The “diet versus exercise” debate deals with the wrong question.
Living well isn’t about choosing between eating right and exercising. It’s about taking one step at a time. If you’re going for weight loss, or slimming down, don’t overestimate exercise.
Food and eating are much more powerful beginner tools in the hormone and metabolic shaping of your body and mind. Your body will respond immediately to good foods, especially healthy fats.
I had six pack abs and under ten percent body fat all my adult life – and I still could see the explicit changes in how I looked, felt, and performed once I dropped the protein shakes, avoided wheat and sugar, and ate more fat.
Timing of meals is ultra important. I’ve learned to not force food upon myself. If I’m not hungry, I’m not going to eat. It just makes sense. It also turns out that hormones coordinate hunger, fullness, and digestion of food. So eating on someone else’s clock doesn’t make too much sense.
Two hormones in particular are predictable and determine what happens with the food you eat: insulin and cortisol. Insulin starts low when you awake and rises when you eat. Cortisol inversely starts high in the morning and drops as you fall asleep.
Insulin is released when there is lots of glucose in the blood. When you eat carbs, insulin comes. Insulin is the signal for your body to take glucose out of your bloodstream into your cells. Liver, muscles, and fat cells take in glucose when you eat because insulin commands it.
It’s important that your body can release insulin when you eat a meal. This ensures that the glucose in your blood gets absorbed by your body. Too much glucose floating around in the blood, and you have high blood sugar. This happens when you eat and there isn’t enough insulin released to take in all the glucose.
Cortisol counteracts insulin. Since cortisol is highest in the morning, insulin will be least effective in the morning. It makes sense to avoid eating until later in the day, when cortisol drops and insulin response can be more effective.
In this way, your body has a system and timing for food absorption. Play around with timing your first meal. Try skipping breakfast. Try a later lunch. Delaying your first meal will give your body a chance to absorb the food better. Cortisol won’t be so high. Insulin will be released more effectively, ensuring the glucose from your food gets properly absorbed from your bloodstream.
Use fatty foods to regulate hunger when you do eat. Fat satiates hunger much better than starches, and tells your body to burn fat. Skip the fat and you’re going to have cravings all day long.
Imagine how strenuous exercise can complicate matters for you. Your energy needs will drastically change. Your body will need more building blocks, more vitamins, more minerals, and different timing of meals.
It’s all doable, and I support your decision to become stronger through exercise. But before you toss yourself into the algorithms of traumatic exercise recovery, figure out your practice of food and eating for your current state.
This will allow you to measure subtle changes and observe differences more clearly. To summarize eating if you are not exercising:
Eat your first meal later in the day
Eat lots of healthy fats, until you are full and satisfied. If you have cravings or feel hungry after meals, try eating more fat.
Eat carbs, such as starches, at the end of the day
Adjust the amount of carbs you eat based on your body fat and your energy level in the morning
Fat gain or hung over feeling – eat a bit less carbs
I know it’s been too long since I’ve written to you.
I’ve been traveling and figuring things out lately, and haven’t sat down to write in a while. There’s lots I want to share with you. Here are several things I’ve been pondering, developing, and talking about with people around me. Most of them you’ve seen from my blog before, but wellness is never a one-time deal for me. Being healthy is about practice, trying, developing, and building layers.
These items mostly came out of traveling and being “on the road”, meaning no gym, no permanent home, limited resources for training and cooking. I hope you find this useful, whether or not you’re traveling. After all, I started a lot of these things while working in a corporate office and living in Los Angeles. So it’s all transferable. Here they are.
There’s a book I love called The Wisdom of No Escape and the Path of Loving Kindness, by Pema Chodron. It’s about the wisdom in accepting your circumstances, loving yourself, and not rebelling against who you are. The book is written by a Buddhist teacher, mostly for people seeking the philosophy and technique behind Zen meditation. I read this in college, and the book has carried over to all other aspects of my life. Including physical training.
