FULL DISCLOSURE: I am not on a Keto diet. I don’t buy the official Bulletproof coffee range of expensive products, nor am I affiliated in any way. I don’t intermittent fast everyday.
Fasting isn’t for me, right?
Now we’ve got that out of the way, let’s talk about what I do do (makes me laugh every time I say that). I work out in the morning, and my workout goals are to put on more fat free lean mass. Therefore, I usually do eat a little food first thing to fuel an effective workout, I always have a a post workout meal, and I need to get in a reasonable amount of calories (3,500) and carbs in to support the growth I am after. For that reason, I’ve been dismissive or damn right reluctant to do anything that suggests not eating enough calories or not getting enough energy to workout and build muscle.
…Erm no! Unless you DON’T LIKE getting into the ZONE
All that said, curiosity got the better of me. I heard great things about bulletproof coffee and Intermittent Fasting in terms of energy levels and brain function, and wanted to see what all the fuss was about. And…. OMG!!!
Fuelling your body off of ketones and not having your blood levels spike for the first half of the day is a rush. It’s hard to explain it – you need to experience if for yourself. You feel wired! Your brain is operating at a new level. You’re sharper, have greater clarity of thought, you get into a more proactive and productive state, and are more willing to tackle difficult and important projects that otherwise you would procrastinate on. You feel on fire. Like you’re on some winning streak in sport, and want to capitalise on this new found productivity.
Don’t just take my word for it, many others I’ve advised to give it a go feel the same way. Bryn, for example, had a BP Coffee at mine at 7:30am for a workout a few months back. By lunchtime, he’d gone home and completed a raft of DIY activities he’d been putting off for weeks. His partner was blown away, and suggested he do this more often! Moreover, I’m late to the party on this biohack. Millions of people around the world have been reaping the benefits of this morning tip for years now.
So what’s going on?!
Stimulation, Running on Ketones & Repurposing Digestive Energy
Let’s start with the obvious one. You’re starting your day with coffee which contains Caffeine. We all know Caffeine makes us feel more awake and alert.
To your nerve cells, caffeine looks like the neuromodulator adenosine, whose role is to slow down neural activity, feel sleepy and dilate blood vessels to ensure good oxygenation during sleep. Caffeine binds to the adenosine receptors in you brain, which in turn blocks adenosine from performing it’s slowing down effect. As a result, the nerve cells speed up, causing increased neuron firing.
The pituitary gland senses this activity and thinks some sort of emergency must be occurring, so it releases hormones that tell the adrenal glands to produce adrenaline (epinephrine). Adrenaline (the fight of flight hormone) does many things including dilating eyes, opening up airways, speeding up heart rate, blood vessels divert blood from the skin to the muscles, raises blood pressure, slows blood flow to the stomach to suppress appetite and minimise digestive burden, instructing the liver to release sugar into the bloodstream for extra energy, and tightens up muscles, ready to act.
So, caffeine by itself is a powerful stimulant. It is a great pre workout, as it provides that alertness to perform physical activity. But just remember, it’s not making you less tired – it’s just masking any tiredness by blocking the signal to the brain, and in turn speeding up many functions.
Caffeine+Fat = Powerful Combination! Why? Well, Fat is the slowest macro to metallise due to it not being water soluble. Bile needs to be created to break down the fat molecules, and this takes time. That’s why when you’ve eaten a fat-rich meal you will be more satisfied and satiated for longer. Now, when you take Caffeine without fat (i.e. most coffee we drink), you get he stimulating effect of caffeine very quickly. You can also get the jitters, and it doesn’t last that long. However, when caffeine is ‘suspended’ in fat it metabolises much slower, allowing for a smoother and longer impact of the caffeine on your mind and body. Nice!
So, assuming you’ve not eaten since dinner, lets say 7pm, when you wake up you will have low blood sugar levels. Your glycogen stores (the sugar energy in your blood) will be low, so your body will start adapting to use other available fuel sources. Now, technically, you’re not in full blown ketosis at this stage, where you are running purely off Ketones (fat energy stores), as they take about 24h+ of minimal carbs. But the transition is occurring by the time you wake up. Most people eat as soon as they get up, and usually it’s cereal, bread or other carby foods. As soon as you do that, you provide the necessary glucose in your blood to continue running off this faster more efficient energy source.
However, if you stay away from carbs and protein in the morning, you’ll force your body to start the transition to ketosis. Doing so has a number of pretty cool benefits. Firstly, running off ketones is a more steady energy source, without the undulation of blood sugar levels. As a result, your energy levels stay constant. Secondly, your brain tends to prefers to running off ketones than glycogen intermittently, due to ketones dampening the ‘enthusiasm’ of neurons, calming them down and having them live longer. You will literally experience the difference, as your brain is able to take more neural energy from ketones, which result in a sharper more cognitive experience. Brain fog, sluggish decision making and lazy thoughts lift, replaced with what feels like greater mental clarity.
