#FrugalCongressFood Profile: Bulletproof Coffee – The Brain Elixir

[Disclosure: At the time of this writing, I am not affiliated directly with or employed by Bulletproof, I am merely a loyal user of their products.  At the time of this writing, I also am not directly affiliated with or employed by any other company whose services I mention in this article.  Everything you read is my objective advice.  There may be affiliate links in a later update to this post, I will say so if this is the case.  Even so, I only talk about and link to products I personally use and believe in on this blog. No statements regarding the health and effectiveness of food or supplements have been evaluated by the FDA. Any advice in this blog does not constitute legal or medical advice and is provided as is with no liability to #FrugalCongressLife or the author. Consult your doctor before starting any dietary or exercise regimen or changing your current dietary or exercise regimen.]

Anyone who knows me knew this profile was coming at some point.  For those who don’t know what Bulletproof Coffee is, it is coffee with some form of dietary fat in it, usually a combination of grass-fed butter or ghee and MCT or coconut oil, with an optional addition of collagen powder for joint and skin health and usually stevia and cinnamon for sweetness and flavor. I sometimes like to add chocolate greens powder as well, but this isn’t considered an official ingredient of Bulletproof coffee.

Although I will be using Bulletproof Coffee as a Xerox/Kleenex-like catch-all term for any coffee with butter and oil in it, there is actually a company called Bulletproof, started by entrepreneur and butter-and-oil-coffee pioneer Dave Asprey, which sells its own Bulletproof-branded coffee products (beans, grounds, and pre-brewed coffee), ghee, MCT oil, and collagen powder and markets their offerings as technically superior to more generic similar products. The jury is out on this to me, but I will be conducting a comparison experiment between Bulletproof’s products and generic alternatives at a later time and will chronicle this experiment on the blog.

As I have alluded to in previous posts, I am a fan of Bulletproof Coffee for a variety of reasons.

First and foremost is the cognitive benefits.  The proven “brain food” ketone-synthesizing cognitive benefits of dietary fat combined with the wakefulness and energy of caffeine combine in Bulletproof Coffee to increase mental alertness, clarity, focus, and concentration.

Let’s face it: congress workshops are an exceptionally tough learning environment.  Many workshops are crowded, you’re fatigued from a long night, there’s a lot to learn in a relatively short time and time for review and practice is limited, you’re managing many different partners’ individual skill and comfort levels while trying to learn complex turn patterns and/or body movements at the same time, lead to follow ratios are frequently askew, people don’t know how to rotate, people have conversations while the instructor is talking making it hard to hear them, that one f**king dude is trying to get every girl’s number and disrupting the class (he’s in every damn workshop it seems), and so on.  It is understandably hard to learn under such conditions, so anything that gives a mental edge will help a lot with learning in the typical congress workshop environment.  I frequently drink a large cup of Bulletproof coffee right before beginning workshops for the day at a dance congress and it helps. It’s not a magic bullet, but it helps.

Another benefit is that dietary fat is proven to be filling and dull the appetite throughout the day, which prevents overeating and has obvious benefits in that regard at a frugal congress.  Additionally, the fat in the butter and the MCT oil has the effect of smoothing out the caffeine buzz and making it last longer, rather than a sharp spike and crash.

Clearly, this is a good drink to have for dance congresses overall for a variety of reasons.

There are a smattering of restaurants and cafes that sell pre-made Bulletproof Coffee around the US, such as Bon Vivant Cafe+Farm Market in Alexandria, VA, but these places are few and far between and tend to sell their Bulletproof Coffee at a high mark-up, so mostly you will be purchasing the various ingredients of Bulletproof coffee and making it yourself.  Alternately, Bulletproof has just begun selling a cold-brew grab-and-go ready-to-drink version of Bulletproof Coffee, but it is very expensive, at almost $60 for a 12-pack online, or $4.99 per individual container at Whole Foods, so making Bulletproof Coffee yourself is still the optimal #FCL strategy (although I’ll indulge in a few containers of Bulletproof Cold Brew every so often).

In this post, I will take a look at Bulletproof Coffee’s different ingredients in depth and offer some more frugal alternatives to Bulletproof’s official offerings, which can be a bit on the expensive side.  All these ingredients are shelf-stable and do not need to be refrigerated unless otherwise noted.

