Brain Octane vs. MCT Oil: What’s The Difference?

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Brain Octane is a staple of the Bulletproof Diet and a key ingredient in Bulletproof Coffee. It’s there because it raises fat-burning, brain-fueling molecules in your body called ketones much more than coconut oil or another broad category of fat generically called medium chain triglycerides (MCTs). Brain Octane is the most effective type of MCT you can use to help lose weight, curb your hunger, kick your brain into a higher gear, and even recover faster. In fact, Brain Octane is more than 4 times as effective as coconut oil at raising ketones – recent research shows that coconut oil doesn’t raise ketones any more than fasting for 8 hours.

There are four different kinds of MCTs, and they each do different things, not all good. That’s why a cup of coffee made with butter and coconut oil won’t keep you full for more than an hour or two, but a true Bulletproof Coffee made with Brain Octane and our mold-free coffee beans gives you stable energy for your entire morning.

This article takes a deep look at using Brain Octane (not just MCTs) for everything from brain function to athletic performance. You’ll learn about the different kinds of MCTs, what each of them does, and even the “fake” MCT that is legal to market as an MCT even though your body thinks it’s a long chain fat. You’ll also discover why sourcing, processing, purity, solvents, dose, and other details matter for your brain…and your pants. 🙂 Let’s get to it.

What are MCTs?

Medium chain triglycerides (MCTs) are a special class of fat. Chemically, they’re a bit different from their shorter-chain and longer-chain relatives.

Fat molecules are kind of like rats – larger bodies with thin tails coming off them. The length of a fat’s tail determines a great deal about how it behaves in your body.

caprylic acid

This is Brain Octane. The body’s on the right, and the 8-carbon tail is on the left.

 

MCTs get their name from their medium-length tails – anywhere from 6 to 12 carbons long. There are 4 kinds of MCTs: C6, C8, C10, and C12. Some MCTs turns into ketones more efficiently than others, making them a potent energy source that has nothing to do with sugar or protein [1,2,3,4,5].

Ketones put you into ketosis, which is when you burn fat instead of carbs for most of your energy. Ketones are a fast, clean-burning source of fuel. Different MCTs turn into ketones at different rates:

 

Caproic acid

This is the shortest MCT, with 6 carbons. You convert it to ketones faster than its longer counterparts.

It also smells and tastes like goats – so much so, in fact, C6’s chemical name, “caproic acid,” comes from “capra,” which is Latin for “goat.” The next two MCTs on this list share the same root name, but you can take their goaty flavor out with processing.

Caproic acid also causes digestive issues, even in tiny doses. Low-quality MCT oils made overseas can contain 1-2% C6, which can make them particularly rough on your stomach. It took me a long time to figure out why some generic MCT batches caused “disaster pants.” Caproic acid is one reason.

 

C8 (caprylic acid)

This is the good stuff. With 8 carbon molecules, Brain Octane converts to ketones within minutes, making it very powerful for suppressing hunger and fueling your brain in a way that other MCTs do not. Brain Octane is also flavorless, odorless, and easier on your stomach, so you avoid the pitfalls you run into with C6 (this has to do with processing too). Bulletproof Brain Octane Oil is 100% American-made, 100% coconut based, triple-distilled C8 MCT, which is why it doesn’t cause disaster pants like generic MCT, and why it raises ketones much more. It also doesn’t kill orangutans like the vast majority of MCT, which is made from palm oil. Notably, adding coconut oil to Brain Octane actually blunts the ketone spike you are looking for! You can see the graph below for a comparison of different Brain Octane, MCT oils, and regular coconut oil (CO).

brain-octane-ketones

Capric acid

Capric has 10 carbons instead of 8, so it is less efficient than C8. The extra two carbons mean your liver takes longer to turn C10 into ketones, but you do still get mental and metabolic boosts from it. C10 is much less rare than C8, making it cheaper to produce. Bulletproof XCT Oil is a blend of C8 and C10 to save you money, but as you see in the graph above, you don’t get as high of a ketone spike. It still beats coconut oil and generic MCT oil!

