Bulletproof Coffee introduced the world to “coffee hacking” and the novelty of butter in one’s morning ritual. As a result, it’s become something of an internet sensation. People are talking about it. People are trying it. Many even claim it works wonders for them.
But what is it about this magical concoction that has people dumping fat in their cup of coffee? More importantly, does it actually work? Everyone knows that a healthy lifestyle is a journey, not a destination.
But, who doesn’t love shortcuts? You might be asking yourself: “Is there some way I could make my coffee into a science hack to speed up my body’s function and ability to lose fat?” And if you’re that person who is continually looking for better ways to do things, you may have already stumbled across Bulletproof Coffee.
What is Bulletproof Coffee?
Bulletproof Coffee or BPC for short is a recipe. It’s a combination of coffee, grass-fed butter, and medium-chain triglyceride (MCT) oil. (Some people even add nootropics which is a cognitive enhancement supplement or even drugs to the mix.)
Of course, with Bulletproof Coffee, not just any coffee will do. You can’t just pull out your McDonalds or Tim Hortons blend and think it’ll work. For starters, Upgraded￼ Coffee promoters claim it improves energy, mood, productivity, and overall health… much more than regular old coffee.
Here’s the recipe you can find on their website:
- 2 cups (500 ml) of black Upgraded￼ Coffee
- 2 tbsp (30 ml) of unsalted grass-fed butter (or more, up to 80 grams of butter)
- 2 tbsp (30 ml) of MCT oil
Blend (ideally in a high-speed blender) until the oil emulsifies and it looks like a latte.
Bulletproof Coffee fans claim that it’s satisfying, kills hunger, eliminates jitters often caused by high caffeine intake, and keeps drinkers humming all day. But, the real question is: “do these claims for real?” First, let’s look at what the research says about coffee, mycotoxins, saturated fat and MCTs.
Let’s start with coffee
A cup of black coffee, is it good for you? Or bad for you? Based on the research it’s hard to make a blanket statement about coffee. Like a lot of nutrition science, most of the data on coffee are correlational. Correlational data don’t tell us cause and effect. They just tell us what things tend to go together.
Coffee’s potential benefits with regular coffee consumption are consistently associated with a lower risk of:
- Overall Mortality
Unfortunately, there is a dark side to coffee (pun intended), many of the potential benefits seem to disappear if we drink too much coffee which on average is about 3 or more cups a day.
Coffee consumption is also associated with things like:
- Higher Risk of Miscarriage
- Disrupted Sleep
- Worsened PMS Symptoms
- Increased Blood Pressure
Coffee’s benefits seem to depend, in part, on how much we drink. But there may be other factors at work such as a thing called “caffeine metabolism.”
One reason that coffee studies are hard to interpret is that humans are diverse. Genetically, we don’t all respond to coffee or caffeine in the same way. People who are slow metabolizers of caffeine have higher risk for the list mentioned above, compared to those who are the fast metabolizers. But, keep in mind, you should still not consumer more than the 3 cups of coffee a day just to be safe.
The second controversial component of Bulletproof Coffee is the addition of copious amounts of saturated fat from butter and medium-chain triglyceride oil. While BPC might seem like modern chemistry, the idea of putting butter in the brew is pretty familiar to traditional Ethiopians.
Let’s start looking at the calories BPC has. Not surprisingly, when you dump a big glop of fat into your coffee, you increase the calorie count of that coffee dramatically which equals about over 10 times more than your standard coffee with cream.
Nutrient comparison of coffee add-ins:
- Bulletproof – 468 cal 52 g fat
- Half & half – 40 cal 1g fat
- Whole Milk – 18 cal 2g fat
An extra 468 calories is a lot, especially when you have more than one BPC a day, as many people tend to consume. Now, if you wanted BPC to be your breakfast, you can probably get away with those calories. Although, consider this, one Bulletproof Coffee has the same amount of fat as 12 egg yolks.
Also keep this in mind, in order to make the rest of your day’s intake adequately nutritious, you’d have to make sure you ate a lot more protein and colourful fruits and vegetables at other times. You’d also want to lower your fat intake at other meals, and you’d need to choose mostly monounsaturated like avocados, nuts, olive oil, and polyunsaturated sources to keep your fats balanced throughout the rest of the day. So what you save in time with BPC, you might lose elsewhere in careful food prep and planning to ensure you nourish yourself properly.
You might be wondering about the saturated fat in BPC and if it’s safe to consume it daily. A reasonable amount of saturated fat from whole food sources like coconut, dark chocolate, whole fat dairy, and animal sources is fine, especially if you’re eating a wide variety of minimally processed foods, such as veggies, fruits, proteins, whole grains, and other healthy fats. Three recent reviews of the literature have overtly stated that there is no significant association between the intake of dairy products, including full-fat dairy products, and increased risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke.
However, that doesn’t mean that saturated fat is entirely harmless. Or that you should consume a day’s worth (or more) of saturated fat in one shot. Especially if you aren’t careful to have a well-balanced, diverse, nutrient-rich food intake at other times. Like caffeine, there might be genetic or environmental differences in how bodies handle lots of extra saturated fat. Some people’s blood lipids will go up dramatically when they consume too much-saturated fat whereas other people will be fine. The only way to know is to get tested.
If you’re a BPC fan (or at least trying it), and if you’re an ardent low carb and high fat eater, get checked.
If your lab tests show no changes to your blood lipids, and an overall healthy lipid profile, keep doing whatever you’re doing. If, your labs show elevated blood lipids, consider changing your intake.
Along with super charged coffee and high-end butter, medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) add to the chemical allure of BPC. Fat has to be packaged into lipoproteins, enter our amazing lymphatic system and then get into our bloodstream. MCTs are a particular type of fat that is absorbed into our portal vein and sent straight to the liver, bypassing normal fat digestion and absorption.
The research on MCTs is a bit hit or miss. MCTs don’t seem to make people feel more full or satisfied than other fats. In a 2012 systematic review of the MCT literature, only 1 of 7 studies found that MCT oil improved satiety. MCT may help people get leaner and improve body composition. The 2012 review found that six of the eight studies on MCT and body composition or bodyweight showed a positive effect. While promising, these were generally short studies of 4-16 weeks. And they tended to have poor overall dietary makeup in the studies such as low protein intake.
Adding MCTs to a diet won’t result in fat loss. You still need to be in a caloric deficit overall. MCTs may have some mild body composition benefits, but only if they are used in place of some other fat or calorie sources. In and of themselves they will not make you magically leaner.
In reality, with most coffee hacks, you probably won’t see significant benefits beyond what you’d get with regular coffee or tea. To be safe before trying, get tested with some lab work. Blood lipid indicators are one sure way to know what’s happening in your body. If you’re going to roll the dice with an extremely high-fat coffee, hit the lab and find out what’s going on inside.