Over the past few years, there’s been a new craze sweeping across the health and nutrition world.
Everyone from hard-charging business execs and professional athletes, to busy soccer mom’s and weekend warriors seem to be swapping their morning oatmeal for a big mug full of caffeine and concentrated fats – otherwise known as a Bulletproof Coffee.
In this article we’ll look at the proposed benefits of going Bulletproof, the science behind it all, and how it stacks up from an Ayurvedic perspective.
Created and trademarked by bio-hacker Dave Asprey, Bulletproof Coffee is essentially a high fat recipe made up from:
• 2.5 tablespoons of Dave’s own freshly ground Upgraded Coffee Beans.
• 1-2 tablespoons of Brain Octane MCT oil (a form of processed coconut with a higher percentage of healthy medium chain triglycerides)
• 1-2 tablespoons of unsalted, grass-fed butter.
Blend it all together for 30 seconds and you’re supposedly left with the “creamiest, most satisfying cup of coffee you’ve ever had”.
Dave is said to have come up with the initial idea for the recipe after drinking a cup of yak butter tea in the Himalayas and instantly feeling recharged.
Fast forwards a few years, and it’s now a popular breakfast option amongst people following a high fat, ketogenic diet.
The main reported benefits of consuming the drink include:
• Weight loss. Studies suggest that regular coffee may speed up metabolism and increase fat burning. The high fat content of the Bulletproof Recipe also helps to keep the body in a state of ketosis, where the body burns keytones instead of glucose for fuel. Ketosis inhibits the release of the hunger hormone grehlin, supressing the appetite and encourage encouraging further fat loss.
• Improved cognitive function. Coffee alone has been shown to help boost your mood and cognitive function, allowing you to focus better. When you combine it with the healthy fats in the Brain Octane MCT oil and grass fed butter, the idea is that you get a longer lasting boost in productivity, allowing you to reach peak performance and improve concentration without any ‘coffee jitters’.
And if you dig a bit deeper, you’ll also find evidence to suggest that coffee can boost your energy levels, improve your physical performance, and even decrease your risk of developing liver disease, diabetes, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and certain types of cancer.
But there’s another side to the story…
Coffee Claims and Controversy
Although coffee does seem to have some health benefits, there’s also good chunk of evidence suggesting otherwise.
It also interferes with normal sleep patterns, increasing the risk of developing insomnia.
There is also evidence to suggest coffee can have a negative impact on the nervous system. It increases the secretion of the stress hormone cortisol, which can lead to weight gain and predispose you to chronic fatigue.
As well as excess cortisol, coffee increases levels of the pleasure hormone dopamine, which may explain why some people find coffee so addictive. Coffee also supresses the release of DHEA, a steroid hormone that enhances memory and improves cognitive function.
But wait a sec…
Isn’t coffee supposed to boost cognitive function, not inhibit it?
A key point that often isn’t talked about is that your genes and your metabolism can greatly impact how your body processes caffeine and coffee. Whilst it may indeed benefit one person, it can have the opposite effects on someone else.
Upgraded Vs Normal Coffee
What about the Upgraded Coffee in particular? Does that have any benefits over normal coffee?
One of the big selling points of the Upgraded Coffee sold by Dave Asprey is that it is supposed to be free from harmful mycotoxins (mould toxins) that can potentially damage the brain and leave you feeling sluggish.
On his website he cites a study that showed out of 60 varieties of coffee beans tested, 91% of them were contaminated by mycotoxins.
That might not be the whole story though…
The beans that were labelled as ‘contaminated’ in the above study contained very small levels of mycotoxins – not nearly enough to cause any adverse health effects.
And it seems that the coffee industry has known about the potential growth of mycotoxins for decades, which is why the wet-processing method was developed; a technique used by nearly every coffee producer in the world and eliminates virtually all traces of the mold.
So it turns out that the special Upgraded Coffee that you can only source from the Bulletproof website, might not be all that different from your regular coffee after all…
The Ayurvedic View on Coffee
So the science shows pretty mixed results when it comes to coffee consumption, but what about the Ayurvedic perspective?
Whilst it may provide short-term stimulation, the Ayurvedic view is that coffee does not promote long-term health. At the end of the day, there’s no biological free lunch – at some point we have to pay our debts.
