Every Sunday, John Mack, a 28-year-old living in New Hampshire, stocked his fridge with seven gallons of whole milk — a gallon a day — to drink by himself.
Mack was dead set on bulking up. Recently released from the Army, he was still a scrawny kid with a runner’s build, and he was worried he’d stay “small and weak forever.” He found his answer on the internet: the “GOMAD” diet, short for “gallon of milk a day.”
For seven months, he guzzled his daily 128 ounces of liquid dairy and worked out regularly. He packed on weight — about 11 pounds a month.
And then, on a hike, his body nearly gave out on him.
Chugging milk for the #gains isn’t a white supremacy thing — it’s a small trend among bodybuilders, found on forums like Bodybuilding.com and the subreddit r/GainIt. They drink full-fat milk throughout the day, often chugging it with meals, adding roughly 2,400 daily calories to their diet. I grew up in the midwest, and drinking big glasses of milk is what we do — but downing gallons of whole milk was reserved for only my idiot teenage friends who bet they could finish it and ended up vomiting.
To be sure, the diet has clear downsides, says Summer Yule, a nutritionist in Connecticut. Besides the fact that researchers have found an association between dairy product and calcium intake with prostate cancer, Yule says, if you’re drinking this much milk, you’re likely going to be too full to eat and drink other foods, so you’ll miss out on essential nutrients like vitamin C, iron, niacin and vitamin E.
“Drinking that much milk puts a person at over twice the tolerable upper intake level of calcium for adults,” she explains, referring to the highest level of nutrient intake before risk of adverse effects for the majority of individuals. “High calcium intake is associated with constipation and … other health risks.”
So are the gains worth it? Let’s hear from the GOMAD bros themselves…
John Mack, 28, New Hampshire — GOMAD for seven months
I have always been pretty scrawny. I was in the Army and [more] focused on my run times, so I stayed light. The second I got out of the Army, I said I was never going to run again and wanted to get into powerlifting.
I went online and started researching programs and dieting advice. Everything online said beginners need to bulk, and if you don’t bulk, you’re going to be small and weak forever. I’m terrible at moderation. I can’t stick to anything that is slow and steady. I wanted gains and wanted them fast, so I started GOMAD.
Every Sunday I bought seven gallons of whole milk — yes, whole milk; the point is to get calories in and whole milk has the most — and put them in the fridge. I work from home so I would just slowly drink it throughout the day. I was the only one drinking milk in the house, so I just drank it straight out the gallon. Like, every time I walked by the fridge, I would just chug some. Or with meals, I’d take it out the fridge and drink as much as I could.
I started this journey in February at 160 pounds. For the first week, it felt pretty gross, especially towards the end of the night, trying to force the rest of the gallon down. But after a week, I either got smarter about drinking it or I just got used to it, and it became easy and just part of life.
I was working out five days a week and drinking at least seven gallons of milk a week. When you gain weight, you gain muscle and fat. I was putting on roughly 11 pounds a month, and conventional guidance is if you gain a pound a month, most of it will be muscle. In seven months of GOMAD, I put on 80 pounds — so that’s roughly 21 pounds of muscle.
If I’d taken a normal approach, I would have gained only 7 pounds, but I got triple the gains at the expense of becoming obese, which was worth it for me. I only wanted to get as strong as possible as fast as possible. But if you care about aesthetics, I looked awful. By August I was 240 pounds and had a 1,000-pound powerlifting total. My belt size went from a 33 to a 40, and I was pretty fat.
I was initially going to keep going, but one day I went on a hike with my brother-in-law and thought I was going to die. I’d never felt more out-of-shape in my life. What should have been a 20-minute hike up a very small mountain took about an hour and a half. I realized then I needed to lose some weight. I also hadn’t bought new clothes, and everything looked painted-on. My fiancée and I had split up. That was more motivation to lose weight.
So I bought steroids off a forum with bitcoin and ate only chicken breasts, spinach and hot sauce. Zero carbs. Only water for liquids. I lost 50 pounds, but somehow my powerlifting total then went up to 1,100 — steroids are magic.
Again, I only know extremes.
