Your cup of coffee sucks.
Because haven’t you heard? If it’s not giving you mystically-energizing, cognition-elevating, biology-“hacking,” body “reprogramming,” fat-melting superpowers (and most importantly, if you didn’t pay this guy 20 bucks for a tiny bag of your coffee beans), then well—you’ve got nothing more than a mug full of deadly toxins in your hands.
At least, that’s what the blogger behind the cultishly-weird following of so-called “Bulletproof coffee” will have you believe.
But should you?
What’s Wrong with Bulletproof Coffee
So, first, what the heck are we talking about with this “bulletproof” stuff? What is bulletproof coffee?
You can see the recipe here, but the gist is this: use special brand of coffee that the guy sells at like an 800% markup, add special MCT oil (this is like coconut oil, but higher in medium-chain-triglycerides) which he also hocks with a huge pricetag, then add up to 2/3 of a stick of butter. Yeah, you read that right. And this is all you’re supposed to have for breakfast.
Okay. There are some serious issues here. For one thing, this is a “meal” that’s absurdly high in fat, with no carbohydrate.
Now, obviously, I’m a big fan of high-quality, healthy saturated fats. Especially the healthy fats in grass-fed butter. Obviously. But just because something is healthy, doesn’t mean it should constitute the vast majority of your diet (or of any particular meal for that matter). I don’t think any particular nutrient should make up the vast majority of your diet.
As I hope to have already established, my stance is that healthy eating is about balance. Clearly, this bulletproof guy (I’m sorry, but I’m not going to refer to him as an “executive” of anything) disagrees.
The problem with eating a crazy amount of fat without much of other nutrients, and an abnormally high-fat diet in general, goes beyond the simple principles of a balanced diet. It can actually be quite toxic. That’s because large amounts of fat pull endotoxins from your intestines out into your bloodstream, creating damaging stress to the liver. It’s just another example of why there’s always such thing as, “too much of a good thing.”
Ironically, the whole reason why the bulletproof guy wants you to use his special brand of coffee for this bulletproof coffee recipe stuff, is because it’s low in a substance found in coffee called mycotoxins. Funnily enough, he even uses this study which actually shows that the low levels of mycotoxins present in coffee are not a real concern to health, to reference the supposed danger of the toxins in regular coffee. So that you’ll buy his instead, and drown it in unnatural amounts of saturated fat. Swap out small, harmless levels of mycotoxins, for a big ol’ slew of endotoxemia. Nice.
The next problem, is that this is a lot of liquid to be taking in, without any gluocose or sodium to keep the extracellular fluids balanced. When your fluids become too diluted, this creates a serious stress on the metabolism, which is why I don’t recommend drinking large amounts of water all day long just because you read some article in a magazine that said you should. (My oh-so-controversial advice regarding water is to drink when you’re thirsty. Novel concept, huh?)
But by far the BIGGEST issue I have with the recommendations in the post is that it’s advised to only drink this coffee for your breakfast, with no actual food.
Bad, bad, really bad idea.
Here’s the deal. No matter how much people like the bulletproof guy like to spout off about how they’ve “reprogrammed” themselves to burn fat instead of glucose, and how inferior those “sugar-burners” are, they’re neglecting to acknowledge the fact that all bodies burn both glucose and fat. No special “programing” required. However, denying your body glucose under the delusion that burning purely fat is the healthy way to go, is a recipe for disaster.
“It will keep you satisfied with level energy for 6 hours if you need it. And because I’m having it for breakfast, I’m programming my body to burn fat for energy all day long!” (source)
Oh, cool. So you’re stressing your body out to the point that it uses lipolysis, or the release of free fatty acids in the bloodstream to be used as fuel, which is an adaptive stress response and a biomarker of disease and aging.
And by the way? You’re still getting sugar to burn in there somewhere, pal. Whether you eat it or not.
