Colostrum

Nutritional Compound

OVERVIEW

Summary

In the never-ending quest to perform better than their competitors, athletes continually search for the next “new” performance-enhancement supplement. Colostrum has been the subject of a great deal of controversy, but recent studies claim it may help boost immune functioning and support muscle growth and recovery. If this holds true, it may very well become the next level in protein supplementation.

Other names for Colostrum

bovine colostrum

Where to find Colostrum

Colostrum is the pre-milk fluid produced from the mother’s mammary glands, secreted during the first few days after giving birth. Supplemental sources are from cow’s milk, thus the name “bovine” colostrum.

PERFORMANCE BENEFITS

Why athletes use Colostrum

Many athletes are intrigued by colostrum’s growth-promoting potential. However, while colostrum does contain some powerful growth-stimulating nutrients, it’s not necessarily true that orally consuming these compounds would lead to greater muscle growth and strength. Nonetheless, recent research is suggesting that it just may, so while this science is only preliminary, it is intriguing.

Ways that Colostrum can enhance Muscle Gain & Recovery:
  • As a protein, provide amino acids (which are the major building blocks of muscle) needed for the repair and growth of muscle tissue
  • Increase the anabolic environment and prevent muscle breakdown, assisting the muscle-building effects of intense weight training
Ways that Colostrum can enhance Longevity:
  • Boost immune function by increasing levels of glutathione, one of the most potent antioxidants in our bodies

HEALTH BENEFITS

Signs of Colostrum deficiency

No deficiency conditions are known to exist.

Potential uses for Colostrum

Research indicates that Colostrum may be useful in the treatment of:

  • Catabolism (muscle wasting)
  • Degenerative diseases
  • Impaired immune function
  • Gastrointestinal distress
  • Infectious diarrhea

DISCUSSION

More about Colostrum

Colostrum is the pre-milk fluid produced from the mother’s mammary glands — it’s a thick, yellow, milky substance secreted during the first few days after giving birth. Supplemental sources are derived from cow’s milk, hence the name “bovine” colostrum. Colostrum is a rich source of antibodies and is made up primarily of whey protein (75%) and casein. Growth factors and other important protein peptides make up the rest. This “power-packed” nutrient list makes it essential for newborn infants for proper growth and development.

Colostrum has been the subject of a great deal of controversy lately because it contains some powerful muscle-growth-causing compounds, such as insulin-like growth factors-1 and 2 (IGF-1 and IGF-2) and immunoglobulins (mainly IgG). Thus, some believe it may be a useful performance-enhancing protein and possibly assist in muscle growth. Some experts, however, have suggested that while a newborn baby can prosper from these all-important nutrients, an adult’s digestive system may immediately break down the active components and render them virtually useless to the body. Thus, it may provide a few vitamins, minerals, and antibodies but nothing more.

What the research reveals

New research, however poorly controlled, has documented that it may have positive performance-enhancing effects (increasing muscular work capacity) even when digested by a “mature” stomach. Technology may have a lot to do with this. You see, low-heat pasteurization techniques, such as microfiltration processing, appear to preserve the vital components of colostrum, such as lactoferrin and lactoperoxidase, leaving them intact and readily available for the body to use.

In fact, results from a few preliminary studies with rowers, cyclists, and hockey players have shown 60 grams of colostrum per day, supplemented for 8 weeks, enhance the body’s ability to build muscle and potentially boost performance. These benefits appear to be attributable to its ability to enhance amino acid and carbohydrate uptake by the intestines as well as its potential to raise levels of some key growth factors, such as IGF-1 and 2.

Boost immune functioning

Colostrum may be especially beneficial for boosting immune functioning within the digestive tract itself. This is where science seems fairly clear and conclusive. Colostrum seems to keep the lining of the digestive system healthy, helping maintain the balance of good bacteria within the gut. Because it’s reported to help normalized the gut and reduce symptoms of diarrhea, which leads to better digestion and better absorption of nutrients, it’s theorized to help improve protein (amino acid) uptake as well. But, this may be a pretty good stretch.

The simple truth

The research is still very preliminary, so debate continues to run rampant, and there remain a lot of unanswered questions regarding this protein source. Only time and continued scientific research will tell. While colostrum does contain some nutrients that can contribute to muscle growth, it is not necessarily true that orally consuming this protein would lead to greater muscle growth, strength, and performance. Case in point, most of these growth factors have been found to be most effective when taken by injection, not by mouth. But the research is certainly intriguing, and we’ll be sure to keep you posted as more is learned about the effectiveness (or not) of colostrum.

NOTES ON USAGE

Amount

For muscle growth and repair, the amount used in clinical trials and thus the amount typically recommended is 20 to 60 grams, depending on bodyweight.

For immune-system support, a mere 10 grams per day is suggested.

Caveat

Evidence is still inconclusive if colostrum should actually be supplemented as a “normal” protein, such as whey or casein.

Timing

Like most protein supplements, colostrum appears to be most effective when supplemented evenly throughout the day, and to ensure adequate “uptake” of proteins, it is recommended at least one hour after training and right before going to bed.

Synergists of Colostrum

No synergists have been noted.

Safety of Colostrum

Not advised for children or pregnant or lactating women.

People with or predisposed to cancer should avoid use of colostrum or at least consult a physician before use because it may elevate IGF-1 levels.

Toxicity of Colostrum

No known toxicity.

Bans and restrictions

None reported.

RELATED RESEARCH

  • Buckley, J., et al., “Oral Supplementation with Bovine Colostrum Intact™ Increases Vertical Jump Performance,” Centre for Research in Education and Sports Science, University of South Australia, Australia. Abstract presented at the 4th Annual Congress of the European College of Sports Science. Rome. July 14-17, 1999.
  • Buckley, J., et al., “Effect of an Oral Bovine Colostrum Supplement (Intact™) on Running Performance,” Centre for Research in Education and Sports Science, University of South Australia. Abstract presented at the 1998 Australian Conference of Science and Medicine in Sport. Adelaide, South Australia, October 1998.
  • Buckley, J.D., et al., “Oral Supplementation with Bovine Colostrum (Intact™) Improves Rowing Performance in Elite Female Rowers,” Centre for Research in Education and Sports Science, University of South Australia. Abstract presented at the 5th I.O.C. World Congress of Sports Sciences, Syndey.
  • Mero, A., et al., “Effects of Bovine Colostrum Supplementation on Serum IGF-I, IgG, Hormone, and Saliva IgA During Training,” J Appl Physiol 83.4 (1997) : 1144-51.