I first heard about biohacking 4-5 years ago. I was on a directionless late night prowl of the internet when I stumble across tales of rockstar coders in Silicon Valley hacking their lifestyles with radical changes to diet, living habits and health kicks.
Alternatively, a few programmers decided to eat well, exercise and live healthily.
However you look at it, the centrepiece of the biohacking movement is undoubtedly Bulletproof Coffee. The brainchild of longtime entrepreneur Dave Asprey, Bulletproof coffee is said to enhance mental clarity, impart steady lasting energy, boost cognitive function AND boosts weight loss.
This 460 calorie treat is no ordinary coffee. Performance boosting oils and grass-fed cow butter are added to give a high-fat low-carb drink that substitutes as a breakfast and purportedly grants the kind of benefits that sound, in all honesty, too good to be true.
What exactly is in it?
Bulletproof coffee is a coffee drink made using three ingredients – regular coffee, unsalted butter and ‘Brain Octane Oil’ (kind of like coconut oil, except not.)
Bulletproof Coffee – the company – sell the Brain Octane Oil which is an ‘8 carbon fraction of medium chain triglyceride oil.’ The company also sells their own coffee beans which they claim are perfect for the recipe AND grass fed ghee which is a substitute for the unsalted butter.
While the recipe itself only calls for the three ingredients above, Bulletproof say that ‘To get the real benefits of Bulletproof Coffee you have to use Bulletproof ingredients.’
It should be made using a French Press – an immersion method that retains much of the coffee oils because of its mesh filter. The kind of paper filters that you would use with a Pour Over coffee for instance, would catch these oils and they wouldn’t make it into the cup.
The idea is you replace breakfast with it. Wake up, shower, make coffee, out the door. A big part of the appeal – and the reason I first tried it – was the super simple morning routine of just making a coffee instead of taking the time to prepare a healthy and balanced breakdast. Or at least having to stop at the McD’s drive-thru on your way to work…
Who on earth adds butter to coffee?
The story behind Bulletproof coffee is an interesting one. You can shelve your ideas about an someone spilling a slab of butter into some coffee and drinking it anyway – coffee and butter have a surpising historic link.
Tribespeople of the mountains of East Asia have been combining yak butter with drinks for centuries. The famous ‘po cha’ or butter tea of Tibet is a notable example. The Tibetans would mix fermented black tea with salted yak butter when they start the day. The high calorie content from the fats in butter provide a nutritious breakfast that is crucial in the high altitude climes of Himalayas.
Those very same butter tea drinks were what inspired Dave Asprey during a trip to Asia. On his return to the US, he experimented with a few ideas before finally coming to what we now know as Bulletproof Coffee. A skilful marketer, it didn’t take long before Asprey had brought major attention to his product and creating a multi-million dollar company in the process.
So what are the benefits?
So what are you gonna get out of this? Here are the (major) benefits, as claimed on the Bulletproof website.
1. Mental Sharpness, the big selling point and the thing that first got me interested in it. The promise of hours of being switched on and ready to take on the world.
2. Weight Loss, a combination of suppressed hunger and fatty acids with ‘powerful fat loss benefits’ may help to shed those pounds.
3. Steady and Long Lasting Energy, the high calories and caffeine buzz give you a long lasting energy rather than a caffeine ‘spike and crash’.
4. Increased Intelligence, Asprey claims he gained 20 IQ points as a result of his biohacking routine.
Does it do what he says?
The Bulletproof website feels like a sales pitch [https://blog.bulletproof.com/how-to-make-your-coffee-bulletproof-and-your-morning-too/]. Benefit after benefit after benefit. This coffee is going to change your life type-spiel, gives you energy, helps you lose weight, makes you smarter, makes you happier! I’m pretty sceptical at the best of times but this kind of sales-y speak sets off my BS alarm.
Let’s look at the science. This well-referenced pararaph from the wikipedia for Bulletproof coffee gives a good idea.
“Dietitians point out there is no scientific basis for these claims, and that any sense of alertness from Bulletproof Coffee is “just a caffeine buzz.” Some physicians like Dr. Frank Lipman and Dr. Andrew Weil believe that, when combined with a balanced diet, drinking buttered coffee could be healthy and “might give you a bit more energy than your everyday cup.” ”
Here’s a nutrition expert discussing it form this Fast Company article. [https://www.fastcompany.com/3034539/what-its-like-to-drink-bulletproof-coffee-every-morning-for-two-weeks]
“I would most certainly not recommend it,” says Christopher Ochner, a nutrition expert at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital. “Now there is a little bit of data on the use of medium-chain triglycerides for weight loss and regulating cholesterol. But the effect is very, very small.”
I went through a phase of drinking Bulletproof coffee a soon after I discovered it. I bought one batch of all the official stuff and made my way through most of it. It was a few years ago, so bear in mind I’m going mostly from memory which might be a little hazy.
Firstly, the taste. It’s really nice. The idea of coffee and butter mixed together sounds gruesome but actually it doesn’t change that age-old truism – butter makes anything taste better. It gets extra points for tasting so good despite looking like… well, let’s just say it’s winning no prizes for aesthetics.
The preparation of Bulletproof coffee takes longer and is more awkward than I thought. My idea of having a hassle-free morning without having to make breakfast went out the window when I realized that I was making coffee and then preheating and using a blender to make the drink. I spent a lot of time washing up those mornings!
Do I remember some sharper mental acuity? Yes I think so, but then I’m completely reliant on coffee to not be a braindead zombie anyway, so I’m probably not the best judge. It certainly didn’t change my life, though.
One thing that did bother me was the hunger pangs. Humans are not designed to feel full after having a drink, however thick and calorie rich. Lunchtime became the highlight of my days because I could finally get something to eat! If I recall correctly, this was why I stopped using it and just went back to a normal breakfast and coffee.
The biggest takeaway though, is I’ve not had it since.
Should I get some?
Maybe you’re different to me, but I don’t like to get too picky with spending a few bucks here and there. If I’m interested enough to read about it, I’m interested enough to buy it.
You clicked on this article and made it down to the bottom – despite some heavy criticism! – so you’re at least somewhat interested. Anecdotally, I know a number of people who though it was disgusting and didn’t finish one cup. On the other hand, I also know people who drink this everyday as part of their lifestyle.
A decent setup from Amazon costs $40. If you’re in a position where that’s not a whole lot of money then go for it. If nothing else, it’s an interesting drink and a story for the bar!