health and nutrition space.|