7 Reasons Colostrum Dominates in Enhancing Performance

7 Reasons Colostrum Dominates in Enhancing Performance

There are many supplements on the market which claim to have performance enhancing benefits but do not have the data to live up to their claims.

The exception to this is colostrum, which is fast becoming one of the go to all natural supplements used by elite athletes to gain an edge.

This is because research shows that colostrum has the potential to enhance strength and endurance, promote the development of lean muscle mass, bolster immune capabilities, reduce recovery duration, and expedite the healing process for injuries.

In this article, we discuss what colostrum is and provide 7 science based reasons for how it can help enhance performance naturally.

What is Colostrum?

Often referred to as "first milk," bovine colostrum is produced by mother cows within the initial days after giving birth to a calf. It is rich in nutrients, immunoglobulins, peptides and growth factors, all of which have important immune benefits for the calf.

Once the calf has received their volume on colostrum, the remainder is collected and taken to a facility where it is gently dried and turned into a bioactive powder.

Recognized as "liquid gold," colostrum holds over 250+ bioactive and performance enhancing compounds. These bioactives have demonstrated a remarkable ability to renew, revitalise, and promote human health at the cellular level.

Some of these all natural and bioactive components include:

  • Immunoglobulins such as IgG, IgM, IgA
  • Secretary Immunoglobulin (SIgA)
  • Growth Factors like IGF-1, IGF-2, TGF-β1, TGF-β2
  • Prebiotic Oligosaccharides
  • Lactoferrin
  • Lactoperoxidase
  • Anti-Inflammatory Cytokines
  • Proline Rich Polypeptides
  • Scialic Acid
  • Interleukins
  • Interferons
  • Lymphokines
  • Lactalbumins
  • Colony-Stimulating Factor-1
  • Epithelial Growth Factor (EGF)
  • Alongside Vitamins and Minerals

On their own, many of these compounds have been shown to have wide ranging benefits. However, when combined, they work synergistically which is why colostrum has been shown to have wide ranging performance benefits.

7 Reasons Colostrum Enhances Athletic Performance

1. Bovine Colostrum May Enhance Lean Muscle Mass & Strength

Bovine colostrum has been shown to enhance muscle mass, strength and power.

In one study, colostrum taken during resistance training improved leg press strength, increased muscle thickness, tissue mass and enhanced upper body strength (1).

While another study showed that combining colostrum and training for 8 weeks lead to an increase in bone free lean body mass in both men and women (2).

Finally, in 51 males doing resistance and plyometric training, bovine colostrum taken during training was shown to increase peak anaerobic powder (3)

2. Bovine Colostrum May Speed Up Recovery

Bovine colostrum may also enhance recovery times by helping repair muscle damage and transporting more nutrients to the muscle.

In a study looking at the effects of low dose colostrum supplementation in soccer players, colostrum was found to reduce post exercise induced muscle damage alongside improving performance (4).

While another study found that taking colostrum during endurance training improved performance by 5.2% after 8 weeks. Researchers put the improvement down to colostrum enhancing recovery (5).

In another study where cyclists supplemented with colostrum for 8 weeks, those taking colostrum improved their cycling time by 158 seconds compared to a 37 seconds improvement in the whey protein group. Scientists proposed that colostrum enhanced the function of the small intestine and the absorption of nutrients, consequently increasing the availability of essential nutrients to aid muscle recovery (6)

3. Bovine Colostrum May Increase Serum IGF-1

Colostrum contains multiple natural growth factors like IGF-1, IGF-2, TGF-β1 and TGF-β2 just to name a few.

These growth factors have a wide ranging benefits. However, the most relevant to promoting muscle growth is IGF-I given it is anabolic by nature and has been shown to promote lean muscle mass. The IGFs in humans and cows are identical and bovine colostrum actually contains more IGF-1 than human colostrum.

In one study, bovine colostrum was found to increase serum IGF-1 in male sprinting and jumping athletes during strength and speed training (7). However, other studies have not replicated this finding.

