Exogenous Ketones vs. MCT Oil for Weight Loss: Which is Better?

Medium-Chain Triglycerides or Exogenous Ketones?

Written by Annalise May
Posted November 23, 2018

Exogenous ketones and MCT oil are both popular supplements, especially with those who follow the ketogenic diet.

Sure, you might see them on store shelves, but do they really work?

And if they do, which one is better?

Let’s find out the answer to both those questions right now.

What Does Keto Have to Do With It? Where Exogenous Ketones and MCT Oil Fit In

The ketogenic diet is a nutrition regimen rich in high-fat foods and protein and low in carbs. Most diets suggest limiting your daily intake of carbs to about 20 grams, only 5% of your daily intake.

By lowering your carb intake, your body is induced into a physiological state called ketosis. Ketosis is simply when the body burns fat instead of carbs for fuel.

Carbs, which are digested into glucose, are what the body usually feeds on for quick and intense energy. When you stop eating carbs and your glucose reserves are no longer sufficient to fuel your central nervous system, your body runs on excess fat stores for energy, resulting in weight loss (where you actually want to lose the weight!).

Although it sounds simple, in order to stay in ketosis, you must be strict in limiting your carbs and following a diet that is rich in a variety of proteins and fats.

As with any diet, it is impossible to follow it perfectly all the time. In order to supplement the ketogenic diet, as well as cushion carb slip-ups, some keto dieters use exogenous ketones.

Exogenous (meaning created externally) ketones come in several different supplemental forms to add ketones to your system, bringing it back into ketosis.

These supplements contain beta-hydroxybutyrate (BHB), which the body creates on its own during a natural state of ketosis.1

When just one snack can bump you out of ketosis, it’s no wonder exogenous ketones are popular. It can take anywhere from a couple days to a week for your body to recover on its own.

While exogenous ketones alone do not cause weight loss, pairing the supplement with a ketogenic diet results in keeping your body in fat-burning mode.

The purpose of supplementing your diet with exogenous ketones is to raise your blood level of ketones quickly, regardless of what you’ve eaten.

Another one of the trendiest additions to ketogenic diet is MCT oil.

MCT oil is a substance that contains medium-chain triglycerides (MCT). MCTs are a type of saturated fatty acid that can be found naturally in palm oil, coconut oil, and butter. They are also in manufactured liquid supplements that can be added to smoothies and coffee.2

Although it may seem contradictory to consume a saturated fat to lose weight, MCTs’ medium-chain composition is metabolized by the body differently than typical long-chain fatty acids (like olive and avocado oil).

Long-chain fatty acids have a slower route in the intestine and are stored throughout the body as fat, while MCTs are water-soluble and are quickly metabolized during digestion, reducing the opportunity for fatty tissue storage.3

So, why do dieters go for MCT oil?

MCT oil has recently been researched for its weight-loss and weight-management properties. It has been observed to improve satiety and increase appetite control as well as encourage the body to use fat as a fuel source (similar to a state of ketosis).

You must keep in mind that, similarly to adding exogenous ketones to your diet, you can’t just start consuming the supplement and expect miracles.

MCT oil is a great addition and supplement to the ketogenic diet or any other diet and nutrition plan due to its appetite-control and metabolism-improving properties.

Exogenous Ketones vs. MCT Oil: Which Is More Effective for Weight Loss?

You may be wondering if exogenous ketones or MCT oil have a place in your current nutrition regimen.

Now that you know how exogenous ketones and MCT oil perform in the body to promote weight loss, let’s take a look at the current research for their efficacy.

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MCT Oil: The Fat That Makes You Thin

As mentioned above, MCTs (medium-chain triglycerides) are a type of saturated fat hypothesized to aid with weight loss due to the way they are digested.

MCTs are metabolized quickly and efficiently, boosting fat loss and streamlining energy expenditure.4

On the other hand, long-chain triglycerides (LCTs) such as saturated fats found in olive oil and avocado oil are digested slowly and deposited as fat stores in the body.

MCTs work in several different ways in order to encourage weight loss, from improving appetite and satiety to reducing fat storage and improving your cholesterol profile.

Another way MCTs improve the body’s metabolism is that they may improve and even induce the state of thermogenesis. Thermogenesis is the metabolic process by which your body burns extra calories for heat.

