You may have heard others rave about bulletproof coffee—also referred to as butter coffee or keto coffee—and the potential benefits it provides to your health.
It is not your average cup of joe. It’s a favorite way for many keto dieters to start their day.
Bulletproof coffee is a beverage that can curb your appetite, boost energy, and bring mental clarity.
This drink is most popular with those who follow the ketogenic diet or simply the keto diet.
Some following a low carb diet, paleo, or intermittent fasting, may experiment with incorporating the basic bulletproof coffee.
Anyone can incorporate it if they choose.
What Is Bulletproof Coffee?
Bulletproof coffee was invented by a biohacker, Dave Asprey.
He is an investor and technology American entrepreneur and New York Times bestselling author of The Bulletproof Diet (2).
While traveling in Tibet he stopped in a local hut where a Tibetan woman offered him a cup of tea blended with yak butter.
He felt rejuvenated, then for the next few years he set out to recreate a beverage with the same results (4).
The original bulletproof coffee recipe is made of three essential ingredients: grass-fed unsalted butter, medium-chain triglycerides oil (MCT oil), and coffee. If any of these three key ingredients are missing, your hot coffee is not considered Bulletproof coffee.
Each ingredient is important in its own right and makes Bulletproof coffee what it is, no more, no less.
A lot of people, specifically keto dieters may try and swap ingredients, such as putting coconut oil in their morning coffee.
This is ok to do if you choose, but if you want your cup of coffee to be considered bulletproof coffee you need to incorporate those three essential ingredients (coffee beans, unsalted butter, and medium-chain triglycerides).
According to an interview Dave Asprey stated that he uses the product, brain octane oil in his own coffee. The brain octane oil is rich in MCTs (4).
Always ask your healthcare provider before implementing anything new into your diet to ensure it is safe and healthy for you.
Benefits of Bulletproof Coffee
When following the ketogenic diet (low carb, high fat) and being in the state of ketosis you will find MCTs will provide a boost of energy or quicker energy (fat burning).
This is due to the shorter chain length and its faster metabolic rate, the body is more efficient, breaking down and absorbing the MCTs.
Ketones are produced by the liver when it is breaking down fat.
As a result, Ketones are the energy source provided. Your body needs to be in the state of ketosis to use the ketones as energy, otherwise, the body will resort to using the primary fuel source of glucose (1).
Caffeine has also been shown to provide energy as well.
Caffeine can help with mental focus.
Some studies have shown caffeine may even assist in improving your mood, helping your brain cells work more efficiently, and improve performance (6).
Some individuals may find there is no better way than having coffee as part of their morning routine and these benefits could be an added bonus to your morning cup of coffee.
A benefit many crave is the fullness.
While on the ketogenic diet, many individuals find they are fuller or have more satiety after meals and or snacks due to the increased amount of fat consumption.
If you are looking for a coffee drink that’ll last you till lunchtime, this may give you more fullness than black coffee.
Coffee is a great source of antioxidants (6).
Our body creates free radicals that attack our healthy cells during daily body functions, such as breathing or exercising.
Other less healthy habits such as smoking can produce free radicals as well. Antioxidants are helpful in protecting our healthy cells from being damaged by free radicals (7).
Bulletproof coffee along with any keto diet food may help you lose weight.
To remain in the state of ketosis, your dietary fat is increased compared to a well-balanced diet since your body uses the dietary and stored fat as the new fuel source compared to glucose, as a result of depleting your dietary and stored carb supply.
With the keto diet, the focus is on increasing fat, unhealthy or healthy fat, but ideally focusing on healthy options.
With butter coffee, you are incorporating products that contain fat (butter and MCT oil), which help keep you full and energized.
When you are feeling satisfied you tend to make better food choices throughout the rest of the day and stay within the appropriate portion sizes during your next meal and or snack.
As a result, this can assist with weight loss.
For many people, weight loss can improve overall health, and who wouldn’t want that for a long time?
There may be some downsides, so it’s always a good idea to consult your physician and dietitian (nutrition expert, often referred to as nutritionist) when making a change to your diet.
If you choose to use bulletproof coffee as a meal replacement, be sure that your other meals of the day are rich in nutrients, since you may be missing that by skipping your regular balanced breakfast or lunchtime.
You want to make sure you are getting your daily energy expenditure needs to ensure the proper functionality of your daily functions.
More research is necessary to identify the effects on your metabolism, gut health and gut microbiota (digestive system), inflammation, blood sugar levels, insulin, nutrient absorption, immune system, athletic performance, endurance athletes, body weight, and body composition changes, liver disease, and more.
