Coffee is awesome.
Butter is awesome.
Saturated fat is awesome.
There is no doubt about it… they have been unfairly demonized.
They’ve been blamed for health problems that they really didn’t have anything to do with.
Fortunately, the world is slowly but surely abandoning the old diet myths and embracing these foods once again.
However… it’s important to keep in mind that everything in nutrition depends on dosage and context.
Just because a little bit of something is healthy, it doesn’t mean that a whole ton of it is healthier, or even safe.
If you don’t know what this is, then it is a recipe for a coffee drink that replaces breakfast:
- 2 cups of coffee.
- 2 tablespoons (at least) of grass-fed, unsalted butter.
- 1-2 tablespoons of MCT oil.
- All mixed in a blender.
This is promoted by Dave Asprey, the man behind the website Bulletproof Executive.
Bulletproof coffee has become so popular that people all over the world have either heard about it or tried it.
I’ve written about all of them before and include them in my diet, every day.
However… I do not think it is a good idea to consume unnaturally large doses of them.
Some is good, even downright healthy, but too much could very well be a problem.
Although I’m sure bulletproof coffee is tasty and can boost energy levels (especially for someone on a ketogenic diet), I do think there are some genuine concerns that should be noted.
For the sake of clarity, what this article is about is the act of replacing your breakfast with coffee, butter and MCT oil.
This article is NOT about the “toxin-free” upgraded coffee beans, a product sold by Dave and recommended with the bulletproof coffee recipe.
I’m sure it’s decent coffee, although I do not believe the whole mycotoxin thing is supported by science (maybe I’ll cover that in another post).
But I digress… here are 3 reasons why I think bulletproof coffee is a bad idea.
1. You Are Displacing a Highly Nutritious Meal With Something That is Low in Essential Nutrients
It is generally recommended to consume bulletproof coffee in the morning instead of breakfast.
I’m not at all surprised that this can work…
Large amounts of fat should effectively kill the appetite for many hours, especially for people who are “ketoadapted” and used to eating a low-carb, high fat diet.
This could also provide plenty of energy by elevating ketone levels in the blood, which then become available as fuel for the brain.
These benefits are impressive… but there is a pretty obvious downside here, which is rarely mentioned.
Let’s assume that you’re used to eating 3 meals per day (very common). Breakfast, lunch and dinner.
By drinking bulletproof coffee, you are effectively replacing 1 of 3 nutritious meals with something that is low in essential nutrients.
But MCT oil is 100% empty calories. It is a refined and processed fat with no essential nutrients. It is also as far from “paleo” as a food can get.
Even though bulletproof coffee may contain small amounts of nutrients, this completely pales in comparison to what you would get from a nutritious breakfast.
Let’s try putting these meals into Cron-O-Meter (my favorite food tracker) and see what happens…
- 25 grams of protein.
- 5 grams of fiber.
- Over 50% of the RDA for Selenium, Phosphorus, Vitamin B12, Vitamin B2 and Vitamin B5.
- Over 10% of the RDA for every nutrient except magnesium, manganese and Vitamin B3 (Niacin).
This breakfast contains 429 calories, with 27 grams of net carbs.
Now let’s take a look at bulletproof coffee – 2 cups of coffee, 2 tablespoons of MCT oil, 2 tablespoons of butter (screenshot):
- 1 gram of protein.
- 0 grams of fiber.
- Under 10% of the RDA for every nutrient except Vitamin A, Vitamin B2 and Vitamin B5 (which range from 22-28% of the RDA).
Bulletproof coffee supplies 441 calories with 0 grams of carbs and and 51 grams of fat (80% of which are saturated).
To be fair, I used regular unsalted butter for the comparison. Cron-O-Meter does not have grass-fed butter listed, which should be higher in some nutrients.
If you’re used to eating 3 meals per day, then replacing breakfast with bulletproof coffee will reduce the total nutrient load of your diet by a third.
This can’t be healthy… really. And it certainly isn’t “paleo” – paleolithic humans went for nutrient density (that’s why they were crazy about organ meats).
If you think a multivitamin can solve this problem, think again… NO multivitamin can replace the thousands of trace nutrients, both known and unknown, that are present in real food.
Bottom Line: If you replace one of your daily meals with a mix of coffee and fat, then you will significantly reduce the total nutrient load of your diet.
2. Saturated Fat is Good… But Humans Did NOT Evolve Eating Such Massive Amounts
Saturated fat was unfairly demonized.
Recent high quality studies have shown that it doesn’t cause heart disease.
However… keep in mind that all of the studies were done on people using “normal” amounts.
These people weren’t pouring massive amounts of saturated fat into their coffee, they were eating it along with other foods.
These fats belong in recipes and should be used to cook with or to add flavor to dishes. They should be eaten with a meal, not as the meal.
Humans did NOT evolve eating (or drinking) such massive amounts of saturated fat.
There are plenty of nutrients that are healthy when consumed in reasonable amounts, but when people start megadosing them it can cause serious problems.
It is entirely possible that saturated fat is the same. Healthy in reasonable amounts, but harmful when we start eating massive, unnaturally large doses that are way outside of evolutionary norms.
Of course, all of this is just speculation. Maybe such massive doses of saturated fat are perfectly safe, but it hasn’t been tested… ever… so you are treading in uncharted territory.
Bottom Line: Saturated fat seems to be perfectly safe in “normal” amounts, but the doses contained in bulletproof coffee are much higher than we were ever exposed to throughout evolution. This may be a problem.