Can I Take MCT Oil On An Empty Stomach? What Not To Do

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When you’re using a supplement like MCT oil, you may be curious about how to take it safely and effectively, including whether it is ok to consume on an empty stomach.

Can I take MCT oil on an empty stomach? Consuming MCT oil on an empty stomach may cause digestive discomfort in the form of diarrhea and nausea, especially if you are new to using it. You can try having a small snack to accompany your MCT oil, or if you need to consume it on an empty stomach, start with only 6ml twice daily or try it in a powdered form.

In this article I’ll explore:

  • The benefits and risks to taking MCT oil on an empty stomach
  • What to do if you experience side effects using MCT oil on an empty stomach
  • How to approach MCT oil use while fasting.

Are There Benefits To Taking MCT Oil On An Empty Stomach?

pros and cons of taking mct oil on an empty stomach

By consuming MCT oil on an empty or relatively empty stomach, it will be digested and absorbed by the body faster than if you have a stomach full of food still being broken down. 

General guidance around taking MCT oil is to avoid having it with a big meal or on a full stomach. This is because MCT oil is broken down quickly by your body, and when in the fat-burning state of ketosis, can provide a preferred source of energy and suppress your appetite. 

So if your goal is weight loss and you’re following a keto diet regime, taking MCT oil on an empty stomach may promote quicker absorption by your body leading to:

  • An energy boost in the form of ketones to support your training efforts; and 
  • A reduction in appetite which may assist in creating a calorie deficit in your diet by consuming fewer calories across the day. 

Are There Risks To Taking MCT Oil On An Empty Stomach?

The main issues you could encounter taking MCT oil on an empty stomach are around the possible gastrointestinal impacts. 

These may include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea
  • Cramping
  • Vomiting
  • Bloating

For many new to taking MCT oil, stomach upset and diarrhea could occur. More often than not, you’re likely to see these side effects dissipate as your body gets used to the MCT oil.

While there are no specific studies on MCT oil use on an empty stomach, research undertaken has shown that its use is no more risky than consuming olive oil.

Taking MCT oil on an empty stomach could open you up to some side effects, but these are likely to reduce as you get used to it.  

Most often, if you’re consuming MCT oil within recommended ranges, the side effects aren’t likely an indicator of adverse health impacts, it’s more just your body adjusting to it.

What to Do If You Experience Side Effects Consuming MCT Oil On An Empty Stomach?

what to do if you experience side effects consuming MCT oil on an empty stomach

When you chew and eat food, it generates digestive enzymes in your stomach to help break it down. When you take MCT oil on an empty stomach, there is no opportunity for your stomach to release those digestive enzymes, and it will go straight to your small intestine for absorption. This is why stomach discomfort may occur. 

If you’ve been using MCT oil and experiencing unrelenting stomach discomfort, you have 5 options:

  • Mix your MCT oil into a beverage
  • Stick to recommended dosage ranges
  • Take Your MCT oil with a a small snack
  • Ensure you’re only consuming 1 tablespoon at a time
  • Use it in a powdered form

1. Mix Your MCT Oil Into a Beverage

Try mixing your MCT oil into a black tea or coffee an hour before eating a meal. This may help reduce some side effects.  However, since your stomach wouldn’t be required to digest anything with these liquids, you may find it isn’t enough to reduce stomach discomfort. 

There is the option of including it in a juice or smoothie, which would involve the stomach to assist with digestion. 

However, depending on the type of diet or nutrition plan you are following, in particular the ketogenic diet, this may be in opposition to the suggested use for MCT oil. This is because including a hit of carbohydrates with MCT oil may dull the effect of creating ketones to be used as energy. 

2. Take Your MCT Oil With a Small Snack

Another option for MCT oil consumption when you’ve experienced side effects is to couple it with a small snack. This could be with something like avocado or some coconut. Having a snack will assist with involving the stomach to help break down the oil and avoid feelings of gastrointestinal discomfort. 