 

Lauric acid

Lauric acid is very cheap because it’s so abundant in coconut oil. In fact, the lauric acid we strip out to make Brain Octane often gets used for soap making. Coconut oil and generic MCT oil marketing companies like to proclaim that lauric acid is an MCT, which is legal. That’s because a chemist (not a biochemist) arbitrarily decided that an oil with 12 carbons was “medium.” Biochemists know that lauric acid behaves exactly like a long-chain fatty acid – those extra carbons in C12’s tail require additional metabolic steps, meaning your liver is less efficient at absorbing C12, and it does not break down into ketones unless you are on a very low carb diet. [1,2,3,4,5]. In contrast, Brain Octane creates ketones even if you are eating carbs! This is why lauric acid won’t curb your hunger or sharpen your cognition the way Brain Octane and XCT Oil will. Dr. Melinda Culver explains more on Bulletproof Radio, below:

Poor ketone production certainly doesn’t make lauric acid useless, though. It’s the strongest MCT when it comes to fighting off viruses, fungi, and bacteria, including Staph and Candida. [6,7,8,9,10]. Lauric acid is also a precursor to monolaurin, another compound that’s very good at killing microbes.

Coconut oil is about 50% lauric acid, which is why I recommend you eat a tablespoon of it per day. There is no reason to pay for MCT oil with lauric acid when it’s so cheap to get in coconut oil – but coconut oil won’t curb your hunger and boost your cognitive function as well as Brain Octane.

 

Hunger suppression

As you get low on energy, your stomach and intestines send a powerful little hormone called ghrelin up to your brain. When it arrives in your brain, ghrelin starts making a fuss, demanding more fuel. Ghrelin’s nicknamed the “hunger hormone” because it’s largely responsible for the sensation of hunger. Your stomach keeps pumping out more and more ghrelin until you eat.

Once you have some food in you, ghrelin slows down, and another hormone, CCK, comes into play. If ghrelin is the hunger hormone, CCK is the fullness one: it tells your brain you’re satisfied and to stop eating. CCK is powerful stuff – injecting people with it makes them stop eating mid-meal [11].

Brain Octane turns into ketones. Ketones suppress ghrelin (hunger) and enhance CCK (fullness) [12,13,14,15].
The result is that you stay satiated and energized for hours on a small amount of Brain Octane. No need to eat every 2-3 hours, as long as you get the right dose of ketones. More on that later.

 

Weight loss

Ketones do more than suppress hunger. They also:

  • Increase your metabolic rate [16-20]
  • Decrease the amount of fat you store [21]
  • Burn the fat you already have [16-20]

This is why Bulletproof Coffee works so well. When you drink a cup of it you’re full for hours, your food cravings vanish, you’re in fat-burning mode, and you keep your fat stores from filling back up. Losing weight can become effortless.

 

A sharper brain

And then there’s the mental clarity. Brain Octane is superb brain fuel for a few reasons.

The first is speed. Brain Octane turns into ketones within minutes. Those ketones will happily pass the blood-brain barrier [22], providing your neurons with almost immediate access to energy. You can feel your brain turn on. Brain fog disappears in favor of crisp, quick thought.

There aren’t many studies on MCTs and brain function in healthy people – it’s something you’ll have to try and feel for yourself – but there are studies on MCTs in people with Alzheimer’s.

One of the first symptoms of Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia is impaired glucose metabolism in the brain – sugar can’t get where it needs to go, and without energy from it, brain cells start to die. Ketones work on a separate system from glucose, and that system often stays intact in people with dementia. That means MCTs can provide energy to dying brain cells, keeping neurons alive in the face of Alzheimer’s [23,24] and sometimes even reversing symptoms [25].

But even if you’re thriving, Brain Octane can give your brain a boost. Try it. You’ll feel it.

Work out harder

Brain Octane makes excellent exercise fuel. Bulletproof Coffee makes even better exercise fuel. It’s also a great pre-workout.

Sugars and simple carbs sap your testosterone [26], which cuts into any muscle you’re hoping to build in the gym. Brain Octane won’t do that – it’s a fast source of clean energy. And if you get it through Bulletproof Coffee, you’re actually supporting testosterone synthesis because of all the saturated fat and cholesterol in the grass-fed butter. The caffeine from the coffee will give you a nice boost in the gym, too. You’ll feel supercharged for your workout.

Plus, MCTs on their own can improve your stamina:

  • People who supplemented with MCT oil lasted longer and built up less blood lactate during high-intensity interval training (HIIT) [27]
  • Mice who ate an MCT-rich diet had better endurance during a swim test and produced energy more efficiently [28]

For more on Brain Octane, ketosis, and exercise, check out this episode of Bulletproof Radio with Ben Greenfield. Ben is one of the most elite athletes in the world, and he runs almost entirely on ketones.

Sourcing and processing: what’s the best source of MCTs?

