• Bulletproof Coffee will give you energy, sure, but what else will it give you? Lots of calories with virtually no nutrition.

    If you have not yet heard of this trend of “bulletproof” coffee the practice of putting butter and other fat in your coffee, let me give you the background and some of the details. When I first heard of this trend, I hoped it was a joke, a prank like hufu, but as with many over-the-top nutrition fads, it is not.

    Several years ago, when I was looking at the background on this, I learned the following about “bulletproof” coffee: it was started by Dave Asprey, a tech guy from Silicon Valley with an MBA and an undergrad degree in computer information systems.

    According to the Bulletproof website, the story is that Dave was hiking in the Himalayas and was suffering the ill effects of being at 18,000 feet above sea level and extremely low temperature. I am sure many people who are not used to this have similar problems. I live a mile above sea level and many tourists from sea level suffer from altitude sickness when they visit and are not prepared. This is a real thing.

    Add to the frigid cold of the Himalayas, it is no surprise that someone would not feel well. Hiking in sub-zero temps at over three miles above sea-level takes a lot of effort.

    Back to Dave. Feeling spent, he was given a local beverage that instantly felt better, helped his energy and “flipped a switch” in his brain. This local beverage? Yak Butter Tea.

    Yak Butter Tea is a local beverage that is a “necessity” for the people of Tibet.

    Now let me make a couple of points here:

    1. When someone is low energy, whether you give them a Snickers bar, a cup of hot chocolate, or Yak Butter Tea, something will change quickly.
    2. About Yak Butter Tea, I can only speculate it is
      • based on what is available in the area,
      • it helps sustain the lifestyle of the locals who I suspect are active compared the binge-watching, Amazon ordering, screen-addicted community. I haven’t been to Tibet, so I don’t know for sure.

    Of course, to the American hiker in the Himalayas, the next obvious step is to introduce this marvel of energy to the sedentary Americans.

    But wait! Why use tea, when we have coffee? Why not use cow butter for yak butter?

    Voila, we have the magic bullet – or bulletproof coffee. Never mind that we in the U.S. don’t have the same lifestyle of the Tibetans or the same environment, or it was yak butter tea now cow butter coffee. It is all practically the same, right?

    How does one get this to the next level to where people are not only willing to try something that is pretty much pure fat but drink it regularly?

    STEP ONE: not only get people to buy into this wonder-drink but convince people that their coffee is inferior because it is covered in toxic mold.

    OK, don’t worry, your coffee isn’t covered in toxic mold. It isn’t even covered in mold. It just isn’t.

    Mycotoxins are the toxins that are created by mold. We don’t want that because it can make us sick. The cheese that I forgot about in the back of the fridge has mold and is emitting mycotoxins. The bottle of bitters I found when cleaning out my pantry had mold floating on top and was emitting mycotoxins. What do I do? I threw the stuff out. I don’t eat it.

    This whole thing about coffee having mold? It isn’t there. At least it isn’t by the time it gets to the consumer. Whether it is Dunkin’ Donuts or Starbucks, Maxwell House or Folgers, the coffee you drink does not have mold or the mycotoxins from the mold. It just doesn’t. So, any “proprietary” method the Bulletproof people are doing isn’t really anything special or a superior process compared to any other coffee you can buy at Costco or Whole Foods. It does cost $20 a pound. But other than that, nothing special.

    Step one complete: get people to buy your coffee. Not their regular stuff cause it is scary toxic.

    Butter in Coffee

    Is THIS the secret to sustainable energy?

    STEP TWO: get people to believe that grass-fed butter is the equivalent of yak butter. At least until we can tap into the dairy yak market.

    While grass-fed butter, or more precisely, butter from cows that were grass-fed does have a different fat profile than “regular” butter, it is still pretty much all fat. In the process of making butter there will still be some water in the butter, hence the reason I say, “pretty much”. Virtually no protein and no carbs. All the calories come from fat.

    Now to make something clear: I am NOT a proponent of a low-fat diet or fat-free foods, but I do recommend people choose the healthier unsaturated fats of polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fat more often than saturated fat.

    No matter what type of fat it is, one tablespoon of fat about 120 calories. In general, butter does have less. Here is a sample of fats and their calories in ONE tablespoon.

