Sunday, July 7, 2013

Build A Better Coffee

How to build a better coffee

Why I Put Butter In My Coffee

By Sam Yang - Get similar updates here

Over the years I have been lucky enough to coach many a great minds. From MIT and Cal Tech grads, artificial intelligence engineers, UCLA Physics professors, Stanford and Harvard lawyers and doctors, researchers, start up guys, venture capitalists, PhD students, but most of all lots and lots of successful CEOs and entrepreneurs.

Our type of training attracts this sort of subgroup, one that never felt personal training was right for them. Until we came along at least.

This was a very nerdy bunch and from them, and from my professional athlete friends I kept hearing about coffee with butter and MCT oil. The butter had to be unsalted grass-fed, and the coffee itself should be organic and low in mycotoxins.

It made sense. This was a group where even a 1% improvement in daily performance could mean thousands to hundreds of thousands of dollars of difference.

I would need to test this out: Our Butter Coffee Experiment

Why Coffee Brand Matters

Most people drink coffee without much thought. And the only thing they may care about is flavor and caffeine.

They put cream, sugar, or milk, and other harmful ingredients into a cheap coffee, consume it throughout the day, can't live without it, but never stop to wonder what they are doing to their body. In the end you get caffeine and a whole lot of inflammation.

Dr. Andrew Weil explains how it's common in many countries that live in altitude or cultures that are nomadic. There is also the dangers of mycotoxins, it's something the FDA is always looking for, and heat doesn't kill it. It's prevalent in many coffee brands and is often times the cause of its bitter taste.

For most people coffee is their breakfast. But is your coffee making you high performance? Does your breakfast start your morning with the optimal amount of energy?

From Wikipedia:

"Mycotoxins have the potential for both acute and chronic health effects via ingestion, skin contact, and inhalation. These toxins can enter the blood stream and lymphatic system, they inhibit protein synthesis, damage macrophage systems, inhibit particle clearance of the lung, and increase sensitivity to bacterial endotoxin."

Ultimately it was hard to deny coffee was something people consumed the most, but it had little to no transparency. People didn't know where the beans came from, if they drank a blend what blends they were, if it was organic or fair trade, where it was from, when it was roasted, and most of all if it was ever checked for mycotoxins. A high percentage of mycotoxins were found coffees in several studies. In third party testing, some of the most popular brands have been found to contain mold, or fillers from corn to twigs.

*Note: Fair trade implies nothing about quality, it just means the producer received a fair price. Nonetheless still important.

Coffee for a long time had gotten a bad rap. Evidence was mounting, it was bad for our health. A dangerous drug some called it. People thought it was due to the caffeine but now we know it's because people drink bad coffee.

The cleanest beans tend to be arabica, raised in elevation, whole bean, fair trade, organic, shade grown, and wet processing. Robusta and beans from Africa are dry processed. Meaning it's laid out in the sun, on bricks, mats, concrete or tables, usually raised above ground level so bugs don't get at them. Then the dirt, twigs, soil, leaves, bugs, and everything else is sorted by hand. There's a lot of room for contamination. Sometimes arabica beans from Brazil, Haiti, Paraguay, India, and Ecuador are also dry processed.

Wet processed means the bean has been removed from the fruit, then washed in clean water where bad and unripe beans float to the top, then are removed. The remaining pulp gets removed by machines or through a careful fermentation process. Creating the a better coffee bean.

Cheap coffee has many side effects but good premium coffee has many positive benefits on health. Just as corn fed beef has different health effects from grass-fed beef. Coffee increases alertness, short term and long memory, coffee drinkers are less likely to be diabetic, decrease risks of certain cancers, decrease risk of Alzheimer's, and a favorite among academics and athletes for its increase in mental and physical performance. Recent studies by Harvard ties coffee and mental health, including lowering risk for suicide.

I was drawn to coffee because I have a history of migraines, and found coffee to help more than tea (caffeine is a key ingredient in most migraine medications).

