I’ll be the first to admit... I resisted bulletproof coffee for far too long because the thought of putting butter and oils in my morning cup of goodness felt like sacrilege.
But after using myself as a test subject for three months, as well as extensively researching the science behind it, I can personally attest to the many benefits gained from the practice.
What exactly is “Bulletproof Coffee”?
If you’re not familiar, Bulletproof Coffee is actually a brand created by Dave Aspery. It was inspired by his travels to Tibet where he experienced yak-butter tea drinks and learned of the many benefits Tibetans enjoy as a result of this regular practice.
After returning to the states, he experimented with similar combinations of butter and MCT oils (more on this in a moment) in coffee, eventually leading to a combination that resulted in dramatic weight loss, enhanced cognition, and a significant increase in his energy levels.
While the Bulletproof brand is proprietary, the concept has been widely adopted, leading to countless products and dozens of ways to maximize the bulletproof-style benefits that can be packed into your morning cup of joe.
What goes into a Bulletproof-style coffee?
Most traditionally, Bulletproof-style coffees consist of grass-fed butter and MCT oil. The grass-fed butter provides healthy fats which the brain and body use as a source of energy, while the MCTs (medium-chain triglycerides) provide a host of benefits, including the support of cognitive health and the promotion of gut health.
Beyond butter and MCT oil, delicious additions like cinnamon, pure vanilla extract, and stevia are also commonly used.
What are MCTs?
MCTs are the medium-chain triglycerides found in coconuts. Commercially they come in both oil and powder form and typically have a number associated which refers to the quantity of carbon atoms contained therein. It’s important to look at the label to ensure you’re getting a high-quality MCT and not a lower-grade blend. To understand the difference, it’s important to know that:
C6 - aka Caproic Acid: This is rather bitter and can upset your belly quite easily, especially if you’re new to MCTs. While it does convert quickly to ketones, providing an incredibly quick energy source, the belly-aching tradeoff’s may not be worth it when other (better) options exist.
C8 - aka Caprylic Acid: This also converts rapidly into ketones but is more gentle on the stomach. In addition, C8 has strong antimicrobial properties that help promote and maintain a healthy gut, while also.
C10 - aka Capric Acid: This is a bit slower during the ketone conversion process than C8 but has strong antifungal properties, with research showing that it can decrease the bad bacteria in your gut - such as Candida - while supporting the healthy bacteria that keeps our bodies thriving.
C12 - aka Lauric Acid: This is nearly a long-chain fatty acid and is therefore metabolized at a much slower rate, making it a less efficient energy source than its shorter-chained siblings. However, it’s also the strongest of all the MCTs in regards to its antifungal and anti-inflammatory properties.
Depending on your individual health goals, you may find that you prefer a pure oil or perhaps a blend of multiple oils. As an example, MCT oils that include a blend of C8 and C10 are quite common.
One aspect to be aware of... A common practice of some brands is to blend C8, 10 and/or 12 for the purpose of saving costs, as opposed to creating a health-optimized product. For this reason, it’s important to make sure that blended MCTs include the percentage of each type listed on their label. If they don’t disclose this, skip the brand and opt for one that does.
How do MCTs benefit our bodies?
To fully understand the power of MCTs, it helps to understand the two main sources our bodies use for fuel.
1.) We can either use sugar for fuel, which is derived from carbs (think pasta, pizza, bread), starches (like potatoes, beans, rice), as well as sweet and sugary treats (but Krispy Kreme is soooo good). These sugars are then targeted by insulin produced from the pancreas, digested by enzymes in our body, and used by our powerhouse cells - the mitochondria - as an energy source. But this cycle also drives a hunger cycle where insulin spikes causing people to feel hungry more often and therefore eat more frequently.
2.) The other fuel option we have is to leverage fat. If you’re familiar with ketosis and the ketogenic lifestyle, then you may already be familiar with this concept. Since fat burns much slower than carbs, they keep the body satiated for longer. In addition, when the body is burning fat instead of sugar, it’s also producing ketones, which aids in weight loss.
