What’s more important: tasting good or being healthy?
What’s more important: tasting good or being healthy?
The answer to this question is especially interesting when it comes to bulletproof coffee. That’s because at first glance there’s no rational explanation for mixing high-quality coffee with MCT oil and butter and serving yourself this brew on an empty stomach first thing in the morning.
There’s still a strong belief out there that bulletproof coffee has great effects on the brain and actively helps people lose weight. I was on a fully keto diet for a while too and interpreted low carb as being high fat.
But since then, I’ve come to see keto coffee a bit differently and therefore urgently needed to revise this Bulletproof Coffee Guide.
In parts I was somewhat too reckless regarding its alleged slimming and health booster properties. I now want to amend things, as well as to pursue the question of what this adventurous coffee recipe can actually do – and above all, what it can’t.
Table of Contents
Keto Recipes for the Hard Core: What Is Bulletproof Coffee?
Simply entering the word ‘bulletproof’ into Google won’t yield search results for the likes of bulletproof vests or YouTube links to the song by La Roux. In fact, you’ll first receive several links to bulletproof coffee and increasingly often to sites that warn you off it.
Bulletproof coffee is hot coffee mixed with pasture butter and coconut oil. The whole thing is processed to a creamy mass in a blender.
Bulletproof coffee is supposed to stimulate the fat metabolism and is an example of a keto recipe. The drink also has the effect of making you feel full.
The positive effects of bulletproof coffee are open to debate. Coconut oil consists mainly of saturated fatty acids and butter can have a negative effect on cholesterol levels.
Coconut oil with medium chain triglycerides (MCT) is recommended (100% pure is best).
Butter has a lot of fat and is said to stimulate the ketogenic metabolism. It also contains a lot of vitamins. The health effects promised by bulletproof coffee should be questioned though.
This alone is some of the strongest evidence as to how far bulletproof coffee, with its lashings of fat and even more calories, has been able to penetrate.
But how did this actually come about?
The most important figure in all the hype is a Mr Dave Asprey: inventor of the Bulletproof Diet, founder of a food supplement company and a guy I find thoroughly disagreeable.
He “borrowed” the idea for bulletproof coffee from Ayurvedic cuisine, where for a long time ghee (clarified butter) has been added to tea. Since coffee works better in the West and pasture butter and coconut oil don’t sound quite so hippyish, this was the mixture he came up with.
There’s nothing wrong with that. What does drive me crazy, though, are two of Asprey’s claims: that with his ketogenic diet, in which bulletproof coffee plays an important role, Asprey allegedly lost 45 kilos, while at the same time gaining 20 IQ points.
This correction was one of the reasons I created the update: coffee is at the heart of the diet, but it’s not the only thing responsible for the supposed weight loss success. That’s because…
Anyone who claims that a certain food has made them fitter or healthier is lying or only telling half the truth. Any form of nutrition that is exceptionally one-sided should be regarded as suspect. The IQ thing then really just takes the cake.
The Asprey method of making bulletproof coffee isn’t just a mixture of drip coffee, butter and coconut oil. The coconut oil must have certain properties for the thing to supposedly work. We’ll go into that more later.
In any case, the concept of the diet is based on the well-known Atkins and Keto diet forms, i.e. it relies on fat and proteins instead of carbohydrates. If carbohydrates are banned from your diet, the body (supposedly) switches to a metabolism that automatically attacks fat deposits.
What role does coffee play in this context? My view is that it’s nothing more than a hip carrier substance. With ketogenic recipes, everything revolves around fats. Caffeine is said to have a slimming effect though too, of course, so it can’t hurt to bring coffee into play as well.
I’ve already discussed this aspect of bulletproof coffee in my article “Is Coffee Healthy?”
Either way, Asprey was in the right place in the online world at the right time – his mixture the cause of furious hype. It probably also helped that Keto was just becoming a super-nutritional trend at the time anyway.
You see, I don’t really believe what Asprey says.
But if we remove all the marketing gibberish and esoteric trash, what remains is a combination of three interesting natural products that are capable of a lot on their own: good coffee, pasture butter and coconut oil. What’s wrong then with this mixture? Well now.
Bulletproof Coffee Recipe: Wouldn't Milk Have Done?
The first mistake I made in the original article was that my bulletproof recipe touted an organic coconut oil. If you really want to do it “right”, the following ingredients are needed:
- Quality black coffee (10 ounces)
- Pasture butter (2.5 – 5 teaspoons)
- MCT coconut oil (2.5 – 5 teaspoons)
MCT stands for medium-chain triglycerides. I’ll clarify why this is important in a moment.
For my bulletproof coffee, I usually use a stronger roast brewed in a pour-over dripper. Chocolaty varieties, which develop a lot of oomph when brewed using a French press, are a good choice here too. There’s certainly nothing wrong with an americano from a super-automatic espresso machine though either.
As far as the fat components are concerned, you have complete freedom in terms of quantity and should come to your own conclusions about what works. Carefully experiment as to what your ideal mix tastes like and, above all, check what your stomach has to say about the challenge of this adventurous nutritional content.
To make it drinkable, pour all the ingredients into a blender and blitz them until they’re frothy. Be sure to pre-warm the blender jug well so that the drink’s temperature doesn’t drop too much in the process.
Why Use Pasture Butter and MCT Coconut Fat?
Health trends are a bit like a disease – and almost everyone is infected in some way. I wasn’t any different with how I felt about coconut oil. Even though I didn’t put it in my hair or on my face, I was nevertheless convinced of the good and antibacterial claims surrounding this type of oil.