Bulletproof’s branded ingredients as well as their more frugal substitutes can be found locally at Whole Foods or online on Amazon or various online retailers.

Coffee:

The most obvious component.  Bulletproof offers their own grounds, beans, and instant coffee. They claim that their coffee has a reduced amount of the mycotoxins supposedly found in regular coffee.  As someone who has lived and worked in mycotoxic environments and had some mild ill health effects as a result, I can intimately appreciate the dangers of mycotoxins, but the jury’s out on whether paying the premium for Bulletproof’s coffee products makes an appreciable difference in performance.  To be honest, I usually get the coffee component of Bulletproof Coffee I make at congresses from the nearest Starbucks or from the hotel’s free coffee dispensers, if they exist in that particular hotel.

Ghee:

Ghee is a type of clarified butter prepared by churning, simmering, and preserving the clear liquid fat from butter or cream, and is composed of almost entirely fat, most of which is saturated fat (Wikipedia).

Bulletproof’s ghee, which Bulletproof advertises as coming from grass-fed cows, comes in a 13 ounce jar that lasts for close to a month with normal daily usage in Bulletproof Coffee and averages about $25 for a jar.

If you use Bulletproof’s Ghee, be sure to regularly clean the lid of the jar and don’t fasten it too tight.  The ghee in Bulletproof’s jar can harden and make the lid very difficult to get off (even for a longtime weightlifter) if there is ghee on the lid or the lid is fastened too tightly.

Organic Valley also sells 7.5 ounce jars of ghee that last about 2 weeks with normal daily usage in Bulletproof Coffee for about $8 on average, and its lids don’t have the hardening issue that Bulletproof’s ghee jars do and are always easy to get off.

You can also use grass-fed butter purchased from a grocery store for about $3 as a substitute for ghee, and that will last you about a week of normal usage, but keep in mind that butter, unlike ghee, is much more perishable and needs to be refrigerated.

MCT oil:

Medium-chain triglyceride oil is a fatty oil that is frequently distilled from coconut oil and is a concentrated and high-potency form of the essential fatty acids found in coconut oil.  These are many of the fatty acids that drive ketone synthesis and are therefore an essential component of Bulletproof Coffee. (Wikipedia)

Bulletproof’s MCT oil offering is called Brain Octane Oil, and a 16 oz bottle sells for about $25 and will last for about a month and a half of normal daily usage in Bulletproof coffee.

Do not use Bulletproof’s MCT oils without butter or ghee – using the oils by themselves will cause gastrointestinal distress, why I do not know exactly.  Pairing MCT oil with butter or ghee seems to alleviate the GI distress caused by MCT oil by itself.

There are other less expensive MCT oils averaging around $15-25 for a 16-32 ounce bottle.  I can not comment on their effectiveness as I have mostly stuck with Bulletproof’s MCT oil.  Sometimes MCT oil causes gastrointestinal distress in some people, so start with a little bit and go up from there until you figure out what you can or can’t handle, and always pair it with butter or ghee.  Eating a lot of other healthy fats, such as avocado, salmon, and almonds, in your diet is recommended as making MCT oil your only source of fats will amplify negative side effects.

Coconut oil is an acceptable substitute for MCT oil in Bulletproof coffee and you can include it by itself without gastrointestinal distress, unlike MCT oil.  Make sure you use unrefined extra virgin coconut oil.  A jar that will last you for close to two months with normal use in Bulletproof Coffee can be purchased for as low as $10-15.  It is not as concentrated or potent as MCT oil, but it still gets the job done.

If you are trying to pack light, Kelapo sells coconut oil and ghee mixed together in one jar, or in packets.  The packets are pretty expensive, at $25 for four packets, but they are convenient on the go.  A 13 ounce jar that will last you about 3-4 weeks can be found for about $20, but keep in mind the jar has the same issues as Bulletproof’s ghee jar and should be cleaned regularly and not put on too tight.

Bulletproof also sells “InstaMix” packets containing a mixture of their ghee and Brain Octane oil for on-the-go mixing in coffee at a cost of about $35 for 14 packets.

