After years of so many people experiencing the benefits of MCT oil, it’s no wonder MCT powder is showing up in health and performance scene. But what is MCT powder, exactly? Like so many supplements on your health food store shelves, there are benefits and some drawbacks to getting your MCTs in powder form. Let’s dive into the facts about MCT powder, so you can choose the supplements that are best for your body.
In this article, you’ll learn:
- The benefits of MCTs
- What is MCT powder, exactly?
- The problem with MCT powder fillers
- How to choose an MCT powder
- The benefits of MCT powder
- MCT powder vs. MCT oil: which one should you choose?
There’s a reason MCT oil is so popular. The benefits of supplementing with MCTs range from better cognitive function to fat loss. MCT oil is tasteless, heat stable, and easy to digest. It also mixes well in liquids, especially when you use emulsified MCT oil.
Adding anywhere from a teaspoon to a couple of tablespoons per day can help you to:
- Lose stored body fat or maintain a healthy weight
- Increase your energy
- Boost brain function and banish brain fog
- Improve digestion and nutrient absorption
- Balance specific hormones
This is all great news when it comes to MCT oil, which is what researchers use for nearly all of the published studies on the benefits of MCTs. But what about MCT powder? First, let’s take a look at what MCT powder is and how it’s made.
MCT powder is (quite obviously) a powdered form of MCT oil.
In order to change liquid MCTs into a solid powder form, manufacturers mix the oil with a carrier substance (usually a starch), then spray dry the mixture into a powder form. Picture the oil molecules encapsulated by a little starchy shells, then sprayed into a powder.
But it’s the thing that turns MCTs into a convenient powder that can also pose a problem for athletes and health geeks who want to stay away from additives.
Carrier powders used in the spray drying process are sometimes proteins, but most often, they’re low-quality starches that are cheap and easy to work with. The starch to MCT ratio will vary from product to product, but MCT powders will generally contain anywhere from 50-80% MCTs, and 20-50% starchy powder. This is not only a problem for people avoiding carbohydrates, which can raise insulin levels and kick you out of ketosis, but it can also be an issue for people with food sensitivities or those who want to stick to a whole foods diet.
Common additives for the spray drying process are:
- Soluble corn fiber and other grain-based fillers
- Acacia fiber (derived from the sap of the acacia tree)
- Maltodextrin (usually made from corn or wheat)
- Soy lecithin (soy-derived)
- Sodium caseinate (dairy-derived)
- Glucose syrup solids (derived from corn, rice, wheat, or potato starch)
- Other additives that aren’t reported on the label
Fillers don’t have to be bad. Acacia fiber is high in soluble fiber and less likely than other fillers to cause digestive upset.
Corn and grain-based fillers, on the other hand, can cause some side effects and contribute little to nothing in the way of nutrition:
They mess with your blood sugar
Depending on the type of carrier and the starch to fat ratio, MCT powders can raise insulin levels and kick you out of ketosis.
They affect your gut
MCT oil has a reputation for causing loose stools if you take too much at once, but you can easily avoid this by starting with small doses (1 tsp.) and working your way up over time. People report way less gastrointestinal distress with higher doses of MCT powders, but that doesn’t mean powders are totally off the hook when it comes to gut health. Most bulk MCT powders use carriers and other fillers like glucose syrup solids, corn byproducts, and maltodextrin, which are potential gut irritants.
They contain food allergens
Corn-, soy-, wheat-, and dairy-based fillers can be a problem for people with allergies or sensitivities to these ingredients. To add insult to injury, most are made from genetically modified grains. If you suffer from food allergies, sensitivities, or want to maintain a special diet like Paleo or AIP, then stay away from these fillers.
You can avoid all of these pitfalls by studying the ingredient list and checking the carbohydrate, sugar, and fiber content on the label.
Avoid MCT powders that don’t list their ingredients or contact the company directly to make sure they’re not leaving out any important information. Or to be completely safe, stick with MCT oil until more about the benefits and shortcomings of MCT powders is known.
Check the MCT to other ingredient ratio. Chances are, this won’t be on the packaging. Instead, you’ll have to contact the manufacturer to find out how much MCT oil you’re getting per gram. Obviously, you want the higher MCT to starch ratio. The best we’ve seen being about 80% MCTs to 20% filler.
The quality of MCT oil still matters! Make sure the MCT oil in your powder is extracted from sustainably sourced coconuts.
Some people consider MCT powder a more versatile option than MCT oil, especially when it comes to adding MCTs to a powdered supplement. For instance, if a manufacturer wants to add some fat-burning MCTs to whey or other protein mix, MCT powder makes a lot more sense than oil. Powder has some other benefits, too:
- Easily add MCTs to powders, other supplements, and baked goods.
- Add a rich texture to smoothies, coffee, and baked goods.
- Since the powder is cut with a starch, it’s less likely you’ll experience digestive distress, which is common with high doses of liquid MCTs.
- Powders are easier to put into single-use packets and are generally easier to travel with.
- There’s talk of being able to consume more MCTs via the powder form without the digestive distress that can occur when you take too much MCT oil. But there’s no published evidence on this, yet.
There are some potential benefits to MCT powder, but there’s no research yet that proves its benefits over regular MCT oil.
At best, it’s a convenient way to add some healthy fats to your diet. At worst, your MCT powder could contain starches and other additives you don’t need. Be sure to check the ingredients list before you make any purchases and in the meantime, stick to pure, high-quality MCT supplements you can trust.
Also published on Medium.