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On Bulletproof Coffee

It’s not that Bulletproof Coffee is bollocks…

It’s just that it’s a little irritating to see people embrace a fad as a revolution, though that is becoming depressingly more common with the quick promulgation of information through social media channels. Everyone is asking me about it, about if I’ve used it, if I’d recommend it, how it works, what it does and so on. So since the blog has been a little quiet, I’ll use the next 30 minutes I have free to write a little about it. If this post ends suddenly and without warning, it’s because I have an appointment in a little while, you’ll just have to make up the last bit yourself.

For those hiding under a rock, Bulletproof Coffee is a new fad where one forgoes a traditional breakfast in favour of- and I’m not making this up- coffee blended with unsalted butter and something called MCT oil (medium chain triglycerides. Google it, this ain’t wikipedia). The ‘inventor’ claims he discovered this high on a mountainside in Tibet. Now this story may well be true. Calorie dense meals and drinks are common in survival situations where the body expends large amounts of energy to merely maintain stasis and where feeding opportunities may be few and far between. However it also happens to conveniently fall into my marketing bullshitometer’s radar range. Why are products like this never just discovered in a lab or in some lad’s kitchen? Why do they always have to have a back story? And why has it usually been kept a secret by indigenous people, only to be discovered by the wise Westerner. How offensive is that? You stupid Chinesers didn’t know what you were sitting on! It took me, Johnny Capitalist to come over here and tell ya! Man it was the same with Ginseng and Acupuncture. Don’t you people ever learn?

In any case, the fact is essentially true; indigenous people in harsh (particularly cold) environments use calorie dense foods. So do mountaineers and explorers. I had my first cup of it yesterday. It’s not repellent, but it’s not exactly nice either. Coffee and butter tastes like what coffee and butter would taste like if you put coffee and butter together in a cup. Yeah, like that. It puts me in mind of what the post surgery weight gain supplement Complan would taste like if brewed by Starbucks.

The claim is that after drinking this concoction, you will feel more alert, have higher energy in the morning, and you will stave off hunger pangs. I can imagine this is true for a number of reasons. Firstly, give me 2 cups of coffee in the morning and I’ll feel great. In fact, any less than that and you will have trouble getting me to speak. Caffeine is a powerful stimulant. I’m a big fan. Secondly, fat, in the form of butter and oil, is an excellent provider of energy, and, being so dense in calories, can provide energy in the same manner as anything containing calories can. It’s also digested slower than carbohydrate, which means you won’t have the same pangs of hunger you might get with carbohydrate based breakfasts. The estimate for calories in your bulletproof coffee is in and around the 600kcal mark, which seems about right to me. Also, your intake of omega 3 and other essential fats is going to increase if you drink this stuff regularly. All good so far.

Now given that I’ve just said that claims for alertness, hunger evasion, and effects on cholesterol are true, I can hear you asking what my beef is. Well, my beef is that you’re not going to drink it for very long, and when you stop drinking it, you’re going to hide that fact from me and the friends you were trying to convince to give it a try for so long. We’ll ask “Hey buddy, you still on that coffee diet?”, and you’ll say “uh, oh, that? Uh I was only ever uh, yeah. No. Uh, I think this is my bus, bye!” You’re going to put it at the back of the press along with every other fad diet apparatus and cook book you’ve ever bought, and one day you’ll look in there and feel ashamed. Oh so ashamed.

Let’s start with why this isn’t a sustainable part of your diet. Bulletproof coffee involves waking up in the morning, brewing a cuppa Joe, dissolving a stick of butter into it, pouring in some oil and blending it. You then drink it before heading off to wherever you’re going- the high powered executive’s office was where it was originally aimed. I’m just going to ask one question in capitals. WHO THE FUCK WANTS TO DO THAT EVERY DAY? Not me, and not you, even if you think you’re convinced right now. Anyone with moderate experience in the fitness industry knows that the biggest part of getting people to eat right for their type is the psychology of eating. You must look forward to meals, not dread them, and you must develop what I would call a healthy relationship with your food. That means a relationship that’s not spiteful, that’s not hateful, and one that’s not fetishistic.

