“Bulletproof Coffee” – What is it and should you drink it?
If you haven’t heard of bulletproof coffee, you’re not alone. Until recently I hadn’t either. Or I guess technically I had heard of the concept (adding fat to your morning cup of jo for extra energy), but didn’t know it had garnered its own superhero name. It’s not surprising that this beverage is gaining popularity at a time when the Paleo diet is all the rage and people are (thankfully) starting to question whether fat is really bad for you. But there is still ample controversy around this beverage trend so I’ve summarized the key points so you can make an informed decision for yourself.
What exactly is bulletproof coffee?
It’s a coffee concoction that was branded by the company Bulletproof Executive after the CEO, Dave Asprey, had a transformational health experience drinking yak butter tea (for serious) on a recent trip to Tibet. I posted the exact recipe below, but basically it’s coffee, pulvarized in a blender with a heaping serving of grass fed butter and a coconut oil extract known as MCT (medium chain triglyceride) oil. The basic thinking behind this is that starting off your day with a healthy balance of certain fats will give you a sustained energy boost, prevent coffee crashes and the need to refuel. The fats will also help stabilize your appetite and Asprey credits his 100 lbs weight loss in part to consuming bulletproof coffee every morning.
Why is the effect different from regular coffee?
The difference has to do with the quality of ingredients (see below) and of course the impact of the MCT oil and butter in your body, which proponents of bulletproof coffee claim lead to six hours of continuous energy. Let’s break each one down:
Medium chain triglycerides (MCT):
Medium chain triglycerides are fatty acids that are processed differently in the body than longer chain fatty acids. Mark Sisson does a good job of explaining this; “They (MCT’s) are easily digested, head straight to the liver for oxidation or ketone generation without dealing with the lymphatic system, and can be utilized by cells for energy without the enzymatic processes needed to utilize longer chain fats.” In other words, your body is able to more easily digest and convert them into immediate usable energy (1).
Grass fed butter:
There are a range of benefits of consuming grass fed butter; it’s a rich source of omega-3′s and vitamin K(both of which reduce the risk of heart disease), is anti-inflammatory, may help you lose weight and provides a stable energy boost (2).
Can you use ingredient substitutions?
Yes and no; no in that Asprey stresses that the quality of the ingredients is as important as the ingredients themselves so for example, don’t use regular or reduced fat butter instead of grass fed butter. (In general I agree with this line of thinking). Yes in that I personally think it’s no issue to substitute the brands; the founder of bulletproof coffee advocates the use of his low-toxin specially formulated coffee as well as his brand of MCT oil (there are two choices, “Brain Octane” and regular MCT oil). Personally, I think as long as you are sourcing high quality ingredients, I don’t see why you can’t reap the benefits without having to consistently rely on a specific product line.
What are the drawbacks?
As I mentioned earlier, there is some controversy around this. Here’s a link to an article that fleshes out each point in more detail, but in brief, the main criticisms of bulletproof coffee are that it:
a. Encourages skipping breakfast, so opponents argue that despite offering sustained energy, it is still replacing a highly nutritious meal with mostly empty calories.
b. isn’t natural to consume such high levels of saturated fat in one sitting and may cause gastrointestinal issues.
c. is still fairly new so doesn’t have a ton of research to back it up yet.
My response to each point:
a. For some people I wouldn’t recommend drinking bulletproof coffee in place of breakfast, but I wouldn’t consume a high-carb breakfast with it for sure. It’s important to note that individuals that reap the most benefit from bulletproof coffee also adhere to a paleo-like diet, and possibly even some intermittent fasting.
b. I noticed that when I started adding MCT to my coffee I needed a short adjustment period but was fine when I built up gradually. Most of what I’ve read suggests that gastrointestinal issues are most prevalent among individuals transitioning from a low-fat diet.
c. It’s important not to get too caught up in trends but nutrition as a science is still considered new and is constantly evolving so I don’t think lack of research is enough of a reason to abstain. I’m all in favor of adding more healthy fats to our diet so I think this will be something that makes it into regular rotation in our house.
So some people REALLY love Bulletproof Coffee, and others think it’s an unhealthy concoction. I’m personally in the middle camp, and see it’s benefits but can’t necessarily justify it everyday. I’m a big fan of the power of ketones however, just not a big fan of having to restrict the carbs from healthy fruits so much. I’ve instead started using exogenous ketones from Amazon as a way (hack) to enjoy the health benefits and energy without having to do the fasting and carb restriction. Out of all of the products I’ve tried so far, this seems to be the best exogenous ketones powder for both it’s cheap price (compared to competitors at least), good-ish flavor (exogenous ketones are not the greatest), and being from a company I trust (Vitamonk).
Just start small with the dosages, as it can take the stomach a couple of days to adjust to the high doses of minerals in the ketones. And trust me… you don’t want to push this one!
- 1. Brew 1 cup (8 oz.) of coffee using filtered water, just off the boil, with 2 1/2 heaping tablespoons freshly ground coffee beans.
- 2. Add in 1-2 tablespoons MCT oil (like this) to the hot coffee (It’s STRONG – start with 1 tsp. and work up over several days).
- 3. Add 1-2 tablespoons grass-fed, unsalted butter or ghee.
- 4. Mix it all in a blender for 20-30 seconds until it is frothy like a foamy latte.
- Recipe via Bulletproofexec.com
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