What’s the Deal with Bulletproof Coffee?

In the Paleo community there has been a lot of buzz about “Bulletproof Coffee” and the almost magical amounts of energy it can provide. But is it really all it’s cracked up to be? Read on to decide for yourself!

What is Bulletproof Coffee?

Bulletproof Coffee (BPC) is a mixture of high-quality coffee, grass-fed butter, and medium-chain triglyceride (MCT) oil, blended together in a high-speed blender to emulsify the oils and create a foamy coffee that has been said to provide energy all day long and help you burn fat.

This may sound a little weird, but putting butter in coffee is not that crazy in other parts of the world. The Ethiopians have been enjoying butter in their coffee for centuries, and in Tibet, yak butter tea, or Tibetan Tea, is a favorite traditional drink. (1)

Why is Bulletproof Coffee so Popular?

Proponents of Bulletproof Coffee claim it improves energy, mood, productivity and overall health. They say it’s satisfying and kills hunger much more than regular old coffee.

“Bulletproof Coffee is a great way to get healthy fats first thing in the morning,” says Kerry Bajaj, a Be Well Health Coach at Eleven Eleven Wellness Center in New York City. Having healthy fats first thing in the morning will signal to your body to burn fat for energy during the day. Starting the day with healthy fats also provides energy, is good for cognitive function, and can support your hormonal system. (2)

BPC is also a great way to get calories and rev up your metabolism in the morning if you are someone who doesn’t normally have breakfast. The caffeine and blend of fats may also give you a boost of energy that will last for hours, and BPC drinkers also claim that they don’t get jittery from BPC as some do from normal coffee. This may be because the digestion of fats slows down the absorption of the caffeine. (3)

The fats in BPC are some of the healthiest fats our bodies need, and the fats that most Americans are missing from their diet. Butter from grass-fed cows has long been known to be healthier than conventionally-raised livestock because grass-fed cows supply the proper ratios of omega-3s and omega-6 fatty acids.

Medium chain triglycerides also add to the allure of BPC. MTCs are a special type of fat that is absorbed into our bloodstream and is then sent straight to the liver to be used as energy, instead of being digested, absorbed, and then stored in our cells. MTCs have been linked to helping improve body composition, helping the body burn more calories than other sources of fat, and even helping to regulate cholesterol levels.

But is Bulletproof Coffee Really a Magical Drink that Will Help You Reach Your Health and Fitness Goals?

With all the information about the benefits out there about BPC, there is just as much debate as to how beneficial it really can be. Some experts claim that even with the health benefits of BPC, there are just as many downfalls. So, let’s look some other aspects of the story.

Let’s start with coffee.

Is it good for you, or bad for you? There is a lot of conflicting research about coffee. Most has more to do with how much coffee is actually being consumed than coffee itself, though.

Coffee’s Benefits
Normal coffee consumption, ranging from 1 to 3 cups per day, has been consistently associated with a lower risk of:

  • Diabetes
  • Alzheimer’s
  • Parkinson’s
  • Many types of cancers, including breast, prostate, colon, and liver cancers
  • Coffee and caffeine are also widely recognized performance and brain boosters.

Coffee’s Disadvantages
The problem with coffee is when we begin to drink too much of it, usually more than 3 cups a day.
Too much coffee consumption is also associated with:

  • Higher risk of miscarriage
  • Disrupted sleep
  • Worsened PMS symptoms
  • Increased blood pressure, even in people without hypertension

So, as long as you keep your coffee consumption within a healthy dose, there are clear benefits. That’s a win for BPC drinkers. (5)

Now, Let’s Look at Calories

This is where things can get a little trickier. Even with the benefits of the healthy fats in BPC, there are still drawbacks from having too much fat and calories.

So, not surprisingly, when you add butter and MCTs to your coffee, you increase calories. The suggested recipe for 2 cups (470 ml) of coffee, 2 tablespoons (28 grams) of grass-fed, unsalted butter, and 1–2 tablespoons (15–30 ml) of MCT oil will total around 450 calories, and 52 grams of fat. Quantities of the butter and MCT oil however can be reduced depending on the desired caloric intake, while still providing the health benefits.

As far as fat content goes, we know that a moderate amount of saturated fat has many benefits, but that doesn’t mean having an entire day’s worth, or more, in one sitting is the best option for most people, especially those looking to lose weight.

If you treat BPC as a “meal replacement” or a “mini-meal” — in other words, if you actually drink this instead of eating breakfast — those extra calories aren’t anything you’ll have to worry about.
BUT, keep in mind: You may want to lower your fat intake at other meals, and make sure you eat a lot more protein, fruits, and vegetables to balance out your nutrients for the rest of the day. (6)

What about Medium-Chain Triglyceride Oil?

MCT oil is manufactured by machine to separate the medium chain fatty acids from the rest of the oil (usually a combination of coconut oil and palm kernel oil). The fatty acids are extracted through an industrial process of “fractionation”.

With the benefits of MCTs, it’s no wonder why people would love to get a good dose of it. But are there better ways to get MCTs? Coconut oil is the richest form of natural MCTs, coming in at about 15% of its total fat. Obviously MCT oil is much more concentrated, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it “healthier”.

Coconut oil, and other food sources of MCTs, also have benefits above and beyond their MCT content, such as the antimicrobial properties found in coconut oil.

So it’s really up to the consumer. Some people feel better about getting their nutrition from whole foods, rather than supplements. There’s no right answer here, it’s about what works best for you. (7)

The Best Way to Enjoy Bulletproof Coffee

If you feel that BPC is something you do want to include in your daily routine, or even if you want to try it out, here are some tips to keep things as healthy as possible.

  • Keep it under 3 cups a day to enjoy all the benefits of drinking coffee, and avoid the downfalls.
  • Treat BPC as a “meal replacement” and not just a drink alongside your breakfast.
  • Eat a variety of nutrient-rich foods and protein in your other meals throughout the day.
  • Consider adding a smaller amount of butter and MCT to lower the overall calories and fat content.
  • When first starting BPC, start with less fat and ease into it slowly — as a rapid increase in fats can sometimes cause stomach issues. You may find yourself running to the bathroom quickly if you start off too strong.

Bulletproof Coffee Recipe

Makes 1 serving

  • Brew 1 cup high quality, organic coffee
  • 1-2 tablespoons MCT oil
  • 1-2 tablespoons grass-fed, unsalted butter (like Kerry Gold butter)

Combine all three ingredients in a high-speed blender for about 20 seconds, until the drink takes on a frothy, foamy consistency. Enjoy!

If Bulletproof Coffee doesn’t seem like quite your thing, you can always dress up your coffee with a little Vanilla Hazelnut Coffee Creamer instead!