One of the biggest downfalls of the fitness industry is that consumers are not encouraged to take things slow, to work on themselves gently, and to train for the long game. Trainers, coaches, supplement companies, and magazines are full of the notion that the body has to be broken to become better. It’s your body. You don’t have to break it, or suffer, to become stronger. That’s not how things work.
In the short run, you might get big muscles, snaky veins, and a six pack. I understand the need to have these things. It’s been pounded into our psyches by mass media, and it’s part of our primordial urge to be fit. But what about the long run? Will you be well, functional, pain free, and freely moving years, decades down the road? Do you care?
There is a way to be strong and to remain strong for the long game. And that way involves gentleness. It requires you to learn about your body in every possible way as you develop your wellness. Be gentle with your eating. Be gentle with your body, your moving, your training. Be gentle with your mind. This comes into play when you realize that you are not going to get some specific result immediately. Eating a salad today won’t make you skinny, lean, and virile tomorrow. And it doesn’t help to eliminate fats, proteins, and carbs from your diet. See how going rough leads you into a downward spiral?
Step back, make gentle pushes, observe results. Test yourself, but don’t break yourself. The object of the game is to grow, to learn, to be healthy, happy, and capable.
Feet have a structure and function that work only when they are unhindered. You have the ability to redevelop your foot structure, the right stance, the right walk, and the right movement patterns. It starts with taking off your shoes. Go barefoot at home, around the hood, and wherever you can in the outdoors. It’s just one of those things that gets easier the more you do it. So start tiny.
We will see many products hit the “barefoot” market. Shoes, sandals, socks, sports equipment, and hopefully even transportation that lets us be close to barefoot all day long. I think this is progress. However, these products do not make you barefoot. Simply using your bare feet is different. Barefoot cannot be replicated. A “barefoot running shoe” is not barefoot. It is a shoe.
Train barefoot. Do strength training without shoes or socks. You can do them all if you start from zero, go gently, and progress responsibly. I have done deadlifts, squats, kettlebell, and body weight exercises barefoot. Orthopedic insoles did not help me. I had prescription plastic insoles for most of my adolescent years, into college. The pain of walking, running, and standing in shoes went away like magic. But guess what the price was? My feet got flatter and weaker, more prone to strains, and less and less able to hold me up the way they are supposed to.
Then I started following Kelly Starrett, and shed the insole supports. I wore flat shoes instead. Then I wore huaraches. But nothing beat walking barefoot outside, running barefoot on the grass and sand, and lifting barefoot at the gym. These activities, over three years, rebuilt the shape and mechanism of my feet. I now have arches.
So this is where I would link you to a product that I used, but I can’t because there is no product. You just simply need to take off your shoes and socks. However, there is technique that you need to use for proper development. Just like with all other parts of your body, such as your knees, your back, and your shoulders, for example, feet have a correct position and movement pattern. Place your weight on the parts that are meant to hold weight: the sole, the outer blade, the balls of your feet, and the toes. You’ll see that your arch, or insole if you don’t yet have an arch, doesn’t have to touch the ground. You’ll feel that springiness in your step. Walking, running, jumping. Try them all barefoot.
Figure it out and rebuild yourself from the ground up. If you need coaching, I can help.
From five years of self experimentation, drinking butter coffee almost every morning, traveling and eating for optimal energy, and talking with others experimenting with eating more fat, I continue to find that “fat first” works. This means eating fat for the first meal of the day, whether that be in the morning or afternoon or night. It means eating fat before eating other foods during any meal, or at least at the same time. Try grass fed butter melted into rice. And “fat first” means making sure to eat good fats, from good sources. Why?