Well, obviously I’m going to say Bulletproof Brain Octane Oil. But I mean it, and here’s why:

  • Brain Octane only contains the most powerful type of medium-chain fat – it converts to ketones fastest without tasting like goat.
  • There’s no lauric acid (C12). It’s good as an antimicrobial, but lauric acid doesn’t convert to ketones. If you want lauric acid, grab a bottle of coconut oil. It’s cheaper than buying low-quality MCT oil.
  • Almost all companies use solvents or bleach to clean and deodorize their MCT oil, which can leave trace chemicals in the final product. We use earthen clay.
  • Brain Octane is triple-distilled and lab-tested for purity. No C12, no solvents – no trace anything. It’s 100% pure.
  • Brain Octane is not emulsified. Emulsified MCT oil has been suspended in water so that it will dissolve more easily into liquids. It is quite literally watered down. Plus, emulsification is expensive, so you end up paying more for a weaker product. There’s no need. To emulsify Bulletproof Coffee, just blend it for a few seconds.  
  • Bulletproof derives 100% of our Brain Octane from sustainable coconut oil, not palm oil, to protect the wild orangutan population in Southeast Asia. It’s not Bulletproof to destroy rainforests and kill orangutans.
  • We process Brain Octane in the US, not overseas. It’s more expensive, but it means we can monitor the quality more closely. Plus it combats outsourcing, and the people processing Brain Octane get a fair wage.

If Brain Octane is too strong or you want to save money, try Bulletproof XCT Oil. It’s a blend of C8 and C10, so it won’t be quite as powerful as Brain Octane. But it’s significantly less expensive and it meets all the Bulletproof standards you just read about.

 

How to get the right dose

Too little Brain Octane won’t curb hunger or put you deep enough into fat-burning ketosis to make a difference. Too much leads to what we call “disaster pants.”

Disasterpants

Start with a teaspoon of Brain Octane and build your way up over the next couple weeks. Your goal is to lift your ketone concentration to 0.48 mmol/L.

At 0.48, your body resets ghrelin and leptin, your hunger hormones [12,13,14]. That’s the magic number you want for maximum hunger suppression and decent fat burning. Getting there the first time will take a little self-experimentation.

Pick up some Ketostix from any pharmacy. They change color according to the amount of ketones in your urine. Take a teaspoon of Brain Octane and measure your urine within the next 30-60 minutes, then slowly build up until you get the Ketostix color that corresponds with 0.48 mmol/L.

You can also use a blood ketone meter. It’s far more convenient and accurate than a urine test. It’s also more expensive. The meter and 10 test strips will run you about $100.

And remember that you don’t have to spend money here if doesn’t appeal. Just keep building the dose (slowly) until you stop getting hungry. Data is nice; intuition can be just as valuable.  

Brain Octane is a powerful tool to add to your biohacking toolbox. Have you had success with it? Issues? Questions? Leave it all in the comments.

And if you’re looking to try Brain Octane, but don’t want to commit to the 32-oz bottle, try the 16-0z, or even the travel-friendly 3-oz bottle.

Thanks for reading and stay Bulletproof!

Click to read the complete list of references.

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By Bulletproof Staff

  • ripvega

    Great article, but Brain Octane isn’t available from the UK site. What’s the difference between that and Upgraded Octane Oil and XCT Oil that I already have? Will it be available on the UK store?

    • Upgraded Octane is the UK name for Brain Octane! Same product, same results.

  • Jackson Potts

    Do you still obtain the same quantity of ketones from C8 as C10?

    • You’ll get more from C8, which is why it’s the only ingredient in Brain Octane

  • Alan Jay Redd

    Why do you say get ketones to 0.48 mmol/L? Why this particular level?

    • Hey Alan,

      From the results section of reference 14:

      “During the ketogenic VLED, subjects lost 13% of initial weight and fasting BHB increased from (mean±s.e.m.) 0.07±0.00 to 0.48±0.07?mmol/l (P<0.001). BHB fell to 0.19±0.03?mmol/l after 2 weeks of refeeding (P<0.001 compared with week 8). When participants were ketotic, the weight loss induced increase in ghrelin was suppressed. Glucose and NEFA were higher, and amylin, leptin and subjective ratings of appetite were lower at week 8 than after refeeding."

      BHB stands for beta-hydroxybutyrate, the major ketone body you produce during ketosis. The study says that a BHB level of 0.48 mmol/l was enough to suppress ghrelin and reduce hunger.

      A quick side-note: ketostix measure acetoacetate, another type of ketone body, and not BHB, but most people produce anywhere from 1-5 times as much BHB as they do acetoacetate, so if you hit that 0.48 mark with ketostix it's likely that you have at least that much BHB in your system.

