Whether you’re already an avid Bulletproof coffee drinker or just follow a few health and wellness gurus on Instagram, you’ve definitely heard some buzz around MCT oil. Trendy as this type of fat may be, what it actually is—and how eat more of it—remains a mystery to the average person.
“MCT oil is known as the ‘fat that burns fat,’” says Mike Roussell, Ph.D., author of The Metashred Diet. Oils are made up of chains of carbons of varying lengths. While olive oil, for example, is 18 carbons long, MCTs—which stands for ‘medium-chain triglycerides’—are only about 6 to 12 carbons long. Because these fats have shorter carbon chains, they’re more quickly absorbed into the bloodstream to be used for energy.
And while research is mixed on whether they can boost performance, these MCTs can actually support weight loss by helping to amplify the metabolic benefits of a high-fat, low-carb diet, such as increased insulin sensitivity and decreased appetite, explains Roussell.
Related: Why Is Everyone Talking About MCTs?
Thing is, MCTs are pretty rare in the average diet. “While they’re present in coconut oil, you should really be consuming pure MCTs to get their benefit,” says Roussell. The best way to do so: an MCT supplement, which you can find in powder form or as emulsified oil (either flavored or unflavored). These supplements are versatile and easy to incorporate into your daily routine—even if you don’t cook!
The first, and simplest, way to up your MCT consumption is to just add it to a food you eat often. Mix MCT powder into anything soft, like yogurt or applesauce, or stir it into coffee as a creamer replacement (it has creamy quality to it).
You can also add MCT oil to any smoothie or protein shake recipe for extra satiety and fat fuel. Roussell likes the following MCT-powered blend in the morning or after a workout:
To really maximize your MCT intake, add them to cooked foods and baked treats, like sautéed veggies or banana bread. Just swap MCT oil in for a third of whatever oil the recipe calls for. And keep in mind: “It has a low smoke point, so always cook on low to medium heat,” Roussell says.
As tempting as it may be to go MCT-crazy, Roussell recommends starting off slow, with just a tablespoon in your daily coffee or smoothie. Too much too quickly can cause GI distress and send you running to the bathroom. (Your intestines absorb fats slowly, so if you eat too much too quickly it doesn’t get absorbed fast enough and literally goes right through you.) Plus, “at the end of the day, it’s still fat and it still has calories,” says Roussell. “Like anything else, you can’t eat as much as you want without any consequence.” If you’re not sure how MCTs should fit into your overall macronutrient and calories goals, a dietitian can help you identify what works best for you.