Reader Q&A: BulletProof Coffee!

bulletproof coffee

Ever wonder about that *thing* people do where they put butter in their coffee? Maybe you think it looks gluttonously weird, or perhaps you partake in the ritual itself. I’ve recently received two separate emails on the topic, so figured I might as well tackle the subject once and for all! Oh hi¬†BulletProof Coffee!

¬†Hi Melanie–I just finished listening to “What, When, and Wine.” Lov031855-pink-jelly-icon-culture-state-californiaed it and I’m truly giving IF a go–exactly the way you’re doing it. Wondering if you advocate a daily morning bulletproof coffee as part of IF. I’ve been trying that and it really seems to keep the hunger away. Also seems to make my brain less foggy. I’m a post menopausal woman and I don’t know what that has to do with IF or bulletproof coffee but am trying it all. Thank you for your book.
~Terry from California

031895-pink-jelly-icon-culture-state-virginiaHello, I am in part 2 of¬†your book¬†and noticed that you used to drink Bulletproof coffee when you were fasting. ¬†Some sites that i’ve looked at say to make sure you don’t go over 50 calories with your morning coffee or you’ll throw off the fat burning aspect of the fast.¬†Right now i use coconut oil in my coffee every day and that alone is about 100 calories, even w/out adding butter. ¬†What are your findings or thoughts about this?
~Wanda from Virginia

What Is Bulletproof Coffee?

All the rage in the Paleo-sphere, people often think of “Bulletproof Coffee” as simply putting butter in one’s coffee. The official recipe however, as developed¬†by¬†Dave Asprey,¬†involves specific non-toxic coffee beans and various metabolism-fueling fat ingredients:

  • 1-2 cups of low-toxic coffee (Dave manufactures his own¬†Bulletproof Upgraded Coffee)
  • 1-2tbs of¬†Brain Octane¬†or¬†XCT oil¬† (These are versions of¬†MCT oil, though Dave claims his trademark versions are 18x and 6x stronger than coconut oil, while MCT oil is 1.6x stronger. Some people just use¬†coconut oil. I discuss the difference between coconut oil and MCT oil below.)
  • ¬†1-2tbs¬†unsalted grass-fed butter¬†or¬†ghee¬†(Ghee is clarified butter with no proteins.)

To officially make Bulletproof coffee, you’re supposed to¬†blend¬†together the hot coffee with the various fats. According to Dave, emulsifying the fat makes it more bioavailable. I like using¬†this thing.

Screen Shot 2016-01-20 at 2.08.22 PM.pngHow To BulletProof Coffee?

Bulletproof coffee typically replaces breakfast, as a sort of “Bulletproof intermittent fast.” In theory, coffee’s caffeinated thermogenic properties stoke your metabolic fire, while the added fats saturate your system with fatty acids, extending your fat burning mode without any unnecessary adrenal stress.¬†Dave maintains that BulletProof coffee yield steady, focused energy, without the typical coffee crash – which he attributes to the mold toxins often found in conventional coffee.

What’s Going On?

While I’ll be covering this in much greater detail in my next book (all about Intermittent Fasting!), let’s take a quick look at the various Bulletproof Coffee ingredients:

COFFEE
Epdiemolgoical studies link coffee drinkers to longevity and decreased risk of chronic disease such as diabetes, heart disease, liver disease, and cancer. While the exact mechanisms are unknown, coffee may boast benefits regarding inflammation, lung function, insulin sensitivity, and depression. Of course, for Bulletproof coffee, the main factor is likly coffee’s¬†caffeine¬†content.¬†In controlled studies, caffeine consistency leads to increased metabolism, fat burning, and lowered rates of perceived exertion. In other words, caffeine makes you burn more fat, while making it seem less hard to do so. As such, starting your morning with some coffee can definitely accelerate your fat-burning fasted state. The question, of course, is whether this is accentuated or nullified by Bulletproof Coffee’s fatty additions… see below!

BUTTER
Butter is high in saturated fat, which contrary to popular belief, is not bad for your health. Saturated fats are vital building blocks for the body, forming cell membranes and providing healthy energy. Grass-fed butter is particularly rich in Vitamin A, K2, D, and E, with a healthy Omega 3/6 ratio. Grass-fed butter does not spike insulin, but rather provides the body with a stable stream of fatty acids for fuel. Butter is an awesome energy source no doubt, especially for the fat-adapted Paleo and/or Intermittent Faster.

MCTs
Medium Chain Triglycerides (MCTs) are a type of saturated fat found primarily in coconut oil, though coconut oil itself is a blend of MCTs and other longer chain saturated fats. Unlike most long-chain saturated fats (LCTS) like those found in butter, which contain 12 carbon bonds, MCTs typically feature 10 or less carbon bonds. They do not require bile salts and digestion like normal saturated fats, but rather go straight to the liver for instant energy as fatty acids and ketones. As such, they act sort of like carbs, providing instant energy, but without the blood sugar swings and negative ramifications of sugar, such as raised insulin levels, oxidative stress, and glycation. MCTS also encrouage the production of ketones in the body, and instiagte/sustain the ketogenic state.

Does BulletProof Coffee Break The Fast?

Bulletproof Coffee provides the necessary ingredients to majorly boost fat burning, while supplying fuel substrates naturally found in the fasted state (fatty acids and ketones). But does Bulletproof Coffee break the fasted state?

I honestly don’t know.