Dr. Steven Hoetze has a great analogy to make sense of this process. Think of your body like a fireplace. If you build a fire out of newspaper, it’ll burn very quickly and you’ll have to continually add more and more newspaper to keep the fire going. This is the same process your body goes through when using sugar for fuel. But if instead, you throw a dense, heavy log in the fireplace, it’ll burn for far longer and at a more consistent pace, just as your body does when it uses fat for fuel.
Why not just eat coconuts instead of MCT oil?
Well, coconuts are a blend of both medium chain and long-chain fatty acids, the latter of which is known to play a causative role in insulin resistance. In addition, C6, 8, and 10 bypass the normal digestion process. Since they don’t rely on other enzymes to break them down, they travel straight to the liver where they’re converted into energy-rich ketones.
While coconuts do have healthy properties and certainly can and should be enjoyed in many different ways, the health benefits associated with MCTs are more substantial when utilizing a more pure form.
7 Science-Backed Reasons To Start Your Day With Bulletproof-Style Coffee
1. Supports healthy weight loss. The combination of grass-fed butter and MCT oil has some unique weight loss properties. Grass-fed butter contains 5x’s more conjugated linoleum acid (CLA) than traditional grain-fed butters, a property that’s been shown to help the body build muscle rather than store fat, while also serving to prevent bone loss.
MCTs enhance thermogenesis, raising your body’s metabolic rate. Research published in the Journal of Nutrition revealed that MCTs suppress the accumulation of body fat in healthy men and women by increasing satiety - meaning you’re fuller longer - and boosting leptin, one of the hormones that tells your brain you’re full.
2. Supports cognitive health. Multiple studies have revealed that cognition is improved when subjects are provided with MCT as an alternative energy source. This approach is being used to improve conditions for Alzheimer’s patients as well as in general cognition studies.
Because the ketones produced from MCTs cross the blood brain barrier, they are able to positively impact cognition in ways that other energy sources cannot. In addition, the omega-3s provided by grass-fed butter also contribute to cognitive health, with multiple research studies confirming that omega-3s improve cognition and positively impact age-related decline.
3. Promotes gut health. MCTs are a natural antibiotic that can kill certain types of harmful bacteria without eliminating the good bacteria that our guts need. They work as an antifungal, antimicrobial, and anti-inflammatory, and play a role in balancing the microbiota in the gut. They also complement omega-3s, as these too have been shown to play a balancing role in gut microbiota while also positively influencing the gut-brain axis.
4. Reduces cardiovascular risk. It’s well known that metabolic disorders such as obesity and hypertension contribute to cardiovascular morbidity and mortality. However, research published in the Journal of Pharmacological Research demonstrated the positive effects of MCTs on these conditions, including the suppression of fat deposits through enhanced thermogenesis and the preservation of insulin sensitivity in those with type 2 diabetes. In addition, grass-fed butter, which is higher in essential omega-3s than its grain-fed counterpart, reduces inflammation in the body while also positively impacting lipid profiles and cardiovascular health.
5. Increases exercise performance. Research has shown that MCTs improve insulin action, increase energy expenditure and decreased oxidative stress. In addition, MCTs have been shown to significantly increase endurance in lab studies, while also suppressing blood lactate concentration during moderate-intensity exercise. When you add grass-fed butter to the mix, you get the added benefit of improved bone strength, a byproduct of omega-3 consumption.
6. Improves neurological health. Research on omega-3s have found that they positively impact the central nervous system, playing indispensable roles in the development and protection of neural membranes. MCTs have been successfully used in studies to reduce the quantity and severity of seizures in epileptics, demonstrating their ability to impact and improve neuronal activity. This is believed to be a result of the ketones produced, which provides brain cells with a more efficient energy source than traditional glucose, resulting in beneficial neuronal and metabolic changes in the body and brain.
7. Aids in ketosis. Research has shown that MCTs counteract fat storage and fatty deposits while increasing the body’s metabolic rate. If you live a ketogenic lifestyle or practice intermittent fasting, MCTs, which are quickly converted into ketones, can help push you into a ketogenic state and keep you in fat-burning mode longer.
8. (Bonus) Boosts productivity. Bulletproof-style coffee provides a host of benefits to kick off your day, including enhanced mental clarity and increased energy. This empowering combination allows you to maintain better focus while getting more done in less time... leaving more time for the things that matter most.
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