by Will Grumke September 19, 2017 8 min read
Have you heard about drinking a crazy amount of milk to improve muscle gains? Are you curious about the GOMAD diet? Are you looking for a safe, effective way to pack on the pounds? Are you wondering if the GOMAD diet really works?
The GOMAD diet has long been touted as an affordable, natural plan for anyone who wants to gain weight quickly. It’s a popular topic on bodybuilding forums and fitness websites, thanks to the fact that almost anyone can follow it.
Here’s everything you need to know about the GOMAD diet, including who it’s for, how to follow it, and most importantly, whether or not the GOMAD diet actually works:
GOMAD stands for ‘Gallon of Milk a Day,’ and the GOMAD diet involves exactly that — drinking an entire gallon of milk, every single day. That’s 128 fluid ounces of pure, white cow’s milk daily.
As diets go, the GOMAD diet is incredibly simple to follow — the name really does say it all.
There are only a few hard-and-fast rules when it comes to the GOMAD diet. Firstly, whole milk is a must — after all, the goal here is rapid weight gain. Whole milk is also known as homogenized milk, and it has a fat content of 3.25 percent.
Secondly, you need to drink 128 ounces of whole milk daily, PLUS eat your usual diet. The milk isn’t designed to be used as a meal or snack replacement. Skipping out on your meals while on the GOMAD diet means you won’t be getting the extra protein, fat, and calories you need to gain weight quickly.
The third rule of the GOMAD diet is consistency. There’s no such thing as a day off when you’re following the GOMAD diet. While some people decide to do a ‘half-GOMAD’ or ‘modified-GOMAD’ diet by drinking large quantities of milk only on workout days, cutting back to half a gallon every day or some other variation, the real GOMAD diet demands consistently drinking an entire gallon of full-fat cow’s milk every single day.
When most people hear the word ‘diet,’ they automatically think ‘weight loss’ — that’s not the case with the GOMAD diet. This definitely isn’t the kind of diet you want to follow to shed excess pounds. In fact, the amount of extra fat and calories in one gallon of milk is significantly higher than the total recommended caloric intake allowed on most mainstream diets that are designed to help healthy adults stay at a stable weight.
The GOMAD diet is a high-calorie, high-fat and high-protein diet that’s designed to promote rapid weight gain. Because it uses full-fat cow’s milk, it’s not suitable for anyone who is lactose-intolerant or avoids dairy products for religious or ethical reasons. You can’t simply substitute whole cow’s milk for non-dairy milk like soy milk, almond milk or rice milk on the GOMAD diet.
The GOMAD diet also isn’t about counting calories. It’s designed to be easy to follow, so you don’t need to do any measuring, calculating or weighing of your food.
The GOMAD diet is built for someone seeking radical change. This can include the kid who just walked into the gym for the first time, or the gym rat who swears that milk is the key to getting really big.
The huge excess of calories, fats, and other macronutrients can cause weight gain regardless to really anyone who is exceeding their body's caloric needs. Whether this weight turns into muscle or fat is determined by your overall nutrition plan and activity level. It can be very difficult to gain weight without gaining some fat along the way. On the flip side, restricting calories to prevent gat fain can also inhibit muscle growth.
This is why the GOMAD diet appeals to some, but not all. Yes, you can put on weight, but there is no guarantee on the amount of lean muscle compared to fat that you will put on. Because of this, the GOMAD diet is typically more popular with those looking to gain a good amount of weight, rather than just adding a few pounds of lean muscle.
While the actual origins of the GOMAD diet are unclear, whole milk has been touted as an ideal dietary supplement for weight and muscle gain for decades.
In the early 1920s, health crusader and bodybuilder Bernarr MacFadden promoted milk consumption for anyone who wanted to boost their immune system while building lean muscle. MacFadden served as a mentor to the undisputed father of modern bodybuilding, Charles Atlas, the American-Italian bodybuilder who spawned an entire industry dedicated to fitness.
Atlas once advised his followers that whole milk was his secret to rapid muscle gain, writing “Start at 8:00 in the morning and have a glass promptly every half hour. You can do this by taking two-quart bottles in the morning, drinking a quart at noon, enjoying two more quarts in the afternoon and another at night.”
Given that there are four US liquid quarts in every US liquid gallon, the advice given by Atlas was remarkably similar to the modern GOMAD diet. The peak of the GOMAD diet was in the 1980's where it became widely publicized among weightlifting circles.
Variations on the GOMAD diet have been used over the past century, although its popularity may have diminished with the development of protein powders and other high-gainer products.
At the heart of the GOMAD diet is basic dietary science — when you take in more calories than you burn, you’ll gain weight — it’s really that simple.