    • Butter = 100 calories (11 grams of fat)
    • Ghee = 135 calories (15 grams of fat)
    • Olive Oil = 120 calories (13 grams of fat)
    • Walnut Oil = 120 calories (13 grams of fat)
    • Avocado Oil = 120 calories (13 grams of fat)
    • Coconut Oil = 120 calories (13 grams of fat)

    See the trend? Again, butter has fewer calories because of the water content in the butter. If we take out the water and milk solids (ghee) then there is a difference.

    The exact nutrient profile of yak butter isn’t really known, at least not here in the U.S. One could only speculate as to why… Perhaps because no yaks are being milked commercially in the U.S. that I have been able to find at least. Also, again, a speculation is that in Tibet they have bigger issues than determining the nutrition profile of their food. They know it fuels them and it works for them.

    On a completely different note, one tablespoon of half and half is 20 calories (less than 2 grams of fat).

    On to…

    STEP THREE: promote another addition since we have GOT to profit MORE from people buying into this slice of heaven (from the cardiologist perspective at least since this will keep them in business).

    So let’s go with… MCT oil in the form of coconut oil. Yep, because putting 10W-40 in your engine that needs 5W-40 is the same right?

    First, so many people get this part wrong. MCT oil and coconut oil are not interchangeable in the way people are suggesting.

    I need to take a side-step into some chemistry for a moment. If you want a complete overview of the chemistry, check out the video series on lipids from Khan Academy. When I teach college nutrition classes, this is at least a 30-minute discussion/lecture in the context of the lipids chapter, which takes a full week of discussion. Just giving some context here.

    MCT oil, or medium chain triglyceride oil, it something that is a real thing and necessary for people with fat-absorption issues such as individuals with cystic fibrosis. Most research on MCT oil uses a lab-grade MCT oil for their studies. Not coconut oil, not food, but something specifically for their study.

    Coconut oil is within the spectrum of an MCT oil – chemically speaking.

    Let me back up and explain this a bit more.

    Fatty acids are carbon “chains” most often with an even number of carbons. Depending on the number of carbons the fatty acid chain, they are classified as short chain, medium chain, and long chain fatty acids. When THREE fatty acids are attached to a glycerol molecule we have a triglyceride – three on a glycerol. Note: chain length is different from saturation.

    The most common fatty acids are long chain fatty acids which are 14 or more carbons.

    Short chain is less than 6 carbons.

    Medium chain is 6-12 carbons.

    Coconut oil is a 12-carbon fatty acid making it technically, or chemically, a medium chain. But it does not BEHAVE like a medium chain fatty acid but more like a long-chain fatty acid.

    So, to use the term MCT and coconut oil interchangeably would be like using the term Dachshund and coyote interchangeably. They are both canines making them the same ANIMAL, but not quite the same. Between a Dachshund and a coyote, one is much more ferocious. Hands down, the Dachshund is the one to watch out for. Trust me. Anyway, you get the point.

    OK, back to turning the Himalayan energy elixir to something that has alleged amazing benefits for people in this country not even remotely close to the Sherpas of the Himalayas.

    Continuing with STEP THREE: sell your special MCT oil, which is really 100% coconut oil. Call it something fabulous, like “Brain Octane” oil – because we want high octane anything and now we have coconut oil is somehow superior to the stuff I can buy at the regular grocery store. Taking information directly from the Bulletproof website (quoting) it states, “Brain Octane oil converts into ketone’s more efficiently than coconut or other MCT oil that have Lauric Acid – and it produces 4x more ketones than coconut oil.”

    OK – so not coconut oil?

    Continuing from the website, same page, just a few sentences down, the product is “…100% pure coconut oil…”

    Wait, it is BETTER than coconut oil, but IS coconut oil? Am I missing something?

    Not sure how coconut oil is better than coconut oil. I know this is confusing, but I too find this confusing. Read for yourself and help me out if you can see a distinction.

    STEP FOUR: give the recipe for putting this stuff together.

    The recipe is straightforward: 8 ounces special, overpriced proprietary coffee, 1-2 tablespoons grass-fed butter or the special ghee, 1-2 tablespoons special oil that is not coconut oil but comes from 100% coconut oil. Lots of energy. No really, that is a LOT of energy.

    Energy, or the word we in the nutrition community call it, calories, is high in this coffee mixture.