Because fat is filling, fat is the building block of cell membranes and your nervous system and your brain, and fat gives you energy. Eating good fat from healthy animals ensures that you get the nutrition your body and brain needs before you fill up on other things like starch. Eating fat first means you get satisfaction and feel fuller from it. It helps guide me in my meals, because as long as I eat good fats I know how much of other stuff to eat. I feel more balanced in my urge to eat rice, veggies, and meat when I am eating good fats. Don’t think I don’t eat carbs. I eat lots of carbs, because I need it for my body composition, level of training, and daily activity. But my eating is moderated by the fat I’m eating. I guess I can say that fat is my primary source of satiety and energy, and my starting point for measuring hunger and portions.
Here’s an example of how fat is my nutrition measuring tool: if I feel the munchies, cravings, or urge to eat dessert at night, despite having eaten dinner, I’ll rewind through the day to see how much fat I’ve eaten. Most times, I’ll realize I forgot to mix butter into my rice, or didn’t have my usual butter coffee, or didn’t get the chance to eat any good quality fat that day. If I can, I slap a slab of grass fed cow butter onto some sweet potato and have at it. Fat first.
Kids and perfect form
I am fascinated by kids who are allowed to develop physically without the restraints of bulky sneakers, cribs, seats, and overprotection. My friend lets his son walk, run, roam, climb, and play more than most parents I’ve seen. He also lets him do this barefoot, even outside. When shoes are necessary, they are soft, flat on the bottom, and flexible enough for the feet to do their natural job. The result is incredible.
My friend’s son is a dense-bodied mover, and he is able to hold his core rigid when he’s lifted off the ground, flipped overhead, and swung back down. He holds perfect spine alignment as he deadlifts a suitcase off the floor. This beloved mini-athlete sometimes gets into a yogic child pose, stretches out on his belly, and lifts his arms and legs off the floor in a reverse plank. It’s all play to him. And he’s barely a year and a half old.
I laugh and marvel at his feats of mobility and strength. At the same time, I feel excited about what this little kid represents. He shows me it’s possible to have a perfect squat as natural and easy as yawning. He proves to me that movements like the deadlift and positions like straight feet and straight spine in the squat are natural. It gives me an example to follow. Since the kid hasn’t been molded into cushy shoes, and since he hasn’t been confined to classroom chairs, his movements are intact. He pushes his limits all the time in the weight of the bins he lifts, the suitcases he pushes, and the stairs he climbs.
Doing these things is challenging in themselves, but doing them with minimal risk of injury and optimal strength is natural only because limitations are not yet put on our little friend. So what if you’re starting today, having already gone through the body-morphing gauntlet of “civilization”? You’re not alone. Modern life’s walls came up, boxed you into the appropriate shapes, and contracted your physical and spiritual expressions into the norms of the day.
It’s not about being a kid, or about glorifying childhood or youthfulness. No. Just look at the human form in its beginning stages, and you can find movement and position as it was meant to be. You can train your malleable body to obtain the strength, movement, and positions of human expression. The full squat, the unhindered overhead arms, the use of joint torque, and spine alignment are all obtainable with training and practice. Possessing natural physical expression and the strength to maintain it will free your mind and soul to build toward your greatest goals.
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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.
You will need to find the goldilocks amounts of nutrition, the golden timing, and fine tune the quality of your results.
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.
To make it hot, you have to blend it when hot. Hot coffee will emulsify better with butter. So it has to be steaming from start to finish. It just won’t turn out well if the coffee cools down by the time you blend in the butter. The key is timing.
I had the chance to cruise up to San Francisco the other day. Sun was shining, the air was crisp, and Gary Vaynerchuk was hammering home some life lessons through the speakers. Best of all, the butter coffee we sipped was creamy, hot, and reviving.
Way back, my first few tries at butter coffee didn’t turn out so well. I was adding all of my ingredients after I brewed the coffee. I had to cut butter, scoop powders, and measure out the MCT oil. Sometimes I would forget the night before to take out a new stick of butter from the freezer to defrost. That meant I had to wait for it to soften up enough to cut.
By the time I was ready to blend, the coffee had cooled quite a bit. I didn’t get nice and hot, smooth butter coffee. It became a lava lamp after a few minutes. Not tasty.