What Is in Bulletproof Coffee?
Coffee beans are the key ingredient to make regular coffee.
Coffee is known to have antioxidants and small amounts of nutrients such as potassium, niacin, and magnesium (8).
When individuals are watching their added sugar, creamer intake, or calories in general, black coffee becomes their go-to.
According to the dietary guidelines for Americans, 400mg per day is the upper amount (roughly 3-5, 8oz cups) associated with moderate coffee consumption for healthy individuals (3).
To make the best cup of MCT coffee, it’s highly recommended to use organic coffee beans sans of toxins, namely mycotoxins. Mycotoxins are tiny fungi/fungus created by molds and grow on coffee plants amongst many others.
To avoid the potential adverse effects on the mycotoxins such as brain fog and loss of energy, choose quality beans with no or low levels of mycotoxins.
For convenience, Asprey offers clean bulletproof coffee beans that have been tested for toxicity (12,13).
MCT Oil – Medium Chain Triglycerides Oil
You can find MCT supplements in capsule, liquid, or powder form. Specifically, MCT oil is found in liquid form.
Some MCTs can be derived from coconut oil because coconuts naturally have saturated fatty acids.
The supplement goes through a man-made process that is a concentrated source of MCTs.
Triglycerides is the scientific term for fat. Triglycerides can be used as energy or stored as body fat. (1)
MCT oil is used primarily for patients who are unable to metabolize longer chain lipids (LCT) found in food sources like olive oil (11).
In recent years, it has gained popularity when following high-fat diets.
Medium MCTs are made up of fatty acids with a chain length of 6-12 carbon atoms.
Specifically, the main ones are, C6 (six carbons)= caproic acid, C8 = caprylic acid, C10 = capric acid, and C12 = lauric acid.
A lot of dietary fat intake is comprised of long-chain triglycerides (LCT) or long-chain fatty acids, which can have 13-21 carbons (1).
When looking at the composition of MCT oils, you may generally find the oil is 100% C8 (caprylic acid) or 100% C10 (capric acid).
For example, Asprey’s popular brain octane is c8 pure MCT oil.
Also, you may find an MCT oil that contains both C8 (caprylic acid)and C10 (capric acid) (1).
So you ask, what is the significance of knowing how many carbons? The bottom line is when you are in ketosis and you incorporate MCTs you will be able to receive energy quickly.
When you are in ketosis and you incorporate long-chain triglycerides you won’t be able to receive energy as quickly.
When looking at MCT oil supplements, you should see C8 and C10 on the label to ensure the proper medium-chain triglycerides provide the quick source of energy you are aiming for.
MCT oil supplements on the market may contain different components and ingredients, so it is really important to verify with your healthcare providers prior to implementing.
Fats higher in saturated fatty acids are usually solid at room temperature due to their chemical breakdown of not having any double bonds which results in a tighter linear chain.
Saturated fatty acids originate primarily from animal sources. When consuming a healthy well-balanced diet, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids should replace or limit the saturated fatty acids to reduce cardiovascular disease risk (11).
According to the dietary guidelines for Americans, it is recommended to consume less than 10% of calories per day from saturated fats (3).
Fat is very important and necessary for our overall health, but the type of fat is even more important when choosing food products.
It can be a great way to allow the most health benefits by picking the type of fatty acid such as monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.
Some main functions of fats are to assist with vitamin absorption (fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K) and the production of hormones.
Be cautious when considering adding supplements especially for the first time to your daily routine, make sure to initially check and continue to check with your health care provider to ensure it is safe for you to consume and you don’t experience any adverse effects.
Adverse effects could potentially cause digestive tract problems, more specifically digestive issues like diarrhea.
The name derives from the cows’ diet and how they mainly eat grass.
Nutrients obtained from butter in grass-fed cows and grain-fed cows can vary, but grass-fed cows tend to have a little more nutrients in the butter (10).
An alternative many incorporate into their coffee is Ghee.
Ghee butter is typically derived from cows and the milk has been heated until the liquid and milk solids have separated.
Some individuals who are lactose intolerant find they can tolerate or digest ghee because the milk solids have been removed (10).
The best way to reduce the amount of sodium is by choosing unsalted grass-fed butter.
It’s also worth noting margarine is not the same product as butter and shouldn’t be used as a butter alternative.
Benefits of MCT Oil
One of the most talked-about benefits of MCT is weight loss.
When incorporating MCT oil while following a ketogenic diet you may find you could potentially lose weight.
