Starting Strength creator Mark Rippetoe made the GOMAD diet popular in workout circles and especially advises beginners to follow it. But does the GOMAD method really work?
What Is GOMAD?
GOMAD stands for “Gallon Of Milk A Day” and wants you to drink a gallon (~3.8 L) of whole milk per day on top of what you usually eat. Implied is that this will increase your “mass” and workout results.
Yet for anyone having their nutrition halfway under control the additional protein from one gallon of milk does nothing. You can have too much of a good thing and the “mass” will most likely be fat mass:
Where do my 0.5 – 1 g of protein per lb of body weight come from? One of my sources is the respected International Society for Sports Nutrition, that in its 2007 stand on protein and nutrition wrote:
Strength/power exercise is thought to increase protein requirements even more than endurance exercise, particularly during the initial stages of training and/or sharp increases in volume. Recommendations for strength/power exercise typically range from 1.6 to 2.0 g/kg/day, although some research suggests that protein requirements may actually decrease during training due to biological adaptations that improve net protein retention.
GOMAD Is Like Steroids?
Let’s elaborate the video a bit further. Mr. Rippetoe’s basic claim about the GOMAD diet is that especially for beginners it will work wonders:
(…) people who drink lots of milk during their novice phase get bigger and stronger than people who don’t.
To gain weight you must eat more than you’re doing now. But if you’re skinny and struggle to gain weight, you know that eating more can be hard. You may feel like throwing up every time you try to eat more.
Luckily there’s an easy, fast & cheap way to gain weight naturally: GOMAD. Any “hard gainer” will gain weight drinking 1 US Gallon Of Milk A Day.
Hadim even goes as far as saying that these excess amounts of calories and protein actually work like steroids, of all things:
Some say that GOMAD works even better than steroids with beginners who want to gain weight fast.
Especially For Beginners?
Reread those quotes and note how Hadim always stresses “weight”, not muscle mass. That goes through his entire article – we are simply invited to make the assumption that the gained weight he is talking about is muscle.
This distinction is especially important for the novices Rippetoe addresses, as all that protein won’t make a difference on their gains in strength or muscle mass:
- The majority of strength gains beginners make do not come from increases in muscle mass, but from the brain learning to do the movements better and recruiting more muscle fibers into them
- In beginners the body also spends some time learning to use the available protein better – any increase in protein intake will therefore mostly be wasted
But It Worked, You Fool!
Of course, there are people claiming that GOMAD worked for them. They got stronger, increased in muscle mass, have a bigger biceps – you name it. But is this really due to GOMAD? Consider these:
- A beginner starting to work out will usually make quick increases in strength, even if his nutrition doesn’t fulfill a single of the requirements advanced trainees have to follow – this is due to the increasing brain – muscle connection above
- Measurable increases in biceps / upper arm circumference after four weeks are very likely due to a thicker fat layer on the arm from gaining 15 – 20 lbs of weight at the same time
- In intermediate / advanced trainees GOMAD will have a measurable effect on strength gains if before starting the program protein requirements were not fulfilled
- An increase in body weight does not necessarily mean the increase is due to more muscle mass
Does GOMAD Make Sense At All?
To gain 1 lb of body mass you need a surplus of about 3,500 kcal (or 7,000 for a kg). An excess 2,344 kcal per day from a gallon of milk will therefore make you gain an extra two pounds (or 1 kg) of weight about every three days (2,344 * 3 = 7,032).
Is that muscle mass? No. I can’t stress this enough: increased body weight does not equal increased muscle mass. If you think increases in your muscle mass can be measured by increases in the number the bathroom scale shows you, then very obese people could tell themselves they are the strongest in the world.
As I said in the video, if you are dangerously underweight (BMI < 19), the GOMAD diet can be an option to get out of the immediate danger zone. For anyone else and with enough protein from their regular nutrition, GOMAD will most likely only result in increased fat mass and less muscle definition.
Picture courtesy of “www.bluewaikiki.com“.