The person who thinks he’s a superiorly-healthy “fat-burner” by eating 2/3 a stick of butter in one sitting, and denying himself any source of carbohydrate, will still manage to produce and use glucose. Because the body needs it. In fact, if you don’t consume enough glucose, your body will literally start eating itself to get it. It’s called gluconeogenesis, meaning that while your body is releasing adrenaline to mobilize fat to be used as fuel, your adrenals are also releasing cortisol to break down body tissue. Like from your muscles and organs. And then your liver has to convert those proteins into glucose to raise your blood sugar. It’s very taxing, very stressful, and not at all an ideal way to get your glucose.
And it’s bound to happen when you do this:
“Try this just once, with only 2 Tbs of butter, and have nothing else for breakfast. You will experience one of the best mornings of your life, with boundless energy and focus. It’s amazing.” (source)
The only reason you’d end up experiencing “boundless energy” as a result of having nothing more than a big cup of coffee with a half stick of butter in it for breakfast, is because your body would likely be experiencing an acute stress response and an active hyperadrenaline state. If this is all you have for breakfast, expect the stress-promoting effects of denying your body its ideal source of fuel for the energy your body needs to expend during the first half of the day.
Want a better way to do coffee? I have a suggestion.
Better than “Bulletproof” Coffee Recipe
- A mug of organic, fair-trade coffee
- 2 tablespoons grass-fed cream or half-and-half (find local raw dairy here)
- Sweetener to taste—organic cane sugar, honey, maple syrup, molasses, or a mix for a varied flavor
- 1 teaspoon coconut oil (find the highest-quality coconut oil in bulk here) and/or 1 teaspoon grass-fed butter
- 1 tablespoon grass-fed gelatin powder
- A small pinch of real salt
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Simply add the ingredients together and stir. When adding gelatin, if it’s regular red-canister gelatin (the kind that gels—learn all about the differences between types of gelatin here), you will need to add it very slowly, sprinkling in a thin layer, stirring as you go, and repeat, so you don’t get clumps. If you’d like, you can also whip up your coffee with a blender (an immersion blender would be easiest) to give it a nice bit of frothiness on top.
Keep in mind, you don’t have to use these exact amounts—you can use more or less depending on your own unique needs. For example, if you are not used to consuming much saturated fat, your tummy might not appreciate this much at first. Start slowly when introducing foods with high amounts of saturated fat like coconut oil and butter. Cream is generally tolerated a little more easily. And some people simply do not require as much fat as others, so listen to your own body and your own tastes, and adjust accordingly. You also may want to consider the overall nutrient content of whatever food you’re eating it with, to keep it balanced.
Now, here’s the most important part of my recipe—drink your coffee along with some food! Granted, this coffee is at least a much more balanced beverage than the original “bulletproof” coffee, but it ain’t no meal, honey. Eat. The food. Your metabolism will thank you.
Why this is better
Consuming coffee as a part of a balanced meal which provides appropriate sources of energy (carbohydrate), moderate amounts of fat, balancing electrolytes, and protein, is the only way to go. Unless you want to rev up a bunch of stress hormones and and experience the fun symptoms that result, such as peeing every five seconds, wild mood swings, crashing blood sugar, low body temperature, and the eventual burnout from that hormonal high which leads to complete exhaustion and metabolic damage.
You’ll run into problems like these when you don’t consume enough foods which stimulate the metabolism and minimize stress. The most powerfully anti-stress and pro-metabolic nutrients are natural sugars, starches, salt, saturated fat, and certain amino acids such as those found in gelatin. This coffee, combined with a balanced meal or snack, can provide all of that. The bulletproof stuff? Gets you the fat, and neglects everything else. And drowns you in unbalanced, diluted fluid.
To learn more about balancing your food and drinks so that your overall diet is metabolically-supportive instead of destructive, I highly recommend reading a book by my friend and independent health researcher, Matt Stone, called Eat for Heat. It’s a concise and easy-to-follow guide that will help you understand the science behind why all this stuff matters so you can start implementing some simple changes that will make a big difference, fast.
How do you take your coffee?
Are you considering balancing it out with some more metabolism-boosting nutrients? Tell us about it in the comments.
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MEDICAL DISCLOSURE: Your health is between you and your health care practitioner. Nothing in this blog is intended for the treatment or prevention of disease, nor as a substitute for medical treatment, nor as an alternative to medical advice. Use of recommendations is at the choice and risk of the reader.