Eventually, I turned the process around. I got all the ingredients into the blender before brewing the coffee. Even better, I took care of the ingredients while the water was boiling. It made all the difference.
When I was done putting in the chocolate powder, vanilla bean, MCT oil, and grass fed butter, the water was hot and ready for brewing. And once the coffee was brewed, I got straight to the blending. It came out steaming, foamy, and satisfying every time.
I use a Hario dripper for pour over brewing. I set the filter cup on top of the opening in my blender lid, so the coffee drips down right into the ingredients. It’s a good way to melt and dissolve everything too. You can go through these detailed steps on brewing butter coffee.
Using the French press is a little trickier. If it takes a while for you to add all your ingredients, you may want to heat water and brew at the after it’s all ready. I found it was possible to start the water, start adding the ingredients, and then add the hot water to the French press when it was boiled. The last four to five minutes of brewing time were enough to finish up the ingredients.
If you’re using a coffee maker, it’s still better to get the ingredients into the blender while it’s brewing. You’ll have enough time before the coffee’s ready, and then pour the brewed coffee into the ingredients to blend.
Whichever way, figure out how to keep your process hot and concise. Cruise through your city with nothing but the best, creamiest, most satisfying butter coffee in your mug. Let me know if you try one of these or another method, and how it goes.
Coffee and grass fed butter have been my staple morning diet for the past four years. It continues to be my go to while I’m traveling through Southeast Asia. I plan to have it every day as much as I can. There’s no better way to stay lean, dense, and energetic than with healthy fat to start the day.
It’s much easier and nicer to have butter coffee at home: beans pulverized by a hefty burr grinder, stove top boiled water in my Hario kettle, and brewed over a ceramic pour over cup on a nice wide countertop. Butter coffee that’s blended at home in a high tech appliance like VitaMix can’t be beat. The drink is foamy, creamy, and just heavenly. The ingredients, like chocolate powder and vanilla bean, mesh better with the coffee and butter. It comes out like a dessert. But on the road, I don’t have such luxury.What I do have is a 24-oz. Thermos, a handheld coffee bean grinder, and a small pack of all my ingredients in ziplocked bags. I did allow myself the weighty luxury of my Hario dripper kettle, to store my powders and to have a vessel for hot water. And I just couldn’t let it go.
The trickiest things about butter coffee on the road are getting and keeping grass fed butter. In Southeast Asia a lot of quality butter comes from Australia and New Zealand. Anchor and Allowrie were two I’ve used so far. Small towns rarely have these available, so I’ve had to shop in the busier areas for it. It hasn’t been a great problem, except in Railay Beach where I missed my chance to get some in Ao Nang during an excursion. I was fortunate enough to have met a French chef at a nice hotel restaurant, who gave me a stick of precious unsalted French butter. I’m still living off of that, three days later. So grateful to that man.
That’s another thing; on top of finding grass fed butter, I need the unsalted product to make my coffee. Surprisingly, in Southeast Asia it’s pretty easy to find unsalted butter in most medium-sized grocery stores. Hero and Coco markets in Indonesia, and Makro in Thailand have been stocked when I went.
Keeping butter fresh and solid as a backpacker is the other fun problem. It’s regularly between 80 and 100 degrees Fahrenheit outside, even at night. So when I move from one locale to the next, it’s best not to have leftover butter. I time my butter shopping for the beginnings of my stay in one place, so that I can have access to a fridge while I have it. And if I have a bit left over on the day I leave, I dump it all into my Thermos with other ingredients, sans coffee. I can then pack, keeping the Thermos accessible, and find good coffee shop later to add to the Thermos. Shake and serve.
