Everywhere I look, folks are posting like mad about coconut oil and all of its benefits. People are even putting the stuff in their coffee.
The craze is driven by a general belief that this mixture will give you an extra energy kick, on top of the routine caffeinated “energy” jolt. This is sure to improve your performance in the gym, right?
I love coconut oil. I don’t for one minute doubt its immense health benefits. However, I don’t put it in my coffee, and whilst it will nourish my body and polish up my stainless steel appliances (seriously), I don’t use it as a performance enhancer. There are other great options for that.
The only actual scientific research I could find on the topic was a 2010 research review published by the International Journal of Food Science and Nutrition. Coconut oil contains a form of saturated fat called medium chain triglycerides (known commonly as MCTs), which are relatively soluble in water and therefore easily absorbed by the body. The research, however, has found little evidence that MCTs improve performance, although they may help promote weight loss through an increase in energy expenditure.
I’ve experimented with this myself during a tweaked 23-day paleo diet.
I have busy mornings which usually start with a 5am rise, a hard gym session, and about an hour of horse riding. I then take the kids to school and all that before I’m able to sit back down at my computer for work.
Instead of my usual breakfast of a protein pancake and a morning coffee, I switched this up for the coffee with 2 tablespoons of coconut oil and 2 tablespoons of grass-fed butter blended in. I drank this at my usual breakfast time of 8am. By 9am, about mid-way through my workout, my belly was start to grumble. About an hour later I was having the shakes.
This strategy might be very effective at stripping excess body fat or what have you, but it’s not ideal for WOD performance. It’s also not a good idea when you’re ridding a large beast around an open field.
The conclusion for me was, yes, fatty coffee gave me some nourishment when I drank it, but it didn’t fuel me like my protein pancake. I also didn’t like the fact that I was substituting my normal nutrient rich breakfast for empty calories. Where’s the fibre and protein? Where are the macronutrients. In a time packed schedule, I simple cannot afford to skip an opportunity for getting those nutrients in.
For me the coffee didn’t work as a substitute to breakfast. It’s great, but I would only drink this WITH a nutrient rich breakfast for added punch. Just be careful with your overall calorie content if body composition is a concern.
I would love to hear your views and experiences with fatty coffee below. I’m the first to admit that this is my unique experience. You may or not agree with it, which is perfectly fine. I just think there are better ways to use that yummy, healthy coconut fat.
Enter the gluten free banana bread!
I got tired of riding my horse on an empty stomach, so I started munching on this delicious banana bread instead. And yes, it’s loaded with coconut.
- 200g of almond flour
- 30g of flax or chia seeds
- 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda mixed with one tablespoon of lemon juice
- 300 g of mashed ripe bananas
- 3 beaten eggs
- 50g of maple syrup or honey (optional). If you opt out, add an extra egg to the mix
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 60 g of coconut or nut oil (I love hazelnut, but it’s expensive)
- 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda mixed with one tablespoon of lemon juice
You can add 2 scoops (50g) of protein powder to the mixture, but if you do, take out half the quantity of flax or chia seeds, and add yet another egg to help improve the quality and texture of the final loaf.
- Preheat your oven to 325 F
- Mix together the banana, oil, syrup, cinnamon, vanilla, eggs, bicarb and lemon in a bowl or a blender. I go for the blender, as it makes for a nice, smooth liquid.
- Add the almond flour and seeds (and the protein powder now if you’re using it) and then combine.
- Grease one loaf tin (11 inches by 4 inches) and then coat with unsweetened coconut or a bit more almond meal. I like to grease with butter, as it caramelizes the coconut.
- Scoop batter into your loaf tin and bake for at least 55 minutes (it can take up to 15 minutes longer). Cover the top with foil if it seems to be browning too much. You want the bread to be solid and for a toothpick to come out clean.
- Leave the loaf to cool in the tin before removing and eating.
This recipe makes for about 10 to 12 slices, and keeps in the fridge for up to a week (although it’ll be gone way before that!).
Try slicing a banana on top or adding pumpkin seeds or walnuts on top before baking for a bit of added texture and flavor. Serve with a tablespoon of soaked chia seeds mixed with blueberries or with some mascarpone cheese.
