Mothers Milk, Runners Riches

Colostrum is a mother’s first gift to a child. Known as “first milk,” it’s a low-fat, high-protein version of breast milk that all mammalian mothers lactate within the first few days after giving birth. Packed with nutrients and natural antibodies, it’s partially responsible for giving newborns a fighting chance against disease-causing pathogens — including bacteria and parasites — and getting them to a healthy weight.

Bovine colostrum is the cow version of this vital motherly cocktail. Because of its nutritional qualities, including protein power, it’s quickly gaining popularity in the athletic world.

Dr. Jon Buckley, a sports nutrition expert who teaches at the University of South Australia, has studied the potential benefits of bovine colostrum for athletes for decades. He’s found that supplementing an athlete’s diet with 60 grams of concentrated bovine colostrum protein powder can improve an athlete's performance by more than 5 percent.

Using the exact same regimen, the Australian team credited their successes in the 2000 and 2004 summer Olympics to bovine colostrum.

It’s All in the Gut

Mother's Milk 3

Can bovine colostrum give your athletic performance a pro-level boost? Not exactly, or at least not yet. It won’t replace the need for intense training, a strict diet, and years of dedication. However, if early research is proven correct, it might be able to add some serious value to your regimen.

While its high protein value is certainly a plus, its greatest asset to athletes is actually its immune-boosting capabilities.

The bulk of a person’s immune system lies within their guts. The antibodies in colostrum are vital for helping newborns build up the ability to fight disease, but they can also prove valuable for athletes.

The intense physical stress that athletes put on their bodies during training can severely weaken their immune systems. If “runner’s trots” — the loosening of the bowels — strike during the big race, months of training can go out the window.

Its ability to help strengthen the gut during particularly stressful situations has experts suggesting it may be of particular benefit to soldiers serving in hot climates, such as Afghanistan.

Also, its natural antibiotics can help athletes ward off sickness and infection during peak exercise routines. The supplemented form of bovine colostrum appears to have the same effect, so marathon runners don’t need to fight off a newborn calf to make sure their training regimen goes smoothly this winter.

Not Just for Runners

Mother's Milk

The gastrointestinal benefits of bovine colostrum extent beyond keeping long-distance runners’ shorts clean or helping them ward off disease.

It can also be used as a treatment for diarrhea, and has been found to help control gut disturbances in people taking NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) over a long period of time. These include ibuprofen, aspirin, and other common pain relievers.

Some research has indicated using bovine colostrum supplements can help a person recover after abdominal or coronary bypass surgery.

People allergic or sensitive to dairy products should not use bovine colostrum. Talk to your doctor or nutritionist about the potential benefits or risks of bovine colostrum before adding it to your diet.