Bulletproof coffee: Friend or Fad?

Bulletproof coffee has had a similar effect to Marmite – some people love it, some loathe it. If you’re new to idea of bullet coffee, allow us to break it down for you.

What is Bulletproof Coffee?

If you’ve heard the hype around bullet coffee but still have no idea about the specifics, you’re not alone. It’s fairly simple – you brew coffee, then add 2 tablespoons of butter (unsalted and grass-fed) and one tablespoon of MCT oil (coconut oil will do). Butter that comes from grass-fed cows is higher in nutrients than butter from their grain-fed counterparts, and thus better for you. Medium chain triglyceride (MCT) oil is more rapidly absorbed into your body than most fats, and can also be found in coconut oil.

So now we’ve gotten through the bare bones of bulletproof coffee, it’s time to look at the calories. Both butter and MCT oil are pretty much all fat, so 3 tablespoons in one coffee amounts to a lot of calories. 304 is a (low) estimate, but it all depends on which ingredients you use and exactly how much. 304 calories in a coffee?! There’s around 113 in a small cappuccino and an average of 160 in a small latte. Admittedly, you are supposed to replace your whole breakfast with one cup of Bulletproof coffee. But with a whopping 106% RDA of saturated fat, you’re above the recommended amount before you’ve even left the house!

Who came up with it?

The idea of putting butter into your coffee has been around for a long time – it’s commonplace in countries such as Ethiopia, Vietnam and Singapore. But the man behind the ‘Bulletproof Coffee’ brand, David Asprey, first posted his take on his blog in 2009. He got the idea after drinking ‘butter tea’ in Tibet. Now, butter tea makes sense in Tibet – working at high altitudes requires a lot of energy and the warmth of the drink can’t hurt. The oil even stops your lips getting chapped! But drinking it when you don’t live in the highest region on earth seems unnecessary. Since his first post, David’s brand has amassed half a million followers. Can so many people be wrong?

Does it work?

The one thing everybody wants to know. The problem? Answers are mixed. Some swear by the buttery concoction, whilst others think it’s all just a big fad. Why don’t we break it down for you?

The Good

  • By all accounts, it tastes great. This isn’t surprising – butter is delicious! Bullet coffee has been likened to a creamy latte, whilst the texture is thicker than normal milk.
  • You’ll definitely feel more energized – some recipes even call for 2 cups of coffee to be used! Some say that the caffeine ‘come-up’ you get from bullet coffee isn’t as intense as black coffee, but seems to last longer.
  • It’s easy to make. With only 3 ingredients, it’s definitely something you can do speedily. However, you may need to use a blender to thoroughly mix the butter and oil with the coffee, as otherwise you may end up with black coffee with an ‘oil slick’ effect on top.

The Bad

The jury’s out on whether it really fills you up. According to David Asprey, it should keep you satisfied for hours. Some do attest to this, but a lot of people who have documented their experience with Bullet Coffee beg to differ. Brent at Gizmodo has strong negative opinions on this claim – he stated feeling ‘queasy’ after gulping the coffee back in the morning, and ‘ravenous’ by lunchtime.

  • Using Bulletproof coffee as a meal replacement probably isn’t the best idea. While the ingredients may give you a certain amount of calories, you’ll be missing out on a range of nutrients compared to if you ate a whole meal. Drinking all of your daily saturated fat in one drink is fine if you’re an avid exercise fan and eat a very lean diet, but chances are that the average person is going to be getting more sat fat elsewhere. Saturated fat isn’t the devil – as we were previously led to believe – but it’s not a great idea to constantly go over the RDA of any nutrient.
  • MCT oil hasn’t been proven to really aid weight loss (yet). It has a small effect at best, and unless it’s taken as part of a healthy routine, it won’t do much. It won’t hurt you to try out coconut oil as part of your routine – just don’t expect any miracles.

The Ugly

  • David Asprey’s ‘Bulletproof Approved’ products seem a little like the modern-day version of Jack’s magic beans.
  • Asprey claims that his ‘Upgraded’ coffee has gone through a special (and secret) process to remove mycotoxins. Mycotoxins are basically mold, and whilst they are bad for you – coffee growers know this. They’ve known about it for a long time, and there are lots of methods in place to make sure the coffee you drink doesn’t have lots of unwanted mold hiding in it. So claims that ‘Upgraded’ coffee has even less mycotoxins, not saying how and then selling it at a high price ($18.95 per bag) seems… suspect.
  • Bulletproof’s ‘Brain Octane’ touts itself as better than other MCT oils, but by all accounts it is just MCT oil. Another seemingly suspicious ploy, as Bulletproof’s oil will set you back $23.50 – quite a leap when compared to any other non-branded MCT oil.

There are definitely some conflicting arguments on Bulletproof Coffee. Now we’ve broken it down for you, you can decide whether you’d like to try it yourself. It can’t hurt to try implementing it into your routine and seeing how it goes! However, don’t feel you have to rush out and buy all the Bulletproof products – just have a look at your local supermarket for cheaper alternatives.

So, will you try it? Happy Coffee-Making!