Did you know nursing mothers are making thousands of dollars selling their pumped breast milk online to bodybuilders? Prices reach around $1 per 30ml online.
Some bodybuilders claim breast milk helps build muscle mass more than any other food. ⠀
One of the bodybuilding.com site members writes: “I always drank breast milk, I like it, but I never fully realized its potential as a supplement until I started using it as the cornerstone of my diet and started growing beyond measure. I made the greatest gains of my life on breast milk, an unrivaled 35 pounds in 10 months.”
SO IS NUTRITIONAL VALUE OF BREAST MILK REALLY THAT IMPRESSIVE?
Well, it's true, breast milk is organic, full-fat raw milk, it contains colostrum and also a whey protein. It truly is life elixir.
Let’s look at the nutritional value of breast milk.
According to the National Health and Medical Research Council, the nutritional value of breast milk is as follows:
It contains 87% of water, 7% lactose (milk sugar), 3,8% fat and 1% protein.⠀
Breast milk also contains some non-nutritional components, such as:
Those are responsible for passive protection against infections and immune-mediated diseases and modulate immunological development (check my previous post here if you want to know more).
The composition of breast milk is constantly changing depending on the stage of lactation and even through a single feed. Moreover, it can also significantly vary between mother. Due to its variability, the nutritional content of breastmilk is typically provided as average values of nutrients.
HOW IMPRESSIVE IS BREAST MILK FOR BODYBUILDERS ANYWAY?
Well, we know that breast milk is a perfect food for babies. However, when we look at the nutritional value, we see that there's not much protein in it. Compare it to a cup of cow or soy milk, both of which have about 8 grams of protein per cup.
You see the point...?
Technically, we don't have any research on grown-ups drinking breast milk. But if we play around with numbers a bit...
Bodybuilder needs on the protein are much higher than RDA. According to Morton's meta-analysis, (an upgrade of previous studies on protein intake), that's about 1,62 g/kg of body weight a day. (1.)
That's around 147 grams a day for a 90kg lifter.
Let's say they want to substitute a whey shake after a workout with breast milk. To reach the 20g "mark" of protein, they would need to drink 1,5 liters of breast milk, which means 19 grams of protein, 63 grams of fat and 105 grams of carbohydrates.
Not only they would spend a fortune on this, but there's also quite a lot of "additional" stuff in the package, that doesn't help them in achieving their overall physique.
Therefore, not the best choice.
The funny thing is that bodybuilders know this.
It’s not the protein they’re after. It’s the human growth hormone, that is present in human breast milk. Insulin-like growth factor, or IGF,shortens recovery time by growing and repairing muscle tissues at a rapid rate.
The amount of growth factor is the highest in colostrum, and it steadily declines over the course of lactation.
Commercial colostrum (usually bovine) for human consumption is claimed to be used as treatment or protection from diarrhea, and general passive immune protection for the gut.
Clinical trials of commercial colostrum products have shown:
success in treating AIDS-related gastrointestinal diseases. (Florén et al., 2006)
success in treating diarrhea in children. (Patel and Rana, 2006).
elevation of antibodies in the circulation and saliva. (Crooks et al., 2006)
It's also claimed to enhance performance in athletes. However, well-controlled studies in athletes are rare.
WHAT ABOUT GROWTH FACTOR?
Newborns have immature digestive and immune systems, so the enzymes, antibodies, and growth factors colostrum provide promote growth and fight disease.
The undeveloped intestinal tract of a newborn allows the growth factors present in colostrum to pass freely through the intestinal wall for absorption. (3.)
However, this is not true for an adult.
"Fully-developed adult mammal intestines will break down the beneficial compounds before they can be absorbed into the bloodstream. Though digestive enzymes prevent colostrum growth factors from affecting muscles, they will still exert a local effect, which increases intestinal integrity. This prevents inflammation, like the kind that can be caused by prolonged, intense exercise, like competitive cycling. Outside of intense exercise, supplementing colostrum will have an effect similar to supplementing whey protein or casein protein."(2.)
ORIGIN OF BREAST MILK
We should not forget about the origin of breast milk.
Dr. Maureen Groer, a professor and lactation researcher at the University of South Florida College of Nursing, warns against buying milk online:
“There’s no way to know what diseases the woman who pumped the milk might have. How did she pump it? Were the pump parts sterile? Were the bottles used to store it sterile? Milk is a wonderful medium for bacterial growth if it’s not properly managed. … The women [who donate to government-regulated milk banks] are tested for viruses like HIV and hepatitis. And the milk is handled carefully - it’s pasteurized, it’s pooled, and it’s flash-frozen, and delivered frozen to the hospitals that use it.”
Pumping parts should be regularly sanitized. More to that, you won't necessarily know if the mom you're buying it from has been screened for infectious diseases or if the breast milk itself is contaminated.
That's a serious concern, as the infectious like HIV can pass through breast milk, reports the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Not only the cleanest, but a mother's diet also influences the nutritional value of breast milk.
Save the money. If you’re an adult looking to bulk up, pick up the weights and eat well. Leave the breast milk for the babies.
1. Robert W. Morton, et al. "A systematic review, meta-analysis and meta-regression of the effect of protein supplementation on resistance training-induced gains in muscle mass and strength in healthy adults," British Journal of Sports Medicine, 2017, July 11th.