The more difficult scenario is having a lot of butter left on the day I need to get on a bus, plane, or boat for a long trip. It does happen, for various reasons. I have been bringing a small, rectangular tupperware lent to me by my mother-in-law to store butter while on the move. The day before, I freeze the remaining butter if possible. I wrap plastic over the original wrapping, put it in a ziplock, and then in the tupperware. It’s not good to have the fat in direct contact with plastic, so I keep the original wrap on it. Plastic will degrade when in contact with fat.
I keep the butter in my day pack, or a separate bag from my pack. It goes on board with me on flights. This hasn’t been an issue at all. Packing butter into a check in bag risks the bag being left out in the sun during cargo loading. Think popcorn butter. Big mistake if you don’t have a nice glass container without wrappings. While backpacking, it hasn’t been an option for me.
The first thing we always do upon check in at our next stay is unpack and throw the butter into the fridge. Most places I’ve stayed have had freezers, fortunately. One time in Bali we had the butter kept in the inn’s kitchen freezer. It worked without any issues for the four nights we were there. A good way to interact with the staff, too. A regular fridge will suffice as well. However, plan to finish the butter before leaving, as it’s risky to bring butter that’s not frozen on long rides in the tropical heat.
One last thing about butter coffee: remember the water. You can’t make coffee without water, and it’s not fun getting drinking water from the store first thing in the morning. In this region, tap is not the best option. Even when boiled, it’s a risk for health.
When all else fails, and you can’t find butter, and you can’t make coffee? Go without. Better to intermittent fast and eat a late lunch than to eat a heavy touristy breakfast. With that being said, I have trouble passing up eggs, bacon, and pastries every once in a while. I know the consequences and have to deal with them, though. To each their own.
Have I told you about butter coffee? Creamy, smooth, and delicious, it gives me immense energy and focus. I first started having this concoction with breakfast, and found that it helped me in strength training. Eventually, I just had more butter with it and didn’t eat breakfast at all. I now go the entire day without any other meal, until dinner.
When I drink this concoction, I get mental clarity, sustained focus, and a predator state of mind and body that is unparalleled by energy from any other food. If I haven’t made it for you already, I’ll show you how so you can experience it for yourself.
At first, your body will need to learn to effectively absorb nutrition from fat. This takes several days to weeks for some people, especially if you are not in the habit of eating a lot of fat. Most self-described healthy eaters do not eat much fat. Keep your regular meals at first and just have this coffee with breakfast or an hour before training. You want to feel it out and do what works best for you.
Basic Butter Coffee Recipe
30-35 grams of coffee beans for two cups of single source coffee
Two tablespoons grass fed butter
One teaspoon high quality MCT oil
Boil water (or start brewing if using the basic coffee machine)
Throw the butter and MCT oil into a large blender
Brew the coffee and add it to the blender
Hold down the top of the blender lid with a dish towel and blend on high for 20 seconds
Of course to make it even better, here are things to consider:
Get The Best Ingredients
The quality of your ingredients lends to the flavor, level of energy, and creativity you will get from your cup.
Single Source Coffee for Clarity
Single source coffee beans are grown, harvested, and processed on one estate or farm. All other beans, sometimes called blends, are mixtures of beans from two or more estates. Single source beans come without the added time of storage and transportation. Coffee is vulnerable to mycotoxins, which can cause headaches and jitters. Mycotoxins are inevitable, but through good practice and minimal exposure to the environment they can be suppressed. The less time from harvest to your cup the better. I didn’t know how much of a difference this would make until I gave single source coffee a try. I noticed significantly better results. Even when I was tired, I had calm mental clarity from it, not just a jittery buzz. No crash in energy, and no headache. Now I always look for coffee that lets me be even-keeled and fierce. There are two types I drink primarily, but you can find others if you look for them.
I found a great tasting single origin coffee in a local store. I really enjoyed the flavor of this light roast. It was from Alto Mayo Estate, a single coffee farm in a mountain region of Peru. The coffee smelled amazing, roasty and smooth. I had great results from this coffee every day, feeling clear minded, focused, and strong when I drank it. If you have a quality grocery store nearby, find a single source coffee with the roast intensity that you enjoy most.