Some would say that consuming anything during the fasted state breaks the fast. Others argue that pure fats do not spike insulin, and it is insulin which stops fat burning. As such, pure fats provide additional fatty acids for fuel in a fatty-acid driven state, maintaining the fast. A third view is that most fats require some sort of digestion and thus break the fast, while MCT oil, which does not require digestion, does not break the fast.

I would probably fall in the last category. To me, anything which starts the digestive process likely tells the body on some sort of level¬†“we’re eating,”¬†which could halt lipolysis in the body. Since MCTs do¬†not¬†require digestion, perhaps they supplement the already-available energy in the bloodstream, without putting the breaks on anything per se. Studies show, for instance, that MCTs do not stimulate the release of gut hormones like¬†Cholecystokinin (CCF)¬†or¬†GIP.¬†CCK is a peptide hormone coming from Greek words for ‚Äúmove the bile sac,‚ÄĚand stimulates digestion of fat and protein. GIP in particular stimulates insulin secretion, so bypassing its release may also help maintain the fasted state. Other digestive hormones not intensely affected by MCT include¬†neurotensin, pancreatic polypetitde, and peptide YY.

Worst case scenario, if pure fats do “break” the fast, it switches the body to burning arguably identical sources of fuel. I imagine this leads to no real¬†feeling¬†of breaking the fast, even if BulletProof Coffee means you are no longer running on body fat, but rather dietary fat.

As for the amount of “calories”¬†which break the fast, again it involves your position on the matter. I often hear 40-50 calories carelessly thrown around as some sort of upper limit, but cannot for the life of me find any studies on the subject. (Anyone?) In any case, perhaps the¬†type¬†of calories matter more than the number. A smidge of pure sugar might break your fast (or even a dose of zero-calorie sweetener!) by spiking insulin, while perhaps 3 tablespoons of MCT oil (300 calories!) do nothing of the sort. Play around with different amounts of the various fats, to see how they affect you. It’s probably “safer” fat-burning-mode wise, to add more MCT oil, compared to butter and coconut oil. If you find yourself getting¬†hungry¬†from adding your butter or whatever, then titrate down a smidge.

Should You Do BulletProof Coffee?

Like anything else (including¬†Paleo¬†and¬†Intermittent Fasting!), try it for yourself. You’re not gonna know if Bulletproof Coffee works for you, unless you know if it works for you! For me personally, and from¬†many¬†personal testimonies, Bulletproof coffee can definitely provide¬†tons¬†of energy. For some this is a great thing, for others not so much. As Mark Sisson says in¬†a¬†related blog post, “It‚Äôs just¬†a huge, unremitting influx of energy that seems a bit too excessive and absent evolutionary precedent for me to be completely comfortable with daily consumption.”

I as well do not consume BulletProof coffee anymore. On the one hand, I have a tendency to get coffee-addicted, and like the freedom of not taking in¬†anything¬†during the fast. (It makes the idea of eating just really not a thing). Bulletproof coffee is also a super speedy energy for me, which I’d rather reserve for those times of dire need.

That all being said, while I think BPC can definitely encourage your body to enter a rockin’ fat burning mode (primarily from the fat you ingested via the coffee), if you ingest 600 calories worth of fat in your morning BPC, that’s 600 calories worth of fat you likly¬†didn’t¬†burn from body fat.While I’m (obviously) all for a high fat diet, I might suggest, if fat burning is your goal, to cap your bulletproof coffee at 100 calories or so of fat, favoring MCT oil if you want to encourage the fasted state.

P.S. If you live in Los Angles, you can get¬†that much closer¬†to the real thing. Dave’s Bulletproof Coffee is sold at Erewhon, and he even recently opened the Bulletproof Coffee Shop in Santa Monica. I actually went on opening day (dressed to the nines because it was a before a film premier) with my recently published copy of¬†The¬†What When Wine Diet¬†in hand, to give to Dave. I was preparing myself to faint, but alas he had already left, so I’m not sure if he ever got the copy… Some day!

SOURCES
Effects of caffeine on energy metabolism, heart rate, and methylxanthine metabolism in lean and obese women http://ajpendo.physiology.org/content/269/4/E671.short
Effects of caffeine ingestion on metabolism and exercise performance http://europepmc.org/abstract/MED/723503/reload=0;jsessionid=piHMmr624uRGMfKJMDjJ.0
Effects of caffeine ingestion on exercise testing: a meta-analysis http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15657469/
met analysis on caffeine and rate of perceive exertion http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1600-0838.2005.00445.x/abstract
Coffee consumption and risk of chronic diseases: changing our views  http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/95/4/787.full
Coffee: Health Benefits, Nutritional Information http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/270202.php
Association of Coffee Consumption With Overall and Cause-Specific Mortality in a Large US Prospective Cohort Study http://aje.oxfordjournals.org/content/early/2015/11/26/aje.kwv146.abstract
Physiological Effects of Medium-Chain Triglycerides: Potential Agents in the Prevention of Obesity: http://jn.nutrition.org/content/132/3/329.abstract?ijkey=5d99a0d4b1b98f4cb44c81b24dae5fbd022c3682&keytype2=tf_ipsecsha
Weight-loss diet that includes consumption of medium-chain triacylglycerol oil leads to a greater rate of weight and fat mass loss than does olive oil http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18326600
Sensations induce by medium and long chain triglycerides: role of gastric tone and hormones http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10601051
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