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Adding MCT oil with protein shakes is practiced by bodybuilders, people on a keto diet, and people on a heart-healthy diet.
So what are the reasons to mix MCT oil with protein? MCT promotes weight loss because it increases fat oxidation (using the fat we have for energy). Also, MCT oil helps provide quick energy as it doesn’t need to be digested ‒ it’s converted straight into energy by the liver. For those that work out, MCT oil improves performance by reducing lactic acid during exercise.
Here you will learn all of the benefits (and some cons) of adding MCT oil to your protein shakes. Weight loss is one of the big benefits you get, but I can assure you there are others that will make you want to start adding it along with your whey protein shake.
What Is It & Where Does MCT Oil Come From?
MCT oil is a type of fat called medium-chain triglycerides (MCT). Triglycerides are made up of chains of carbon atoms. The length of the carbon chain depends on whether they are small, medium, or long.
Typically, we get long-chain triglycerides from our diet. Some examples of long-chain triglycerides are olive oil, avocado, nuts, and seeds. They take longer to digest and provide energy slower. The benefit of slower digestion is that it provides a steadier energy release. It makes you feel fuller for longer, which results in eating fewer calories during the day.
On the other hand, medium-chain triglycerides (Like MCT oil) are easier to absorb and digest from the body, which means you get energy faster. Before you exercise you need immediate energy to use during training. Having fast-acting energy helps you have hard training sessions and avoid feeling fatigued.
MCT oil is typically made from coconut oil since most of its fatty acids are medium-chained. You can also make them from palm kernel oil, but the most common variety comes from coconut.
4 Reasons To Put MCT Oil In Protein Shakes
Here are the four reasons that will make you want to add MCT oil the next time you have a protein shake.
MCT Oil Promotes Weight Loss By Using Fat As An Energy Source
MCT oils seem to aid in weight loss.
In a study done on 19 healthy individuals, they were given either MCT oil or a long-chain triglyceride (LCT) in the form of olive oil for four weeks.
Those that took the MCT lost 1 kg of body weight compared to a 0.6 kg decrease with the olive oil group. Hence, it seems that MCT helps stimulate fat oxidation, which means your body ends up burning fat to be used as fuel.
Another study confirms the same findings. This study was done in 24 healthy overweight men where they consumed a diet rich in MCT or LCT for 28 days.
At the end of the study, those that took MCT lost an average of 0.8 kg of fat mass (compared to only 0.3 kg for the LCT group).
This is not to say that you’ll automatically lose body fat by taking MCT oil, but certainly, MCT oil along with a well-balanced, calorically restricted diet can lead to meaningful reductions in weight.
Provides Fast Energy Because It Breaks Down Quicker
MCT oil is more rapidly absorbed into the bloodstream than LCTs. They are quickly absorbed from the gut, and it goes straight to the liver to be processed. In the liver, it is broken down to be stored as fat or be used as energy.
Thanks to its short structure, it doesn’t require a lot of digestion, which means you can use it for fast energy—ideal for people following a ketogenic diet who don’t get their energy source from carbohydrates.
Additionally, MCT oil is converted into ketones, the main energy source when following a low-carb diet.
Increases Performance On High Intensity Activity
During very intense exercise, the amount of oxygen you take might not be enough to supply the body’s needs. When there is not enough oxygen to fit the needs, the body produces lactic acid
Your body can convert lactic acid into usable energy, but it is a slow process and might not be as fast as you need. This leads to lactate building up in your bloodstream, which decreases performance and results in fatigue.
This is where MCT oil may help.
A study was done on 8 healthy, active individuals who were given either MCT or LCT during the day over 14 days. They were instructed to perform an exercise at various intensities.
Those that took MCT lasted twice as much at the maximum intensity (10 minutes), compared to those that took LCT (5 minutes). Additionally, the lactate concentration was significantly lower on those that took MCT.
Better Heart Health By Lowering Cholesterol Levels
High cholesterol levels in your blood could potentially lead to heart problems. It seems that MCT can help decrease cholesterol levels in your blood.
A study evaluated the intake of MCT, antioxidants, and flaxseeds oil compared to only taking olive oil on 24 overweight men for a 29 day period.
They had a controlled diet to maintain their weight.
The result: Those that consumed the combination of MCT oil had a 12.5% decrease in their cholesterol levels compared to only 4.7% in the olive oil group.
- MCT Oil is on our list of high calorie, low sodium foods (click to read more food choices that fit this category)
Are There Drawbacks To MCT Oil In Protein Shakes?
Even if MCT oil has a lot of benefits, there are a couple of cons you might want to consider.
May Make You Gain Weight If Portion Size Is Not Controlled
Even if there are studies that support MCT with weight loss, they were controlled studies where the calories were highly regulated.
At the end of the day, MCT is still fat that has calories. If you are not careful, having more calories than your body needs, you will gain weight.
