The Beginner’s Guide to Colostrum for Athletes


Are you a serious or elite athlete? Or, are you perhaps a weekend warrior?

The level at which you practice your chosen sport is not the most important point of this article.

What is important is whether you are taking a daily dose of the bovine colostrum supplement for athletes or not.

And, if not, here is the most important reason why you should consider taking a colostrum supplement.

Before we look at the benefits of bovine colostrum (BC), let’s consider a succinct definition of colostrum and what nutrients it contains.

What is Bovine Colostrum?

Colostrum is defined by, as the “first form of milk produced by the mammary glands of mammals… immediately following delivery of the newborn.” Ergo, it is released just before the normal breast milk is released.

Not only does colostrum contain antibodies from the mother to protect the newborn baby from disease, it delivers the necessary proteins, fats, nutrients and immune cells (lymphocytes) in an extremely concentrated form.

The antibody levels in bovine colostrum are up to 100 times higher than regular cow’s milk. Some of the vitamins and other nutrients found in this colostrum include magnesium and vitamins A, C, E, and B.

Apart from the macronutrients found in bovine colostrum, the specific protein compounds are what gives BC it’s claimed health benefits. These protein compounds include:


The value of the antibodies found in colostrum has been mentioned several times in this article. However, it is worth reiterating that antibodies are proteins or immunoglobulins are used by your body’s immune system to fight off viruses and bacteria. Immunoglobulins are often given to an individual, including an ultra-distance athlete whose natural immunity is low and needs an extra boost to fight off recurring infections such as an upper respiratory tract infection.


Lactoferrin helps control the absorption of iron in the intestines. And, it improves the delivery of iron to the cells. It also seems to have a protective function in that it protects the human body from the out of control growth of bacteria by killing it or depriving it of the essential nutrients that it needs to grow. And, lactoferrin seems to help prevent infections caused by viruses and fungi.

Growth factors

As their name suggests, these proteins are growth hormones. In other words, they stimulate growth. It is essential that a newborn baby grows so needs the natural hormones that stimulates growth. Bovine Colostrum contains two protein-based, insulin-like growth factors known as IGF-1 and IGF-2.

The Value of Bovine Colostrum

At this juncture, it is essential to note that there is no passive transfer of the mother’s immunity through the placenta before birth in farm animals, like cattle, horses, goats, and sheep. Thus, the colostrum released just after the birth process has to provide everything to the newborn baby.

Why is this fact relevant to our discussion?

This statement shows the nutritional value of bovine colostrum as it needs to provide the newborn with a complete nutritional package or complete food, including immune cells and antibodies from the mother as well as proteins, fats, and other nutrients that the newborn needs to start life as a healthy mammal.

The Benefits of Bovine Colostrum for Athletes

An article published on by Lesley Stevenson, describes bovine colostrum as a natural product that is “rich in immune, growth and antimicrobial factors, which promote tissue growth and the development of the digestive tract and immune function in neonatal calves.”

Stevenson goes on to state that while the value of bovine colostrum to human adults is not 100% understood, taking it to promote exercise performance is popular among elite athletes.

She posits that the primary reason for this is as follows:

Bovine colostrum has an immune promoting function

Heather Mayer Irvine, in her article titled, “How running affects your immune system,” highlights the fact that, while running or exercise increases the number of immune cells in your body, these numbers drop to below their baseline, or normal levels, by up to 50% or more for several hours after finishing a run.

Consequently, you are at risk of getting sick during this time. It is essential to note that your natural immunity levels will rise again. However, there is merit in taking a bovine colostrum supplement to protect your body from getting sick after you have finished exercising as it will mitigate the risk of contracting an illness straight after exercising.

Additionally, there are several secondary reasons why taking bovine colostrum supplements is popular among elite athletes.

BC improves the bioavailability and uptake of iron

As highlighted above, one of the proteins found in BC is lactoferrin. Its sole function is to regulate the absorption of iron in the intestines. And, it improves the transfer mechanism the body uses to transfer iron into the body’s cells. Iron’s principle function is to assist with the formation of hemoglobin, the protein found in red blood cells, and the oxygenation of the blood cells.

Because iron transports oxygen in the blood to the muscles, it ensures that the ultra-distance athlete’s muscles are functioning optimally. And, the longer the run, the more oxygen the muscles require to keep on going. Consequently, the body needs to absorb more iron.

It is also vital to note that iron is not manufactured by the human body. It has to be absorbed from food. As a result, the lactoferrin found in the bovine colostrum helps the body absorb iron from food and use it efficiently; thus, ensuring that the runner’s body can function optimally for longer.

BC helps the body repair itself

The growth factors in the bovine colostrum help the human body repair muscle strains naturally. They also increase the body’s natural recovery rate after endurance-type exercise; therefore, making BC a valuable supplement for the ultra-distance runner.


There are many reasons why taking a bovine colostrum supplement in today’s world is a good idea. Utilizing its natural immune-boosting function is just one of these reasons.

About Shannon Clark

Shannon holds a degree in Exercise Science and is a certified personal trainer and fitness writer with over 10 years of industry experience.

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