Collagen powder:

Collagen is a structural protein found in animal bodies, skin, and tissue, and collagen powder is a purified form of collagen extracted from the body, skin, and tissue of animals, usually cows.  When collagen in this form is ingested by humans, it has the effect of helping to rebuild joint tissue and cartilage, making it an excellent cure for aching knees and shoulders, and also has the added benefit of rebuilding skin, nails, and hair, providing anti-aging benefits.  (Wikipedia)

I like to add a few tablespoons of collagen powder to my Bulletproof coffee to help alleviate joint pain and as part of a regular anti-aging regimen, but this is optional.

One of my favorite collagen powders is Great Lakes Collagen Hydrolysate, which comes in a 16 oz container that lasts you a little over a month with normal daily usage in Bulletproof Coffee for about $25.  It has a slightly beefy flavor to it in its raw form, but this can barely be tasted if at all once it is in the coffee.  You can only find this brand of collagen online as far as I know.

Vital Proteins Collagen Peptides can be found at Whole Foods or online for about $25 for a 10 ounce container that will last you about 2-3 weeks, and is completely flavorless.

Bulletproof also sells their own collagen powder for $39.95 for a 16 ounce container. I recently got a tub of their chocolate collagen powder on sale and it adds a very pleasing chocolate flavor to Bulletproof coffee, and is very effective as a collagen supplement as well.

Cinnamon:

Cinnamon in Bulletproof Coffee is strictly for flavor.  Not much that needs to be said about cinnamon, it’s cinnamon.  If I am getting my coffee at Starbucks, they provide cinnamon for free, as well as chocolate, vanilla, and nutmeg powder.  Otherwise, cinnamon can be found at any grocery store for about $2 and will last you a very long time.

Stevia:

I like to add sweeteners to taste to sweeten my coffee, and stevia, derived naturally from a plant of the same name, is the sweetener I favor.  Boxes of about 50 packets of stevia can be found at any grocery store for around $2-3.

Optional – Chocolate protein or greens powder:

I like to add some kind of chocolate powder to my Bulletproof coffee for chocolate flavor, but this is entirely optional.

Barlean’s Chocolate Greens powder, which provides a concentrated dose of several essential green vegetables and has a sweet, rich dark chocolate flavor, would be a good addition to your Bulletproof coffee.  Add one small scoop of this powder.

Any chocolate protein powder would work well for this purpose as well.  Add 1/4 to 1/2 of a scoop to taste.

How to make Bulletproof coffee:

Warning: do not prepare Bulletproof Coffee in a styrofoam cup or attempt to drink it out of a styrofoam cup.  The MCT oil has some kind of chemical reaction with styrofoam that causes the styrofoam to dissolve quickly and spray your drink all over the immediate vicinity.  MCT oil melts styrofoam, avoid putting Bulletproof Coffee in a styrofoam cup.  This reaction does not occur with any other material.

When it comes to making Bulletproof coffee, the common wisdom is that a blender is the best method for mixing the ingredients, but I personally do not do this as I frequently do not have a blender on hand and do not recommend putting hot coffee in a blender, particularly a high-end one.

My favorite method for making Bulletproof coffee without a blender is as follows:

– Put cinnamon, collagen powder, optional chocolate protein/greens powder, and ghee in bottom of coffee mug first

– Add MCT/Brain Octane oil

– Stir vigorously until mixed together into sludge

– Fill cup to about 1/4 full and stir vigorously until mixture is fully mixed with coffee

– Fill cup to top with coffee and stir until fully mixed

I find this method is the best way to mix the ingredients and yields the best-tasting and most potent Bulletproof coffee, and that if you pour the coffee and mix the ingredients in after, some of the powders (particularly the cinnamon) end up on the bottom of the drink and it doesn’t taste as good nor is it as potent.

Obviously, this will not be the optimal method if you are buying coffee from, for example, a hotel coffee shop on the go where you get the cup with the coffee already in it.  One possible workaround for this is to mix the Bulletproof ingredients in another small paper or plastic cup (as long as it isn’t styrofoam) and bring the mix down to the coffee shop to add to their coffee.

Here is a picture of a cup of Bulletproof coffee I made using this method:

That’s it for this food profile. Look for my Bulletproof experiment where I compare my performance in a dance class after drinking coffee made with Bulletproof’s products vs coffee made with generic ingredients at a later time. Hit up the comments if you have anything to add and happy coffee drinking!

– Owen

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