4. Bovine Colostrum Enhances Athlete Immunity

One of the biggest limiting factors to making progress for athletes or even building muscle in the gym is getting sick. For elite athletes it can make or break their season.

Unfortunately, athletes and those who workout alot are at a higher risk of illness, especially URTIs.

Luckily, colostrum supplementation has been shown to protect athletes against URTIs, Influenza, Rotavirus and even reduce the severity of Covid-19. 

In one study, low dose colostrum was shown to positively impact immune factors in cyclists, both during normal training and also following intense training. Those who took colostrum experienced a reduction in URTI prevalence (8). A similar study found the same effect in elite swimmers taking colostrum (9).

Research suggests that colostrum may improve immunity in athletes by combating exercise induced immune dysfunction and increasing s-IGA levels (10)(11).

In other studies, colostrum has been shown to be 3x more effective than the flu vaccine while also being found to shorten Covid-19 recovery times by half (12)(13).

5. Bovine Colostrum Reduces Athlete Intestinal Permeability

Another limiting factor for athletes is exercise induced intestinal permeability.

Intestinal permeability is where the integrity of the gut lining becomes disturbed, allowing for toxins and bacteria to enter systemic circulation and place stress on the immune system.

Increased intestinal permeability can also lead to stomach cramps, nausea, dizziness and diarrhoea in athletes. It can also severely impact recovery, nutrient absorption and subsequent performance.

While a brisk walk is unlikely to induce intestinal permeability, it often occurs in elite sports requiring intense efforts. This includes events like marathons, ultra endurance events, AFL, Tennis matches or strenuous exercise performed in hot environmental conditions.

Bovine colostrum has been shown in multiple studies to significantly reduce exercise induced intestinal permeability

In one study, just 500mg of colostrum was shown to reduce the effects of intestinal permeability in athletes (14). While two other studies showed that colostrum blunted exercise induced intestinal permeability by 70% and 80% respectively (15)(16).

It is important to note that intestinal permeability or leaky gut syndrome can also be induced by lifestyle habits including excessive stress, antibiotic use, diets high in sugar, and processed food. In this cause, colostrum can also help. For more on this type of leaky gut, read this article here

In any event, having leaky gut will impact your ability to gain muscle and recover (17).

6. Bovine Colostrum May Regulate Iron In Athletes

Iron is one of the most common nutrient deficiencies. Fortunately, colostrum may prove to be beneficial for supporting iron.

In one study looking at the role of colostrum in highly trained female athletes, supplementation with colostrum for 6 months was shown to be beneficial in reducing the harmful effects of free radicals, oxidative stress and inflammation. Bovine colostrum also had a positive effect on stabilising iron metabolism parameters in these athletes (18).

Colostrum also contains lactoferrin, which in one meta analysis, was shown to be more effective at raising iron levels than your regular synthetic iron tablets (19).

7. Bovine Colostrum May Maintain Testosterone Levels in Athletes

While resistance training like lifting weights can increase testosterone levels significantly, occasionally athletes who regularly engage in strenuous activity can report lower testosterone levels and hormone dysregulation.

This is often the result of alterations in their hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal (HPG) axis.

Bovine colostrum in one study was shown to maintain testosterone concentrations over consecutive days of competitive cycling when compared with the control group (20).

Hence, colostrum may be protective for male athlete testosterone levels.


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2. Antonio J, Sanders MS, Van Gammeren D. The effects of bovine colostrum supplementation on body composition and exercise performance in active men and women. Nutrition. 2001;17(3):243-247.

3. Buckley JD, Brinkworth GD, Abbott MJ. Effect of bovine colostrum on anaerobic exercise performance and plasma insulin-like growth factor I. J Sports Sci. 2003;21(7):577-588.

4. Kotsis Y, Mikellidi A, Aresti C, et al. A low-dose, 6-week bovine colostrum supplementation maintains performance and attenuates inflammatory indices following a Loughborough Intermittent Shuttle Test in soccer players. Eur J Nutr. 2018;57(3):1181-1195.

