No, not something for dunking your donut.
The Dip. This is the term used by Seth Godin to describe the valley of hardship you must cross to reach the promised land of whatever endeavor you start. Every good result, beneficial enterprise, and upgrade in life involves some form of a dip. I’ll use the word plainly, without emphasis, moving forward.
Stop: This article is not for the sensitive or faint of heart. It’s meant to help you determine whether you’ve got the resources to be able to adapt to fat using butter coffee. There’s a bit of explicit and abrasive content here. And it’s long. It’s meant to challenge you. If you’re ready for it, please proceed. Otherwise save yourself some grief and leave this page – hopefully for another day.
The dip that I describe here is the barrier to using butter coffee for fuel. It involves the challenge that lies between you and proper fat utilization for energy and wellness. If you want to be ketogenic, or be able to primarily utilize fats for energy, you will come to this dip and be forced to reckon with your current metabolic tendencies. Butter coffee is an excellent gateway tool to optimal fat metabolism if you love coffee.
The rewards are great. If you have ever fasted, or had to skip breakfast to do something first thing in the morning, you may have felt a type of euphoria before finally eating. High focus, light mood, ease of effort, and creative outpour. Some people fast regularly for these benefits.
There is a way to access this “mode of operation”, let’s call it, without the hunger. There is a way to have it for a long period of time. Every day. And for the rest of your life. Once you get past the dip.
For some this will be easy. My own adaptation was fairly simple, as well as that of other people I’ve spoken to. Anecdotally, these “lucky” people are under 40, have no major health issues like obesity, diabetes, hypertension, or organ dysfunction, and are physically active or relatively fit. You may not agree with the term lucky if you are within this group. Regardless, these are attributes I have seen that make the dip shorter or less troublesome.
I have seen others struggle with the dip more than I have. Much more. The type of person I have seen struggle to maintain ketosis are over 40, have some health issues like obesity, diabetes, or metabolic dysfunctions, and generally are not as lean or muscular as the first group. However, I have seen a few examples of people in this category of mine who made it through the dip, regularly drink butter coffee, and enjoy the benefits of ketosis.
Many people I’ve talked to, in both categories, had decided to discontinue their efforts toward ketosis because the struggles did not justify the goal. There are definitely people of the first category who did not make it through the dip.
Don’t take this as a scientific grouping of people who will and won’t benefit from fat adaptation or butter coffee. Argue all you want about this. This is my narrow, limited experience with people. Whatever your current physiology and life circumstance, I believe you have the chance to enter a new realm of wellness. And I believe it is most likely through a transition of diet that relies on carbohydrates to one that is more strongly based on fats.
I will apply an insight from a field outside of medicine and health to the task of overcoming the dip here. I heard this from a conversation between Tony Robbins, master life coach, and Tim Ferriss, the human guinea pig. It is an insight from a plastic surgeon, one who’s created more attractive looks for women by minuscule adjustments to their faces. This surgeon lives by the practice that a mere two millimeters of adjustment can make all the difference. Most people are just within one or two tiny millimeters from being irresistibly beautiful.
Take this with a grain of sea salt. I know the general feel about plastic surgery, and I understand how this comes off. However, I look at the core lesson. A tiny distance separates me from accomplishing things I feel are impossible.
This can be expanded to wellness. The idea that for most people, the prize of a healthy body and mind awaits just a few more steps from where they’ve stopped. Just a couple of tiny steps from the point of utter pain, suffering, or misery. I believe that for most of humanity, for most of the endeavors that have been attempted, this is true. Wellness on an individual level is not exempt. Here, I address a very small endeavor that has slipped past many because of the tiny adjustments that need to be made before reaching the rewards.
Before you fully enjoy the benefits of butter coffee and other good fat in your diet, you will come to a few barriers to pass. They were well worth my time and effort to overcome, and so I share this with you. I urge you to read these elements of the dip that I encountered in the past five years to adjust myself to this superior energy source. I welcome you to join me in enjoyment of ketosis, higher focus, and overall improved wellness. But only after accepting the reality of what you must surpass to get here.
You will need to move through the fear that grips most people.