Therefore, it’s important if you take MCT oil that you control the intake, which we’ll discuss later.
Gastric Problems May Occur If You Have A Sensitive Stomach
Some people might have a hard time digesting fats. This means that ingesting MCT oil might produce gastric problems like diarrhea, bloating, and nausea for those people.
If you are likely to get gastric problems, I would advise avoiding MCT or adding it in small amounts until you reach your daily tolerance.
As well, having stomach issues is commonly experienced if taking MCT oil on an empty stomach.
Who Should Consider Putting MCT Oil In Protein Shakes?
Three main groups might want to consider adding this oil with their protein shake.
Since MCT oil is a very energy-dense food, it helps you add on calories. Even if it helps slightly increase fat oxidation (the breakdown of fats to be used as energy), you can gain weight if you still eat more calories than your body needs.
For those that have a hard time looking at strategies to add on calories daily, MCT oil might be the way to go, and it is easier to digest than olive oil.
With that said, MCT oil is not recommended to heat or use for cooking. Thus adding it to your protein shake is the best alternative to include it into your diet.
- Related Article: 1000 Calorie Protein Shake (5 Weight Gain Recipes)
If you are looking to lose fat, adding MCT oil might help you speed things up, since it helps use fats as energy, it can help you shed those pounds.
However, keep in mind that it needs to go along with a caloric deficit. Meaning you need to eat fewer calories than your body needs.
If you control the calories and add MCT into your fat macro, you can achieve fat loss.
Since MCT oil is easily transformed into ketones, it is ideal for those following a ketogenic lifestyle.
When carb stores are low, it means that the body doesn’t have glucose to use for energy. As a result, the body starts producing ketones to compensate for the lack of glucose. Those ketones are then sent to your muscles and other tissues to be used as energy.
Thus, for people on a ketogenic diet, adding MCT might help speed up their ketone levels which means that they achieve a ketosis state faster and can maintain it for longer. Being in a ketosis state allows more fat to be used as energy which leads to weight loss.
Additionally, since MCT provides fast energy, it is a great choice to add before training to provide the necessary energy you need to help you fuel your training session.
How To Combine MCT Oil With Your Protein Shake?
There are a couple of things you need to consider when you are adding MCT oil to your protein shake. The dosage and the time of the day are essential when you are adding it.
The dosage depends on the total calories you need during the day.
However, in most studies, the amount used to achieve those goals is 5-10 g of MCT oil during the day. This means adding one to two teaspoons of MCT oil to your protein shake.
Remember that variety is key to optimal health. Each food has a distinctive benefit. Thus, it is good to vary between MCT oil and other oils like olive oil.
Time of Day
The best time to include MCT is before training. Since they provide fast-acting energy they help you fuel up your training session. Additionally, since they reduce lactic acid, it can improve your training session and have a longer training.
However, remember that it is still fat. For some people, it might produce gastric problems, like bloating. If this is the case, avoid using it before training and add 1-2 hours before training. You can also add it after training with the protein shake to help with your recovery.
Can You Buy MCT & Whey Protein Pre Mixed?
Finding a protein supplement with MCT oil is very hard on the market. Most of the supplements you get are collagen mixed with MCT oil.
However, here is a list of a couple of brands you might want to try if you are looking for a protein and MCT oil protein mix.
- Nutiva Organic MCT Protein Plant-Based Shake Mix. A great plant-based option. You can find it in two flavors, either chocolate or vanilla. It has 20 g of protein which is pretty high for a plant-based protein. Low in carb since it is keto-approved and it has 8 g of total fats (6 g of MCT oil). For those on a vegetarian/vegan diet, it is a great option.
- Orgain Keto Collagen Protein Powder with MCT Oil. This is a protein powder that’s mixed with both collagen and MCT oil (collagen might help improve your skin and joints). Adding a collagen protein with MCT is a good way to increase your total daily protein with the bonus of the MCT. However, the problem with this plant-based protein is that it doesn’t have all of the amino acids necessary for muscle growth.
If you don’t want to buy a pre-mixed protein and MCT oil supplement, you can simply buy MCT oil and mix it with your favorite protein powder.
- My recommendation for MCT oil is Bulletproof Pure C8 MCT Oil It is high quality, coconut-based, and easily mixes with either protein, coffee, or tea.
As well, mixing MCT oil and protein yourself ensures that you are getting all of the essential amino acids needed to grow your muscles.
What Else Can You Mix With Protein Powder?
Other MCT Oil Resources
- Can I Take MCT Oil At Night? (A Nutritionist Explains)
- Can Too Much MCT Oil Make You Fat? (Dos & Don’ts)
- Can I Take MCT Oil & Collagen Together? (Pros & Cons)
About The Author
Brenda Peralta is a Registered Dietitian and certified sports nutritionist. In addition to being an author for FeastGood.com, she fact checks the hundreds of articles published across the website to ensure accuracy and consistency of information.