In recent years, the trend of mixing some form of fat into your morning coffee has risen in popularity. The most well-known version, called Bulletproof Coffee, became mainstream through David Asprey who was inspired after drinking yak butter tea in Tibet in 2004. His recipe involves mixing coffee with grass-fed butter and MCT oil in a blender and having this fat-rich meal for breakfast. The proposed benefit to the consumption of this drink is that it will not only keep your appetite satisfied and curbed for hours, but will also enhance focus, all without the energy crash of consuming a plain cup of coffee. The consumption of coffee and fat, however, has been around for years before we became aware of it. Between 575 and 850 CE warriors of the Galla Tribe in Ethiopia were known to combine crushed coffee beans and animal fat as a snack to sustain them during long journeys and battles. I can personally attest to the focus and sustained energy of this meal replacement, but does adding fat to coffee help burn fat? It seems counterintuitive, right? And does it also help enhance the effect of the caffeine? Let's get into it, starting with an explanation of ketosis. Ketosis is a state your body enters with prolonged significant carbohydrate restriction, where your body starts to efficiently burn off its own stored fat. When your body is depleted of carbohydrates that it would normally use for energy, it is forced to turn to stored fat for energy. Your liver turns fatty acids into ketones, another alternative energy source to glucose. Benefits to the state of ketosis include but are not limited to weight and hunger reduction, improved cardiovascular health, suppression of oxidative stress as well as improved cognition and memory. Most notably, the lack of carbohydrates allows you to avoid blood sugar spikes and subsequent crashes, for overall sustained energy. This butter + coffee mixture aids this process in a few ways. Number one, it is just caffeine and fat. 'Clean' and simple. The lack of carbs means it naturally fits with the ketogenic diet guidelines. Something that may surprise you, however, is that the caffeine acts as an aid to boost your ketone product, whether you are eating low-carb or not. A 2017 study in the Canadian Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology found that “Caffeine given at breakfast significantly stimulated ketone production in a dose-dependent manner”. The study participants even had carbohydrates with their breakfast and saw an increased ketone production despite this, which is remarkable because insulin, released largely as a result of carb intake, inherently inhibits the production of ketones. Therefore, it is surmisable that the ketone production would have been even greater had there been no carbs consumed in said breakfast. Remember that the body will only turn to ketones for energy if carbohydrates and glucose from carbohydrates have been depleted from the body first. Consuming this high fat content drink alongside a meal with regular carbohydrate content will result in 1. De Novo Lipogenesis - where so many carbs have been consumed that the extra is stored in the body as fat, and/or 2. Re-esterification - the conversion of free fatty acids consumed in your meal back into fat stores - both of which most of us are looking to avoid. So, when you consume your bulletproof coffee at breakfast, the immediate reaction of your body will lean towards re-esterification. In a good state of ketosis, however, lipolysis, or the breakdown of stored fat into usable energy, will kick in and result in an overall fat-burning state. But having cereal, toast, potatoes, pastries, or other common breakfast foods with your coffee will put you in a state of De Novo Lipogenesis, and adjuvant Re-esterification, resulting in an overall fat-storage state. While low carbs in a meal are great for preventing energy fluctuations, the slow digestion of fat further supports this even-keeled metabolism in our bodies. It has been hypothesized, though not scientifically proven, that the physical blending of the fat helps to break down the molecules into digested forms called micelles, leaving your body with even less digestion to accomplish. Another hypothesis claims that incorporating and/or binding coffee to this slow-digesting fat allows for a sustained and slow-paced delivery of caffeine. The only scientific backing to this is a study in Z Gastroenterol that found that caffeine was most quickly absorbed when in liquid form due to it taking the least amount of time to saturate blood plasma. On the other hand, caffeine had the slowest absorption rate when consumed with food due to the slower digestion of the food in the stomach. One big mistake people make with their bulletproof coffee is the addition of sweeteners. Those, even in seemingly trace quantities, are nonetheless carbohydrates and keep you from the weightless benefits of consuming this drink. Why grass-fed butter specifically? When compared to regular butter, grass-fed butter is higher than usual in - Vitamin A - Vitamin E