- It’s partly the fear of eating fat. Simple. Although you might eat animal fat already, the social mores against butter, lard, and other forms of fat are strong. People around you will stare, ask hard questions, and flat out make fun of you. I’m talking about people you work with, play with, and love. By starting this experiment of wellness, you are entering a world of fat consumption. You will be harassed. You must embrace this to proceed through to the other side. My most effective quote for dealing with this: “Fuck’em all”. In gentler terms, I didn’t deal. I simply looked ahead and kept moving.
- There’s also the fear of taking control. You are tackling this big aspect of your life called wellness. If you are afraid of actively making changes to improve your wellness, you are not alone. It sucks to try something you thought was good for you and find it was a waste of time, money, and attention. It’s also embarrassing when your friends and family find out and they tell you that you shouldn’t have done that. So, you’ll need to accept this fear and move through it. You will need to accept responsibility for your wellness. Whether you suffer or not is in large part a result of your own daily doing. To be well, you must decide to do. Know that it only seems harder to be healthy. The reality is that it takes just as much effort to eat candy as it does to eat grass fed butter. You put either in your mouth and swallow. Eaten. The hard part is all the intangible stuff surrounding the butter. Fear. Accept and move through it. As a hack to get there faster, may I suggest meditation.
You will need to adapt to fat. This means your body will need to physiologically learn to effectively absorb nutrition from fat. This takes several days to weeks for some people, maybe more if you are not in the habit of eating a lot of fat. Keep your regular meals at first. Have just a cup of this coffee beverage with breakfast, or an hour before training. Eat “normally” otherwise. Feel it out.
- Do you feel dizzy? This is a sign that you had too much MCT oil and your brain is in overdrive. Reduce MCT oil.
- Is your stool wetter or more sour than usual? This is a sign that you are not able to digest as much as you ate. Reduce butter until stool is solid and smooth.
- Did you get “cold diarrhea”? This is the classic sign of too much MCT oil for your system. Your body is trying to rid itself of excess nutrition. You aren’t ready for however much you took. Reduce MCT oil.
- Did you get hungry within the next few hours of drinking the coffee? This is a sign that you are not able to optimally utilize fat for energy. Eat other food with the coffee, enough to satiate, not to the point that you are bursting and too full. Adjust the amount of food as hunger levels change through time. Balance the amount of butter in your coffee with the amount of food you eat. More butter, less other food.
- UNLESS you went through a lot of stress the previous day. If you trained strength or exercised, if you had an emotionally difficult episode like a high stakes meeting or a fight, if you did not sleep enough, or if you had some other taxing situation the previous day, you naturally need more nutrition the next morning. Go with your gut feeling in the morning – literally. If you are hungrier than usual, add more butter than usual. Test the degree and duration of satiety.
- Did your cravings come back? Distinguish cravings from hunger. Cravings are mostly in the mind, but they stem from a lack of significant nutrients. There’s an interaction between brain and gut that tells you you’re hungry or full. This goes back to amount of butter, adapting to fat utilization, and slowly replacing “food” with good fats. Slowly reduce the instinct to reach for sugary, starchy, processed, “fake” foods. No candy, ever. Seek instead “real” foods, incorporating good fats, green leafy veggies, and rice over bread into your meals. Cravings only grow as much as you feed them. Remember, address your brain.
You will spend a lot of time making this every day. It also takes a long time to clean up. One of the greatest hurdles in making butter coffee is making butter coffee. It usually takes me a full 15 to 20 minutes to finish making mine. This includes heating the water, adding all the ingredients, blending, and pouring it out. You will have to make time. This means that other things will get pushed or omitted from your start-of-day schedule. If it’s Candy Crush, good riddance. If it’s meditation, perhaps you’ll want to plan more carefully. Also, don’t forget cleaning time. You’ll have a dirty and greasy blender, knife, measuring spoons, and coffee-making gear to reckon with. If you don’t tolerate dirty dishes in the sink all day, you will have to figure in the cleaning time.
You will need to adjust and test the ingredients of butter coffee to suit you. You must find the best possible quality of ingredients within your means. Cleanliness of the coffee, source of butter and MCT oil, and quality of water are examples of components that affect your wellness. Do not disregard any symptom, do not diminish the value of any single ingredient, and pay attention to adjustments that you make.