Lastly, as a result of not being able to use the energy stores within the blood stream, you are effectively tapping into the energy stores within the body. That’s primarily fatty-acids from cells and visceral fat. Now, in a fasted state, your body can also convert proteins in your muscles to glycogen through a process called gluconeogenesis, but in a short fast and a protein-rich rich diet, this will be minimal.
(c) Repurposing Digestive Energy
Just think about it for a second. Our hunter gatherer ancestors would feast when they could, and then would likely go for long periods of time foraging for the next meal. Our bodies were designed to adapt to the energy source available, so we would readily switch between being glycolytic to ketogenic depending on food availability and the need to perform high-energy work. They would go for long periods of time without having food. Furthermore, it’s seen as a spiritual rejuvenation to fast, as seen in many religious backgrounds.
However, it’s seldom in todays western society that people will go longer than 12 hours without food, let along 24-48 hours, which is perfectly safe. We think we are hungry after 3-6 hours after having a meal, but that’s not hunger, that’s cravings. In response to our habits and these cravings, we basically have our digestive system work all the time. Pretty much 24/7, without a break – ever! Just like anything, whether it be working out, working or learning, it’s so important we get down time to collect our thoughts, recover, repair and re-energise the system. However, we’ve not been told that giving our digestive system is healthy and/or necessary. Logic would have you say that doesn’t make sense.
Giving your GI (gastrointestinal) tract some time out allows your food to fully pass, for inflammation in your gut from certain foods to reduce, and for the system to take a moment to recover from the constant workload. Most noticeable however, is that your body is not diverting blood and energy to your GI to digest food. That blood and energy can therefore be diverted to your brain and the rest of your body. You will absolutely feel the difference in having this energy available.
Plus, your stomach will flatten and bloat will calm. Gas will reside. Your gut will thank you!
Alright already, sign me up. What’s the plan?!
The steps are simple to reap the rewards:
- Have your last meal between 6-8pm
- When you wake up, make yourself a bulletproof coffee
- Do not eat until 1-2pm. At which point, eat whatever works for you.
This is known as Intermittent Fasting. Specifically a ~16 hour fast.
Now, some people like to repeat this daily, meaning they eat only between 2-8pm daily (a six hour ‘feeding’ window). Some do this with absolutely nothing consumed, others include the BP coffee some/most of the time.
Personally, whenever I intermittently fast, I do it with bulletproof coffee. The reason being is that the high-fat coffee is satiating for me, meaning it helps me not want for food in the morning. Without it, things are little more difficult, plus I don’t get the benefit of the caffeine.
I DO NOT do this daily. Many say this in unnecessary and excessive. Instead, Intermittent Fasting (IF) once to twice a week will give you the health benefits you are after. I personally only do this once a week, as I work out five days a week, always in the morning, and I choose to eat before and after a workout – therefore making IF’ing not practical. Plus, when you follow this IF approach with BP coffee, you will likely find it hard to eat a calorie surplus, as it can be a lot of food to consume in such a short time. As I am more often bulking (being in a calorie surplus) than cutting (being in a calorie deficit), it’s not something I can do regularly without impacting my goals.
FFS, Give me my Coffee!!
Finally, time to unveil the process and ingredients of how I personally make my bulletproof coffee. In full transparency, the below is not a ‘true’ Bulletproof coffee, as french press coffee is suggested. However, I find it just as effective to use an espresso machine, which results in less liquid, and with the capsules (e.g. Nespresso) it’s so much easier.
- Grass-fed Butter or Ghee – 1 tablespoon
- Extra Virgin Coconut Oil – 1 tablespoon
- Espresso Capsule – a Lungo shot (i.e. the long shot setting)
- Stevia or other natural sweetener – this is optional. Avoid it if possible.
- Pour a Lungo shot of Espresso Coffee (stronger the coffee capsule the better)
- Add the coffee shot into a blender (e.g. NutriBullet) with your Coconut Oil and Butter/Ghee
- Add a little hot water if you’d prefer a little extra liquid
- Blend for 30 seconds or so
- Pour into a glass
- Drink… and get ready to wired, sharp, alert, not hungry and ready to attack the day!
A LITTLE WORD OF WARNING: It’s not the nicest thing you will ever drink. It will give you an oily sensation around your lips and on your teeth. It may feel gross the first time you drink it. Plus, as it’s not got any sugar or caramelised lactose, it will be quite bitter, but rich from the butter. Newbies may feel a little queasy the first time, as your gut is not used to taking fat straight like this. But hang in there, as that only tends to happen the first time as you acclimatise to the drink.
WANT A GREAT FLAVOUR ALTERNATIVE?: Then, you should go check out Steve’s “Awesome” Morning Fuel – When Vegan Protein, Healthy Oils & Hot Espresso Collide! that brings amazing taste and the added benefit of a good hit of morning Protein too. Yum. 😋
So now you know. Go make yourself a bulletproof coffee combined with an intermittent fast, and go grab life by the balls. Your peers, friends and family will not know what hit them, as you go attack your to-do list and life with a real zip! Enjoy.
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