The key to finding good coffee anywhere is to verify that it says “single origin”,”single source”, or”single estate”. I don’t pay attention to the phrases Fair Trade, Shade Grown, and Certified Organic. While they do hold social value, they also warrant a higher price tag. Whatever you choose to buy, drink it and test it yourself for absolutely positive symptoms. Do not assume it’s good based on the label or the price. The whole point is to find something that allows you to accomplish greatness.
With that being said, some blends may be okay if they are from the same roaster. If you know the beans are roasted at the same facility and are blended there, they may be as good as single source. But again, try the coffee and make sure it brings you mental clarity and sustained focus.
Grass Fed Butter: Nourish Your Soul, Body, and Mind
Grass fed cow butter is the key to creating the smooth frothiness of your concoction. It’s important that the butter is from grass fed cows. Cows that are 100% or almost completely fed on grass are healthier and happier beasts. Butter from such beasts makes me a happier beast. The ultra nutritious elements like healthy saturated fat, CLA, omega-3 fat, butyric acid, vitamin K2, vitamin E, and beta carotene are elevated in cows that eat grass only. There are two types I tried, and both are excellent.
The most reliable brand that I get from Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods is Kerrygold Unsalted Butter. It’s an awesome Irish butter that comes in one-cup bars. If you don’t have a store nearby, you can get in online. It’s a little more than the store price, but it is worth it if you can’t get it anywhere else. I get a box of 20 at a time and stock them in my freezer.
My other go-to butter is harder to find on the west coast of the U.S., but it can be found in some other countries more easily. I love Anchor Unsalted Butter from New Zealand grass fed cows.
On a recent trip to Asia I was stoked to find Anchor butter from a Jakarta store. I had never used it before, but it was surprisingly good in my coffee. The subtle flavor and smooth texture pair well with the cacao and vanilla I use.
The Best Quality MCT Oil
MCT turns the light switch on in my head. Medium chain triglycerides (MCTs) are fatty acid chains of 8 and 10 carbons in length. C-8 and C-10 fats absorb through the gut into the bloodstream to the brain fast, where they can be utilized as energy in the form of ketones.
Ketones have been found in research to be more efficient brain fuel than glucose, and I feel the difference. When my brain has this fuel source, I have more clarity, better mental function, longer sustained focus, and no crash. It also brings my body into a fat-burning mode. This has been shown to help regulate body weight, and it’s certainly proven true for me. MCT oil is usually derived from coconut and palm kernel oil, and there can be a very slight coconut scent to it.
There are several different brands out there, and the quality of the MCT oil is determined by purification and processing. Purification affects the concentration of C-8 and C-10 versus other types of fat that are not MCT. Processing includes how the coconuts are stored and pressed, and where they are from.
NOTE: This fuel is intense! I recommend using the regular MCT oil first. It will help to make a smoother transition to this different energy source.
Bulletproof XCT Oil I used to have this regularly in my coffee before I tried Brain Octane oil. It has both C-8 and C-10 fatty acids. This is a good starting point if you haven’t tried MCT oil. It isn’t as intense as Brain Octane, and I think it would be the best choice for learning the effects of MCT oil on yourself before venturing into the more intense version. Flavor is slightly more coconuty than the following Viva Labs oil that I also have used. This is a very clean product that I can rely on for top performance.
I have used high quality coconut oil before in my coffee, when I ran out of MCT oil. Coconut oil will add a lot of flavor, but in my opinion it’s overbearing. Also, it is not a sufficient substitute for MCT oil. There is only a very small percentage of C-8 and C-10 fats in coconut oil, contrary to common belief. The majority of advertised “MCT” oil here is C-12, which actually does not act like the shorter chains in energy utilization.