- Vitamin K - plays a key role in bone and heart health by regulating calcium levels - helps strengthen bones by helping them absorb more calcium, and removes excess calcium from the bloodstream, thereby preventing it from depositing as plaques within your blood vessels - Omega 3s - anti-inflammatory properties - 500% more conjugated linoleic acid - commonly found in weight loss supplements, and - Glutathione - an antioxidant. And as for the MCT oil - MCT stands for Medium-Chain Triglycerides. Due to their shorter length, MCTs are converted to usable energy quickly and more efficiently, and result in less weight gain, and better enhance ketone production. There are a few types of MCTs - C12/C10/C8/C6, each referring to the length of the chain. The shorter the chain, the more easily it is digested and converted into ketones. C6 is rarely used because of its off-putting taste and smell, so the most commonly used lengths are C8 and C10. We already know the benefits of ketones as far as body weight, but MCTs also are popular amongst athletes for their ability to reduce lactate buildup. Now, this is all great in theory. But opinions are split on this drink and it's promised benefits. Have you ever seen twins with similar diets and lifestyles, but starkly different body types? What is it about our bodies at baseline that determines whether or not we lean towards fat burning or fat storage? It's our gut biome! Specifically, the Firmicutes and Bacteroidetes families of bacteria. The ratio and balance of these bacteria, specifically, play a role in whether our bodies tend to store fat or lose it based on their promotion of Fasting Induced Adipose Factor (FIAF). The role of FIAF is to block an enzyme called lipoprotein lipase whose job it is to transport fat from your intestine into your bloodstream for use or storage. Essentially, lipoprotein lipase tells your body to store fat more often than not. The more FIAF you have, the more this enzyme gets blocked, and your body is signaled against fat storage. Studies have found an increased population of Firmicutes in the biomes of obese and overweight individuals, and increased Bacteroidetes in lean individuals. Not only do genetic factors predispose someone to a higher concentration of this one bacteria vs another, but our diet and lifestyle also feed or starve these populations and affect their overall function. Firmicutes are fed by starch and sugar and higher concentrations are associated with lower levels of FIAF and therefore obesity, while Bacteroidetes are fed by fat, associated with higher levels of FIAF and therefore found more in lean individuals. Influencing the balance of good vs bad gut bacteria is not as easy as taking a probiotic. You have to create an environment where the good bacteria can thrive and the bad bacteria cannot. So how do we naturally encourage our biome to create more Bacteroidetes? Firstly, starve its opponent, the Firmicutes, by limiting starch and sugar, and feed the Bacteroidetes not only fat but specifically in combination with coffee. Many studies have proven that coffee has an inverse relationship to metabolic syndrome through its release of polyphenols which not only have antioxidant activity but also are correlated to greater levels of Bacteroidetes! So all in all, how is bulletproof coffee going to help you hack your life? For starters, it will get you up and functioning at superhuman efficiency in the morning. With sustained energy, a full belly, and sharp focus, getting your day started whether it be at work, at the gym, running after your kids, doing life administration, what have you, will be a breeze. And, you will have effectively avoided the slump, crash, or lack of motivation by the time adrenaline and the morning rush wears off. Furthermore, you will simultaneously be targetting stored fat for fuel, undetectably passing on a carbohydrate and sugar-rich meal and its associated calories and insulin spikes, AND rebalancing your gut biome in your favour. What's not to love! If coffee isn’t for you, or specifically bulletproof coffee isn’t for you, then there’s another dietary biohacking option. Intermittent Fasting is something I am a huge proponent of and essentially instead of replacing your morning meal with buttery coffee you're going to replace it with water, unsweetened tea, unsweetened and unbuttered coffee, some other calorie-free beverage or skip it altogether, and break your fast roughly 16 hours after your previous night's meal. Here's a link to my post talking all about the basics of this wonderful lifestyle! This content is strictly the opinion of Dr. Mashal Khan and is for informational and educational purposes only. It is not intended to provide medical advice or to take the place of medical advice or treatment from a personal physician. All viewers of this content are advised to consult their doctors or qualified health professionals regarding specific health questions. Neither Dr. Khan nor the publisher of this content takes responsibility for possible health consequences of any person or persons reading or following the information in this educational content. All viewers of this content, especially those taking prescription or over-the-counter medications, should consult their physicians before beginning any nutrition, supplement or lifestyle program.