The Benefits of Colostrum Milk Powder Supplements for Bodybuilding

Colostrum Bodybuilding

Never Limit Yourself when it comes to Finding Food Choices

Bodybuilders shouldn't be crybabies, but it might not be a bad idea for bodybuilders to eat like them. There's no question that the health of a newborn infant is improved if it consumes the first secretions - colostrum - that come from the mother's breast. This first meal not only supplies an ideal nutritional profile for the infant, but also delivers vital immune and growth factors. It's a case of first come, best served.

The most rapid growth of muscle, bone and other tissues occurs during the earliest stages of life. Knowing this, doctors and food scientists have begun studying whether the benefits passed on to newborns via colostrum might also be enjoyed by red-blooded gym junkies who want to get bigger, stronger and leaner.

Of course, we're not suggesting that bodybuilders start hanging around maternity wards waiting for the perfect moment to suckle potent breast milk. Bovine colostrum is currently available to bodybuilders as a supplement in liquid, powder, lozenge and tablet form.

Actually, colostrum isn't milk at all. It does, however, contain bodybuilding proteins (whey and casein) plus fats and small amounts of carbohydrate. Real colostrum also contains a healthy helping of immune system enhancers (such as immunoglobulins), antimicrobial agents (lactoferrin, lysozyme and lactoperoxidase) and hormonal factors, including insulinlike growth factors (IGF-I and IGF-II).

The portion of bovine colostrum that has the highest concentration of health-promoting factors is produced only in the first six hours after the cow gives birth. As the postpartum period progresses into the second or third day, the colostrum is gradually replaced with what we call cow's milk. The time at which the product was collected becomes one of the most important factors to consider when purchasing a colostrum supplement.


The change of environment from womb to world is drastic for all mammalian infants. It makes sense that nature would deliver a nutritional boost to babies soon after birth. Here are some potent elements found in colostrum that may aid bodybuilders in immune system support and growth.

Immune System Enhancers

Suppression of immune function can follow intense or prolonged exercise sessions that are repeated regularly. By preventing the invasion of foreign organisms, immune enhancers help to preserve valuable energy and immune-system resources for recovery and repair after training.

Immunoglobulins Also known as antibodies, immunoglobulins play a significant role in the transference of immunity from the mother to the baby. The immunoglobulins contained in colostrum (IgG, IgM, IgA and secretory IgA) exert powerful protective effects against various disease-causing bacteria, viruses and yeasts in the digestive tract.

Lactoferrin This is another potent immune enhancer. It does its job by binding and holding on to free molecules of iron. Since many types of bacteria and viruses require iron to grow and proliferate, lactoferrin prevents the nasty invaders from gaining a foothold.

Proline-Rich Polypeptides These may help regulate the thymus gland, which plays a critical role in the immune system.

Cytokines Colostrum contains several different types of proteins called cytokines, which help regulate cellular functions in response to stimuli, such as inflammation and even strenuous exercise.

Growth Factors

Growth hormone and insulinlike growth factors are found in high-quality (first-milking) colostrum. IGF-I and II are normally produced in the liver in response to the secretion of growth hormone. IGF-I and II promote rapid cell proliferation and differentiation (i.e., growth) in newborns. In newborns, much of the IGF-I and II is used to seal up their highly permeable digestive tracts by promoting proliferation of gut cells. In adults, there's a similar gastrointestinal improvement, especially if gut damage is present. Epidermal and transforming growth factors present in high-quality colostrum also help protect and enhance the integrity of the cells lining the small intestine. Impairment of gastrointestinal function occurs regularly in adults due to stress (including training), prescription and over-the-counter drugs (including ibuprofen, aspirin and other antiinflammatories), alcohol use and poor eating habits.


Despite these potential benefits, there aren't many analyses evaluating the effects of colostrum in athletes. A 1997 Finnish study used male sprinters and jumpers as subjects. There was a significant increase of serum IGF-I levels following oral liquid colostrum supplementation (with 25 and 125 milliliters) compared to supplementation with whey protein devoid of IGF-I and IgA. The researchers noted that the results were complicated by the fact that the subjects' serum IGF-I levels were 20% lower prior to the colostrum supplementation period than they were before the whey protein supplementation period.

