Breast Milk as Workout Recovery Fuel: Why Not?


People have long referred to breast milk as liquid gold, so perhaps the idea was bound to come up: Why reserve it for babies? Some body-builders and athletes are paying upwards of $2.50 an ounce, proclaiming human milk the best, all-natural sports drink.

“It gives me incredible energy I don’t get from other food and drinks,” one man told New York Magazine. “I want natural stuff that’s God-given, and if it’s okay with moms looking to get rid of it, I’ll take it.”

What's so healthy about it, and why does drinking it give babies a leg up?

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Not surprisingly, perhaps, there’s no evidence to back up such claims.

“There’s no peer-reviewed research investigating human milk as a muscle-building supplement or as any kind of post-workout recovery drink,” said E.A. Quinn, who researches human milk as an assistant professor in anthropology at Washington University in St. Louis. “Human milk has tons of beneficial stuff, but I don’t think it’s targeting what (athletes) hope it would target. Professionally, I can’t think of any reason why it would work.”

Recovery drinks generally contain about 10-20 grams of protein per 8 ounces. Human milk contains fewer than 4. The protein in breast milk is particularly easy to digest -- a benefit for babies, but not necessarily for adults.

Some athletes say it gives them an energy boost;. Breast milk does contain a large amount of sugar in the form of lactose. But it also contains cannabinoids, which are associated with hunger and sleepiness in babies.

Others say they sip it for its immune properties. But while the probiotics and immunoglobulins in breast milk can help protect infants who haven’t fully developed their immune systems, it’s unclear how they would interact with the microflora colonies in adults.

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