Colostrum – What is it and What are the Benefits?

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Colostrum has a host of impressive benefits, yet for many it doesn’t make the shortlist when considering what supplements to purchase. Colostrum has been around for many years, but tends to lurk in the background. This article attempts to shed some light on why Colostrum could make a good supplement choice.

Colostrum is the first milk produced by a cow after giving birth. This milk is nutrient dense in order to provide the calf with everything it needs to stay healthy, grow and recover from birth. This nutrient dense milk is a rich source of protein, immune cells, antibodies (IgA, IgG, IgM), cytokines and growth factors. These all bring a wide range of benefits to health and performance.

Colostrum provides benefits to the digestive system by helping to reduce the increase in gut permeability caused by intense exercise. By reducing gut permeability nutrient uptake is enhanced, allowing for improved recovery from exercise as the nutrients will be more readily delivered to the depleted muscle.

Colostrum has been shown to improve immune function. The immune factors and antibodies found within Colostrum, such as IgG, have been linked to a significant reduction in contractions of upper respiratory tract infections in athletes. It has also been associated with a reduction in incidences of the common cold during periods of intense training. As a result, consuming Colostrum may be beneficial to those participating in intense training camps or during multiple day events to prevent illness.

Colostrum has also been linked with improving performance. Colostrum was shown to significantly improve performance in a sprint task when compared to those supplementing Whey protein (Hoffman et al 2002). Colostrum is also associated with improving the rate of recovery when compared to whey (Buckley et al 2002). This will allow you to train more intensely and frequently, resulting in improved performance and muscle growth. This shows that the growth factors within Colostrum are responsible for these improved recovery times and improved performance.

Colostrum was compared once again to whey protein in terms of body composition. Colostrum was shown to significantly improve lean body mass over 8 weeks (1.49kg) (Antonio et al 2001). This significant improvement over whey highlights the importance of the growth factors, present in Colostrum, in stimulating muscle growth.

Whether it’s muscle growth, immune function or recovery, the research on Colostrum is growing. Particularly during periods of intense training, Colostrum is at least worth consideration.

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Antonio J, Sanders MS, Van Gammeren D, 2001, The effects of bovine colostrum supplementation on body composition and exercise performance in active men and women, Nutrition, 17(3):243-7

Buckley JD, Abbot MJ, Brinkworth GD, Whyte PB, 2002, Bovine colostrum supplementation during endurance running training improves recovery, but not performance, Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport, 5(2):65-79

Hoffman Z, Smeets R, Verlaan G, Lugt Rv, Verstappen PA, 2002, The effect of bovine colostrum supplementation on exercise performance in elite field hockey players, International Journal of Sports Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, 12(4):461-9