Eat Fat and Lose Fat – Can MCT’s help you lose weight?
Can eating fat really burn more fat? We look at Medium Chain Triglycerides (MCT’S) and how they can impact your weight loss goals.
LAST UPDATED: March 2019 by Ben.
Author: Nicola Joyce has held two amateur and natural bodybuilding world titles. Nicola uses her knowledge and competitive experience combined with studies to help you understand fitness and nutrition.
This article is supported by studies all referenced at the footer of this page.
Fat for Fat
We all know that eating fat doesn’t make us fat (unless you eat so much of it that you go over your calories, of course).
But can eating fat actually help you burn fat?
Sounds counter-intuitive. But there’s a growing body of evidence to suggest that a particular type of fat – medium chain triglycerides (MCTs) – can indeed help you burn more body fat when you diet.
Let’s examine why MCT fats could be beneficial to your fat loss journey – and how you can get more of them into your daily diet.
Is MCT the ultimate way to burn body fat and turn your body into a calorie burning machine?
It seems crazy to think that eating fats can burn more fat – but this special kind of oil goes against the grain.
What Are MCT Fats & Oils?
MCT (medium chain triglycerides) is different to most type of dietary fat which is LCT (long chain triglycerides).
Typical LCT dietary fats are between 13-21 carbon atoms, and are similar to body fat in this way.
Yet MCT oil is 6-12 carbon atoms long and behaves differently in the body.
It is digested, metabolised, and burned as energy completely differently to regular dietary fat.
MCT is mostly found is coconut oil (which is around 65% MCT) and other coconut products, and is a pale yellow fat which is liquid at room temperature.
It is made up of mostly caprylic and capric fatty acids.
You might also see MCTs referred to as MCFA (medium chain fatty acids).
How could MCT help burn fat so differently to other types of dietary fats and oils?
How Do MCTs Burn More Fat?
MCTs are used by the body quite differently to other fats.
They bypass the digestion process (unlike LCTs) and are absorbed intact where they are used for energy production in the live.
This creates a thermic effects which boosts the metabolism.
Because of their interaction with the liver rather than the digestive system, MCTs are used as a faster source of energy – almost like a carbohydrate rather than a fat – and are less likely to be stored in fat cells.
More of their calories are used for energy, and less are stored.
MCTs can actually be used as a source of energy for sport, and are becoming a feature in sports supplements for endurance events like cycling and ultra running.
Fat Loss & MCTs In Research
Plenty of research has been done into MCT oils and dieting, fat loss, appetite, and weight management.
In fact, significant studies go back to the early 2000s which gives us a lot of research to look back on.
Back in 2003, this study looked at how MCTs can increase energy expenditure and reduce body fat in overweight men.
It found that a diet rich in MCTs results in greater loss of adipose tissue (compared with a diet higher in LCTs) and suggested this is
“perhaps due to increased energy expenditure and fat oxidation observed with MCT intake”. 
And in 2014, researchers looked at the impact of MCTs vs MCTs on appetite and food intake in overweight men.
This study found that MCT consumption does reduce food intake acutely – but what is less clear is the changes in GLP-1, PYY, and insulin. 
This 2015 meta-analysis looked at the effects of MCTs on weight loss and body composition.
It found that replacing LCTs with MCTs in the diet could see modest reductions in body weight and composition (but noted that more research is needed to determine the best dose of MCTs). 
In 2018, a study looked at how MCTs can boost exercise endurance through increased mitochondrial biogenesis and metabolism.
This study is good news for athletes, providing
“the first evidence that MCT, as a food supplement, preserves high temperature induced impairment in exercise performance and muscle function…revealing a novel role of MCT in exercise, providing evidence for treating muscle dysfunction and exercise impairment”. 
3 More Benefits Of MCT Oil & MCT Supplements
#1 They could help you maintain a healthy weight
MCTs are highly satiating so can help keep a lid on cravings and hunger, plus they have a positive impact on the metabolism so can help you maintain a healthy weight in two ways.
#2 A great source of energy
MCTs are a high source of energy and are used more like a carbohydrate by the body, making them great fuel for training and general activity.
MCTs are anti bacterial and a good source of anti-oxidants which can help protect cells and protect against inflammation.
Best Sources Of MCT Fats
This 2008 study compared MCTs to that other healthy fat – olive oil – and found that MCTs came out tops.
With MCT (as part of a weight-loss plan) improving weight loss compared with olive oil. 
So what are the best food sources of those beneficial MCT fats?
- Coconut oil
- Butter (from grass fed cattle)
- Whole milk
- Full-fat yogurt
- Palm kernel oil
Various foods contain MCTs (at different levels).
But if you are keeping an eye on your physique, you will want to take just enough MCT to get the benefits without any excess calories.
Supplementing With MCT Fats
MCT gel capsules: daily capsules of MCT oil or MCT powder are an easy and convenient way to get the correct dose of MCT for your personal needs.
MCT powder: MCT powder is a light, slightly sweet powder which can be mixed into smoothies or shakes – or even used as a coffee creamer (try it!)
Coconut oil: coconut oil is the classic source of MCTs, so it makes sense to use coconut oil in cooking or even as a spread if you want to up your MCT intake.
Don’t forget that MCTs are still 9 calories per gram, the same as any kind of fat.
So you could still overeat on them and take yourself over your maintenance calories.
For this reason, an MCT supplement is the best way to take MCTs – so you can get an accurate and precise dose every day.
Just because MCTs have a different chemical structure to LCTs, it does not mean you can eat them with abandon and never gain weight.
A fat is still a fat – at least as far as calories are concerned.
 Impact of medium and long chain triglycerides consumption on appetite and food intake in overweight men. St-Onge MP, Mayrsohn B, O’Keeffe M, Kissileff HR, Choudhury AR, Laferrère B.Eur J Clin Nutr. 2014 Oct;68(10):1134-40. doi: 10.1038/ejcn.2014.145. Epub 2014 Jul 30.
 Effects of medium-chain triglycerides on weight loss and body composition: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials.Mumme K, Stonehouse W.J Acad Nutr Diet. 2015 Feb;115(2):249-63. doi: 10.1016/j.jand.2014.10.022. Review.
 Medium Chain Triglycerides enhances exercise endurance through the increased mitochondrial biogenesis and metabolism.Wang Y, Liu Z, Han Y, Xu J, Huang W, Li Z.PLoS One. 2018 Feb 8;13(2):e0191182. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0191182. eCollection 2018.
 Weight-loss diet that includes consumption of medium-chain triacylglycerol oil leads to a greater rate of weight and fat mass loss than does olive oil. St-Onge MP, Bosarge A. Am J Clin Nutr. 2008 Mar;87(3):621-6.
Nicola Joyce (aka “the fit writer”) is a fitness industry copywriter who has been writing for and about sport and fitness since 2004. Nicola is a competitive drug-free bodybuilder (with two World titles at amateur level) and has also competed in powerlifting and a couple of strongman comps. Prior to her strength training days, Nicola was an endurance athlete and has even swum the English Channel twice. She can be found on all social media at: thefitwriter.