To build muscle, you need to eat enough calories to gain weight consistently.
But for skinny guys, this can be a real challenge.
These "hardgainers" often resort to stuffing their faces with copious amounts of food.
And when this fails they turn to gym bros for advice.
The golden nugget of wisdom imparted to them is either "eat until you puke" or "try GOMAD bro, it's like steroids!"
If you struggle to gain weight, then the thought of eating until you puke probably doesn't appeal to you...
But what about the GOMAD diet?
In today's article, I'm going to convince you why GOMAD is dumb and show you 6 easy ways to gain weight (fast).
Here's what you'll learn:
And much more...
Let's dive in.
What is the GOMAD diet?
The GOMAD diet is a far cry from traditional calorie counting and precise meal timing.
Rather than meticulously tracking macros, you simply drink a gallon of whole milk every day and eat every 3 hours.
GOMAD was popularised by Mark Rippetoe (Starting Strength) and has surged in popularity over the last 10 years or so.
It's typically used by beginners who struggle to gain weight.
And it's been rumoured to be more effective than steroids for building muscle.
the benefits of gOMAD (and why it works)
The GOMAD diet is pretty straightforward...
You chug a gallon of milk down every day and eat like a pig.
The question is...
Does it work?
The short answer is yes.
If you're struggling to gain weight, then GOMAD will definitely do the trick.
Here are the benefits of GOMAD (and why it works):
- Very fast weight gain: A gallon of whole milk (4 litres) contains a whopping 2400 calories! With 200g of carbs, 120g of fat, and 120g of protein. If you're consistent with GOMAD and eat every 3 hours, then you'll gain weight fast.
- It's easier than eating whole foods: A lot of skinny guys claim to have a "fast metabolism", but in my experience this is bogus. They'll eat a ton of junk food on the weekends, but this will be balanced out by 4-5 days in a calorie deficit during the weekdays. So the real culprit is a low appetite (not a fast metabolism). In that case, consuming 2400 calories from liquids is far easier than eating it from whole foods and makes weight gain a breeze.
- It's dirt cheap: Milk is very affordable in the UK/US, especially when compared to weight gainers. This makes GOMAD an attractive option if you're bulking on a budget.
- High protein: A gallon of whole milk contains 120 grams of protein, which is more than enough to build muscle (if you're skinny).
As you can see, there's nothing special about the GOMAD diet.
It's a cheap, easy way to gain weight for guys with a low appetite.
the 5 biggest myths about the GOMAD diet (debunked)
There are countless myths surrounding the GOMAD diet.
You'll hear audacious claims that drinking a gallon of milk is comparable to taking steroids...
And you'll be given overblown facts about the effects of milk on insulin and testosterone.
Here are the 5 biggest lies you've been told about GOMAD.
myth #1 gOMAD is like steroids
The most vocal proponents of the GOMAD diet claim it gives you the same benefits of steroids.
But this is false.
Here's the deal:
GOMAD is mostly used by novice weight lifters running starting strength or stronglifts...
And they report huge muscle and strength gains in a short period of time.
This sounds like a great testimony to how effective GOMAD is, but there's more to the story than meets the eye...
The thing is, novice lifters are hyper-responsive to weight training.
And they have the capacity to build muscle at a rapid rate.
They could eat like crap...and still gain muscle (it wouldn't make a difference either way).
This is why it's dishonest to compare GOMAD to steroids.
myth #2 it gives you the best macros for muscle gain
Another myth about GOMAD is that it gives you the best macros for muscle growth.
But this couldn't be further from the truth.
Let's take a look at the macro profile of whole milk:
Can you see the problem?
There's a disproportionate amount of fat vs carbs and protein.
And research has shown that high carbohydrate diets are more effective for gaining muscle:
- They provide fuel for workouts
- They're anabolic and protein sparing
- They increase strength
myth #3 milk has the best amino acid profile for gaining muscle
Milk is made up of 80% casein and 20% whey.
These are great sources of protein due to their fast absorption rates and high amount of essential amino acids.
This is why studies have shown that milk is an effective post-workout meal and is great for muscle building.
But what you may not realise, is that you can get the same benefit from other foods, including:
There's nothing special about milk that can't be obtained from other sources.
myth #4 the high saturated fat content boosts testosterone
Supposedly, GOMAD boosts testosterone because of the high saturated fat content.
While it's true that a high fat intake does increase testosterone production, the effect isn't big enough to impact muscle growth.
myth #5 milk spikes insulin levels, which boosts muscle growth
Insulin is a hormone that transports nutrients through the bloodstream.
Your insulin levels spike when you eat a meal (postprandial state).
And they decline to baseline after your meal has been absorbed (post-absorptive state).
3 reasons why you shouldn't try the GOMAD diet
GOMAD clearly works, but is it optimal for health and muscle gain?
In my opinion, it isn't.
Here are my top 3 reasons why you should avoid the GOMAD diet.
No. 1 Digestion issues
Lactose intolerance is the inability to digest lactose; a naturally occurring sugar found in milk and dairy products.
This is due to a deficiency of the enzyme lactase, found in the small intestine.
It's estimated that 65% of the world's population lose their lactase enzymes after weening.
Did you know- 65% of the world's population is lactose intolerant?
If you're lactose intolerant, you may be able to cope with moderate doses of milk, but it's highly unlikely you'll be able to do GOMAD.
Here are some common symptoms of lactose intolerance:
- Stomach cramps
no. 2 high fat intake
Whole milk is very high in saturated fat, containing 77 grams per gallon.
This is far above the recommended daily intake and may increase your risk of cardiovascular disease.
no. 3 too much fat gain
Eating every 3 hours in combination with a gallon of whole milk a day will easily net you 4-5000 calories per day.