After that initial increase in activity from coffee consumption, the body does it’s best to return to homeostasis by speeding up elimination. This can potentially lead to gut inflammation and an imbalance in the gut flora.
As well as impacting the gut, coffee stimulates the mind into an overactive, Rajasic state.
Slow moving Kapha types may benefit to some degree from this pick me up, but sensitive Vata types become easily over stimulated by coffee, and then experience and equally intense period of depletion soon after.
Repeated over and over, this can eventually lead to burnout and adrenal fatigue.
Pitta type people already tend to be highly motivated, and they also carry a lot of heat. Coffee is a substance that is notorious for increasing your work drive, and it also adds more heat to the body, which can send Pitta doshas out of balance.
One plus side of the Bulletproof coffee compared to regular is that the warming effect can be slightly negated by the cooling MCT/coconut oil and grass fed butter, making it more neutral.
Nonetheless, from an Ayurvedic perspective, coffee isn’t a food that we should be consuming on a regular basis if we want to reach our potential.
What About the MCT Oil and Grass Fed Butter?
As mentioned above, Bulletproof coffee isn’t just about the coffee beans. It also contains a few tablespoons of MCT oil and grass fed butter.
Again, the results from the science world are fairly mixed, but in Ayurveda we generally lean towards using both foods in moderation.
The MCT oil used in Bulletproof Coffee is a processed form of coconut oil, where the health promoting medium chain triglycerides have been isolated.
In Ayurveda, coconut oil itself is considered to be a nourishing food. It is Anuloman in nature, meaning that it can help the body to release built up toxins that can lead to acidity (Amla Pitta) and digestive issues.
As mentioned above, coconut is also cooling – helping to calm Pitta and reduce stress. Grass fed butter has a similar cooling effect too, and also aids in nutrient absorption.
The effects on Vata can vary for both foods – whilst they can enhance calmness, their cooling effect may lead to adverse reactions, as Vata are typically already cool.
Butter and coconut oils are not always best option for Kapha, who would typically perform better by consuming warming fats like olive oil or sesame oil.
Grass fed butter also has its benefits, containing a wide range of important micronutrients such as omega-3 fatty acids, CLA, beta-carotene, vitamin A, vitamin K, vitamin D, and vitamin E – all of which have health promoting properties.
How to Get the Benefits of Bulletproof Coffee (Without Drinking It)
It seems that in small amounts, both coconut oil and grass fed butter are two foods that are worth including into your diet.
One viable way you can do that is by drinking Bulletproof Coffee.
As we mentioned above, in small amounts, coffee has been shown to provide some benefits for some people, but there are also a number negative consequences associated with it too – both from a scientific and Ayurvedic viewpoint.
Looking at the big picture, it seems that there are plenty of other ways in which you can get the benefits of Bulletproof Coffee, without actually drinking it:
• Get good quality sleep. Getting enough good quality sleep will reduce your need for stimulants in the first place. It’s the most natural way to improve concentration, improve memory, and boost productivity.
• Engage in regular movement. Exercise has been shown to help to speed up metabolism, encourage fat burning and healthy weight loss, improve your mood, reduce stress levels, and even boost your cognitive function.
• Eat healthily. As well as including moderate amounts of coconut oil and grass fed butter, it’s also important to eat plenty of fresh, whole foods, in your diet and avoid anything that’s overly processed. A healthy diet will increase your energy levels and reduce your risk of developing many of the chronic diseases that may or may not be helped by coffee, including diabetes, heart disease, liver issues and even some forms of cancer. If cravings are a challenge that keep you from eating healthy, check out this article on What Your Cravings Are Really Telling You.
Kicking the Coffee Habit
If you do decide that coffee (Bulletproof or not) is not for you and you’d like to kick the habit, keep in mind that it’s probably not going to be an overnight thing.
Instead of going cold turkey, gradually start to replace your coffee with drinks containing less caffeine such as chai tea or mixing half grain-based coffee and half regular.
Transition slowly, and be patient.
What are your thoughts on the Bulletproof Coffee debate? Does it belong in a healthy diet, or should we give it a miss?
Share your thoughts by leaving a comment below.
How to 10x your Energy, Focus & Productivity