The Truth About Bulletproof Coffee, According to a Nutritionist

Some people swear by this buttery breakfast drink.

bulletproof coffee
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With a sleek-sounding name, a , and superhero buzzwords like "high octane" and "clean energy," drinking bulletproof coffee sounds downright magical. (I mean, don't we all want to ignite our brains?!) But is adding butter and oil to coffee really a a fast track to a better mood and speedier weight loss? We wish. Here’s the real deal.

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What exactly is bulletproof coffee?

Bulletproof coffee is a breakfast drink that some claim boosts energy, improves focus, and makes you feel full. The original version sold by the brand uses a recipe of 2 cups coffee, 2 tablespoons grass-fed butter (about 200 calories), and 2 tablespoons MCT oil (about 260 calories) sold as trademarked

If you’re following the site’s directions, the coffee will contain 250 to 500 calories, assuming you’re not adding "collagen protein powder" or other mix-ins.

Bulletproof coffee can also describe other recipes that combine coffee and fats, like those that swap MCT oil for coconut oil or ghee for butter.


What is MCT oil and what does it do?

MCT stands for medium-chain triglyceride, a type of fat found in milk, palm kernel oil, and coconut oil. Since it’s not easy to obtain a sizable amount of MCT oil, products like Brain Octane can cost and up.

Proponents consider MCT more "efficient" than long-chain triglycerides, the kind found in foods high in dietary fat. Due to their structure, the medium-chain links take less time to digest than their longer cousins.

MCT oil, coconut healthy oil
Getty ImagesThitareeSarmkasat

Instead of going from your GI tract to the bloodstream and then the organs that use these fat molecules, they go straight to your liver. This requires your body to use more energy, which is why the oil is billed as "fat burning." By bypassing your peripheral tissues, MCTs are less likely to be stored as fat in your body.

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It’s also because of this faster digestion time that clinicians may use MCT oil with patients suffering from enzyme deficiencies, GI cancers, and autoimmune disease like IBS and celiac. In other words, the same oil that some people use to "burn fat" also helps those suffering from medical conditions put on weight lost due to malabsorption.


What about the butter?

The grass-fed butter in this concoction supplies another 200 calories. (Coffee itself is essentially calorie-free.) As a mostly saturated fat, butter contains triglycerides at varying lengths, but proponents of bulletproof coffee love the rich creaminess similar to half-and-half, but with a keto-friendly high-fat, low-protein ratio.

This may make the drink slower to digest and absorb, therefore potentially prolonging the effects of the caffeine. As for the grass-fed distinction, proponents tout the slightly higher concentration of omega-3 fatty acids and some vitamins that come from cows grazing on an all-green diet.


Does it actually work?

If it sounds confusing, that’s because it is a bit counterintuitive! One ingredient in bulletproof coffee absorbs faster than other types of fats, and another ingredient slows down the effects of caffeine. But from a scientific POV, the main issue is a lack of data.

Bulletproof coffee, blended with organic  butter and MCT coconut oil
Getty Imagestbralnina
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While all of the ingredients have been studied on their own with mixed results, "bulletproof coffee" as its own entity has zero large-scale human studies supporting its benefits. In fact, Bulletproof draws on studies done with rats to make their claims about metabolism and energy burn.


Okay, but will it help me lose weight?

That depends entirely on who you are and what you currently drink and eat for breakfast. Bulletproof coffee could help you lose weight if you use it to replace a daily sugary shortstack, or if you currently don't eat breakfast at all.

In that case, BPC may provide a sense of fullness that you might not have experienced otherwise. Eating more calories from longer-lasting sources of energy can help you cut back on random grazing later on.

But — and this is a big but — drinking 100% dietary fat isn’t your best bet. Replacing black coffee, tea, or a low-fat latte with a bulletproof blend will add more calories to your total daily intake without much of a difference. In fact, drinking calories instead of chewing them more ravenous for your next meal — and there are so many better-for-you foods to choose instead!

To that end, I think the real problem with the bulletproof approach is that it encourages going from one extreme to another. Bulletproof’s site talks about the "Sad American Diet" as one that’s high in refined carbohydrates and added sugar — an over-consumed nutrient according to the . The issue: Since most of us also already over-consume saturated fat in our current eating plans, adding more through beverages is just unnecessary.

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As for inducing ketosis for weight loss: It's true that some research links ketogenic states with reducing appetite, but there’s no long-term data to evaluate whether or not ketogenic diets are safe, right for everyone, and actionable considering you have to factor in everything you eat during the course of a day.


What should I have for breakfast instead?

Since diets high in saturated fat can still increase your risk of heart disease, your best bet is to follow a Mediterranean-style of eating where you prioritize veggies, fruit, lean protein sources like fish and eggs, and butterless coffee — especially in the form of delicious espresso or cappuccino! A high-fiber, protein-packed morning meal can help you lose weight steadily and for the long haul.


The Bottom Line

Bulletproof coffee may taste delicious, but the data supporting its benefits (and ketogenic diets, for that matter) simply isn’t there! Drink it if you enjoy the flavor, not for its alleged weight-loss or health effects.

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