MCT oil is a concentrated way to receive medium-chain fatty acids in supplement form.
While in the state of ketosis your body needs additional fat, as a result, you may see a slight increase in your energy levels and could feel fuller after your meals.
These properties can help with weight management or weight loss. More research is needed to provide long-term effects on body weight and body composition changes.
Enhance Cognitive Function
More recent studies are needed to identify if MCTs can have a positive effect on cognition, brain function, and brain disorders like Alzheimer’s disease.
Recent studies have small sampling sizes and overall the evidence is limited regarding brain health.
When following the ketogenic you will find a positive effect on your brain function due to your fat intake providing an energy source, just as you would expect from glucose when following a well-balanced diet (1).
More research via animal studies and human studies are needed to find long-term evidenced-based benefits of MCT oil and MCT consumption.
Can I Use Coconut Oil Instead of MCT Oil in Bulletproof Coffee?
Some people, specifically keto dieters may try and swap ingredients, such as putting pure coconut oil, coconut cream, or even sweetener/stevia for additional flavoring in their morning coffee to make it a more convenient or better-tasting butter coffee recipe.
This is ok to do if you choose, but if you want your cup of coffee to be considered bulletproof coffee you need to incorporate the three essential ingredients (coffee beans, unsalted butter, and MCT oil).
Medium-chain triglycerides are fats that can be found in coconut oil. When comparing the coconut oil and MCT oil, they are different.
An easy way to identify this is MCT oil is a supplement so it contains mostly medium-chain triglycerides whereas coconut oil contains other properties in addition to medium-chain triglycerides.
You may find you are receiving more well rounded nutritional value from the MCT food sources like.
If you would like to incorporate food sources that have MCTs, you should try coconut oil (as discussed above), palm kernel oil or palm oil, and dairy products such as whole milk and butter (1).
If you are adding coconut oil in your drink for its medium-chain fatty acids (MCFAs) benefit, consider using virgin coconut oil as opposed to regular coconut oil.
Virgin coconut oil is made from fresh coconuts and unrefined. It generally comes with higher antioxidant content and a stronger coconut flavor.
Regular coconut oil, on the other hand, is made from dried coconuts and goes through a refining process, which also takes away the strong smell. Because of its higher smoke point, it’s often used to cook stir-fries and to bake.
How to Make Keto Bulletproof Coffee
Bulletproof coffee is so easy to make and actually delicious! It tastes more like a latte than anything else, and it’s more filling than a plain, black coffee.
Easy enough that you can make bulletproof coffee every single day without too many extra steps.
Just make sure you keep the necessary ingredients, like coffee beans, butter, and MCT oil, on hand, and you may find you want to experiment with a few optional other ingredients.
Some have enjoyed adding a dash of spices and flavors like cinnamon, vanilla extract, or pink Himalayan salt to this keto coffee.
Coconut milk, heavy cream, and MCT oil powder are also amongst other add-ons that are popular. Collagen can also be added for a protein boost.
Bulletproof Coffee Recipe
This Bulletproof coffee recipe or keto coffee recipe only takes 3 ingredients. In addition to the three items, you need a milk frother or blender and a way to brew your coffee.
Bulletproof Coffee Recipe With MCT Oil and Butter
Bulletproof coffee is also known as sugar-free keto coffee, butter coffee, or keto butter coffee that comes with a velvety creamy texture.
It’s a fat-loaded coffee that may give you a boost of energy. Here is the most simple recipe from the original inventor, Asprey to make it at home.
- 1 cup Coffee freshly brewed coffee, black
- 1/2 tbsp Mct oil
- 1 tbsp Butter, grass-fed and unsalted
- Pour the freshly made coffee into a large mug.
- Add 1 tablespoon of butter and 1/2 tablespoon of MCT oil (or coconut oil).
- Use a frother to blend the coffee until it creates a thick foam on top of the hot liquid
- Take a sip. Customize to your taste by adding a sweetener and creamer of your choice. Drink warm.
Please be aware of nutrition facts for a cup of bulletproof coffee may differ depending on the brands and ingredients used.
Possible Side Effects
While saturated fat is a part of a healthy diet when consumed in reasonable amounts, it may be harmful in large doses.
Particularly, saturated fats could raise your total cholesterol levels and LDL (bad) cholesterol, which as a result could increase your risk for a heart attack or heart disease. (5)
First thing, if the high amount of saturated fat is concerning you may want to avoid adding large amounts of MCT oil in your meals and drinks like bulletproof coffee.
Instead, limit to a fewer dose like tsp or don’t add at all.
