Bulletproof coffee first hit the scenes in 2009 and since that time has grown beyond recognition.
From one man blogging about putting butter in coffee to a national chain, the rise has been immense.
Many people love drinking this buttered coffee each morning, claiming it helps improve weight loss, concentration, and energy levels.
But as with many things, there are two sides to every story.
This article will take a look at this popular coffee drink and whether or not it really is ‘bulletproof.’
What is Bulletproof Coffee?
At its most basic, Bulletproof Coffee is simply coffee with added butter and medium chain triglycerides (MCTs).
Developed by Dave Asprey, a man known as the ‘bulletproof exec,’ the drink first came to fame in 2009 when Dave shared his recipe with the world.
He probably did not expect the wild success since then, but the drink has become a national hit in America.
In fact, recently Bulletproof Coffee cafes became a reality and are now a nationwide chain in the United States.
There are also different variants of the drink, with some people using coconut oil in their morning coffee, and others using only butter.
As the drink contains only fat and no carbs, it is understandably one of the most popular keto drinks and is sometimes known as ‘ketogenic coffee’ (or ‘keto coffee’ for short).
It is also popular with LCHF, paleo, and other low carb diets.
So, Why Put Butter in Coffee?
The stated purpose of Bulletproof Coffee is to provide clean, fast energy with no crash.
For example, a few slices of jam toast with some sweet cereal may leave you satisfied – but only for about an hour.
Due to the high-quality fats and nutrients, Bulletproof Coffee gives sustained energy with no sugar crash.
Because the drink is fairly calorie-dense, people often view it as a replacement for a traditional breakfast, therefore helping with weight loss.
Bulletproof Coffee Recipe
Here are the ingredients in the standard recipe for Bulletproof Coffee:
- 1-2 cups of coffee
- At least 1-2 tbsp of grass-fed butter (unsalted)
- 1-2 tbsp of MCT oil
Using the Right Butter
What is MCT oil?
MCT stands for Medium Chain Triglycerides, which are fats with a medium-size length.
These are usually derived from coconut and palm oils, which both offer an abundance of MCTs.
MCTs are safe to consume, and also much easier to digest than other forms of fat as they don’t require bile salts for digestion (3).
However, many people making Bulletproof Coffee just use coconut oil rather than MCT oil, due to the lower price.
How to Make Bulletproof Coffee
Putting butter in your coffee can either taste good or terrible.
It all depends on how you make it, so you want to make sure that the butter thoroughly blends into the coffee.
Here is the process in four simple steps:
- Brew your coffee and add to a blender
- Add the amount of grass-fed butter you desire
- Put in the MCT oil
- Mix in the blender until everything is fully mixed in, and the coffee resembles a frothy latte.
It’s a bit more time-consuming than brewing a regular coffee, and worlds apart from making a cup of instant coffee.
So, what does the nutritional profile of buttered coffee look like?
For some quick basics:
- There are no carbs in the coffee
- It’s very high in fat
- Beneficial nutrients include healthy sources of fat, vitamin A, and vitamin K2
You can find a full breakdown of nutrients in the drink below. For your information, this Bulletproof Coffee recipe shows the nutrient profile when using two tablespoons of butter and two tablespoons of MCT oil.
As we can see, the recipe contains zero carbohydrates, virtually no protein, and a significant amount of dietary fat.
There is also a total of 328 calories in the drink.
In the first place, we can see that the standout nutrients are vitamin A and riboflavin (otherwise known as vitamin B2).
Aside from this, there are not any other nutrients in significant quantities.
Butter in Coffee: The Benefits
Bulletproof Coffee would not be so popular if there were no benefits.
Specifically, the advantages of putting butter in your coffee include:
- Weight loss
- Sustained energy
- Reducing food cravings
- There are significant amounts of polyphenols in coffee
In more detail, here’s how the drink provides all these positive points:
Many people love Bulletproof Coffee due to the weight loss results they have with it.
There is certainly a big fanbase behind it, and you can find lots of transformational before and after pictures online.
As well as this, there are whole forums dedicated to the coffee and using it as part of intermittent fasting protocols.
There are a few different pathways through which the drink encourages fat loss.