Now I know what you’re going to say, and what people in the fitness industry who champion this will say. “But Barry, surely if you care enough about your body, it doesn’t matter what it tastes like”. The answer to that is that it does, it really, really does, and anyone who thinks that people will drink something everyday that tastes like crap for their health need only remind themselves of the spoonfuls of cod liver oil their parents used to try to feed them. Or was that only me? Oh. But it’s true. You are more likely to stay with a sensible diet that conforms to your own tastes, not what someone tells you is good. Taste and convenience are important parts of our nutrition. It may just be that Bulletproof Coffee is just that to you. I’d say you’re in the minority, but more power to you. If you’re beside me on a long flight with that much caffeine and oil based stuff in your gut, however, you take the aisle seat.

Secondly, the hunger buster element. High fat foods will stave off hunger. FACTOID! However this only becomes a significant change if your previous dietary habit was to either have a high carbohydrate breakfast or if you had no breakfast at all, and if you’re like most people I meet, these are the most common morning habits. There’s a reason it takes so long for you to get hungry again after your mother in law cooked you that full Irish breakfast. Those sausages, rashers, and eggs take a long time to digest. So what I’m saying is that if you had cereal and toast before, or nothing at all, and have now switched to Bulletproof Coffee (Jesus I hate capitalising those words, it ends here) then you will notice a significant change in your energy levels and in your hunger levels at mid morning. If however, you’re like me and eat eggs and meat for breakfast along with toast or cereal, then you may not notice much of a difference if you switched. Especially if you are already a coffee drinker.

The final claim is that this is a weight loss aid. I can see why it would be for the same reasons as in the paragraph above. You will get the thermogenic effects of digestion of high fat foods, you will get the lack of hunger in the mid morning, and caffeine has some (limited) thermogenic qualities itself. But once again this is predicated on having had a previously poor breakfast or diet. In the grand scale of faddy weight loss products, I would put it above Slimfast and below Fat Burners.

Now usually the reaction when I say stuff like this is to ask why don’t I try it myself for a while. The short answer is that I didn’t like the taste, and I don’t like the idea. Why would I, or indeed anyone, drink something that they neither liked the idea or the flavour of? Granted, I’ve done it a few times with Tequila, but that’s a little different. It’s not like I’m criticising a movie or a rollercoaster. I’ve already eaten and read up on the effects of high fat foods and caffeine, so I know what I’ll feel. I also like eating breakfast. Call me a nut!

In any other time, bulletproof coffee would be viewed as one of the infamous tonics that used to be claimed could cure anything from impotency, to obesity, to hair loss. Yessir, roll up roll up and see the fantabulous, magnayficent, elixir of success. My 95 year old granpappy drinks it and he’s just a comin outta the whorehouse now. He’s been in there since last Wednesday. I gave it to my dog and now I got a litter. Yeehaw! Now git your pitchforks folks it’s time to chase me outta town. But thanks to social media and the power of the internet, it is not just an obscure elixir, it is a dietary movement.

And finally, my fundamental problem with this product and similar ones is that it claims to cure something that has already been cured. The key to weight loss, good energy levels, alertness, and all of the other benefits bulletproof coffee claims to have is a good, stable, sustainable diet, regular exercise, and every now and again, a night with some friends and a bottle of Tequila. Now that’s a vile tasting feelgood product I can get behind. The solution is already there, people just don’t like it because it doesn’t come with a back story, it doesn’t promise a shortcut, and it doesn’t let you in on a secret. Anyone can do consistency, and that makes it a bad product.

Lastly for the athletes among you. Don’t. Just don’t. If anyone tells you that something high in fat is good pre-training nutrition, smile and nod in the same way that you would smile and nod if you were just handed a leaflet for the Hare Krishnas.

Okay, time’s up, gotta go to work!

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