Colostrum is a special form of milk produced by mammals shortly before and after the birth of offspring. Like regular milk, it is 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 (like IGF-1) and antibodies that promote development of the offspring and provide ‘grassroots’ immunity against pathogens.
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 realizing its efficacy as an ergogenic aid. The latest research supporting colustrum for promoting muscular growth comes from a study presented last summer (2016) at the 13th International Society of Sports Nutrition (ISSN) Conference and Expo in Clearwater, 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 body composition changes induced by a growth promoting strength training regimen. Thirty-two college aged and resistance trained participants were given colostrum, bioactive peptides, or placebo, to be taken daily, during an 8-week structured 4-day split training cycle.
At the end of 8 weeks, the researchers reported that colostrum supplementation produced the most dramatic effects on increased lean mass (~2.5 kg; 233% over placebo) with no significant change in fat mass (although they report a ‘trend’ for deceased in fat mass and body fat percentage). The authors concluded that the addition of bovine colostrum to a 4-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 did not 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 g of protein from your pre and postworkout shake with 5-10 g of bovine colostrum.
Reference: A. Kreutzer, P. Zavala, S. Fleming, M. Jones, J. M. Oliver, A. Jagim. The effects of 8 weeks of colostrum and bio-active peptide supplementation on body composition in recreational male weight lifters. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition 2016 13(Suppl 1):33