With that being said, if this is your only source of MCT, it will still provide you with some benefits of fat-based brain energy. And I’ve talked to some friends who really love it. Plus it’s delicious for cooking chicken curry dishes. Maybe I’ll post on that later. If you’re getting all of your MCT from coconut oil, use four tbsp or more. As a flavor or C-12 supplement, use one or two tbsp.
Flavor and Creativity
These next few ingredients are what make my butter coffee taste so good, compared to ones you find here and there in shops and cafes. I add these elements every time I make my concoctions, and have had the most amazing conversations with friends, breakthroughs in strength training, and mental performance after having it.
This is my favorite hack for butter coffee. Vanilla bean has amazing flavor and also has flavonoids that enhance creativity. I add this without fail to my coffee concoction every morning.
Second only to vanilla bean, cacao butter is another flavor and nutrient must-have for me. It’s the pure fat of cacao beans and this is what they use to make white chocolate. Cacao butter gives a rich, gourmet scent and flavor to the coffee. It has the concentrated elements of chocolate that enhance your creativity and brain power.
I add chocolate powder to my butter coffee to make it rich and dark. Good chocolate, like good coffee, has flavonoids and antioxidants that enhance brain and performance. Gauge the flavor, it can be rich and quite bitter. Start with about a teaspoon or less.
My coffee has no sweetener, but my wife likes hers a bit sweet. This stuff of nature is the perfect solution if you want to be in ketosis yet want that rich sweetness in your coffee. This will not trigger your insulin response, unlike sugar. And it tastes naturally sweet, unlike stevia.
Xyla North American Hardwood Xylitol. The best type, pictured here, is made from North American birch trees. The cheaper brands are made from Chinese GMO corn. I recommend using one to two teaspoons per cup to start. It has about the same sweetness as regular cane sugar.
Building Blocks and Fuel
These ingredients can be added as needed for the different types of activities you do on any given day. Add these one at a time and observe whether you benefit from them.
Grass Fed Collagen
Collagen is one of the building block of your tendons, skin, and hair. It is needed for repair of tissue after training, and makes your skin more vibrant when you provide yourself with enough. Unlike whey protein, which caused gas and bloating, collagen has been problem-free for my digestion. For these reasons it is great for strength training, tissue repair, and skin and hair boost.
BULLETPROOF® Upgraded Collagen Protein Super fine-grade and from grass fed cows. It’s processed with enzymes rather than heat, which prevents damage of the proteins. I generally only add collagen on the day of, and up to three days after, a training session.
Collagen does make me hungry after about four hours, which causes a slight decrease in focus. This is because protein triggers an insulin response. With protein, you will get similar, but not as drastic, effects as when you eat carbs. After strength training, this isn’t a problem, since I will eat anyways. But on normal days without training, I forgo the protein in the morning.
My wife, on the other hand, has it every morning in her butter coffee. She simply feels better and more energetic with some protein. Use at least one tablespoon.
I add a baseline dose of creatine every morning with my coffee. Without causing huge swelling of muscles, this simple nutrient has allowed me to maintain strength and muscle mass for longer periods of time between training sessions. It is one of the key supplements I use to increase longevity of strength. Creatine also boost brain function.
Now Foods creatine monohydrate This brand has been my go to for years. No side effects, suggesting it is clean and pure. Use 1 teaspoon or 5 grams daily.
METHODS TO MAKE MAGIC
I’m laying this recipe out for first time dabblers in butter coffee. The way you make your coffee will affect how it feels, tastes, and energizes. Even for more veteran practitioners, small hacks can give you a better concoction. To have delicious butter coffee it must be three things: Hot, well-brewed, and well-blended. How you set up the ingredients and the order in which you prepare it can be the difference between a floating oil slick and a creamy concoction of joy.
Prepare Water First
Start a kettle on the stove before anything else, as you will need time to prepare the other ingredients and want the water hot when you’re ready to brew. If you’re using a normal coffee maker, get it all set up with beans and start brewing. Use spring or well water for the best flavor. Water has as much flavor and texture as any other ingredient that goes into coffee. Make your coffee with tap water and you’ll taste the tap.
