Milk Your Muscles

Try colostrum, it’s high in protein and vitamin A but has relatively low amounts of fat, carbs and potassium.

Want to get strong like an ox? Try colostrum, a special form of milk produced by mammals shortly before and after the birth of offspring. Like regular milk, it’s high in protein and vitamin A but has relatively low amounts of fat, carbs and potassium. The greatest distinguishing feature of colostrum versus regular milk is its very high levels of bioactive growth factors (such as insulin like-growth factor-1) and antibodies that promote development of the offspring and provide “grassroots” immunity against pathogens.

“OK, great,” you ask, “so what does this have to do with fitness?”

Bovine (cow) colostrum as a supplement has been around for decades, mainly due to its very high levels of bioactive growth-promoting and immune-boosting factors/peptides. However, the scientific community is only just now realizing its efficacy as an ergogenic aid.

The latest research supporting colostrum for promoting muscle growth comes from a study presented in 2016 at the 13th International Society of Sports Nutrition Conference and Expo in Clearwater Beach, Florida. In this double-blind, placebo-controlled study, the researchers sought to determine the effects of supplements containing either isolated bioactive peptides or whole colostrum on subjects’ body composition while following a strength-training regimen. Thirty-two college-aged trained participants were given colostrum, bioactive peptides or placebo to be taken daily during an eight-week, four-day-split training cycle.

At the end of eight weeks, the researchers reported that colostrum supplementation produced the most dramatic effects on increased lean mass — approximately 2.5 kilograms/5.5 pounds, 233 percent over placebo — with no significant change in fat mass (although they did report a “trend” for deceased fat mass and body fat percentage). 

The authors concluded that the addition of bovine colostrum to a four-day split resistance program appears to augment lean mass gains better than placebo or a commercially available isolated bioactive peptide supplement.

ACTION POINT: The authors didn’t specify their supplement dosing in this study; however, in order for colostrum to be effective as a muscle builder, you have to take relatively large doses. For best results, we suggest replacing 5–10 grams of protein of your pre- and postworkout shake with 5–10 grams of bovine colostrum.