Of course, if you use the drink to replace a sugary breakfast cereal and a glass of orange juice, then you are consuming fewer calories.
But calories are far from the most important factor, and keeping carbohydrate levels low allows the body to enter nutritional ketosis.
Another key point regarding weight loss is what you are replacing.
Refined carbohydrates such as sugar, breakfast cereals, and orange juice all spike blood sugar and insulin levels. While Bulletproof Coffee promotes fat burning, these foods promote fat storage (8, 9).
In short, butter in coffee is much better than sugar.
Unlike sugary cereals, Bulletproof Coffee provides a source of saturated fat and medium chain triglycerides.
While typical breakfasts of cereal, toast, and juice provide energy, it is only for a short time, and a sugar crash soon follows (10).
On the other hand, healthy fat sources provide slow, sustained energy. There is no effect on blood sugar levels and no energy crash one hour after breakfast.
Reduce Food Cravings
If you always experience cravings for food such as bread, cakes, cookies, and soda, then your diet may be to blame.
Foods rich in flour and sugar all impact the ‘reward center’ of the brain, and release dopamine into the blood. This process makes us feel good and reinforces that we made a good choice in eating these foods (11, 12).
However, this effect is short-lived, and we soon experience cravings for more and seek out these foods once again (13).
Once we factor in the energy crash from eating refined carbohydrate, then it’s easy to understand why some people constantly need more and more of this food.
Through drinking MCT oils and butter in our coffee, we are not consuming any ingredients that affect either dopamine or blood sugar levels.
As a result, we have no wild swings in blood sugar and no intense food cravings. This fact is also an indirect way in which Bulletproof Coffee helps with losing weight; there is a big reduction in cravings for junk food.
In fact, coffee is the biggest source in the average American diet (16).
Real Food is Much More Nutritious
Despite Bulletproof Coffee helping lots of people, there are some problems to point out.
The most important point is that the drink often displaces more nutritious food.
Sure, if you are drinking it instead of fruit loops and orange juice, then no problem at all!
But what about compared to a real, whole food breakfast?
For example, a breakfast of three eggs and an avocado is another option that is extremely low in digestible carbohydrate.
Remember the nutritional profile we saw earlier? OK, now compare that to the nutrients that three eggs and an avocado offer:
Here are the amounts of carbohydrate, fat, and protein in three eggs and an avocado:
As shown above, there is a wealth of fat – saturated, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated.
There is also a tiny amount of carbohydrate, with the vast majority of it being fiber and non-digestible.
Lastly, there is a relatively decent amount of protein: 21.5g.
Here is the vitamin and mineral content in three eggs and an avocado:
As the data shows, this breakfast offers an excellent source of vitamins A, C, E, K, and B vitamins, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, copper, manganese, and selenium.
In short, it completely destroys Bulletproof Coffee in terms of nutrient density.
Real Food vs. Butter in Coffee
When it comes down to it, there is only one winner concerning nutritional profile: real food.
Compared to eggs and an avocado, or even fish, bacon, meat or any other breakfast food — consuming butter and oil in your coffee comes nowhere close nutritionally.
That said, I see no problem with drinking a cup of Bulletproof Coffee from time to time instead of a meal.
However, if it regularly displaces more nutritious food, then there’s a chance of nutrient deficiencies developing.
Butter in Coffee vs. Cream
Just another point to add which is more related to taste than health: coffee with added cream.
While adding butter to coffee certainly has its fans, I prefer using heavy cream (double cream).
For me, the taste is much better, and it’s nutritionally very similar.
If anyone has an interest in new recipes, here’s how I usually drink it:
- 1 cup of coffee
- 1-2 tablespoons of cream
- A few drops of vanilla bean extract
- 1/4 tsp cinnamon
For those who prefer a sweeter taste, you can also add a natural sweetener such as erythritol.
Bulletproof Coffee is a combination of coffee, butter, and oil that has some documented health benefits.
The drink can also be helpful for certain medical conditions where there’s a need for strict ketosis.
However, there is also a large drawback in that it doesn’t come anywhere near real food in terms of nutrients.
In my view, providing someone tolerates coffee well, the drink is fine to drink from time to time.
But it shouldn’t replace a healthy, nutritious breakfast.
Real food always wins.