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Bulletproof Coffee: Calorie Bomb or Brain Booster?

What is ~450 calories, buttery, and both paleo and keto-friendly? Known as bulletproof, butter, or keto coffee, this breakfast beverage has skyrocketed in popularity. Originally inspired by a tea and yak milk drink entrepreneur Dave Asprey tried in the Himalayas, bulletproof coffee drinkers claim it boosts their focus, energy, and fat loss. But are these claims justified or could the drink be doing more harm than good?

bulletproof coffee calorie bomb or brain booster coffee in mug

What’s in bulletproof coffee?

Technically, the trademarked Bulletproof Coffee includes 8-12 oz of coffee made with Bulletproof brand beans mixed with 1-2 tablespoons Brain Octane® oil, and 1-2 of grassfed butter or ghee. The mixture is then blended consumed either in place of breakfast.

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In reality, the term “bulletproof coffee” has expanded to include unbranded ingredients in the form of black coffee mixed with coconut or MCT (medium-chain triglycerides) oil and butter/ghee.

cubes of butter for bulletproof coffee

As a result of its fatty add-ins, a cup of bulletproof coffee runs at ~225-500 calories.

What are bulletproof coffee’s benefits?

Claimed benefits include:

  • Increased focus
  • Better energy and mood
  • Improved metabolism
  • Weight loss
  • Stabilized gut health
  • Increased strength and lean muscle mass
  • Increased testosterone

These claims are largely based on characteristics of the included caffeine and fat, which supposedly make the drink filling and good for your brain.

The bad news is, researchers haven’t proven a single one of these claims (yet). The good news is, some of these benefits may be real if you include fats that are high quality.

Potentially real benefits include:

notebook and pen next to computer and cup of coffee

1. Increased energy

Of course, in a way that likely isn’t specific to bulletproof coffee, the coffee part of the drink will give you a caffeine boost. In the short-term, caffeine is a known stimulant and improves focus for many people. However like all other stimulants, your body will become accustomed to it and can become dependent on it as well. As a result, it’s a good idea to limit yourself to a cup or two of coffee/tea a day. Wean yourself off if you’ve had to up the number of cups to get the same effect. And, avoiding eating simple sugars in the morning minimize blood sugar spikes, which can lead to inconsistent energy.

2. Eating less

Theoretically, if you usually eat a high calorie breakfast and now you swap it out for one beverage that you find filling, you’ll lose weight. But, keep in mind that not everyone may find a drink like this filling. In fact, many people find calories consumed in the form of a beverage to be less filling. A savory breakfast that includes protein, fat, and complex carbohydrates will likely leave you feeling more full and energetic throughout the day.

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If you can afford it, grass-fed dairy products contain more nutrients and healthy fatty acids.

What are butter coffee’s real risks?

1. Raising your cholesterol and consuming too much saturated fat

  • 1 tbsp of butter = 31 mg of cholesterol, 7.2 g saturated fat
  • Ghee = 33 mg of cholesterol, 8 g saturated fat
  • Coconut oil = 0 mg of cholesterol, 12 g saturated fat
  • MCT oil = 0 mg of cholesterol, 7 g saturated fat

While the relationship between dairy and cardiovascular health still need to be explored further, eating high levels of cholesterol can definitely be problematic for some people. In one particular case, a man who incorporated bulletproof coffee into his daily diet increased the levels of fat in his blood.

Keep in mind however, that the culprit of high cholesterol isn’t solely the amount of cholesterol you eat in your food. Instead the mixture of fat and carbohydrates in your diet is a more important factor. Saturated fats in particular can negatively affect cardiovascular conditions.

If you have high cholesterol already, cutting down on saturated fats is a proven dietary step to improve your cardiovascular health. Consuming bulletproof coffee would likely have the opposite effect. A cup a day adds up, potentially to two sticks of butter a week.

2. Missing out on an opportunity for a nutrient-dense breakfast

nutritious breakfast hummus on toast with fruits and vegetables next to coffee

While drinking this bulletproof beverage may make you feel more full and eat less, eating less has its own downsides. Namely, not consuming enough nutrients. Breakfast is a great opportunity to set yourself up nutrition-wise for an energized and nutrient-rich day. Skipping it to drink a potentially comparable number of calories in the form of a fatty cup of coffee probably isn’t your best bet.

If you do decide to brew it daily, choose a tablespoon of grassfed or plant-based fats as your mix-in. Given the limited research on its benefits, bulletproof coffee is probably better as an occasional treat than an everyday opener.

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If you find that consuming bulletproof coffee works really well for you, it can be a sustainable choice. Just stick to quality fats and drink it alongside a healthy diet. If you have the resources and are able to, keeping track of your blood markers (cholesterol) is a good idea.