Hi, I'm Sally. For six weeks this summer I started my day with a frothy, oily mug of butter coffee.
When you look into butter coffee's benefits, you get a bunch of people who basically describe feeling like Bradley Cooper in Limitless.
Maybe you’ve heard of Bulletproof Coffee, which is a branded version of butter coffee created by a businessman named Dave Asprey.
Here's how I made it:
• Brew 16 ounces of coffee (I used a French press and this dark roast)
• Add brewed coffee to blender
• Add 1 tablespoon Kerrygold unsalted butter
• Add 1 tablespoon MCT oil (this is a kind of oil found in coconuts and some other foods)
• Blend until the mixture is a beigeish color
• Pour and drink!
Butter coffee also came highly recommended by fitness expert and registered dietitian Albert Matheny of Soho Strength Lab and ProMix Nutrition, especially after I told him that I experience insatiable mid-morning hunger and mid-afternoon fatigue.
For context, here's how I incorporated butter coffee into my life:
• For six weeks I would replace my normal black coffee and breakfast routine with butter coffee. If I was still hungry after drinking it, I'd have something high in protein like Greek yogurt, per Matheny's suggestion.
• I'd use a tablespoon each of butter and MCT oil — because after reading up about other people's butter coffee experiences, it seemed like starting out with any more than that would be asking for trouble (gastrointestinally speaking).
• I would take notes throughout the day on the taste and experience, as well as my energy, mood, hunger levels, alertness, sleep schedule, etc.
• After six weeks, I'd check my cholesterol levels to see if adding two tablespoons of saturated fat to my daily diet had any impact on my cholesterol.
1. Wow, did it ever make me feel full.
2. It kept my energy levels high and even.
3. When I was sleep-deprived, it was basically a magical potion.
4. As far as a mental boost: yeah, kinda!
5. I actually liked the taste of it.
OK, but is this real? Or am I just super susceptible to placebos?
Is it all in my head that I am in fact functioning at a Bradley-Cooper-in-Limitless level?
I decided to run the apparent benefits by some experienced experts to see which ones (if any) were supported by science or their own clinical experience. Here's what they said about each of my takeaways:
• Lasting, level, jitter-free energy:
According to Matheny, "The caffeine is released more slowly because fat slows down digestion," says Matheny. So fatty coffee means a "slower release [of caffeine], less intense energy spike, and longer-duration energy."
• Satiety and a suppressed appetite:
"Taking in a fatty meal in the morning is definitely going to make you fuller quicker," says Dr. Lisa Ganjhu, D.O., associate professor of medicine at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City. And because the fat slows down gastric motility (aka filling and, ahem, emptying of the digestive system), you feel fuller for longer.
That said, Brian St. Pierre, registered dietitian and director of performance nutrition at Precision Nutrition, points out that butter coffee's effect on satiety has yet to be proven: Only 1 in 14 studies on medium-chain triglycerides (aka MCT oil) found that it had a positive effect on satiety.
• Alertness/mental boost:
St. Pierre and Ganjhu explained that the way MCT oil is processed by the body could make you feel an energy boost more quickly. Basically, it bypasses the normal multi-step digestion process and is transported directly to the liver, where it is converted into energy. So our body's response to MCT oil is closer (in how we feel its effects) to medication and alcohol than to other foods, says St. Pierre. Perhaps for some people (like me), the combination of quick-hitting caffeine and long-lasting energy translates to enhanced alertness and performance.
• I didn't track this, but I know people are interested: enhanced calorie-burning and weight loss:
If butter coffee is enhancing your satiety to the point that you're eating fewer calories overall, well, then you will lose weight.
But as far as MCT oil directly impacting weight loss, the effect may be minimal, says St. Pierre. He cited a 2012 review of the MCT oil literature which found six studies that showed weight loss in participants. However, the review concluded that further controlled studies with standardized amounts of MCT were needed before any legit claims could be made about its impact on weight loss.