For the Pour Over technique, prepare about a quarter cup more water than the amount of coffee you plan to make.
As the water heats, get all your ingredients into the blender. You will need one that holds at least four cups or one liter, because the liquid will expand like crazy when you blend it. I use the KitchenAid blender, which is not the highest-end thing out there, but works just fine for this purpose:
Note: The stronger the blender, the finer the foam. You can get an incredibly smooth concoction with the VitaMix Blender.
Brew the Coffee Into the Blender
You can brew your coffee however you choose. If all you have is the classic coffee maker, just use that for now. My all time favorite method of coffee brewing is the Pour Over technique. Coffee tastes the best when I make it this way, but a close second is the French press, and honestly after that it’s just the normal coffee maker.
The Pour Over Technique
The pour over technique requires a kettle with a thin pouring spout, as well as a filter cup and filters. Here is how I brew pour over.
Boil water in the dripper kettle and turn off heat.
Grind coffee beans to slightly finer than medium granularity. Any finer and it will take forever to brew and you will get too much acid. This is how fine you want your grounds for pour over brewing:You can use an electric grinder like the one I have above or a hand grinder if you want to have more evenly ground beans. This takes a lot more time and effort though.
Fold the crimped edge of a paper filter, open up the filter, and place into the ceramic cup.
Wet the filter paper by pouring just enough hot water along the edges of the cup. This gets rid of the flavor of the paper.
Dump the ground coffee into the filter paper.
Starting from the center of the cup, slowly pour water in an outward spiral until you cover all the beans with water. The grounds will start to breathe and expand. Let the gas escape and as the grounds deflate, continue to pour in the same spiral manner until you have poured all the water. The pouring should take about 3-4 minutes total.
Brew directly into the blender to save time and keep your coffee hot. Here’s an honest picture of my set up, dirty dishes and all. I want to give you an idea of how you can brew directly into the blender. Note that with my blender in the dish rack, it allows me to brew at a more comfortable level than if the blender were up on the counter top:
Once the coffee is brewed and in your blender with the other ingredients, place the lid on securely and cover the top with a dish towel. Hold down the towel over the lid tight while you blend it on the highest setting for 20 seconds. Depending on the quality of your blender, the coffee may punish you if you don’t hold it down.
Marvel at the creaminess.
Keep the rest in a thermos and drink it through the morning.
These are my two favorite containers for coffee.
The Thermos is larger and holds a full two cups of coffee, fairly hot through the day.
The Zojirushi is smaller but keeps coffee radioactive hot the entire day.
Up the dosage on the butter and MCT oil slightly after a week or two, if you can glean the benefits without having the runs. You can always lower amounts the next time if you don’t feel as good of an effect.
Don’t change the MCT dosage drastically. Try increasing by a teaspoon each week, making sure to observe the quality of focus. You don’t want to end up dizzy or give yourself digestive issues by taking too much in the beginning.
If you’re hungrier, add more butter. Try increments of one tablespoon. Use the minimum effective dose.
That is it. Try it in the morning, about an hour before a training session, or before any task that will take a lot of brain or body power. You’ll be restless the first few times if you don’t have a world or two to save.
I had butter coffee as fuel for a 370 lb. squat and 391 lb. deadlift at my first powerlifting meet, a 5k in under 23 minutes with no training, and the LA Downtown Ketchum Stair Climb, which was a stair climb to the top of a 76-story skyscraper, in 19 minutes. These are not Olympic numbers, but I did all this without needing tons of protein or carbs immediately before or after. I hope you find that reasonable amounts of healthy fat as a source of energy puts you on a different level from just pounding protein and carbs.
Let me know in the comments if you try this and how it goes for you! If I’ve made this concoction for you before, let others know how it tasted what it felt like to drink it. I think a lot of people are curious about what butter in coffee would be like, and they will be surprised by how good it can be if done right.
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