Coffee is loaded with antioxidants and polyphenols (good premium coffee that is) and for most Americans it's their only source of daily antioxidants. It also suppresses appetite and aids in weight loss (increases metabolism and fat mobilization).

Don't just do it out of habit, do it because it adds a quantifiable boost to your day. Health should not be nebulous, everything you do should make you better. Dave Asprey really made this brand of coffee popular with his Upgraded line, known as Bulletproof.

Over time and much experimentation, I found Kicking Horse brand coffee to have all the qualities I was looking for, it was also the best value. Don't let the funny name fool you, they know their coffee and they know their sourcing and processing. You can also find single source options. As long as it's not one of their products where they use beans from Africa, it will be wet processed and arabica. If you go with decaffeinated, it loses a lot of the value. Understand there is no such thing as a decaf coffee bean, it goes through a chemical process to strip away the caffeine -- which ruins the point of having "clean" coffee.

Stick with the 1 pound bag to maintain freshness. With a bigger bag, you end up taking longer to go through it and the coffee won't stay fresh or pure for that long. Especially once you open the bag.

It Is The Pre-Game Drink For The Lakers

"Organ meats and bone-based broths are among the four "food pillars" that Shanahan has identified, along with fermented or sprouted food and raw, full-fat unpasteurized dairy. It's the way DiFrancesco was raised to eat -- and Shanahan would argue, the way much healthier populations ate for hundreds of years before the American diet became the processed, toxic mess that it is now.

Not only are the Lakers unafraid of healthy fats, they practically freebase them. The pregame beverage of choice is something the players call "bullet-proof coffee."

"The caffeine dilates your blood vessels and delivers the fat to the brain," Kaman said."

Source: CBS Sports

Saturated Fats

In the early 1980s, the lipid hypothesis came to the forefront of public medicine. Based on research done by Ancel Keys, saturated fat and cholesterol were implicated as the leading cause of cardiovascular disease. Years since then doctors and researchers have realized the two are correlated but no direct cause and effect. Cholesterol was the smoke, but not the fire. Inflammation caused by sugar, stress, and man-made fats was the fire. Our liver produces cholesterol to repair damage. Now scientists are seeing the other side of saturated fats, the health benefits such as weight loss, mental health, and it's benefits in fighting Alzheimer's disease.

In fact there is no significant evidence of saturated fats being associated with increase heart disease or coronary disease.

Much like fats from fish, olive oil, nuts like almonds; MCT oil and butter are brain food.


The other ingredient in this coffee is MCT oil. A known thermogenic, a popular oil among ketogenic dieters, and a key in the treatment of epilepsy and other neurological disorders. It's been used at the world famous Johns Hopkins for years.

It's a type of fat that is not only used quickly as energy, but it makes your body want to burn more fat as fuel.

Studies have shown it also increases cognitive abilities. Our brain is made up of mostly fat, particularly the myelin and our brain not only uses glucose but also ketones and medium chain fats as fuel. Fat moves better through fat, better than glucose. How much energy our brain uses is still unknown, the general consensus is it uses a lot, and the more you demand of your brain, the more energy it uses. This is partially why stress increases cravings, sugar makes it worse and fats make it better.

The main form of fat in coconut oil is MCT, which is why coconut oil is so popular. It boosts immunity, metabolism, thyroid performance, and heart health as well. It gives you quick energy like carbs, it's longer lasting, doesn't get stored as fat, and doesn't give you a crash. This begins to change the structure of your energy system, how your body uses energy, and the type of energy it prefers.

I add the NOW MCT oil to my coffee, but sometimes also in my tea. I drizzle it on foods, and sometimes I take a spoonful (as opposed to the spoonfuls of sugar kids were fed to make bad tasting things go down).

Grassfed Butter

Grassfed butter has three to five times more CLA (conjugated linoleic acid), and has none of the inflammatory issues. It has almost no casein or lactose, and has only the good properties of dairy. It aids in muscle development, immunity boost, fat loss, has lots of vitamins, especially A and K2, and an abundance of healthy fats. It may be just as important or more important than MCT oil for the brain.