My jar has since been gathering dust in the kitchen cupboard. Studies suggest that coconut oil increases cholesterol levels. It’s also proven to consist of more saturated (aka “bad”) fatty acids than lard.
The belief in coconut oil as a slimming product is based on two unique studies, the findings of which reported that the medium-chain triglycerides (MCT) contained in coconut fat led to increased energy burning in test subjects.
The oil used in the study consisted of one hundred percent of these fat chains, the boring commercial versions usually only contain a share of up to 14 percent.
It’s for this reason that supporters of the bulletproof theory insist that their coffee contains 100 percent MCT coconut oil, in order for this whole thing to make sense. That’s because the energy density is somewhat lower than with long-chain fatty acids and the metabolism effects completely different. Or in other words: MCTs are made available to the body better and faster than other fats.
Fair enough. But fat’s still fat, right?
The American Heart Association has written a very good (clearly biased) article on all aspects of the problem titled Saturated fats: Why all the hubbub over coconuts? I find the article Kokolores ums Kokosöl (in English: Kooky About Coconut Oil) from the Süddeutsche Zeitung, one of Germany’s largest daily newspapers, even better (sorry, available only in German).
Apart from the controversy, however, coconut oil is perfect for cooking and baking and as an ingredient provides a wonderful, natural taste. I’ve since come to believe that this taste is the most important aspect in terms of bulletproof coffee.
Using pasture butter, you can at least be sure that the cows have actually been out in pasture. There have already been complaints against the illegal use of this term. but we can and should ignore whether the cows are actually happy and the butter actually healthier as a result.
Even with pasture butter, however, it’s obvious that what I always say about coffee beans and preparation using various machines still holds true: if you put crap in, crap will come out. Real grass and perhaps a flower or two will definitely change the taste of the milk.
It’s for this reason that I think it’s so important that you don’t just rely on the term ‘pasture butter’, but above all place your faith in a trustworthy organic label. Organic cows really do live completely different lives to the poor highly-fattened cows from factory farms.
The butter in bulletproof coffee is supposed to provide the “right” fatty acids for ketosis, and “good butter” also contains a surprisingly large number of vitamins. But here too, scientists, the media and self-proclaimed health gurus argue whether this really does have any effect or not.
A little anecdote: The other day I saw a package in the supermarket proclaiming “low protein” as an advertising slogan in big bold letters. I had a good laugh and took it as nice proof that with the ever-changing myths about nutrients, nobody really knows what’s going on anymore.
To explain: protein is the macronutrient of the day. If you want to make money and attract attention, then you’ve got to ensure that the protein content of your product is pushed!
What Does Bulletproof Coffee Taste Like?
The fact I didn’t simply delete the original article without any comment comes down to bulletproof coffee’s taste. This blend really is absolutely delicious.
You do notice right from the first sip that you are, essentially, just drinking mixed fat, but the drink’s mouthfeel and the light touch of coconut are something very special indeed.
It’s a bit like having your lips, tongue and mouth stroked from the inside. My cast-iron stomach muttered briefly when I first tried this calorie bomb, but was then able to cope with the new feeling without any further problems.
After 10 ounces of bulletproof coffee, I’m definitely feeling very full and won’t need to eat for a long time – which leads us to the crux of the matter.
What Effect Does Bulletproof Coffee Have?
One thing it definitely does is to add to your daily energy balance sheet! Using any online calorie and nutrient calculator, you can check the following information against both the mildest and strongest versions of my bulletproof coffee recipe:
- The mildest version per serving (10 ounces of coffee) contains around 190 kcal, 21g fat, no carbohydrates and just a touch of protein (0.1g).
- The strong version (with double the amount of butter/coconut fat) provides about 380 kcal, 41 g fat and otherwise approximately the same other nutritional values.
The strong version corresponds to Asprey’s recommendations, although anyone who’s delved somewhat into fitness and their energy requirements knows the following wisdom: don’t drink your calories!
If you want to enjoy bulletproof coffee, the message is clear: don’t eat as well as drink! A portion of bulletproof is definitely a meal. Treat it like one.
This works pretty well because, as mentioned previously, the feeling of fullness shouldn’t be underestimated. The mass of fat has a similar effect to a meal rich in protein and fiber.
However, I also argue that proteins have a much wider range of functions in the body, while dietary fiber does a good job of stimulating digestion.
Fat is primarily a building block of cells, plus the densest source of energy, with a tendency to be stored. I know that keto diets rely on fat as an energy supplier to cleverly replace carbohydrates. Nevertheless.
There is only one obvious conclusion: Bulletproof coffee is not a companion to breakfast, but breakfast itself. Anyone who has to pay attention to their daily energy balance sheet wouldn’t be doing themselves any favors by underestimating bulletproof coffee.
How Healthy Is Bulletproof Coffee Really?
In addition to your constructive comments, after an intensive re-evaluation of bulletproof coffee I have come to realize something else as well:
What’s the point of a “ketogenic drink” if you don’t otherwise adhere to the ketogenic guidelines? In other words: what’s the point of drinking this coffee, if you then go and eat pasta with tomato sauce at lunchtime in the canteen?
Exactly. Absolutely none.
If we were to believe Asprey, we would of course have to follow the entire diet, including intermittent fasting and interpret the coffee as Asprey’s version of SlimFast, so to speak. On its own, bulletproof coffee can’t do anything – except be punchy and delicious.
I’ll continue to follow this conviction until a broad-based highly verifiable study and umpteen repeat studies come to a different conclusion.
Feel free to continue commenting diligently and let me know what you think of the new version of this article!