Your third grade science teacher was wrong: Apparently oil and water do mix.
Or at least they do if you break the oil into nanoparticles and add a bit of slick marketing. FATwater, which is water with medium chain triglyceride oils integrated into it, is joining America’s already long list of vitamin, electrolyte, amino acid and otherwise “upgraded” waters. It’s the latest product from biohacker and Bulletproof Coffee creator Dave Asprey, who preaches a high-fat, low-carb diet. “I expect it to revolutionize endurance events, especially when hydration is a factor,” he says about the new drink.
Five years ago, infusing water with fat would have sounded like sacrilege among the please-pass-the-pasta endurance athlete set. But these days, there’s a growing contingent of distance athletes who might actually be into this. “Fat adaptation” or teaching your body to burn fat—not carbs—for fuel is gaining popularity among endurance athletes looking for an alternative to the 200 calories of sugar per hour method of competing.
“It’s growing exponentially; every day there’s an email or a phone call from someone who is interested in this,” says Bob Seebohar, an exercise physiologist and sports dietician. Seebohar has worked with numerous Olympic teams and athletes, and he coined the term metabolic efficiency training, to describe the process of training your body to metabolize fat efficiently.
“The average non-elite athlete has a ridiculous amount of fat calories stored in their bodies. A non-elite has about 80,000 or more calories of fat but only 1,400-2,000 calories of stored carbohydrates in their body,” he explains. “So you can see where there’s a whole host of benefits to this.”
In order to burn fat, though, you have to consume fat. Which is what Asprey’s diet plan—and his water—are all about. FATwater uses medium chain triglycerides (abbreviated as MCT), which are derived from coconuts and are absorbed more quickly than other types of fat, meaning it can also be burned more quickly. It’s the same stuff that’s attracted hundreds of people to Asprey’s bulletproof coffee. But MCT oil has one downfall: When taken in large quantities, it can result in a major “code brown” incident. It’s hard to imagine runners, a group already haunted by the constant fear of poop mishaps, opting to ingest a product known for its laxative qualities.
“It may be absorbed quickly but that doesn’t help you if you’re spending more time in the port-o-potty,” says Marni Sumbal, a registered dietician, elite Ironman athlete and triathlon coach.
Furthermore, she’s not convinced that sips of oil are the best source of fuel for athletes. “There’s very little research showing that this is a good way to fuel,” she says, adding that when athletes go low-carb they often find the lifestyle completely unsustainable.
In all fairness, Asprey is not necessarily saying athletes would consume only FATwater as they work out. “For endurance athletes who want a lot of calories, you can add FATwater to any high-calorie beverage you like in order to get better hydration,” he says, adding, “FATwater will help you stay hydrated…and there’s nothing stopping you from eating anything you want during a race.”
However, Asprey is claiming that the MCT nano-particles actually help your body absorb water faster. Neither Sumbal nor Seebohar were aware of any research that showed medium chain triglycerides might act as an aid for water absorption, and Asprey didn’t respond to a request for additional details as to how this might work. “The best way to absorb fluids is with electrolytes,” says Seebohar, adding, “I don’t exactly know why he’s attempting that messaging.”
Still, Seebohar gets what Asprey is trying to do and he appreciates it. For so long, America has been so afraid of fat, and Asprey has been a champion for getting people to consider adding it back to their diets—something Seebohar has championed too. But others, Sumbal included, aren't not sure mainstream America is ready for—or needs—fat infused water, not when the world is full of bacon and almonds and other, deliciously fatty things.
Bulletproof FATwater will soon be available at Bulletproof’s flagship café in Santa Monica as well as in the natural food store chain Erewhon Markets.