When you're toggling between morning classes and late-night performances, coffee can become a dancer's best friend. Fortunately, recent research has found multiple nutritional benefits to coffee, suggesting it's helpful not only for that well-known energy boost, but also for lowering the risk of everything from type 2 diabetes to depression.
What there's not yet enough quality research on? Most of the trendy new coffee "upgrades." Although some holistic health experts suggest that various oils and powders can make your morning cup even healthier, there is insufficient evidence to prove any real benefits, says registered dietitian Monika Saigal. It's best to consider your individual body: Is it worth sticking with your simple cup of joe, or trying one of today's next-gen trends?
Made from medium-chain triglycerides, MCT oil is a compound found in foods like coconut oil. It provides a satisfying fat source. "Hormone balance relies on the use of healthy fat," says Stephanie Rapp, certified holistic health coach and co-founder of Embody Wellness Company in New York City. Some holistic practitioners believe MCT oil leads to more mental clarity, satiety and boosted metabolism, though science has not yet conclusively backed up these claims.
Georgette Schwartz, director of nutrition services at Integrative Acupuncture in Florida, says that MCT oil goes directly from the gut to the liver, where it can be made into ketones, an alternative fuel source for the body. Because the oil is easily absorbed, Schwartz suggests drinking it 10 to 15 minutes before class for an energy boost.
Butter or Ghee
Coined by wellness guru Dave Asprey, "bulletproof coffee" refers to adding butter or ghee along with MCT oil to coffee. The idea is that "it provides lasting, sustainable energy, and helps you feel satiated," says Rapp. Yet Schwartz warns that those with fat-digestion or gallbladder issues should use caution with these kinds of high-fat add-ins.
One trend that has shown promise in studies is supplementing with collagen: Some research suggests that it can help you manage injuries. "Every piece of connective tissue in the body is made from collagen," says Schwartz, who uses it in her coffee every morning. Like any nutrient, collagen is best absorbed from a real food source, says Rapp. But adding hydrolyzed collagen powder to your coffee can be an easy way to incorporate it into your diet.
Mushrooms are filled with antioxidants, and alternative medicine purports that different mushrooms offer different benefits—that reishi is calming and chaga helps with mental clarity, for example. "I carry packets of a blend by Host Defense as a superfood boost," says Rapp, who uses a mushroom supplement daily in her tea or coffee. Since you'd have to eat many actual mushrooms to get the same potency as a supplement, this might be the rare time when an extract or powder might be more beneficial.