While this differential is problematic, the data also indicated serum IGF-I trended upward in the colostrum groups and downward in the whey protein group. Unfortunately, the study duration was brief; it will take more research to get definitive answers.

More recently, serum IGF-I concentrations in 10 male and eight female endurance and strength athletes were examined. When the I subjects were given oral I supplements of powdered colostrum (20 grams per day), their serum IGF-I increased by an average of 17%.

Research has also been performed to evaluate colostrum and athletic performance in specific events, including rowing, vertical jumping and treadmill running. While these later studies were limited, and to date remain unpublished in peer-reviewed journals, performance measures did show some positive effects. Interestingly, in these investigations, the researchers used a colostrum dose of 60 grams per day. Since that is so much higher than dosages given in other studies, it at least suggests they were using a different quality of colostrum.


If you decide to try a colostrum supplement, consider the source and processing of the product. Most important, first-milking colostrum is far richer in the good stuff we've mentioned - immunoglobulins, lactoferrin, lysozyme, lactoperoxidase, IGF-I and II, and other immune system normalizers and regulators - than colostrum derived from later milking, which is substantially lower in aualitv and is biochemically closer to common cow's milk than it is to real colostrum. At this time, the U.S. Department of Agriculture does not differentiate between first-milking and later-milking colostrum. In order to ensure that you're getting first-milking colostrum - and only the first milking - look for the claim of "first milking" or "milked only for the first six hours" on the label. Because it's often difficult to determine exactly what you're getting, choose a reputable company and pay attention to the exact wording on the label.

Even the definition of colostrum is unregulated, so it's actually possible to use the serum (blood minus the red cells) from a cow as the primary source of some components of colostrum and still call the product "bovine colostrum." While the serum of cow's blood does contain some of the same substances as true first-milking colostrum, there remain significant differences between the two. The balance between the immunoglobulins, cytokines, lysozyme, lactoferrin and other components is not the same, and several of these components may not even be present. Some of the benefit from consuming real colostrum may come from this intricate balance of components. Unfortunately, companies are not currently required to label their product as fake or "engineered" colostrum or to disclose the use of bovine blood products. There may be nothing wrong with bovine blood products, but they differ greatly from the colostrum we're concerned with in this article.

Here are some other points to consider regarding first-milking colostrum. In order for the IGFs to reach the target tissues, they must first make it through the gut. Although questions remain about their absorption and ultimate physiological activities in adults, the IGFs in real colostrum apparently don't degrade when they're exposed to low heat or acidity. Mother Nature likewise made sure that some, if not all, of the immunoglobulins in colostrum would be able to reach the farthest points along the digestive tract by including inhibitors of various protein-digesting enzymes. Whether it's the IGFs or immunoglobulins, something in the product seems to make a positive difference, at least according to the various studies showing that real colostrum can contribute to immunity, gastrointestinal health and possibly athletic performance.


Determining the correct dosage for bodybuilders is difficult with the limited amount of knowledge currently available. There is evidence that you don't need to consume huge multigram dosages of real colostrum. Based on an examination of more than 200 studies on colostrum and its components, one or two grams per day of high-quality real colostrum should be sufficient to provide benefits. As little as 150 milligrams of real colostrum taken by mouth has been shown to have significant benefits.

Scientists also disagree on the optimal manner of consuming colostrum. Some human studies suggest it's more beneficial to hold the colostrum in the mouth for a protracted time before swallowing, while others indicate it's better if swallowed immediately. If there are any benefits to holding colostrum in the mouth, it makes sense to go ahead and do so until science proves or disproves this point definitively. You're going to swallow eventually, so you might as well give the holding technique a try.

No matter which brand of colostrum you decide to purchase, do your homework and make sure you're getting what you want. Determine that your overall diet and training programs are on target first, then, if you do decide to try this supplement, give yourself eight weeks to see effects. Don't be a crybaby, though, if this new "baby food" doesn't deliver miracles.

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