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GOMAD stands for “Gallon of Milk A Day”. This diet, or challenge, as I prefer to call it was popularized quite a long time ago by strength coaches who were giving their athletes direction in order to put on size and increase strength in an extremely aggressive manner.
To be clear, it is exactly what it sounds like. Your goal is to drink a gallon of milk each day, on top of your normal caloric intake. This would add on average 2500 cals per day to your diet. With the average active person taking in around 2500-3000 cals per day, you are looking at practically doubling your intake. On the surface this seems like a very intense route to get to an end goal. Think of the opposite of a “crash diet” rather than the participant taking steps to drastically lower their caloric intake in hopes of losing weight. They are increasing their intake beyond what is normal for that individual with the hope of putting on size faster than what was done previously.
In theory, if we are working hard enough the more calories we put in our body, the more mass we can put on? That is the same idea as saying “The more hours I work, the more money I can make” Sure, there is some truth behind that statement but everyone has been in a position in which there is a diminishing return. We are all evolving into a world of understanding that “more is no longer better” The lense is shifting to the idea that “better is better”.
The GOMAD challenge is the epitome of “more is better”. If more calories are going to increase size and strength, why not put as many extra calories into your body as possible. That should yield the most increases in strength and size possible, Right?
Sure some SURVIVE to tell the tale of living the milk life, but most will tell you about the horror of giving it a try, and by week 2 they just couldn't take it anymore. Consistency in any endeavor will always win out over quick fixes. The GOMAD challenge is a quick fix to the long term goal of increasing size and strength. It is unsustainable and frankly, oftentimes does more harm than good.
Increasing your caloric intake to those heights puts your body in a state of almost constant digestion. This means even when you are training, your body is going to be putting effort into digestion rather than training. Also, when the body has an overflow of calories without the proper time to digest them and put them to work, many of those calories need to be stored as fat. I can almost guarantee that those undertaking this challenge are not looking to put on fat as the primary goal.
Second is the substance. Milk is a substance in which mammal mothers feed their offspring in order to support them until the offspring can fend for itself and procure food on their own. In the natural order, once we are separated from our mothers and the need for milk is not necessary anymore, our bodies naturally lose the proper enzymes for digesting milk. Just like once we learned to properly cook meat, we lost the ability for our bodies to process raw meats. This does not mean that some humans still maintain the ability to safely and effectively process milk. It means that the large majority of the population do not, or are not aware that lactose products negatively affect them.
Jumping into something like a 2500 cal/day increase in intake is more than most can even fathom, and because of the “ease” of prescription most can jump right in. This is where the problem lies, increasing calories is not the negative aspect. It's doing so in such an aggressive manner. Such major calorie increases should be done in a stepwise fashion so as to monitor increases in weight to create a desired effect. That way unwanted weight gain can be monitored more closely and the intake can be changed if needed. So how do we go about putting on mass and strength the “right way”? I'd love to say just eat more whole foods, but if you're even tossing around the idea of the GOMAD challenge, it means you probably already tried the most reasonable method of putting on size. What could possibly increase caloric intake to reasonable levels in order to elicit those sought after GAINZ?
The first trick to increase caloric intake can be simple yet effective. Increase the speed at which you consume calories. One of the reasons the GOMAD challenge works, if you are able to eat faster than your stomach registers fullness. You are able to get more calories in before the feeling of satiety sets in. Yes, this is a way you are trying to “cheat the system”. In reality weight gain in itself is an unnatural process, this means you must be willing to do a few things that seem a little outside the box.
The second can be to a supplement. Although the GOMAD challenge achieves this by giving you an extremely dense source of calories in liquid form, the substance is such that it can have more drawbacks than benefits. Most of the time when gaining size the constitution of the calories is less important than the amount taken in. If we can rethink this by being more aware of the types and macro content of calories input to the system, we can give our bodies a better chance of putting them to good use. Creating muscle and helping our body grow, rather than adding excess adipose tissue. Adding a Carbohydrate and Protein Supplement into your daily routine can aid in pushing you over the hump to get to the mass goals you seek. These two macronutrients are the base levels for muscle building.
Choosing a protein supplement with the correct blend of Hydrolysate, Isolate, and Caseinate is essential to making sure that supplementing with a shake at any time of day will give you the correct dose of proteins to aid in muscle building. The process protein powder goes through in order to become a dry form of food removes harmful lactose, even though it is derived from milk. Lactose is one of the main reasons that people often fail or cannot complete the GOMAD challenge. Lactose is a largely unwanted sugar in the body that can cause uncomfortable bloating and joint issues.
Next is a carbohydrate supplement. Oftentimes protein is the hero of the story but we all know that every hero has a sidekick or a trusty “Alfred” behind the scenes who makes the hero who he is. That sidekick is carbohydrates. Milk can work well because it contains carbs and protein in the same beverage. As we learned earlier the carbohydrate source Lactose is not well received by much of the population, doing more harm than good.
If you have looked into carbohydrate supplements before you will have heard of the carbs that are made specifically to process as fast as possible, most of the time used in post workout scenarios in order to refuel you from an intense bout of exercise and spike blood sugar (helping process protein). If this supplement is going to be used at other times throughout the day a blend is best to support protein intake, as well as allow our body to process the calories a little more gradually: A larger variety of carbohydrate sources in one product.
When push comes to shove, adding calories to your diet can be just as daunting as restricting them. If anyone says otherwise they have truly never tried to “bulk” they are just eating irresponsibly. What we know is this, attempting to drink a gallon of milk everyday on top of normal caloric intake is not the best way to build size and strength. There are many other ways than the ones I listed above, these are just the ones I've seen in my time in strength and conditioning to be much more sustainable than an overdose of lactose. Whatever you do, it must work for you and your goals.