It has arichidonic acid which helps with brain function, but also the short chain fats of butter is great for long term energy and is a reason why it has been key to the survival of people who live in altitude such as Tibet (Himalayas), along with nomadic tribes, and tribes in cold climates and hot climates. Fat was a principle player in long sustained energy for most early people. They traveled or climbed long distances on just fat. People run marathons loaded up on all kinds of sugars, whereas native tribes ran or trekked even further on some dried meats, nuts, and fats. Now low carb runners are setting records.

Butter alone has played a big role in the diets of many Eastern and Western cultures. There are so many documented health benefits of butter. There are no natural vegan cultures, they at least ate butter.

Butter is my go to cooking fat, it's also now common place to put it in your coffee. The most reliable brand I find is Kerrygold Pure Unsalted Irish Butter. Also try adding organic cinnamon. Not only does it add more cancer fighting antioxidants, but it tastes great.

How To Build A Better Coffee

  • Kicking Horse Coffee (Arabica, raised in elevation, fair trade, organic, shade grown, whole bean, and wet processed coffee. Avoid the decaf and the products where they use beans from Africa, as explained above).
  • A Coffee Grinder (I find KRUPS to be the most reliable and durable. If you buy ground, k-cup, or instant, you missed the whole point of this article).
  • A Stainless Steel French Press (This is great for convenience and a nice option if you don't want to use the percolator. I use the Highwin Double Wall Insulated, because a glass french press breaks within a year of daily use. It also still has plastic parts; you want to avoid any plastics when dealing with hot coffee).
  • A Percolator (They work better than a french press for extracting antioxidants and makes for a strong brew. I use the classic stainless steel percolator from Farberware).
  • A Hand Blender (Do not use a spoon, it needs to be thoroughly mixed. I use the Cuisinart since it's so versatile, durable, and easy to clean. This model has a metal head and shaft, which is safe for hot liquids. Plastic mixers weren't meant for hot liquids).

Grind the coffee, brew it. Blend 1 tbsp of butter and 1 tbsp of MCT oil per cup of coffee. Make sure the handblender is completely submerged before you start blending unless you want coffee everywhere.

*Note: If you find that you are getting an upset stomach, its most likely the MCT oil. Lower the dosage and slowly work your way up.

Don't throw away your coffee grounds!

When you're done, don't throw away your grounds! There are many uses. You can use it to clean, deodorize, scour, exfoliate, put it in a pouch and hang it in your car for that morning coffee smell, tenderize meat, or add it to homemade snacks to energize it with caffeine. More ideas here.

Weight Loss

This coffee protocol has been used with all of our new clients who've joined in the past few months, and their rate of weight loss has increased by over 30%. Breakfast has also been a major player.

Finish It Off With Fish Oils And Vitamin D

The only supplement I recommend to to everyone are fish oils. Fish oils are naturally one of the most effective at reducing inflammation, they're also rich in nutrients. Inflammation is a factor in nearly every disease, including cancer and reducing inflammation then must be a priority. Not all omega 3 supplements are the same; fish oil is superior to krill, flax, chia, and every other form of omega 3. This doesn't mean you should buy any brand of fish oil, as they too are not all created equal, which is why many of them are a waste of money.

The brand I recommend are called Nordic Naturals in the triglyceride form (triglyceride form is what makes it bioavailable). I take two every morning, but take more if I know I'm going to have an intense workout that day or if I'm feeling some extra stress.

I couple this with Vitamin D3 from Nutrigold. D3 is the most natural and absorbable form of vitamin D. America ranks highest in vitamin D deficiency, and vitamin D plays a role in nearly every health function.

Sam Yang from an early age has been obsessed with connecting the dots between martial arts and efficiency, health, mindset, business, science, and habits to improve optimal well-being. For more info, join his newsletter. You can also connect to All Out Effort on Facebook and Twitter.

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