For most moderately active guys, this is far too much and will lead to rapid fat gain.
A much better approach is to bulk slowly and gain a higher ratio of muscle:fat.
This way you spend less time dieting and feel healthier.
5 common weight gain mistakes (you need to avoid)
If you've tried everything and still can't gain weight, then it can be tempting to turn to extreme methods like GOMAD.
But there are much more efficient (and healthy) ways to gain weight.
Before you try the GOMAD diet, make sure you aren't committing one of these 5 mistakes.
mistake #1 dirty bulking
As a natural lifter, you can expect to gain 0.5lbs of muscle per week (max).
Gaining excessive amounts of weight beyond this (1+lb per week) won't impact muscle growth and will cause you to lose more muscle in the long run.
Gaining excessive amounts of weight beyond 1+lb per week won't impact muscle growth and will actually cause you to lose more muscle in the long run.
Well think about it:
The more fat you have, the longer you'll have to spend in a calorie deficit trying to lose it.
Dirty bulking is also disastrous for your health.
Studies have shown that rapid weight fluctuations may increase inflammatory disease risk.
And being even slightly overweight can increase cardiovascular disease risk.
mistake #2 eating too "clean"
To gain weight, you need to eat a lot of food.
And this is made even harder if you have a naturally low appetite.
That's why I don't recommend sticking to a rigid "clean foods only diet".
Protein and fibre are the most satiating foods and are typically found in nutrient dense foods, such as chicken, brown rice, and vegetables (AKA the stereotypical bro diet).
While these are healthy, nutritious sources of food they're also incredibly filling (and low calorie).
mistake #3 eating every 2 hours
Common bodybuilding wisdom states that you need to eat small meals every 2 hours to "fuel your metabolism".
But meal timing has been debunked by numerous studies.
If you have a low appetite, the best way to structure your meals is to eat less often and include calorie dense snacks in-between meals.
mistake #4 not counting calories
One of the biggest mistakes you can make when trying to gain weight is not counting calories.
Studies have shown that people under-report their caloric intake.
So just guesstimating won't cut it.
You need to know exactly how many calories you're taking in every day.
Start by figuring out your TDEE (total daily energy expenditure) and using a calorie counting app (such as MyFitnessPal) to track your daily intake.
mistake #5 being impatient
Here's the truth nobody wants to hear:
Muscle growth is painfully slow as a natural bodybuilder.
And you'll be lucky to gain 5-10lbs of muscle every year past the novice phase.
I'm not saying this to discourage you, but many guys make the mistake of wanting results right now (rather than being patient).
My advice is to eat in a caloric surplus, lift heavy, and test your body composition consistently.
Results will follow soon after.
6 tips for fast weight gain
Gaining weight is easy when you use the right tactics.
Here are 6 tips you need to follow for fast weight gain.
tip 1- lean bulk
If you haven't noticed already, I'm not a fan of dirty bulking methods or GOMAD.
In my experience, they just lead to excessive fat gain (without much benefit to muscle growth).
A much better alternative is to lean bulk and track body composition diligently.
To minimise fat gain with lean bulking, you should be eating a small surplus of 5-10% over maintenance calories.
You also need to optimise your macros for better nutrient partitioning.
Here are my recommendations:
- 45-50% carbohydrate intake
- 0.75g of protein per 1lb of bodyweight
- 20-25% fat intake
tip 2- include calorie dense foods
Calorie dense foods are typically high in fat and are less filling, making them perfect for bulking.
Here are my favourite bulking foods:
- Peanut butter
- Olive oil shots
You can include these as snacks in-between bigger meals.
tip 3- eat big meals less often
If you want to increase your calorie intake, the best way to do it is to eat less often.
Wait...did I just say "eat less often to gain more weight"?
I know this sounds counter-intuitive but it's true.
Rather than eating small and often, try eating larger meals less frequently.
This way you can get a lot of calories in a short space of time (without having to eat non-stop).
tip 4- try gOMAD with almond milk
If you're still intent on trying GOMAD, then try substituting whole milk with almond milk.
Almond milk contains far less saturated fat and won't cause digestive issues if you're lactose intolerant.
The only drawback is that almond milk contains less protein and isn't as effective for muscle building.
However, you can easily counteract this by eating protein-rich whole foods.
tip 5- track your body composition
I'm always surprised by the number of guys who don't track their bodyfat% or weight.
Instead, they rely on vanity metrics such as how tight their clothes fit or how they look in the mirror.
Here's the deal:
If you don't track your body composition, how do you know if you're gaining weight or not?
The visual difference between 13% and 18% bodyfat is pretty minuscule.
So you might be gaining weight fast and not even realise until it's too late.
tip 6- have realistic expectations
As I mentioned earlier, muscle growth is very slow.
This is why it's important to have realistic expectations about what you can achieve.
As long as your lifts are increasing and you're gaining weight steadily, you shouldn't worry.
BONUS: 4 GOMAD alternatives to gain weight (fast)
Drinking a gallon of whole milk every day isn't ideal, but it does work.
If you're contemplating trying the GOMAD diet, then consider the following:
- Are you lactose intolerant?
- Are you willing to gain A LOT of fat?
- Do you value longevity and health over short-term weight gain?
In my humble opinion, you should only try GOMAD as a last resort.
There are much healthier and effective ways to gain muscle (without piling on a bunch of fat).
Here's what I recommend instead:
- Figure out your TDEE
- Eat in a 5-10% surplus
- Include calorie dense snacks in-between meals such as:
- Peanut butter
It's also a good idea to track calories and body composition, so that you know how much fat you're gaining.
Now it's over to you!
What are your experiences with GOMAD?
Let me know in the comments below.