Resident Nutritionist and Food Stylist Emma Reushle’s monthly blog series on current nutrition & health topics. This week she discusses Bulletproof coffee.
With a name like Bulletproof coffee, it would seem like implementing this morning cuppa is a sure fire way to take on the day like a boss. If you haven’t heard of it before, it’s a frothy blend of caffeine and fat that everyone from Rachel Finch to Jimmy Fallon are employing to apparently improve mental clarity, reduce sugar cravings and lose weight. But do we all need to be adding it into our morning routine?
What is it?
It was started by entrepreneur Dave Asprey who discovered the concept of putting yak butter in coffee on a Tibetan mountain side. He has since turned the idea into a multimillion dollar business which now includes bars, meal plans and powders. *My fad diet senses are tingling*.
So what exactly is in it?
- Coffee- preferably purchased from the Bulletproof company (convenient) which is ‘myotoxin’ free
- 2 tablespoons of unsalted, grass fed butter or ghee
- 1-2 tablespoons of MCT oil- ‘Brain Octane’ (also from the company) or sometimes coconut oil
Mixed in a blender until frothy and then consumed. Usually in the morning.
Getting almost all of your daily fat in one sitting means either consuming double throughout the rest of the day or restricting where you usually wouldn’t. Starting out too strong with the advised amount of fat in a Bulletproof coffee may also send you running to the bathroom shortly after. So start slowly if you’re set on trying it.
Replacing a breakfast that may otherwise contain fibre, vitamins, calcium, protein and healthy carbohydrates with a cup of fat and caffeine means that you need to increase your intake of those other important nutrients throughout the day. This may not always happen, therefore you could miss out on important vitamins, minerals and food groups.
Alternatively, if you are just adding the coffee to your regular daily food intake and doing so with the aim of losing weight, you might find it will have the opposite effect. Fat has 37 kilojoules (9 calories) per gram compared to carbohydrates (16kj/4 cal) and protein (17kj/4 cal). And with around 450+ calories per cup of Bulletproof coffee, and around 50g of fat, this is a significant addition to your energy requirements.
If you’re in it for the taste and enjoyment, that’s perfectly ok! You could always minus the coconut oil/brain octane and just add the butter.
What is MCT oil?
MCT stands for medium chain triglycerides, which simply means they are shorter than other more common fats. MCT’s have been found to be metabolized differently than long and short chain fatty acids. Unlike long chain fatty acids, MCT’s head straight to the liver where they can be used for energy or production of ketones. In low carbohydrate states such as starvation or low carb diets, ketones are used by the brain for energy instead of glucose.
MCT is sometimes used in hospitals with chronically ill patients but there are limited conclusive studies that show MCT oil is an effective weight loss tool.
The Bulletproof regime also calls for Brain Octane Oil. This is not a magical elixir– it is just MCT oil but purchased from the Bulletproof company website. I can hear Dave Asprey laughing at us from here.
Will it do all that it claims?
Weight loss: initially, if you are reducing or removing any meal or food group (for example oats, milk and berries at breakfast) there may be some weight loss. However, the claims that drinking a Bulletproof coffee in the morning will set you up for all-day fat-burning is seriously unsupported by any significant scientific findings.
Brain clarity: unless you are restricting carbohydrates and in full ketosis, your brain will not be fuelled by ketones as a result from using fat as energy. So that ‘clarity’ is probably just a caffeine hit. Due to fat somewhat slowing down caffeine release however, you are less likely to suffer some shaky caffeine jitters.
Reduced sugar cravings: fat is satiating, so this could be a benefit. But if you are having constant sugar cravings, it could be because you are lacking in quality carbohydrates and are better off talking to a qualified nutritionist or dietitian.
The bottom line
- Any one food or nutrient that claims to be a fast track way to weight loss, everlasting energy or ultimate happiness is always going to be too good to be true.
- Just because saturated fats are not as unhealthy as once thought, it does not mean we need to be putting them in every single thing we eat or drink. There can always be too much of a good thing (except veggies obvs).
- Simply adding in a Bulletproof coffee on top of your regular intake could significantly increase your energy, fat and saturated fat intakes.
But if you enjoy the taste of butter in your coffee or about to hike up a mountain and need it for the extra calories then go for it. If you’re just looking for an energy boost to fuel your morning try some porridge with berries and a simple latte.