- Mothers are making thousands of dollars selling their pumped breast milk online to bodybuilders.
- Some bodybuilders claim breast milk helps build muscle mass more than any other food.
- Breast milk is actually much lower in protein than cow’s milk, and bodybuilders, specifically large men, need much more protein.
- Buying breast milk online has other downsides — it’s expensive, risky, and hard to come by.
- Breast milk alternatives include organic, grass-fed, full-fat raw milk, colostrum, and whey protein.
Mothers are making thousands of dollars selling their pumped breast milk online — to bodybuilders. Before you raise an eyebrow, consider this: some bodybuilders claim breast milk helps build muscle mass more than any other food. “I made the greatest gains of my life on breast milk, an unrivaled 35 pounds,” wrote one user on a bodybuilding.com forum. Hey, it’s full-fat and raw. But should you really drink it? Read on to find out what the experts say about breast milk’s nutritional profile, whether it really could help you perform better, and alternatives if drinking human milk is not your thing.
What’s in breast milk anyway?
Breast milk is a kind of magical elixir — for babies at least. It will actually change and adapt to serve the baby’s needs. When a baby is sick, for instance, the mother’s milk produces more leukocytes — white blood cells that fight infection and disease.
So what are you getting when you drink breast milk? According to the USDA National Nutrition Database, an 8-ounce glass of breast milk provides:
- 172 calories
- 2.5 grams of protein
- 10 grams of fat
- 16 grams of carbs
Breast milk is 87% water, 7% lactose (milk sugar), 3.8% fat, and 1% protein. (Keep in mind that breast milk can change depending on the time of day the mother pumped and how many days she’s been lactating.)
Macronutrients aside, people are really drinking breast milk for its abundant growth factors — proteins that stimulate cell growth. For bodybuilders, it’s the high level of a protein called insulin-like growth factor (IGF) that appeals the most. IGF grows muscles and helps tissues repair more quickly, shortening recovery time.
Should you drink breast milk?
Studies show that IGF levels are highest in colostrum — the milk produced during the first few days after birth. IGF in breast milk drops over time as the baby’s gut, tissues, and immune system get stronger. So if it’s bigger biceps you’re after, you’re better off choosing colostrum (more on that later).
Breast milk is also much lower in protein than cow’s milk, says Amy Goodson, a sports dietitian and nutrition consultant based in Dallas, Texas.
“In comparison, an 8-ounce glass of cow’s milk provides 8 grams of protein, so it’s much higher than breast milk,” she says.
A bodybuilder needs .8 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight. So a person weighing 225 pounds will need between 180 and 200 grams of protein a day.
Related: The Best Healthy Sources of Protein
“Drinking breast milk, even a lot of it, does not put a dent in the daily need,” says Goodson. “Drinking cow’s milk is a much better nutrient bang for your buck, and will give you over three times the protein than drinking breast milk.”
You can learn more about how to find your ideal protein intake here.
Other downsides of drinking breast milk
It’s hard to come by: You can’t just stop by the store and buy yourself some breast milk. Instead, you have to put in the time to find a mother online who is willing to sell you her milk.
It’s expensive: Breast milk averages about $1 per ounce online — that comes to about $8 for a glass of milk.
You don’t know who you’re buying from: Some people get their breast milk off Craigslist, others from sites that are dedicated to breast milk sales. Whatever you choose, you’re still placing your trust in a stranger.
It could be contaminated: You can’t be sure that the person you’re buying from cleaned their pump parts correctly — pump equipment needs to be regularly sterilized to kill bacteria. HIV can also be passed on through the breast milk, so you’re taking a health risk buying from someone you don’t know.
Breast milk alternatives
Now cow’s milk isn’t a Bulletproof food, unless it’s organic, grass-fed, full-fat raw milk (how’s that for a mouthful?). If you don’t have a local farmer in your area who stocks it, read on for some other options.
Colostrum is the first milk produced by mammals after giving birth — usually for the first 2-5 days — before regular milk comes in. Colostrum is nicknamed “liquid gold” for good reason — it’s full of growth factors and immunoglobulin G (IgG), an antibody that protects infants from infection.
“Colostrum has a high IGF content which can aid in muscle growth,” says Bob Seebohar, sports dietitian who has advised the US Olympic Team.
Colostrum also helps with recovery. Extreme exercise can damage your intestinal lining — colostrum can stop this from happening and prevent heat stroke following a heavy workout.
You can find colostrum in Bulletproof Whey Protein powder.
“While many bodybuilders might lean towards breast milk for its high whey protein content (60% whey), it is negligible when considering how much you would have to consume to get the appropriate amount,” says Goodson.
You’re better off choosing to supplement with a grass-fed whey protein powder — unlike breast milk, it’s cheaper and more readily available.
Grass-fed whey protein has roughly 15 grams of protein per serving (2 scoops). Whey protein promotes extra muscle growth and decreases muscle soreness after a workout.
“While breast milk is certainly healthy and the preferred fuel for newborns, there is zero data that it is more superior to the well-researched benefits of whey protein or other protein sources for adults,” says Chris Mohr, PhD, RD of www.MohrResults.com.
You don’t want to get your entire daily protein requirement from whey — it’s high in the amino acids cysteine and methionine, which can cause inflammation if consumed in high amounts. To avoid this, add some grass-fed collagen protein powder to your whey so you get a balance of different amino acids.