Nutrition / Food

Here’s What to Know About Bulletproof Coffee

The trendy drink claims it can sustain energy, improve mental focus, and help you lose weight.

Just like everyone has their favorite Aaptiv workouts, coffee orders can be highly personalized affairs. You might request your morning cup be dosed with some sugar and a little cream. Or maybe you prefer a double shot iced Americano with almond milk and a caramel drizzle. But in certain circles, it’s less about the above customizations and more about doctoring coffee with a hearty portion of butter or and medium-chain triglycerides (MCT) oil.

Dubbed “bulletproof coffee,” this trend has become popular in recent years, especially among practitioners of the high-fat keto diet. But its origin story dates back more than a decade. As the tale goes, entrepreneur Dave Asprey developed his recipe for bulletproof coffee after traveling to Tibet in 2004, where he sampled the highly-caloric, energy-giving yak butter tea, a drink that’s popular in the Himalayas. He took this concept back to the states, ultimately creating and marketing bulletproof coffee as a way to hone your mind and improve your body.

The Science Behind Bulletproof Coffee

The idea fueling bulletproof coffee is that by adding butter and MCT oil to your morning pick-me-up, you’re introducing Omega 3s and easy-to-digest fats to your diet. Rather than consuming this alongside a hearty breakfast, the drink often takes the place of breakfast, and is meant to suppress hunger, promote weight loss, and provide sustained energy and mental clarity throughout the day.

Because bulletproof coffee is relatively new and typically treated like a supplement, there has been little scientific research into its claims, and it hasn’t been evaluated by the FDA. However, a 2015 study found that medium-chain triglycerides (MCT) may be more effective for weight loss than long-chain fats without adversely affecting lipid profiles. And coffee itself is generally regarded as healthy. In fact, studies show that coffee drinking is consistently associated with a lower risk of mortality from all causes of cardiovascular disease, coronary heart disease, and stroke.

As far as the coffee giving you a mental edge, things remain unclear. There are studies showing that MCT oil can improve cognitive function in people suffering from type-1 diabetes. Other studies have looked at whether MCTs can delay cognitive decline as we age, and if they may prove beneficial to Alzheimer’s patients. So far, they have proven either unsuccessful or inconclusive. And, regardless, such studies can’t be applied to the general population.

Bulletproof coffee also claims to slow the absorption of caffeine in your system because the caffeine is consumed alongside fat. This is supposed to give you steady energy instead of a jolt followed by a crash. Studies do show that caffeine absorption is slowed by consuming it with fats obtained from foods. So, eating a balanced breakfast with your coffee should accomplish the same goal, and it may even be more helpful—and certainly more nutritious—to consume a balanced meal of fats, carbs, and protein.

How to Drink Bulletproof Coffee

If you’d like to try bulletproof coffee for yourself, you can find it packaged at stores and online. Your local coffee shop might even sell their own version. But if you’d like to make it at home, you can simply do so by procuring coffee beans or grounds, grass-fed butter, and MCT oil. Once armed with all the necessary ingredients, you’re ready to go. The basic recipe first suggested by Bulletproof founder Dave Asprey is this:

Ingredients:

1 cup (8-12 ounces) of coffee

1 teaspoon to 2 tablespoons of MCT oil

1-2 tablespoons of grass-fed, unsalted butter

Instructions:

Mix it all in a blender for 20-30 seconds until it looks like a foamy latte.

Before You Drink It…

It’s important to know what you’re putting into your body. And in the case of bulletproof coffee, the average cup is loaded with calories—often upwards of 400 per serving. It’s the same story with saturated fat. Although it’s no longer vilified like it once was, experts still advise limiting the amount of saturated fat you consume. The American Heart Associated recommends keeping your intake to about 13 grams of saturated fat per day if you’re on a 2,000 calorie diet. If you plunk two tablespoons of butter into your coffee, you’re ingesting roughly 14 grams—and that’s just for breakfast.

According to the American Council on Science and Health, “Bulletproof coffee for breakfast supplies fat, caffeine, and… nothing else of any nutritional value.” And per Bari Stricoff, RDN, “If you like the taste of bulletproof coffee, go for it! In moderation, the ingredients do not pose any health risks. However, please do not skip breakfast and replace it with a cup of fat-filled coffee. If you want to consume this drink, it should be in combination with a well-rounded breakfast.”

So, if you’d like to drink bulletproof coffee, it’s unlikely to hurt you, especially if consumed in moderation. Just know that it is likely more hype than science.

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