5. Buckley JD, Abbott MJ, Brinkworth GD, Whyte PB. Bovine colostrum supplementation during endurance running training improves recovery, but not performance. J Sci Med Sport. 2002;5(2):65-79.

6. Coombs JS, et al. Dose effects of oral bovine colostrum on physical work capacity in cyclists. Medicine Science Sports Exercise 34(7): 1184-8 (2002).

7. Mero A, Miikkulainen H, Riski J, Pakkanen R, Aalto J, Takala T. Effects of bovine colostrum supplementation on serum IGF-I, IgG, hormone, and saliva IgA during training. J Appl Physiol (1985). 1997;83(4):1144-1151.

8. Shing CM, Peake J, Suzuki K, et al. Effects of bovine colostrum supplementation on immune variables in highly trained cyclists. J Appl Physiol (1985). 2007;102(3):1113-1122.

9. Crooks C, Cross ML, Wall C, Ali A. Effect of bovine colostrum supplementation on respiratory tract mucosal defenses in swimmers. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2010;20(3):224-235.

10. Jones AW, Thatcher R, March DS, Davison G. Influence of 4 weeks of bovine colostrum supplementation on neutrophil and mucosal immune responses to prolonged cycling. Scand J Med Sci Sports. 2015;25(6):788-796. 

11. Crooks CV, Wall CR, Cross ML, Rutherfurd-Markwick KJ. The effect of bovine colostrum supplementation on salivary IgA in distance runners. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2006;16(1):47-64.

12. Khartode SS. Early recovery of COVID-19 patients by using immunoglobulins present in Cow Colostrum Food Supplement-A Clinical Study. Journal of Research in Medical and Dental Science. 2021;9(3):186-198.

13. Cesarone MR, Belcaro G, Di Renzo A, et al. Prevention of influenza episodes with colostrum compared with vaccination in healthy and high-risk cardiovascular subjects: the epidemiologic study in San Valentino. Clin Appl Thromb Hemost. 2007;13(2):130-136.

14. Hałasa M, Maciejewska D, Baśkiewicz-Hałasa M, Machaliński B, Safranow K, Stachowska E. Oral Supplementation with Bovine Colostrum Decreases Intestinal Permeability and Stool Concentrations of Zonulin in Athletes. Nutrients. 2017;9(4):370.

15. Marchbank T, Davison G, Oakes JR, et al. OC-083 Clinical trial: influence of bovine colostrum on intestinal permeability in healthy athletes after heavy exercise. Gut. 2010;59(Suppl 1):A34.2-A35.

16. Davison G, Marchbank T, March DS, Thatcher R, Playford RJ. Zinc carnosine works with bovine colostrum in truncating heavy exercise-induced increase in gut permeability in healthy volunteers. Am J Clin Nutr. 2016;104(2):526-536. 

17. Li C, Li Y, Wang N, et al. Intestinal Permeability Associated with the Loss of Skeletal Muscle Strength in Middle-Aged and Older Adults in Rural Area of Beijing, China. Healthcare (Basel). 2022;10(6):1100.

18. Cieślicka M, Ostapiuk-Karolczuk J, Buttar HS, Dziewiecka H, Kasperska A, Skarpańska-Stejnborn A. Effects of Long-Term Supplementation of Bovine Colostrum on Iron Homeostasis, Oxidative Stress, and Inflammation in Female Athletes: A Placebo-Controlled Clinical Trial. Nutrients. 2022;15(1):186.

19. Zhao X, Zhang X, Xu T, Luo J, Luo Y, An P. Comparative Effects between Oral Lactoferrin and Ferrous Sulfate Supplementation on Iron-Deficiency Anemia: A Comprehensive Review and Meta-Analysis of Clinical Trials. Nutrients. 2022;14(3):543.

20. Shing CM, Peake JM, Suzuki K, Jenkins DG, Coombes JS. A pilot study: bovine colostrum supplementation and hormonal and autonomic responses to competitive cycling. J Sports Med Phys Fitness. 2013;53(5):490-501.

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