      • Alan Jay Redd

        thank you!

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  • Alisa

    Is either one better for burning fat?

  • Anton Sh

    Is MCT converted to ketones even when I’m not in the state of ketosis?

    • Yes, as long as they’re C8 or C10 (or C6, if you can get past the goaty taste and disaster pants). That’s what makes MCTs unique and so valuable – they let you dip into mild ketosis even when you’ve eaten carbs recently.

  • Robyn

    Hi Dave. Really hoping you’ll see this and offer some insight. I’ve been enjoying BP coffee w/XCT oil for about 4 months now, 1-2 TBL/day, no problems. I bought the Brain Octane and 4 different times I’ve used it, I’ve found myself extremely depressed. The first couple of times I thought it was a fluke. Today I didn’t realize my husband set the BO bottle out (we are out of XCT) and I used it unknowingly. It wasn’t until I was literally on my bed, feeling very low and upset and depressed that I later saw I used BO in my coffee. Could this be related to candida die off? Ive searched online and cannot find any other reason I’d have an adverse reaction to something so healthy. Thanks for all your hard work and willingness to help others!

    • Share DuFresne

      I, too would be most interested in the answer to this question — I see no reply?

    • agbinsgrief

      Robyn, I’m no expert, but I would think if it was Candida die-off related that, over time, the effects you are experiencing would decrease. Did you notice a difference in degree of intensity over the course of the four times you took BO? Also, if it is Candida die off related, have you tried starting with a very very small dose and slowly working up? If not, what if you started with, say, half a teaspoon and worked your way up to a tablespoon over the course of a week or two? I would think if you could successfully do that, that might answer your question of whether or not is related to Candida die off.

      • Elsie

        I concur. Poss too much too frequently.

    • Lubo Morhac

      Hi Robyn,
      Just quickly, my few cents worth: Your gut contains more neurons that your brain. Gut and brain are interconnected via vagus nerve. Your gut microorganisms communicate with your gut neurons. When you enter ketogenic state (burning fats) you alter the balance in your gut – good or bad. Some of the microorganisms are obviously not happy with the upset in the system and will convey this information through vagus nerve to your brain. Your gut is also responsible for producing a big proportion of neurotransmitters and endorphins also registered by your brain. Imbalance of your gut will temporary diminish production of these feel good chemicals, hence your depression. Speaking from experience this is a temporary state. Get off sugars and starchy carbs. Cheating with these on daily basis just doesn’t work as your gut/body is unable to gain the equilibrium. Eat fresh, organic veggies as much as you can, add high quality proteins to facilitate energy conversion and these awesome quality fats as fuel. Your body will enter into balance over time and you will just laugh at low energy, depression and mood swings.
      Lubo @cuisinefx.com

      • Elsie

        Great info Lubo. Thank you.

  • Kenneth Mønster Bagge

    Hi Dave.
    Just stumbled over bulletproof and it looks solid.
    Was wondering over what is the difference between MCT oil and brain-octane.
    Im currently drinking i guess poor instant coffee, eating not so healthy,
    Wanted to try the bulletproof coffee, i want to have more energy but also wanted to increse my weight loss.
    But is it necesseary to mix MCT oil and brain-Octane?
    When i read about brain-octane it states that it is easy uptainable and gives energy, but under MCT oil it states that it improves weight loss and gives more energy. so what to mix in my coffee?

  • Dylan

    Great info! But I’m wondering what the physiological and scientific explanation is for why C6 (and to a lesser degree C8) causes so much more digestive distress than taking the same amount of coconut oil. Also, why do MCTs smell and taste goaty, and what is being removed when the Brain Octane is deodorized? Thank you!

    • Opal Misae Giger-Arnold

      C6 is what gives that goaty smell and taste in some MTCs that have it in, and is also causing the digestive problems. Brain Octane is just plain C8, it’s not deodorized. It’s been made sure it’s 100% C8 which raises your ketone level the most without the C6 and its consequences.

      • Dylan

        Did you? Dave mentions using earthen clay to deodorize Brain Octane. But I doubt it’s just removing C6, but maybe it is. Either way, what explains why C6 causes so much trouble when two straight tablespoons of coconut oil do not?

  • Cynthia White

    Thanks for clearing this up Dave! My question is how to NOT lose weight while doing the BP diet for mental clarity. My friend is 6’2″ and 127 lbs and cannot lose more weight! We have been on a keto diet for over a year and BP coffee is causing him to lose more. I also lost weight without trying and so would like to stop the weight loss also. I am 5’3″ and down to 110. I lost a very stubborn 10 lbs due to menopause just by adding BP coffee in the morning. We just started BP coffee about one month ago.