Per about 1/12th of a slice, based on the current recipe:
- Protein: 6.5g
- Carbs: 10g
- Total Fat: 15 g
- Saturated: 1.7 g
- Calories: 190
Thinking of buttered coffee + MCT oil as a performance enhancer is a very narrow view of a fat-based metabolism.
Yes, a partial ketogenic diet (butter + coconut oil coffee in the morning extends a protein/carb fast and fat metabolism from the night of sleep) is bad for WODs– they demand a lot of glycolytic or sugar-based metabolic pathways. But a partial ketogenic diet is great for longer duration activities like your horse-back riding, yoga, or just going to work.
In order to best support your body’s biology when running on fats, I would suggest horse-back riding first then WODing after your first real meal of the day. Eating foods alongside the buttered coffee denies your body the adaptation to a fat-based metabolism– but if your goals/life do not allow you to change your schedule, then perhaps buttered coffee in the morning is not appropriate for you and your lifestyle.
This should not negatively reflect on a fat metabolism/buttered coffee as a whole, just that your goals and the benefits of this tool do not align.
Hi Eugene. Thanks and I totally agree with your first comment. I am regularly being contacted by people asking me about buttered coffee and MCTs on the basis that they’ve been told that this will enhance their energy and performance. As someone who is always looking to improve my overall health, wellbeing and performance, I was on a ketogenic diet for well over 4 months a few years back. It didn’t work well for me given my lifestyle and my 3 children. I totally see the benefits though. You’ll find that loads of the recipes on my blog and facebook page will suit a ketogenic diet.
Yeah, I would say her point is a practical one, Eugene. If you drink the coffee and feel like shit during training, stop. Theory doesn’t matter at that point. Cheers,
Contrary to your statement in the fourth paragraph, MCTs are not water soluble. They are fatty acids bound to a glycerine backbone, so the entire molecule is entirely hydrophobic.
Coconut oil is comprised of mostly lauric acid and contains roughly a combined 12% of capric and capryllic acids (MCTs). I recommend that you blend your coffee and butter with a half-tablespoon of MCT oil rather than using coconut oil (blending is key, because as I have indicated, it is not water soluble.)
Will this improve your performance? I guess it depends on how you measure your performance. Ketone bodies will improve brain function and promote thermogenisis in skeletal tissue. The acetyl-CoA pathway will be active promoting a rise in ATP production, but as the research indicates in human studies, this will only provide strength gains, not endurance. Many people also find this satiating adding value to their work performance because they do not have to break for snacks throughout the morning.
Hope this helps!
I definitely don’t think that butter coffee is for everyone and I think that many people misunderstand the reason for utilizing it. I’ve never thought of it as a “performance enhancer.” It is a good way to maintain functioning through a fat based metabolic pathway, which can have lots of benefits for some people.
I would like to say that it is not just “empty calories” – fat is a macronutrient. And you are getting some other micronutrient benefits, especially from the grass-fed butter – Vitamin A, Vitamin D, Vitamin E, and some other good things.
It is great that you are using whole coconut oil! I know that a lot of people are really excited about using MCT oil, but it is a highly processed oil that strips out the best MCT in the coconut oil – Lauric acid. Lauric, Caprylic, and Capric acids are all considered MCTs but Lauric acid is solid at room temp, which is why it is removed when MCT oil is created.
I love grass fed butter. Just sautéed some onions and pumpkin in it to make soup!
Am I the only one who doesn’t see any mention of cinnamon in the “Ingredients” section? How about a double mention of, “◾1/2 teaspoon of baking soda mixed with one tablespoon of lemon juice.”
Just trying to keep from screwing this thing up. I love banana bread so this would be a great addition to my daily intake, or perhaps an occasional treat to boost me on the tough days.
Add any flavor you want. I always go heavy on the cinnamon.
Hi Baryn. I find that the vanilla, coconut and banana mix really well here. I’ve made this with cinnamon but liked it better without. Go ahead and add it though if you like. As for the typo….yip, I’ve duplicated the baking soda. To be honest, it wouldn’t really matter if you added it twice. Add it three times and you might get an aftertaste LOL.
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