It was 2010.
I was skinny. I had just graduated college weighing a whopping 140lbs.
After graduating college and getting my first “real job” in the fitness world as a personal trainer, I decided to finally put up or shut up, and show that I can “transform” myself, and show that great change is possible within a short amount of time.
I decided to gain some mass, and wanted to find the quickest and most efficient way to do this, so what I did what any self-proclaimed geek did – I surfed the web. Now to my benefit, I had somewhat of a knack for weeding through the bullshit and fancy stories, like putting on 20lbs of muscle in 2 days, or going from skinny to ripped by taking one magic supplement. I’ve seen first hand what athletes at Temple University have had to go through to get the results that they received, having an Athletic Training focus for the first two years I was there, and I also understood at the time that if you keep on doing what you’re doing, you’re going to get what you got, or something to that efficacy.
So when I weeded through the most obvious BS, and came upon some forum members on the internet talking about consuming a gallon of milk a day, or GOMAD, I was intrigued. With it came the notion of performing some basic lifts, either 5/3/1 or Starting Strength oriented movements, and consequently consuming a whole gallon throughout the day – everyday of the week. I was always attracted to simple, and the results that many folks espoused were easy enough to convince me to start doing this act of dairy consumption.
Sounded easy enough. But of course, I modified it as any intelligent person would, and took into account the normal foods that I was consuming on top of this. With that in mind, I decided that with an extra 1200-1800 calories in surplus during my week, I was bound to gain some weight. So here is the protocol that I undertook:
The 1/2 GOMAD Experiment
Exercise Protocol: 5/3/1
Choice of Milk: Ranging from Skim, Whole, 1%, 2%, Chocolate (not sure where I read it, but I wanted to make sure I wouldn’t get bored or get sick initially)
Starting Weight: 140lbs
Goal Weight: 160lbs
Timeline: 6-8 Weeks
Showing the work:
It takes 3500kcal to add an additional pound to your frame.
The National Strength & Conditioning Association has noted that it takes an additional 2500kcal to add one pound of lean muscle mass (with an appropriate stimulus to cause muscle damage at the cellular level, and an appropriate feeding to enable muscle growth).
The NSCA mentioned that adding between 500-700kcal per day would enable you to gain one pound of muscle mass per week.
I intended to ingest 1800kcal of dairy, everyday, for the next 6-8 weeks. Over three times the NSCA’s allotted amount.
Allowing some wiggle room for social outings, work commitments, and general “I’m really bored of this milk thing,” I calculated onwards…
20lbs x 3500kcal/1lb = 70,000kcal
70,000kcal / 6 weeks = 11,666kcal/week
11,666/week divided by 7 days/week = Approximately 1666kcal per day
I thought to myself this would be relatively easy. Given the correct stimulus (weight training) and food supplementation (milk on top of my normal everyday meals, which was easy enough since I had lived at home at the time) would result in a gain of mass. The math was all there. The effort was there. I had all the logistics in the world to carry out this self-experiment successfully. Here are some of my initial roadblocks that I encountered with this protocol.
DRINKING MILK EVERYDAY IS NOT FUN.
- Whether it is the flavor, or the texture of the milk itself, it got old pretty quick. But I was hellbent on gaining weight. So around week 2 or 3, I started to change the flavors of the milk (chocolate milk is still awesome in my book).
BATHROOMS NEEDED TO BE WITHIN 20SECONDS OF WALKING (SPRINTING) DISTANCE.
- Consuming dairy at such a high level absolutely destroyed my stomach. If I consumed anything more than a 1/4 of the Half GOMAD in one sitting, then I had better be sure my client list was clear for the next 15 minutes for obvious reasons.
IF I DIDN’T DRINK ANY OF MY 1/2 GOMAD DURING THE DAY…
- I would have to drink it all before I went to bed. Calories in are calories in. My stomach wasn’t very happy with me at 2am, I can tell you that much.
Halfway through the experiment, and I was well on my way to attaining my goal of hitting 160lbs. My lifts, while relatively weak compared to my standards today, were increasing steadily.
Now a quick primer on the exercise protocol used: I had almost no idea on what I was doing in regards to lifting technique. I knew that heavy weights were heavy, and I intended to lift them. 5/3/1 was a good choice at the time, as it allowed me to regulate my lifts on a percentage based system, as opposed to an RPE or “going with the flow” system, and I was primarily a percentage based lifter for a long long time because of this as well. Now it doesn’t matter that my squat technique was a quarter squat, or whether or not my bench technique was on par with the best powerlifters at the time.
What did matter was that I used heavy weights to my relative inexperience with lifting, and with the daily diet of dairy (How is that for alliteration?), my weight went up. I was gaining 2lbs a week. All was awesome in the world. My clients saw changes in my body, my co-workers saw it as well, and my family got to see me quickly eat everything in the house on top of that. I was an eating machine. Even when I was full, I kept on going, knowing that I hadn’t met my quota of milk for the day.
However, as I gained this weight steadily over the course of the following weeks, some thoughts began to pop up into my head.
What do I do when I’m at my goal weight?
Will I lose it all as quickly as I gained it?
I’m really getting sick of this milk diet.
For the first two questions, I found that I had to consume something other than milk (Thank GOODNESS!) to maintain my weight. And on top of that, that temporarily solved the last thought, which is the mundane process of drinking milk everyday. In fact, my process had to veer off of drinking milk for the last two or so pounds, and was consumed mainly by pizza, all you can eat buffets, and sushi binges. Those were some fun times.
