Is buttered coffee a good breakfast option?

Bulletproof or buttered coffee is a meal replacement drink that many keto and low carb enthusiasts have for breakfast.  It consists of a blend of quality filtered coffee, butter and MCT (medium chain triglyceride) oil.

The original recipe was developed by Dave Asprey, an American entrepreneur, bio-hacker, lifestyle guru and author of The Bulletproof Diet.  He recommends the use of his special brand of mould and mycotoxin free coffee beans, his “brain octane” MCT oil and unsalted butter made from the milk of grass-fed cows.  He claims that this creamy, high fat coffee will improve mental focus, provide energy and keep you feeling full for hours.  He even suggests it can assist with fat loss due largely to the addition of MCT oil.

MCT oil is most commonly extracted from coconut oil. It has been shown to increase the release of peptide YY and leptin, which are hormones that promote the feeling of fullness in the body. The body processes MCT oil very differently to other fats. MCT oil actually bypasses normal fat digestion and goes right to the liver where it supports the production of ketone bodies. By increasing ketones, and therefore energy production in the cell, MCTs can boost metabolism. Another benefit of MCT oil, which can facilitate fat loss, is that it helps optimize the growth of good bacteria in the gut.

While Dave Asprey might have introduced bulletproof coffee to the Western World, many cultures, such as the Ethiopian and Tibetan, have been drinking buttered coffee/tea or yak milk for centuries. They claim it keeps them warm and energized at high altitudes and in very cold climates. Dave Asprey was, in fact, first exposed to the concept some years ago while hiking in Tibet. Despite the concept not being his original idea, Dave Asprey certainly saw the business opportunity, potential benefits and application of his version of this ancient culinary tradition for the ancestral health, keto, low carb and Paleo communities.

Dave Asprey’s recipe calls for:

  • 2 cups (470 ml) of organic coffee,
  • 2 tablespoons (28 grams) of unsalted grass-fed butter,
  • 1–2 tablespoons (15–30 ml) of MCT oil mixed in a blender.

This drink can, however, be made with regular coffee, normal unsalted butter and basic MCT oil, especially if you don’t live in America with easy access to Dave Asprey’s bulletproof products.  Worldwide this beverage is still referred to as “bulletproof coffee” or BPC for short. When blended together these simple ingredients give you the same creamy “latte-like” hot drink that BPC proponents love.

The question is, “Is bulletproof coffee a good breakfast option?”

There are definite pros and cons.

If your mornings are always rushed and you need a breakfast to go, a bulletproof coffee sipped on the way to work is preferable to a muffin or doughnut when you reach the office starving.  If it keeps you feeling full and energized till lunch time, perhaps BPC is a good option for you.  You would just need to bear in mind that, because BPC contains around 450 calories, it must be viewed as a complete meal replacement. If you are drinking bulletproof coffee and still having a breakfast of say bacon and eggs an hour or two later, because you are hungry again, you could certainly battle to lose weight.

Some people struggle to eat fats when on an LCHF diet. Either they don’t like the texture of fatty cuts of meat or aren’t fond of the taste of high fat foods like, for example, olives, avocados, nuts and coconut oil.  In such cases, consuming a good quantity of fats in a delicious hot creamy coffee can ensure that an adequate amount of fat is consumed.

For those practicing intermittent fasting, bulletproof coffee could be a helpful tool in extending the fasting window. According to a post on Dave Asprey’s Bulletproof blog, “insulin is what turns autophagy on and off. Since fats don’t impact blood sugar and insulin levels, you can stay in a fasted state as long as you’re only eating fat, which is why bulletproof coffee is such a good complement to intermittent fasting”. Some fasting purists might disagree with his statement, but he does back it up in his post with links to studies on the topic.

Bulletproof coffee is, however, not particularly nutritious. Sure, there is a little nutrition in the butter (especially if it’s the grass-fed variety) and coffee in itself does contain antioxidants, but what people don’t often realize is that, due to its high fat content, this buttered coffee is essentially an empty calorie “bomb”.  BPC, when made using the original recipe’s quantities, contains anywhere between 400 to 500 calories per coffee. Wow! To put this into perspective, this is the same number of calories as a meal consisting of 3 large eggs cooked in a teaspoon of butter, 4 rashers of back bacon, a whole cup of cooked spinach as well as half a cup of fresh blueberries. Now, which breakfast would you find more satisfying? It might be down to personal preference but, to hazard a guess, I suspect there would be a big contingent of people who would prefer to bite, chew and swallow their meal as opposed to sipping it.

A real food LCHF breakfast, consisting of animal protein, veggie carbs, fibre and healthy fats, packs a hefty nutritional punch. This is in stark contrast to the low nutrient profile of bulletproof coffee. Sure, you could make up the nutritional deficit with your other meals for the day, but will it be enough to experience optimum health and vitality?

Something else to consider is that the combination of caffeine and MCT oil on an empty stomach in the morning doesn’t agree with everyone. It can leave you jittery and nauseous, especially if you are new to a high fat diet and/or you no longer have your gall bladder. Those without a gall bladder will struggle to digest a large quantity of fat at one sitting due to a lack of adequate bile.  You may be able to combat these symptoms by using decaf coffee and/or reducing the amount of butter and MCT oil. It might then, however, not have the same benefits especially in terms of energy, concentration and keeping you feeling full till your next meal. You could also try and build up your fat intake slowly, especially of MCT oil.

If you would still prefer to have a “meal in a glass” type of breakfast for the sake of convenience, rather consider a smoothie consisting of frozen berries, coconut or almond milk, fresh spinach, pure whey protein or collagen, a couple of egg yolks, raw cacao powder and xylitol or stevia for a little sweetness.  You could even add some nut butter. This liquid meal would be far more nutritious and just as filling as a bulletproof coffee.

If your goal is weight loss, bulletproof coffee may help but it could, just as easily, sabotage your efforts. We are all different and you would need to experiment to see what works for you. Just don’t get caught up in the hype. You don’t NEED to be consuming bulletproof coffee if you are following an LCHF diet. It is not a pre-requisite but simply a breakfast option that has both pros and cons.  Now that you know what those are, you can decide for yourself.


Article written by Nicky Perks for Lose It magazine. Volume 32


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About Nicky Perks

Passionately sharing information about the paleo/primal, high fat/low carb lifestyle that will rock your world! I am on my own journey to good health and a slim body. My goal? To enjoy the ride as life on this beautiful planet is just too short to do it any other way.

Posted on April 22, 2020, in Primal 101 and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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