Other light snack options could include:

  • Small serve of cottage cheese with MCT mixed in
  • Small full fat yogurt with MCT oil mixed in
  • Small salad with MCT oil drizzled on top.

Depending on the diet you follow you could also look to incorporate a sufficient amount of MCT oil in a baked snack like a small muffin or piece of banana bread, to help with consumption and digestion without side effects. 

Given many gastrointestinal issues arise for people when they first start using MCT oil, it is important to introduce the supplement gradually and in line with recommended doses to minimize any potential side effects. 

As a general guide for MCT oil, research suggests to build your tolerance of MCT oil up over time. Maximum doses should not exceed 4-7 tablespoons of MCT oil a day. 

A dosing approach you could try is:

  • Starting MCT oil dose of one teaspoon (6ml), twice daily.
  • Gradually increase MCT oil in increments of a teaspoon each day or week (depending on how your body adapts) until you reach a tablespoon per serve.
  • This will build up your tolerance to the supplement as you reach your desired daily intake, without exceeding maximum daily amounts. 
  • For reference a tablespoon is roughly the equivalent of 3 teaspoons. 

If you’re still noticing stomach discomfort following a staggered dosing approach, you may want to try one of the other options mentioned or reach out to a Registered Dietician or Nutrition Coach to get some tailored assistance with your MCT oil supplementation.  That’s where we can help, just send us a message.

If you’re looking to try a flavorless and versatile MCT oil, I’d recommend Bulletproof

Bulletproof Pure C8 MCT Oil

4. Ensure You’re Only Consuming 1 Tablespoon At A Time

While you’re able to consume a maximum of 7 tablespoons of MCT oil a day, research undertaken has shown that spreading your serves of MCT oil evenly across the day will reduce gastrointestinal discomfort. 

So once you are able to tolerate a tablespoon of MCT oil in one serve, it is best not to exceed that. If you’re looking to incorporate more, spread out your intake across the day. With this approach you’re likely to avoid any stomach upset.

Consuming maximum servings all at once will not only set your guts up for a bad time, but may work against nutrition goals as well. 

5. Use It in a Powdered Form

If you’re looking for an alternative to MCT oil because of the side effects you’ve experienced, there is the option of MCT powder. These are typically added to liquids, with a popular option being to use it as a creamer in black coffee. There are reports of this being easier to digest because it is bonded with a powder. 

Depending on the diet you are following, because MCT powder includes a bonding powder, be sure to check the ingredient panel for a fat content ratio of at least 70%, so it remains in line with the intention behind MCT oil use. 

Showing an ingredient panel for MCT oil

As you can see in this ingredient panel picture, MCT oil makes up 70% of the ingredients with the remaining 30% an organic prebiotic. You always want the minimum MCT oil ratio to be 70% or above. 

The general consensus seems to b  taking MCT oil while fasting is safe and can help with feelings of hunger. There are, however, suggested guidelines around doses, quantity and timing of consumption. 

  • For dosing, when consuming MCT oil during fasting periods, take one serving at a time to help with hunger.
  • For quantity, this will depend on your tolerance level but shouldn’t exceed a tablespoon at a time. 
  • For timing, spread out your doses by 6 hours or more to assist with fat burning.

The Bottom Line

Like with any supplement, be sensible when incorporating it into your diet. 

While you are able to consume MCT oil on an empty stomach, pay attention to how your body responds and make the necessary adjustments. 

As always, reach out to a professional if you’re struggling and need some help with how to incorporate MCT oil into your diet. 

Other MCT Oil Resources

About The Author

Steph Catalucci

Steph Catalucci is an online nutrition coach from Australia, working with clients all over the world. Her passion for nutrition was born through wanting to treat her body better, for health and performance. She is a strong advocate for understanding nutrition to develop informed nutritional habits that go beyond just food.  Steph leverages a decade of her own nutritional experience to help people make sense of the noise and carve a path forward with their nutrition, supporting clients with whatever body composition goal they have. When not coaching or writing, you’ll find her training for her next powerlifting competition.

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