This article was written by Michael Easter and provided by our partners at Men’s Health.
“I’m feeling soooo anabolic right now.”
“You are selling your gains short if you are not supplementing with this stuff.”
“I made the greatest gains of my life, an unrivaled 35 pounds in 10 months.”
Those are the words of bodybuilders, each man speaking about his favorite new supplement: breast milk.
As in, milk from a human woman’s breast. The same stuff you probably drank as a baby, a time in your life when you also shit your pants regularly and cried hysterically for a good two hours a day.
Pounding mom milk for gains is the newest tactic that a handful of bodybuilders are using to put on more muscle, arguing that the substance has special properties that make it superior to just about any other food.
“I think the idea behind drinking breast milk for muscle growth is that it’s incredibly calorie- and nutrient-dense, and it has some additional healthy substances,” says Brian St. Pierre, a sports dietitian with Precision Nutrition. “Breast milk is designed to rapidly grow a human baby, so maybe people think a similar effect will happen to fully grown humans?”
A cup of breast milk contains about 170 calories a cup (20 more than whole milk), 10 grams of fat, 16 carbs, and two grams of protein (five fewer than whole milk), as well as vitamins and minerals. “Theoretically, there’s also some human growth hormone in breast milk,” says St. Pierre. “Although I’m not sure it’s all that much for a human adult to benefit from.”
Scientists and trainers agree that taking in more nutritious calories than you burn, eating enough protein, and regularly performing smart workouts are what drives muscular growth. So, yes, adding a nutrient- and calorie-dense liquid to your diet can help you gain muscle as long as you’re training. No question. But breast milk? Not the smartest idea, says Marc Halpern, a registered dietitian based in Salt Lake City.
First, it’s hard to come by, says Halpern. You can’t just pick up a gallon of breast milk at the local super market on the way home from work. Many bodybuilders buy their milk off somewhat sketchy websites like Craigslist, or they barter with a pregnant woman (talk about awkward conversations). Second, breast milk is expensive, averaging about $1.50 an ounce, according to The Human Milk Banking Association of North America, an organization that banks milk for mothers who cannot produce breast milk.
Finally, breast milk is only as good as the diet and general health of the person who produces it, says Halpern. “If the woman has a terrible diet, the breast milk will be terrible quality,” he says. “And diseases like HIV can be transmitted through breast milk.” What’s more, because you’re oftentimes buying the milk off of people who may pump it in their homes and not a controlled, sterile environment, the milk can be contaminated.
Science agrees: A recent study in the journal Pediatrics found that of 101 samples of breast milk purchased online, 63 percent tested positive for staphylococcus, 36 percent for streptococcus, and three percent for salmonella.
Men work harder to get ahold of this supplement, pay an exorbitant amount for it, and put themselves at risk of sickness by taking it. But here’s the thing: There’s just no evidence to suggest that breast milk is a magic muscle builder, says St. Pierre.
“Could breast milk help you build more muscle? I don’t think anyone knows, and it’s never been studied, but all you’re going on is very rare anecdotes from online forums [note: a terrible source]. Is it possible? Of course. Is it likely? No. Are there easier and cheaper ways to get nutrients that help you put on muscle? Absolutely. This stuff probably just isn’t special, and it’s not worth the hassle, risk, or money.”