There is a current trend for ‘Bullet Proof Coffee’ which is used to boost endurance performance, in this post, we’ll explain the basic thinking behind the concept and how it can help you when training for endurance based events such as marathon running, cycling and long distance triathlon events.
Why Bullet Proof Coffee?
It’s something we’ve discussed many times before, if you can increase your fat burning during exercise, you will save glycogen (carbohydrate) and therefore exercise for longer. People who use glycogen at a high rate will run out much more quickly, so shifting your metabolism to use fat as your main source of energy is of great benefit.
What is Bullet Proof Coffee?
The subject can become a little over complicated, but in simple terms, it’s ground coffee with added MCT oil and butter. The perfectionists will argue that you need a specific high quality coffee bean freshly ground, but I’m sure you can start with general filter coffee powder and progress from there! The term MCT oil refers to ‘medium chain triglycerides’ which are a specific type of fat which is known to be fantastic for energy. MCT is found in coconut, so MCT oil is generally derived from coconut with the flavour removed. The other ingredient is butter, preferably organic and grass fed to be high quality, don’t use ‘Flora’ or ‘I can’t believe it’s not butter’ it’s really not the same. Full fat, organic, grass fed butter might sound a little strange as it’s high in saturated fat. However, saturated fat is one of your main fuels and critical for endurance performance.
Those who know a bit about nutrition trends will be familiar with the above info, those who are not familiar with nutrition trends might be thinking ‘I thought saturated fats were the bad one’s?’ It turns out they were wrong, who’d have thought it? it’s a long explanation so probably easiest if you just go with it…
Make your coffee, add 1-2 tbs of MCT oil and 1-2 tbs of butter. Put it all in the blender and whip it up until you have a nice froth on the top. You can pour boiling water into your blender to keep it hot, then empty it just before the coffee goes in to stop the coffee cooling. Fat & oil don’t dissolve in water so it floats in the top.
You alternative option (the fanatics will not like this) is to use MCT powder. It works a bit like coffee mate, add a heaped teaspoon to your cup then add a small amount of coffee. Give it a good stir and whip to get the lumps out, then add the rest of the coffee. MCT powder tastes quite creamy (not of coconut) and you might find it more palatable than oil and butter floating on the surface, although I’d encourage you to try to original recipe also!
When should I drink it?
Before you go training, most people will generally opt for one of the following:
1. High carb breakfast
2. No breakfast
3. High fat breakfast
All 3 are viable, but it really depends upon the athlete and the type of session you are about to take part in. We will discuss this in a lot more detail next Tuesday.
Eating no breakfast (fasting) is a common method for encouraging the body to burn more fat, but actually taking a high fat breakfast (in this case a bullet proof coffee), might enhance fat usage even greater, by increasing the amounts of fats circulating in the blood.
IMPORTANT: It should be used for endurance sessions (long and slow) and works perfectly if you’re following a Maff formula or similar (as per last week’s blog). Each person will differ, but eating no breakfast and drinking a bullet proof coffee would work perfectly for:
Endurance runs of 1-2 hours
Endurance cycles of 2-3 hours
The timescales will very much depend upon the experience and fitness of the athlete. If you are very well trained, you may well be able to do more on a single drink, but these are average timescales. You should not take any breakfast beforehand and you should not eat sports products or ingest any other form of energy during the run or ride. You should also ride at the correct intensity (as per Maff or similar).
What to do next?
Buy some filter coffee, or some beans and a grinder. Google MCT oil or MCT powder and purchase some online, then get some grass fed organic butter. If you don’t have a blender, don’t worry, just give it a good whisk with a fork!! Drink the coffee 30 minutes before exercise.
– Marc Laithwaite
Sports Science lecturer for 10 years at St Helens HE College.
2004 established The Endurance Coach LTD sports science and coaching business. Worked with British Cycling as physiology support 2008-2008. Previous Triathlon England Regional Academy Head Coach, North West.
In 2006 established Epic Events Management LTD. Now one of the largest event companies in the NW, organising a range of triathlon, swimming and cycling events. EPIC EVENTS also encompasses Montane Trail 26 and Petzl Night Runner events.
In 2010 established Montane Lakeland 50 & 100 LTD. This has now become the UKs leading ultra distance trail running event.
In 2010 established The Endurance Store triathlon, trail running and open water swimming store. Based in Appley Bridge, Wigan, we are the North West’s community store, organising and supporting local athletes and local events.
Check out the endurance store HERE
The world keeps changing…. how about, disgusting farts, steatorrhoea in a race plus tastes foul? We Looooove our coffee so why f&%k it up with butter! Christ. Next we will told to drink our own ……
Mad as Hell,
Adrian, you are a ‘DR’ so don’t leave it… explain why! I’d love a balanced counter argument (please)
Mate, being slightly unhinged and over the top on purpose (meant to be comic effect).
It gets frustrating when you are taught in thing and it comes out, its wrong. But what I say about high fat consumption is true, you can get belly troubles of a new and all together disgusting nature. You don’t want that in a race. Plus my morning espresso (pre training or not) is a little sacred. You can put what ever you feel is unlikely in the spaces provided. Anything might be around the corner!
On a practical note fat burning running can also lead to some strange mental effects. Oxidative metabolism of fat can make people feel odd, my brain hates it. This is rarely mentioned by the HFLC pundits. I do think its a part of our metabolism that we can work on but not in isolation or as a 100% substitute for carbs.
On the flip side, one thing more disgusting than bullet proof coffee? Most energy gels! Never mind Tailwind and Perpetuem.
If you have time this article might give balance. It is science talk heavy but well informed. A good counter argument while being aware of the gains that are possible.
Very interesting. May give this a try although on a smaller scale. My diseased gall bladder was removed a few years ago and coffee+cream is the new laxative. A quick shot followed by another an hour or two later and so on might work. Hmmmm. Why coffee? I’ve seen buttered chocolate before and that would work better for me.
Going to go experiment with coffee/chocolate/coconut oil/butter…..yum!
No chance of me putting butter in my coffee I’m afraid!
The nutritional advices are still the same.
Saturated fats still give you coronary problems. The recent publications in forinstance time magazine were studies funded by the American dairy industry!
Try and search for saturated fat on http://www.nutritionalfacts.org
Big fan of the show by the way. Thanks
Mads, we can debate this all day… but don’t blow having a bulletproof coffee as a high fat diet. It’s a specific drink, for a specific purpose and a specific session for one reason – boost endurance. It’s not about drinking this coffee everyday….
Dr Mulholland – It must be difficult when you discover that everything you thought you knew was wrong – ie, fat doesn’t make you fat, doesn’t make you slow, doesn’t cause heart disease, and is actually a great way to fuel.
But don’t worry, keep dishing out the high carb advice, because the world has done so well eating cherios, every morning, hasn’t it?
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Hi! Would bulletproof coffee be sufficient as a post-workout meal? I usually run at 5:30 am on empty (not hungry) and eat after..brown rice english muffin with 1/2 avocado and 4oz turkey. I want to try BF Coffee for breakfast but want to make sure it’s substantial enough after my run. Thanks!
Danielle. No. You need to eat a balanced meal.
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I tried the Bullet Proof coffee last weekend with just coconut oil, no butter. I ran a 5k race and couldn’t believe the difference with my easy breathing, and just feeling very comfortable during the whole race. I did however feel like my body was running low on fuel the last maybe 600 meters. So I am running a 4 miler this Sat. and plan on drinking a bigger cup of coffee this time, and maybe an extra TSP of oil. I only drank an 8oz. cup before, but was very happy with my time of 22:17, and being 60yrs. old. Wish me luck!!
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