Lack of sleep can make any of us irritable, tired, and less productive. As a new mom trying to regain my pre-baby level of efficiency however, I have been on a mission to get rid of "mommy brain." Sleep is obviously an outstanding way to improve brain function, but when both quality and quantity of sleep are reduced, what else can you do? To answer this question, I've been exploring lots of new ways to get my brain back up to speed.
I've been hearing about "Bulletproof Coffee" for a few years now, including from a physician friend of mine who specializes in optimizing both mental and athletic performance. Despite that, I must admit it did not sound appealing. Basically, the idea is that instead of a solid breakfast, you have high-quality organic coffee with grass-fed butter and coconut oil mixed in. Sounds kind of gross, right?
The first time I tried it, it just made my coffee slimy and tasteless. But recently a friend of mine came to visit and wanted to try it. She added sugar and mixed it in the blender. That was much better--the oils and butter emulsify in the blender and make it into a nice foamy treat that truly is similar to a latte.
However, my doctor friend told me (over a year ago) that the goal was to keep your body burning fat for fuel by only having fat for breakfast. He said that your body burns fat overnight, but as soon as you have a carbohydrate or protein, it switches away from fat-burning. As your brain is primarily fat, he explained that when your body is burning fat instead of carbohydrates, it's actually feeding the brain with its preferred fuel source (fat). This makes me think that adding a sweetener might possibly sabotage the whole point.
To be clear, I am not a doctor and I can't verify the science on this, because it gets completely mixed reviews. Some sources say the science is legitimate, while others call it pseudoscience. Most of what people talk about regarding bulletproof coffee is that it's supposed to help you burn more fat, but frankly, I just want my brain to work quickly and efficiently again.
In any case, I decided to experiment. I've been trying various concoctions of bulletproof-ish coffee (taste-testing, playing with recipes, etc.) for the past month to see if it made a difference in my daily life. Lucky for me (and maybe for you), it definitely has.
I did not like the traditional recipe, but I did settle on one that drastically improved my ability to focus and work efficiently without sacrificing taste or fixing the sleep problems that are naturally caused by having a teething infant in the house.
Instead of butter and coconut oil (which I did not like the taste of), I simply blend a tablespoon of MCT (medium-chain triglyceride) oil into my coffee or espresso before adding my regular organic half and half. MCTs are found in coconut oil and extracted to provide some of the brain-boosting benefits of coconut oil without the flavor. (Click here for a day-by-day account of what I tried including recipes, more info on MCT oil, my comparison of coffee brands, etc.)
A few quick tips:
- Coffee + butter + coconut oil tastes like unsweetened coconut-flavored coffee. (I'm not a fan.)
- DO NOT stir this concoction with a spoon. You have to blend it to get the oils to emulsify, otherwise you'll end up with a floating layer of oil on top of your coffee. Gross.
- You have to work up to the full dose of MCT oil slowly. Many people who didn't do that reported unpleasant digestive side effects--I wasn't willing to chance those and find out.
After over a week of using the MCT oil in my morning coffee at the full dose (1 tbsp), I noticed a drastic improvement. The comparison between how foggy my brain was when I started this experiment and how I feel today is, frankly, shocking. A month ago, at my worst times, I would space out mid-sentence and it would take 3-4 hours to get my brain functioning (the way I expect it to) on a Monday morning. Now, my type-A, overachieving ego is satisfied, and I can finally get back to work.