Gain Mass

Breast Milk for Muscle Gains?

Hoping to find an edge in the gym, bodybuilders are seeking out milk from nursing moms.

David Sandler, MS, CSCSD thumbnail by MS, CSCS*D
breast milk in locker

It’s kind of ironic that in the world of sports nutrition, where tomorrow’s innovations cannot come fast enough, one of the latest fads has roots in the Mesozoic Era, not long after dinosaurs roamed the earth. Human breast milk is hardly something an avid fitness enthusiast would consider a performance supplement. Yet breast milk is having its moment thanks to its purported superiority to cow’s milk for building muscle.

Where to separate myth from fact? Let’s start here: All animal milk begins as colostrum, a precursor to breast milk that is loaded with highly concentrated hormones, growth factors, and important nutrients for developing the structure and function of the entire body. During the first few days, the concentration of key growth factors in a cow’s colostrum drops off markedly until they are virtually undetectable in the normal milk that follows and eventually makes its way to your supermarket shelf. However, in humans, while there is a drop-off, breast milk continues to hold a higher concentration (per milliliter) of these key hormones for several weeks to months after the colostrum phase. Thus the belief that consuming human breast milk will increase muscle size and strength has been perpetuated. However, it is not quite that simple.

Here's What You Need to Know

First, the level of hormones in regular breast milk is relatively low, concentrated in the fairly small amount of colostrum. Second, the growth and development needs of an infant differ from that of a bodybuilder. While the concentration of hormones may be higher in human breast milk, the adult human digestive system is far more developed than that of an infant and not as absorbent to the growth factors in colostrum. Neither research nor practice has shown that colostrum can build muscle any faster than regular cow’s milk or whey protein.

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