The ability of MCTs to increase metabolism has been measured in some studies, showing that MCT oil helps women burn an extra 190 calories a day and men up to 460 extra calories!5

Findings from a recent meta-analysis, which compares the results of multiple studies currently published on the effectiveness of MCT, suggest that when MCTs replace LCTs (long-chain triglycerides) in an individual’s diet, a small average reduction in body weight of 0.5 kg. (1.10 lb.) occurs over a 10-week period. Although this amount may seem insignificant, the literature shows that even a 1 kg. weight loss can reduce an individual’s chance of acquiring diabetes by 16%.6

Another study examined the effects of consuming MCT oils compared to omega 6 and vegetable oils. After eight weeks, the group that consumed MCT oil lost more body fat, subcutaneous fat, and more weight overall than the comparison group. In addition, participants experienced a 15% drop in LDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels.7

All of the current research, in both animal and human studies, points to the exciting weight-reducing potential of MCT.8

It is important to keep in mind that most of the research has observed swapping unhealthy saturated fats with MCTs as a replacement, not just adding more saturated fat to your diet. Some scientists believe MCTs can induce a state of ketosis to improve fat metabolism, but more research is needed in this area.

Consuming MCT oil is no magical cure but rather a healthy, metabolism-boosting alternative to typical dietary saturated fats.

Exogenous Ketones: Kick Yourself Back into Ketosis

Exogenous ketones are a supplement, usually in the form of ketone salts or esters, containing BHB to raise the level of ketones in your body and induce a state of ketosis.

As mentioned above, ketosis is your body’s optimal fat-burning mode in absence of carbs and excess glucose in the blood.

Ketone salts are a powder that contains BHB that can be dissolved into smoothies, coffee, juices, or other liquids. Ketone esters are the purest form of ketones and work in as quickly as 10 to 15 minutes. They are liquids that contain BHB or acetoacetate (AcAc).9

In order to be effective for weight loss, exogenous ketones must be used while following a ketogenic diet. Unfortunately, you can’t just add exogenous ketones to a carb-heavy diet and expect miracle results.

Research observing the weight-loss effects of ketosis has been promising. When obese individuals follow a ketogenic diet, lipogenesis (the metabolic formation of fat) is avoided, aiding the symptoms of type 2 diabetes as well as improving weight loss:

The beneficial effects of very low carbohydrate diets in obese subjects are not just a function of weight loss per se but also improved glycemic control, hemoglobin A1c, and lipid markers, as well as reduced use or withdrawal of insulin and other medications in many cases.10

A review of the current literature on the ketogenic diet for weight loss notes that overweight individuals suffering from insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome, and type 2 diabetes and even healthy individuals will benefit from a rapid, intense, and, most importantly, sustained weight loss. Follow-up studies observe a safe and maintained loss two years later.11

What’s the Verdict? Exogenous Ketones or MCT Oil for Weight Loss?

So, do we recommend exogenous ketones or MCT oil for weight loss?

The answer is... you should consider both!

Research suggests that 21st century dieters must create a nutritional balance that highlights the addition of healthy fats.

The strengths of MCT oil, medium-chain saturated fats, are its metabolism-boosting and appetite-satisfaction properties. Exogenous ketones keep your body in its ultimate fat-burning state, burning and using energy efficiently.

The similarity that brings these two supplements together is the increased consumption of healthy fats and a reduction in unhealthy fats and carbs. Along with helping you feel full and satiated, adding healthy fats to your diet improves your cholesterol, cognition, sleep, and heart health.12

So, if you’d like to try MCTs for weight loss, try replacing your current cooking oil with coconut oil.

Coconut oil is also a popular staple of the ketogenic diet. Other keto-approved fat sources include palm kernel oil and fat from dairy sources, such as cheese milk and yogurt. If you slip up and eat a muffin or some oatmeal and surpass your carb limit, try adding an exogenous ketone supplement, such as ketone esters, to get your body back into ketosis.

Although fat has been villainized in our culture for years, recent research actually reflects that a low-carb, high-fat diet is more effective than a traditional low-fat diet for weight loss.13

Ready to give it a try?

For more information about starting a ketogenic diet, click here.

To your health,


Annalise May
Contributing Editor, Clear Health Now