If you are also adding MCTs in your salad dressing, full-fat yogurt, and other foods, you may want to consider your total consumption and adjust accordingly.
Secondly, always speak with your health providers (physician, dietitian, etc.) to identify if the ketogenic diet is right for you.
Thirdly, your physician can have your blood levels (specifically your lipid panel) measured to make sure you’re not raising your risk of heart disease or other conditions.
The Ketogenic diet was originally created for individuals who were suffering from epilepsy or seizures and under medical supervision.
They were guided to increase their dietary fat to place them into the state of ketosis (metabolic state) to reduce their amount of seizures.
Researchers are still working to gather long-term evidence for how effective the ketogenic is for individuals not using it to help their epilepsy but those who are working to lose weight fast.
When you are deciding whether or not to incorporate the bulletproof coffee, think about your current lifestyle and food choices.
Are you following a specific diet and trying to remain in ketosis or are you incorporating a well-balanced diet focused on moderation?
There can be a lot of temptations with health food stores, grocery stores, and other sources inadvertently influencing your food decisions.
Ultimately you have to feel comfortable and receive individual medical advice from your healthcare provider.
The food and drug administration suggests speaking with your healthcare providers prior to incorporating any dietary supplement.
These conversations are vital when you are changing your macronutrient amounts throughout the day, especially since saturated vs. unsaturated fats and MCTs and LCTs act differently in your body. A couple of examples of saturated would be coconut and palm oil.
While a few examples of unsaturated (good fat) whole foods would be avocado, almond nuts, and even oils such as flaxseed oil and olive oil.
To ensure heart health, it is recommended to reduce the amount of saturated and swap with unsaturated options.
As discussed earlier the bulletproof coffee may have potential benefits, but with limited research, it is necessary to identify with your healthcare providers if it is the right fit for you.
- Brown PhD, RD (UK), et al. “MCT Oil 101: A Review of Medium-Chain Triglycerides.” Healthline, 18 May 2020, www.healthline.com/nutrition/mct-oil-101#what-it-is.
- “Dave Asprey, Founder and CEO of Bulletproof.” Dave Asprey Blog, 23 Mar. 2020, blog.daveasprey.com/about-dave-asprey.
- “Dietary Guidelines for Americans.” Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2015–2020, www.dietaryguidelines.gov.
- Firkser, Rebecca. “Guess What the Founder of Bulletproof Coffee Has for Breakfast Every Day.” MyRecipes, 22 Aug. 2018, www.myrecipes.com/extracrispy/guess-what-the-founder-of-bulletproof-coffee-has-for-breakfast-every-day.
- Gordon, RDN, LD, Barbara. “The Facts about Coconut Oil.” Eatright.Org, 24 June 2019, www.eatright.org/food/nutrition/nutrition-facts-and-food-labels/the-facts-about-coconut-oil.
- “Is Coffee Good for You or Not?” Www.Heart.Org, 28 Sept. 2018, www.heart.org/en/news/2018/09/28/is-coffee-good-for-you-or-not.
- Klemm, RDN, CD, LDN, Sarah. “Antioxidants – Protecting Healthy Cells.” Eatright.Org, 3 Mar. 2020, www.eatright.org/food/vitamins-and-supplements/types-of-vitamins-and-nutrients/antioxidants-protecting-healthy-cells.
- Klemm RDN, CD, LDN, Sarah. “Benefits of Coffee.” Eatright.Org, 6 Feb. 2020, www.eatright.org/health/wellness/preventing-illness/benefits-of-coffee.
- “MyFitnessPal | MyFitnessPal.Com.” MyFitnessPal, 2020, www.myfitnesspal.com.
- “The Difference between Ghee, Grass Fed Butter, and Standard Butter.” Foodsmiths, 10 Jan. 2019, www.foodsmiths.com/blogs/news/the-difference-between-ghee-grass-fed-butter-and-standard-butter.
- Vannice MS RDN, Gretchen, and Heather Rasmussen PhD, RD. “Position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Dietary Fatty Acids for Healthy Adults.” Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 2014, doi:10.1016/j.jand.2013.11.001.
- Viegas C;Pacífico C;Faria T;de Oliveira AC;Caetano LA;Carolino E;Gomes AQ;Viegas S; “Fungal Contamination in Green Coffee Bean Samples: A Public Health Concern.” Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health. Part A, U.S. National Library of Medicine, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28548622/.
- JH;, Alshannaq A;Yu. “Occurrence, Toxicity, and Analysis of Major Mycotoxins in Food.” International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, U.S. National Library of Medicine, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28608841/.