The ketogenic diet is a high-fat, low-carb diet that results in the body switching from glucose metabolism to ketone body metabolism, which is discussed further in the Body Reboot book. Carbohydrates are restricted to around 25 grams a day, and most fats enter the liver from the lymph system. However, MCT fats typically enter the liver directly. Since having more ketone bodies means the body will likely reach ketosis a lot faster (which is the goal for someone on the keto diet), MCT fats are ideal. In fact, in some cases consuming MCT fats allows for a higher intake of carbs. Either way, going on the keto diet has several benefits from losing weight to experiencing more energy.
Before we dive into why MCTs are beneficial on the keto diet, let’s first learn what MCTs are, according to Perfect Keto:
“MCT is short for Medium-Chain Triglyceride and they are a type of fat that is fantastic for your health and energy levels.
Not only are MCT’s good, they are essential. This means we absolutely have to have them for normal growth, regeneration, and survival.
Need a mental image of an MCT? Think of the trident that Zeus carries, with three prongs and a long stake in the ground. The three “prongs” are glycerol molecules attached to the long “stake” portion, which is a chain of carbons. Medium-chain fats have between 6-12 carbon chains.”
Perfect Keto discusses further why they believe MCTs are ideal to consume while participating in a ketogenic diet.
“Short-chain fats have short “handles,” and longer chain fats have longer carbon “handles.” Here’s the point: The shorter the carbon chain, the easier/quicker it is for your body to break it into energy.
Furthermore, when you are following a ketogenic diet, your body is breaking down fats into ketones for energy. So think of MCT’s as quick, clean fuel you will burn.
Let’s recap. MCT’s are,
Proven to raise ketone levels
Quick and clean sources of energy
Vitally important to a quality ketogenic diet and lifestyle”
Livestrong shares an excellent description of how MCTs can help speed along ketosis and give the brain some much-needed energy:
“Whereas carbohydrates and fat turn into components that can enter the bloodstream directly from the digestive system, most dietary fat converts to water soluble molecules that enter the liver via the lymph system. The liver then converts these molecules to fatty acids and ketone bodies. MCT fats are medium chain triglycerides and are present in relatively small amount in most sources of dietary fat. Unlike their longer cousins, they can enter the liver directly without having to go through the lymph system. So, consuming MCT fats gives the body an opportunity quickly to produce ketone bodies as an energy source for the brain.”
Dr. Jockets supports Perfect Keto’s and Livestrong’s arguments by stating that MCTs are easy for a body to digest and do not require the body to use bile, which can be rough on a system. Read on to see how MCTs can benefit the body:
“MCTs are easily digested and do not require the production and utilization of bile. Most fatty acids depend upon bile salt emulsification in order to be metabolized and absorbed. The production of bile is an energy dependent process that takes place in the liver. The body stores extra bile in the gallbladder to use for high fat meals.
Individuals with a sluggish liver and gallbladder struggle to produce adequate bile. Other individuals who struggle with malnutrition or malabsorption syndromes can easily absorb and utilize these MCTs. This includes people with pancreatitis, cystic fibrosis & Crohn’s disease among others.
MCTs have a slightly lower caloric effect than typical long-chain fatty acids (LCFA). LCFAs have 9 calories per gram while MCTs have 8.3 calories per gram.”
Need another reason to incorporate MCT powder or oils into your keto diet? According to Tasteaholics, it’s excellent brain power (which Livestrong briefly mentioned above as well)!
“MCTs are incredibly efficient and break down inside our cells in a way that produces an excess of ketones.2 For those on a ketogenic diet, the additional boost in ketones means more energy, mental clarity, and focus. In fact, it’s suggested that the presence of ketones in the body could help improve cognition in Alzheimer’s patients.3 While our brains are accustomed to running on sugar as a primary fuel, the indication that they may improve cognition suggests that the brain is more efficient when fueled by ketones.”
There are several ways to incorporate MCTs into your diet, but it’s best to look for supplements that have the “good” Medium Chain Triglycerides, which is what Keto Domain recommends.
“So how do you get a good source of MCT's? There's tons of highly concentrated MCT oils out there!
These supplements have extracted the “good” Medium Chain Triglycerides, aka C8 and C10, from the coconut oil (or palm oil) to give you a nicely concentrated product. The really good products will contain ONLY these MCT's. You'll have to do you research though, because a lot of companies don't label specifically what MCT's are in their product. Even some companies that have a really good oil, like NOW Foods, don't state that their product is all C8 and C10, no lauric acid – you have to do additional research to find that out!”
If you’re curious how much MCT oil you can consume daily, Keto Domain also offers great advice on that (but be sure to do your research prior to ingesting a lot of MCT right off the bat).
“MCT oil can be added to shakes, coffee or herbal teas. You can also just take a spoonful right down! Use the packages and serving sizes as recommended on the product that you purchase. One research article mentioned above said you can safely take 20-70 grams per day of MCT oil to help induce ketosis.
You should be eating way more grams of fat per day if you are on the keto diet, so just account for it when you track your macros.”
Ruled.me is more specific on how much MCT newbies should consume and how much to take daily until a body adapts.
“If you’re new to MCT oil, start off with small amounts. Begin with 1 to 1.5 teaspoons a day and slowly increase your intake to get your body accustomed to the MCTs.
If this dose is too much for you, you can also try using MCT oil powder instead. Due to the fact that it tends to cause fewer digestive issues, you may be able to start with a higher dose at first.
Once your body adapts to the increase in MCT consumption, you can up your dosage daily, teaspoon by teaspoon, until you are having 1 to 4 tablespoons a day without any issues.
The typical dose is one to two tablespoons per day.”
Want to know how to incorporate MCTs into your keto diet? Here are a few excellent ideas thanks to Ruled.me:
“Drizzle it on top of your meal. If you want to add some extra fat to your keto meal, simply drizzle some MCT oil or sprinkle some MCT powder on top. This works really well with keto pasta dishes and salads.
Make a quick keto chocolate sauce. Craving some chocolate with your keto dessert? Try whipping up a quick chocolate sauce by mixing cocoa powder and MCT oil together (add your favorite keto sweetener if you want some extra sweetness too). Drizzle this chocolate sauce to add some extra flavor and ketone boosting fats to your keto dessert.
Add them to your fat bombs. As long as you use a fat/oil that doesn’t melt at room temperature as your primary fat bomb fat source, feel free to add some extra MCT oil or MCT oil powder to make your fat bombs into ketosis-boosting fat bombs. For some delicious fat bomb ideas, check out our comprehensive guide to fat bombs.
Take it straight. Since MCT oil is tasteless and odorless, it is possible to down your dose without having to add it to anything. You can do the same thing with MCT powder by mixing it with water.”
In summary, MCTs are a fantastic way to aid in weight loss on the keto diet; however, it’s not necessarily something you have to take. Many believe it can be a health aid that helps a body stay in ketosis. KetoVale summarizes why adding MCTs to your keto diet may be the way to go:
“As we stated before, MCTs are mostly used in the body as energy, which helps you decrease the amount of fatty tissue you have because it increases energy production.
This is because MCTs are not stored as fat like glucose and other fatty acids are (such as long-chain fatty acids).
Research shows that MCTs also help reduce the risk of obesity by stimulating weight loss and preventing long-term weight gain.
Studies show that MCTs decrease your fat deposition, help you feel full for longer, and increase your long-term fat loss by heating up the body so that it burns more fat.
Additionally, MCTs have been shown to enhance the thermogenesis process, or the process in which your body produces heat as a way to burn energy.”
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