Starbucks olive oil-infused Oleato coffee is the new Bulletproof coffee. Or is it?
Olive oil is rich in heart-healthy omega-3s and unsaturated fats which can help reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease (1) and has anti-inflammatory properties (2). But biohacking enthusiast Dave Asprey’s OG Bulletproof coffee—which, for the uninitiated, is coffee blended with grass-fed butter or ghee, and MCT oil—offers some unique benefits that Starbucks’ brew doesn’t.
“The butter and ghee are digested slow and steady just like olive oil, while the shorter fatty acid chains of MCTs are directly absorbed into the bloodstream and used for immediate energy (3),” says registered dietitian, Imashi Fernando, M.S., R.D.
Adding MCT oil to your morning cup of joe may also provide sustained energy and ward off hunger. And since the body can convert MCTs into ketones (4), anyone following a keto diet can expect a boost in energy, cognitive function, and performance.
But should you really be putting oil in your coffee? Fernando is here to skim the fat.
What Is MCT Oil?
MCT is shorthand for medium-chain triglycerides, a type of fat. You’ll naturally find MCTs in coconut oil (55%), palm kernel oil (54%), and butter and other dairy products (8 to 9%). MCT oil is simply concentrated, 100% MCT extracted from palm kernel and coconut oil.
There are different types of triglycerides. (This part is a little science-y, but stick with us). Each type is made of a string of fatty acids, which consists of different numbers of carbon atoms. Short-chain triglycerides have fewer than six carbon atoms, medium-chain triglycerides have six to 10 (that’s what the ”C8” on some MCT oil labels refers to); long-chain triglycerides (like those found in avocados, olive oil, and nuts) have 12 or more carbon chains.
“The shorter the chain, the faster your body is able to break a fat down for energy,” says Fernando. So MCTs are easier for your body to convert to energy than long-chain triglycerides.
MCT Oil Benefits
Why are people so obsessed with MCT oil? Here are the highlights.
Your body converts MCT oil into ketones (4), the fuel your body uses when it’s in ketosis (3). Studies suggest that maintaining ketosis may help reduce hunger (and thus, support weight loss), and manage blood sugar levels (5, 6). Stay in ketosis, and you might also tap into autophagy (7), a process that involves recycling damaged cell parts to boost cell performance, keep you healthy, and reduce your risk of chronic disease (8, 9).
Boosts cognitive function
One review found that in healthy, older adults, taking 20 grams of MCT oil improved working memory and focus in the following 90 to 180 minutes (10). A recent review suggests that it also may help with the management of conditions such as Alzheimer’s, autism, and epilepsy (11).
Aids weight loss
MCTs might help you shed fat. One study found replacing olive oil with MCT oil led to greater weight loss and fat loss (12). Another review concluded replacing long-chain triglycerides with MCTs could result in modest weight loss (13). Researchers aren’t quite sure how MCTs are linked to weight loss, but some think it might be due to their ability to reduce overall calorie intake (14).
Enhance athletic performance
MCTs provide an energy boost by buffering and clearing lactate build-up—which when effectively cleared can be reused for energy when oxygen levels are low during high-intensity workouts, according to one study (15). Another found that supplementing with MCT oil enhanced exercise endurance (16).
Should You Put MCT Oil in Coffee?
It depends. If you’re following a keto diet, putting MCT oil in coffee could help keep you in ketosis. And if pairing the keto diet and intermittent fasting, MCT oil in your coffee may tide you over until your next meal (although, if you’re strictly intermittent fasting it will technically break your fast).
That said, Bulletproof coffee is caloric—a typical cup packs 230 calories. “If your goal is to hit a certain calorie target for weight management, the more cups you drink, the less room you’ll have in your diet for nutrient-dense foods packed with vitamins, minerals, protein, and fiber which are essential for overall health,” says Fernando.
MCT oil is also a saturated fat, the type which can increase levels of LDL (or bad) cholesterol. “The USDA recommends limiting calories from saturated fat to no more than ten percent of your total daily intake (17),” Fernando says. “If you’re following a 2,000-calorie diet, that breaks down to about 12 to 24 grams of saturated fat per day. One tablespoon of MCT oil packs 14 grams of saturated fat.”
How Much MCT Oil Should You Add to Your Coffee?
A typical Bulletproof coffee involves one tablespoon of MCT oil, but Fernando recommends starting lower. “Large quantities of fat can cause bloating, stomach pain, gassiness, and diarrhea,” she says. “Start with a teaspoon and work your way up to a tablespoon as tolerated.”
Each cup involves blending coffee, grass-fed butter or ghee (which has less saturated fat, and is a better source of omega-3 fatty acids, beta carotene, and vitamins A, D, E, and K than non-grass-fed options), and MCT oil until it looks like a creamy latte. Here’s how.
Bulletproof coffee recipe
- 1 cup coffee (8 to 12 ounces)
- 1tsp to 1 Tbsp MCT oil
- 1 to 2 Tbsp grass-fed unsalted butter or ghee
- Brew 1 cup of coffee.
- Add coffee, MCT oil, and butter or ghee to a blender.
- Blend for 20 to 30 seconds.
- Calories: 230
- Fat: 25 grams
- Saturated Fat: 21 grams
- Carbs: 0 grams
- Protein: 0 grams
- Protein: 0 grams
- Fiber: 0 grams
- Sugar: 0 grams
Bulletproof Coffee Additions
Stuck on sweet coffee but want to tap into ketosis? Fernando recommends adding cinnamon, or a natural sweetener like monk fruit or purified stevia leaf extract that won’t add calories, carbs, or sugar to your cup. “Experiment with adding collagen powder or protein powder for a hit of protein,” Fernando adds, “just check the label for added sugars.”