Obtaining quality ingredients is one of the most difficult things in the dip. It is both “expensive” and hard to find some of these things, depending on where you live and how much money you can use. But know that this cost can undermine the cost of breakfast, going out for lunch, snacks and candies, and “healthcare” from complications related to your body running primarily on sugar.
Do your best. Compromise on ingredient quality only with full expectation of compromised results. The beginning is often exciting, with the heightened capabilities you feel from the first cup. The dip will require you to make adjustments and will stop most people from getting past the initial highs.
- Did you get the jitters or a headache? Low coffee bean quality, cheap stuff, and blends are more likely to contain mold contamination, be overcooked, or not fresh. Coffee is a naturally enhancing food. There are a lot of qualities that aren’t identified. Much of the benefits from coffee are lost through these subpar characteristics.
- Aim for single source or single estate or single origin. This means the beans are grown and processed in one place. The time and attention to the beans is more focused and you will get cleaner product.
- Dark roasts risk overcooking the beans. If you “like” uber smoky coffee, carefully examine your symptoms. Overcooking coffee can damage the fats and the beneficial elements within the beans. Big name brands usually are careless about this process. Look for brands who pay attention to the roasting process, who talk about it and highlight it.
- Did you get acne? I am prone to acne. Any bad fats I eat result in different types of acne. Some cause the small bumpy skin on my forehead, others cause large zits deep in the skin, and still others cause the smaller white fat pustules. Now, assuming you are avoiding fried foods from outside home, sugar, and vegetable or subpar animal fats, check your ingredients for the following:
- Butter. Is it really grass fed cow butter? Research and get a clear answer. Grain fed cows produce fat that is not clean. You might as well be eating margarine. If you cannot find a clear answer, ditch and move on. I would avoid it altogether if I get noticeable acne.
- MCT oil. Where are the coconuts or palm oil from? Thailand is usually the best source from my experience. The processing also matters, and some companies do not have control over that. Does the product you are using have that level of quality guarantee?
- Powders. Chocolate, vanilla, cacao butter, cinnamon, collagen. Whatever it is, is it sourced from identifiable places? Or blended from multiple locations? Remember that blends involve extra storage and shipping times, unaccountable processes, and reduced integrity.
- Is your coffee flat or greasy? Follow the instructions I laid out, verbatim, for making the beverage. Check your timing, making sure to keep things hot and blending fast and long enough for good emulsification.
- Hunger will come sooner or later. The more fat-adapted you are, as they say, the more energy you can obtain from butter coffee and the longer you can perform without eating. Adjust amounts of butter to see how much you need for proper energy. You don’t want to be faint later in the day, and you don’t want to physically deteriorate. I can last ten or more hours on butter coffee if I must. Ideally, I eat around hour eight. Remember, I have been doing this for years. My body is adapted. In the beginning, and for a very long time, you will not be. Prepare to experiment!
- Find the ideal time for this drink. I like to have my coffee first thing in the morning. Sometimes I can sit all morning and work and drink all my coffee within a couple hours. Other days I have to go somewhere far and will sip while I drive, over a longer period of time. Lately I’ve had to walk the dogs at my mom’s place, and I find that doing this first thing (yes, before my coffee) is most beneficial for every creature. It hasn’t killed me. I have plenty of energy first thing in the morning without any nutrition added, so I am sticking to this schedule. You are different from me. Find your ideal timing for coffee.
You can’t avoid discipline. There is no way around this in the dip. You simply must stick to your goal. You must regularly work to make butter coffee right for you and to become fat adapted. Let me end this long article with a long quote by Jim Collins from his excellent book, Great By Choice:
“Discipline, in essence, is consistency of action – consistency with values, consistency with long-term goals, consistency with performance standards, consistency of method, consistency over time. Discipline is not the same as regimentation. Discipline is not the same as measurement. Discipline is not the same as hierarchical obedience or adherence to bureaucratic rules. True discipline requires the independence of mind to reject pressures to conform in ways incompatible with values, performance standards, and long-term aspirations… the only legitimate form of discipline is self-discipline, having the inner will to do whatever it takes to create a great outcome, no matter how difficult.”
I told you it was long. Now make a decision.
If you need more information or guidance from my experience, please contact me by email. I have limited availability for consultation. If you have questions or comments for other readers, please leave them in the comment section of this post.
Collins, Jim. Great By Choice (2011)