Does MCT Oil REALLY Boost Ketones? My Keto Diet Experiment
We often hear about how certain supplements can do things within the body, but how much of that is applicable to real life? Ever the skeptic that I am, I decided to go ahead and put MCT oil to test.
For a little bit of backstory, I’ve been experimenting more recently with a ketogenic diet and even more recently have started testing my ketones mainly out of curiosity to see where I am at and how different foods affect my blood levels. If you’d like a little more information on ketogenic diets, check out our podcast interview with Rachael Couch here.
Basically, a ketogenic diet promotes ketosis, which is a metabolic state characterized by high levels of ketones in the blood. This diet is used to help shift the metabolism from a carbohydrate burning state to a fat and ketone burning state, where the muscles and brain can use ketones as a fuel source for energy in the absence of carbohydrates.
A lot of keto supplements get peddled around with this diet, and the most popular is MCT oil, which we’ve covered on the blog and podcast before. The main claim is that it can help boost ketone levels almost immediately due to its unique metabolism in the body. It is absorbed via the portal vein from the intestines directly into the liver where it is used as a quick fuel source and converted into ketones for energy. Proponents say that it is a quick way to induce nutritional ketosis, defined by having a blood ketone level greater than 0.5mmol.
To see if this claim was true, I decided to do a 1 hour test with 1 tablespoon of MCT oil on an empty stomach. First, I had to test my baseline ketone level. I used the keto mojo meter for this experiment which is claimed to be one of the more accurate meters that you can use, and is far more accurate than either breath or urinary ketones.
My pre-test score was 0.8mmol - not deep ketosis, but still techincally in nutritional ketosis nonetheless. My diet tends to be a little higher in protein and carbs than standard ketogenic diets which could explain the lower ketone levels.
I then drank 1 tablespoon of coconut based MCT oil (Nature’s Way brand) and set off to do some sitting around the house waiting for the next tests to come up.
I wanted to make the point that I didn’t want to engage in too much physical activity during this experiment so as not to influence my ketone levels, blood sugar levels, or generally burn off too much energy in a way that it would affect my readings.
30 Minute Test
After 30 minutes, I went to retest and got a whopping increase to 1.8mmol! That is quite a significant jump over the baseline value and indicates that my body was effectively converting the MCT oil into ketones, and at a pretty fast pace. This indicates that MCT oil may actually be used as a quick source of energy and as a fast way to get deeper into ketosis. No wonder it is used so often in medical applications for the ketogenic diet.
I did experience a little bit of nausea and stomach discomfort during this first 30 minutes which lasted until the end of the experiment. It is pretty common for people to get some form of GI distress when using MCT oil on an empty stomach, but I’m mainly glad that I didn’t get a bout of explosive diarrhea!
The Post Test (1 hour)
At the 1 hour mark of this experiment, I felt like I was ready to jump out of my skin with how energetic I was. It felt like I drank a strong espresso, which to me was indicative that my body was not only producing the ketones, but using them quite effectively for energy. I have to say that I was expecting a higher value - above 2.0mmol at least, but this last test showed 1.9mmol, only a slight increase over 30 minutes.
I speculate that the value may have been slightly higher around 40-45 minutes, but due to the drastic increase in perceived energy (and being partially fasted), I could have been burning off some of those ketones in my blood. This would cause a slightly lower reading at the 1 hour mark than expected, but I would only really find out if I were to retest with the same conditions and test between 30-60 minutes.
Does MCT Oil Work to Boost Ketones?
Yes! It does appear that MCT oil can in fact boost ketones quickly and effectively. Studies have indicated that it can boost blood ketones even in the presence of a carbohydrate rich diet. However, if you are looking for an easy way to spike your ketones prior to exercise, or perhaps in the morning to get yourself ready for the day, then MCT oil is a great option.
Everyone’s rise in ketones from MCT oil will be different, so don’t use my measurement to gauge for yourself just how fast or how much yours will be affected. Many different factors can influence blood ketones, and I didn’t even test my blood sugar - where higher blood sugar can reduce ketone production to a degree. I think it would be interesting to try this experiment again to see whether I can find greater spikes in the morning, evening, post workout, etc.
Be sure to check out our YouTube video for this experiment and subscribe to our mailing list for updates.
Until next time, always remember that H = Health!