Here are the hard nutritional numbers behind the GOMAD diet:
One cup (240mL) of homogenized (whole) milk contains:
Since there are 16 one-cup servings in each gallon of milk, the GOMAD diet will add the following to your daily intake:
Scientists, doctors, and dietitians have stated that for every 3,500 calories a person consumes beyond what they burn, they’ll gain one pound of body weight. According to this theory, a person who follows the GOMAD diet will consume an additional 17,920 calories every week, which should result in a weight gain of 0.73 pounds each day.
These numbers are based on a few basic assumptions, including that the dieter’s weight was stable prior to beginning the GOMAD diet, and that they continued to consume their daily intake of calories, fat, and protein while following the GOMAD diet.
Of course, taking in an extra half-million or so calories every single month from any source will have a significant impact on your weight, which has led critics of the GOMAD diet to question ‘why milk?’ After all, there are lots of other foods that can be used to add 2,500 calories to your daily diet. You could eat a few extra quarter-pound burgers, a couple of big steaks or even replace your daily water intake with high-fructose soda pop to achieve a similar increase in your daily caloric intake.
Fans of the GOMAD diet point out that whole milk delivers more than just concentrated calories in a form that’s relatively cheap, legal, safe and readily accessible. Whole milk is packed with a host of healthy compounds that have been attributed to increased muscle development, improved immune system functioning, and a lowered risk of developing cardiovascular issues and Type 2 diabetes.
The fat in whole milk (aka homogenized milk) helps to slow down the release of dietary sugars into your bloodstream, which aids in preventing the highs and lows that can lead to insulin resistance. This fat also gives your body time to properly metabolize the proteins in the milk, which in turn can lead to an improvement in your overall lean muscle development while minimizing body fat gain.
Ironically, researchers have discovered that full-fat dairy products such as whole milk can actually help reduce the risk of obesity along with some forms of cancer. Whole milk is naturally high in conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), a form of fat that’s been positively linked to a reduced risk of both bowel and colon cancer.
Full-fat milk is also high in a number of other essential nutrients, including Vitamins A and B12, potassium, magnesium, zinc, and riboflavin, which can help promote the healthy development of lean muscle tissue.
Critics of the GOMAD diet are quick to claim that like most ‘fad diets,’ the GOMAD diet is unrealistic, unsustainable and overrated. It can be difficult to drink a gallon of milk every day, year after year. It's a "get big quick" diet, that may have unintended consequences like unwanted fat gain.
One of the biggest drawbacks of the GOMAD diet is the fact that drinking an entire gallon — that’s 16 cups — of any liquid every day is difficult, let alone drinking full-fat whole milk. The GOMAD diet leaves you feeling full (and perhaps even bloated) all the time, which can be uncomfortable, to say the least. It’s also important to remember that the gallon of daily milk is a supplement. You still need to eat your regular daily diet in order to achieve the full effects of the added calories, fat, and protein in the milk.
Another drawback of the GOMAD diet is the fact that there are no recognized scientific studies available to either confirm or dispute, the effectiveness of drinking a gallon of whole milk every day. While scientists have long established that weight gain is the result of taking in more calories than you burn, the information available on the GOMAD diet comes from individual experiences reported by people who tried the GOMAD diet.
While whether or not the GOMAD diet is a good, long-term option for hard gainers looking for quick results remains debatable, one thing is clear. Following the GOMAD diet is tough. GOMAD dieters report feeling bloated, experiencing diarrhea and even being nauseated on the GOMAD diet, especially during their first week or so.
People who have done the GOMAD diet recommend substituting whole milk for water, skim milk or juice when mixing up protein-powder shakes. After all, whole milk is mostly made up of water, so it makes sense that drinking an entire gallon of milk every day PLUS taking in 8 to 10 glasses of water is next to impossible.
Another tip from experienced GOMAD diet followers is to start drinking milk early in the day. Don’t wait until noon to begin tackling that gallon of milk in your fridge. This is the same advice Charles Atlas offered up a century ago, and it rings true today.
Until a full-fledged scientific study is conducted to determine whether or not the GOMAD diet works, deciding if the GOMAD diet is a valid method of rapid weight gain really comes down to looking at the facts.
As we’ve discussed, weight gain requires you to take in more calories than you burn every day. When you follow the GOMAD diet closely, your daily caloric intake should increase by more than 2,500 calories every day.
Based on research that shows 3,500 calories leads to about one pound of weight gain, in theory, the GOMAD diet should be an effective method for anyone who wants to pack on extra pounds quickly.
Of course, like any diet, there are a number of personal variables that can impact the actual results of the GOMAD diet — things like your resting metabolic rate, how much exercise you do, your current caloric intake and even whether or not you’re sensitive to lactose will all play a part in how effective, or ineffective, the GOMAD diet is for you. There’s also a question of whether or not you can actually stick to drinking 16 cups of whole milk a day while maintaining your current dietary intake of fat, calories, and protein.
So can the GOMAD diet help you gain weight? Yes. Is it the most effective way to put on weight? Hell no. The GOMAD diet is an old school approach that is now outdated due to the advancements in our knowledge and understanding of nutrition and proper supplementation.