    One serving, as described below, add it up:

    • 8 ounces special coffee = 2 calories
    • 1-2 tablespoons grass-fed butter = 100 – 200 calories (or use ghee which eliminates any water or pesky milk solids that contain essential nutrients 135 – 270 calories in the 1-2 tablespoons)
    • 1-2 tablespoons special coconut oil (that isn’t coconut oil) = 120 – 240 calories

    Total for ONE CUP = 222 calories at a minimum, up to 500 calories is using the higher amounts and ghee. Oh, and put it in a blender since water and fat don’t mix, to help keep it together.

    Seriously?! 500 calories in ONE CUP? I don’t know about you, but my morning coffee is served in a 12-ounce mug and I have two each morning. It isn’t for the energy or the caffeine, but because I like it. Don’t believe me? I can go without and do occasionally, just because.

    But Bulletproof coffee gives me all day energy! Yes, 500 calories will do that. Well, not all-day energy, but about one-fourth of the day’s energy for the 2,000 calorie/day person. Which is just a point of reference, not a recommendation.

    It fills you up! Totally.

    And NO SUGAR! Because apparently, that’s partially the point.

    What else will not be in this 500-calorie beverage? Protein, fiber, vitamins, minerals or anything really truly beneficial.

    But what you ARE getting is pretty much ALL fat and not the good or healthy fats.

    In the two tablespoons of the following you get:

    • Ghee = 30 grams of total fat, of that 18 grams are saturated (60% of the fat is the saturated fat)
      OR
    • Grass-fed butter = 24 grams of total fat, of that 16 grams are saturated (67% of the fat is the saturated fat)
    • Coconut oil = 27 grams total fat, of that 23.5 grams are saturated (87% of the fat is the saturated fat)

    No joke – coconut oil is THE most saturated fat, higher than butter, lard or beef tallow.

    So, in this ONE cup of “coffee”, depending on whether you choose ghee or butter, you will get 51-57 grams of total fat, and of that fat 39.5 – 41.5 grams is saturated fat.

    Keep in mind that I am not giving FAT the smackdown, but SATURATED fat. That and having that much FAT in ONE beverage.

    Seriously, I would love to have a good burger for that amount of fat. And, in my opinion, it tastes better.

    Is there a better alternative?

    You bet there is. What you COULD do is this: have a smoothie with fruit and/or veggies, grains, actual dairy (not butter). In other words, lots of fiber, some protein, vitamins and minerals and a good start to your day that is really filling.

    AND with your smoothie, you can have a couple of cups of coffee with half and half. If you want.

    I have smoothies pretty much all summer and during the “warm” months (I switch to an oatmeal “concoction” in the cooler months)

    Tropical Berry Blast Smoothie

    • 1 cup vanilla flavored soy “milk” or milk of your choice
    • 1 cup frozen mixed berries such as blueberries, raspberries, and strawberries
    • 1/3 cup fat-free, plain Greek yogurt (whole milk Greek yogurt is also fine)*
    • 1/4 cup uncooked oats

    Pour soy milk into a blender; add frozen berries, Greek yogurt, and oats. Mix until blended.

    Serves one and contains 300 calories; 6 grams fat (1 gram saturated); 125 mg sodium, 47 grams carbohydrates (8 grams fiber); 17 grams protein; 400 mg calcium. This profile is for when the smoothie is made with fat-free yogurt. If made with whole-milk Greek yogurt, add 20 calories, add 3 grams fat (add 2 grams saturated fat) and REDUCE protein by 1 gram. No change to sodium, carbohydrates, fiber or calcium.

    Concerned about all those carbohydrates? Where is the added sugar? Maybe in the soy milk? The berries and yogurt are all naturally occurring sugars. I have never told anyone that they were getting too much sugar from all the fruit they are eating. Seriously, not the problem. Besides, glucose is THE preferred fuel for the brain, the muscles, and the tissues. That is a fact.

    I don’t imagine people who are really drawn to adding butter and oil to their coffee are going to suddenly switch to a blend of fruit, yogurt, and oats. That’s ok. But your body would really do so much better now and in the long-term.

    And you will have lots of energy and feel full for several hours. If it turns out, you need more food you are already 200 calories ahead of the game.

    On a completely different matter: the only acceptable time butter should be in a beverage? Hot buttered rum.

    Want more smoothie recipes? Get my free download, Five Fabulous Smoothie Recipes – Recipes for On-the-Go Active Adults.