  • Thomas Waldenfels

    Dave, this is so useful. Much appreciated. Using both XCT and Brain Octane. Thanks for making them available. You da man.

  • Hi, Dave — Should I use Brain Octane or MCT oil with honey before sleeping? And how much? I currently take about a tsp of raw honey mixed with a little Himalayan salt.

  • Kenneth Mønster Bagge

    Doing the BP coffee, what is the difference between using the BP with XCT or BP with Brain-Octane,
    Or Using the XCT and Brain-Octane at once?
    Are there any no no´s to doing that and what are the different benifits?

  • ripvega

    I’m on 2 tblspoons of Brain Octane a day already but ketones are barely registering. Does this sound a lot? How much more is OK to consume?

  • Alfredo Perez

    Hi Dave! Thanks for all the info.. I was wondering if taking BO would increase the chance of going into ketoacidosis?

    • Thomas Jones

      Are you a diabetic?

      • Alfredo Perez

        Hi Thomas,

        No I am not Diabetic. Just wondering if under normal conditions ( not diabetic) you can over do the BO and get yourself in trouble

        • Thomas Jones

          Only diabetics can get ketoacidosis. Don’t worry.

        • Alfredo Perez

          Thanks!!

      • Jmiah Diabetical Williamson

        Id actually like to know the answer to Alfredo’s question because Ive been type 1 diabetic for over 27 years now. 🙂

        • Thomas Jones

          The answer is..No. Only diabetics can get ketoacidosis. Non-diabetic have healthy systems that prevent such a reaction as ketoacidosis.

          I have used ketosticks and my reading have been purple, a diabetic would be in a coma if hi/hers was that bad.

          So unless you are have diabetes don’t worry about a thing.

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  • Elsie

    It is interesting that some people get head aches, or as in Robyn’s case, depressive feelings. I can’t afford BO here in UK and use MCT oil reg.with no symptoms. It may be these people are not starting off using BO with just a bare teaspoon…

  • Lubo Morhac

    Yeah, everyone’s biochemistry is slightly different depending on your genetic makeup and genetic makeup of your microbiome which is about 90% of your total genome in your body. Your body may react, and continue reacting to certain compounds, but may also adapt. There is no way of telling which fraction of the MCT is causing the grief unless of cours you have means of trying a single MCT at the time and get CT scan to see which particular compound triggers it.

    About me:
    I have discovered BP about a month ago. I just started reading BP Diet and have to say that I have pretty much come to the same conclusions Dave Asprey did completely independently. I thought I was the only weirdo on the planet that spent last 10 years fixing self (and now thriving) . I have examined healing + optimal performance from more of a going back to Paleolithic era rather than cutting edge tech approach. Over time, I migrated from paleo only to a cycled ketosis + every week I do 24hr fasting.
    BTW, I just received a bottle of brain octane today I bought for experimentation. Will give it a try tomorrow at work to see how the brain and everything else performs. I haven’t had a depression for a couple of years now so I probably won’t get it, but I will let you know what happens anyway.
    My Morning: Since being sensitive to coffee and dairy, I do Matcha tea with a coconut oil + ghee. It looks disgusting because I just stir it with a spoon at work. Looks like a greasy frog …. I will leave it to your imagination.
    🙂

  • Lubo Morhac

    David, if you are celiac you may suffer from gluten related molecular mimicry. Some compound in coffee (there is over 2000 depending on the bean) may be masquerading to your immune system like the right peptide of gluten and trigger reactions. I can’t drink coffee as it triggers immune reaction and get joint pains. I don’t have celiac but have a gluten sensitivity. I occasionally drink coffee (once twice per week) and the reaction is not as severe if I would do it daily as it was the case few years back.

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  • Angela Stocke

    Hi there. Looking for info on how (specifically what timing to use and how much) to use MCT oil for an athlete in ketosis wanting to ensure solid energy for a sporting event. (Hockey game). More sprinting energy used as players play for shorts shifts but several of them. We just got the brain octane oil which we used this am in our coffee. Would it be helpful to give the athlete the oil one hour before the sporting event? Athlete currently in ketosis (40 on ketostix).

    Thanks! Angela

    • Elite Health

      Did you ever figure out when to take MCT etc.. I am in same boat as you. However I am no a little skeptical of MCT and such bc of the podcast by Dr Veech i listened to.