To get a little Dan John-esque, I believe that partly what enabled me to reach this level of success despite a not so forward-thinking diet, was the fact that I kept in mind my logistical factors. My “big rocks” were consuming calories at a high level, and making sure to get my lifts in (5/3/1, so everything was regulated rather easily), and get lots of sleep. That’s it. See the above 1-4 bullet point to get an abbreviated version of it all.
Long story short, the good out of this story is that I was no longer some skinny shmuck – the bad of the story is that it took me the better part of 2011 and some of 2012 to figure out how to eat appropriately afterwards (aka not eating everything in the fridge) due to the daily habit of drinking milk everyday. I was addicted to the results that connected me with gaining mass.
After achieving my goal of 160lbs within the 6 week time frame (in reality I shot up to 165lbs at my heaviest), one thing that I noticed shortly afterwards was that others within close contact (read: co-workers and friends) had immediately started doing this protocol as well. And for whatever it’s worth, it may have inspired you to take up this diet as well.
However, there are some obvious negative connotations with doing GOMAD.
Or rather, there are much much better ways to achieving your goal of gaining mass. This is just one method of skinning the proverbial cat.
The whole point about this story is not to brag – me running to the bathroom three times in one day is not something I am proud about. My story isn’t even atypical of what you can do if you’re hellbent enough on gaining mass. Rather, I feel that there are some lessons here that I can provide to those who are attempting to gain weight, either for athletic purposes or for aesthetic ones as well that others may not have provided previously.
Lessons I Learned from [1/2] GOMAD
Determine an end goal, and have an action plan for after you achieve your goals.
- My [outcome] goal was to gain 20lbs in 6 weeks. Regardless of whether or not I was “shredded” or not, 20lbs was 20lbs in my head.
- Having a continual process of goals is important as well.
- My outcome goal was 20lbs of mass gain in as little time as possible.
- My process goal, which I failed to include in this thought process, should have been to incorporate a proper eating protocol afterwards.
Create a logistical plan, with as many details laid out as possible. (Control what you can control.)
- I wrote out a meticulous plan, from the exercise protocol (5/3/1 variations) to the cost of milk per week that I had to consume. (It is roughly $3.19 for a gallon of chocolate milk.)
- Quick tip: I found out that it would cost me less and be easier logistically for me to buy one full gallon of milk, and one half gallon of milk, and subsequently pour the full gallon into the “filler” container to bring into work (our work fridge was only small enough to house my half gallon of milk, otherwise I would have been lugging the full gallon around with me wherever I went.) Those who know what I’m talking about, will understand!
What gets measured, gets managed.
- Whether that is calories in and calories out, or gallons in and gallons out. Measure your results, and adjust accordingly.
- Another random note: over the course of this self-experiment, I had consumed over 20 gallons of milk within 6 weeks.
(7days x 6 weeks = 42 / 0.5 gallons = 21 gallons)
Allow for tweaking – whether because of social reasons, or logistics just may not work out for a specific situation.
- Related to the item above, if what you’re measuring isn’t lining up with your realities of daily life due to societal and/or economical standards, then adjust your action plan (see also the step above above!).
Now that I’m well beyond drinking milk everyday to gain my weight, I’ve begun to incorporate other strategies in regards to gaining mass and increasing my strength levels – and it doesn’t involve all you can eat buffets everyday (only Sundays at the local sushi bar!). From utilizing protein shakes and protein bars, to doing meal preps before the week even starts, I’ve now learned multiple ways to skin this damned cat of diet strategies (whether it is fat loss or muscle gains, the process should hold the same in regards to dietary choices!)
- Using Jordan Syatt’s The College Students Guide to Grocery Shopping, I found that the common denominator is separating your grocery shopping list into macros phenomenally easier, instead of random lists of healthy foods to purchase. If you’re looking to gain mass and not spend $300 on groceries every week (I’ve seen it happen!), then look no further than this awesome guide.
- Easy enough to incorporate. Milk, powder, and creatine and/or greens. Water is acceptable if you have an inherent dislike for anything milk like I do. (Or almond/coconut milk will work too!)
- I haven’t been a fan of these until recently, mainly because I do quite a bit of traveling as of late. These don’t need to be refrigerated like the aforementioned protein shakes, and are less douche-y looking to eat in a public setting, as opposed to whipping out a Blender Bottle full of whey isolate isn’t bad enough already.
- A strategy many smart health and fitness conscious people use, preparing meals in bulk is a successful tip that is often overlooked. Create a large chunk of chili for the first few days of the week, and you won’t need to cook until that batch is complete. Very easy to do when you’re living alone, a little more difficult if you have 5 other family members to watch after (and who will also subsequently eat your said food if left unwatched!).
- Precision Nutrition, a resource for fitness professionals on the internet, has advised to chop up any vegetables or separate mixtures into other bags in the beginning of the week for easy access later in the week, and it makes things especially easier to cook up a quick 10minute lunch or dinner, often to your benefit as your willpower may lessen throughout the day/week.
Use of Technology (Apps)
- Another strategy I started to incorporate is counting my macronutrients. Now I feel that since it is the year 2013, I may be a little beyond tracking it in pen and paper fashion, so I begun to incorporate the use of a particular fitness application called Calorie Counter by MyFitnessPal. The great thing about this app is the fact that it can break down your macros by percentages, and show you exactly how much of each macro you are consuming, provided you track appropriately. Again, what gets measured gets managed!
With all of these tips and advice, I hope to impart some type of wisdom, whether that is the efficacy of an all milk diet, or further diet strategies to help your mass gain or fat loss goals.