I handled it pretty well. I love dairy in all forms. It doesn’t upset my stomach at all. I honestly had no side effects and zero problem drinking that much. I have no regrets doing it. I always thought I was a hard gainer and couldn’t put on weight. That is a lie. I don’t think anyone is actually a hard gainer. Just people who don’t eat enough.
I wouldn’t recommend this for others. The only person I would recommend to do this is the person who is rail-thin and says “I can’t gain weight, it’s impossible!” GOMAD will 100 percent put weight on them.
Jared, 33, Montana — GOMAD for six weeks
I’ve been training for 19 years, and during that time I’ve tried a lot of different and unique methods to progress. One of those methods is the now en vogue yet equally taboo method of drinking a gallon of milk a day to gain weight. I first encountered this idea through an amateur strongman trainee who then referred me to the Randall Strossen book Super Squats, which details the infamous 20-rep squat program also affectionately referred to as “Squats and Milk.”
I was 20 years old and in college on a meal plan, which meant I had access to a lot of food and all the milk I could drink, so I was in a good place to take advantage of all of that. Most plans call for whole milk, but the choice we had in the dining hall was skim or 2 percent.
I was 5-foot-9 and 190 pounds, and at that point had been engaging in regular physical training for six years. I was primarily interested in MMA, but during the school year I didn’t have much time to train, so I focused on weight training. I wasn’t “small” at 190, but I figured, if the gallon of milk a day put weight on small people who struggle to gain weight, it should work really well for someone who doesn’t have that issue.
I drank milk at meals, which I ate three times a day. Breakfast, lunch and dinner I’d have two to three glasses of milk — about nine big glasses was equal to a gallon — along with all the food I could stuff inside of me. I also drank a glass of Diet Coke along with the milk, just to have something else to drink. Prior to the milk, I was diligent about drinking a gallon of water a day, and I still do that to this day, but on top of a gallon of milk it was just too much.
I tried to aim for “good” food sources, but I honestly had no idea what I was doing. It pretty much meant everything but dessert was fair game, so I’d be putting away plates of pasta, sandwiches, burgers, fried food, burritos, etc. If I had to skip a meal for some reason, I’d hit up a small eatery we had on campus and get a couple of “to-go” milks from self-serve.
A lot of people seem to be lactose-intolerant these days, but that wasn’t an issue for me. I will say that, prior to drinking the gallon of milk a day, I did a brief re-introduction of milk into my diet, as prior to this point I hadn’t had a glass of milk since I was, like, 8 years old. I would just drink one nightly before bed for about a week or two before starting the program.
During GOMAD, I felt full constantly between the milk and all the food I was drinking, but socially it wasn’t too terrible. I was known as a bigger guy around campus, [and] known for lifting and fighting, so most people knew I had weird eating habits and just assumed that anything I did was for my training. I went to an all-boys high school, and when I got to college, I primarily hung out with women because it was like getting out of jail. They didn’t have any real norms to compare my eating or drinking to, because it was just “being a man” to them.
I wasn’t running to the bathroom every few minutes, nor did I have loose stools. In truth, I ran into something of the opposite, where it wasn’t quite constipation but just very hard, painful to pass stool. I wonder if it was calcium or something like that. But on that note, no kidney stones as well.
I put on 12 pounds in 6 weeks, moving up to 202. Did I get fatter? Hell yeah, but I also got stronger and bigger in general. I wasn’t able to keep much of the weight gained; pretty soon after the program I got hit with a bad stomach bug and spent three days on my back losing fluids from all ends. The bug was unrelated to the diet: I ate some bad beef jerky, because I was still a dumb college kid.
That said, I will never do this again. I was 20 years old, had a fast-ish metabolism and minimal opportunities to cook or store food. In those situations, the gallon of milk a day was ideal. These days, I’m older, I don’t need as many calories to gain weight and I can cook/prepare better food choices. I try to stay away from sugar, and the amount in milk was excessive for drinking a gallon of it a day.
I still use skim milk to mix protein shakes, but that’s a pretty small serving. However, there is something to be said about being dedicated to a process and pursuing it to the end. As I drank the milk during that time, I could “feel” myself getting bigger and stronger from it. It was a challenge, just as much as the workout was, and killing the gallon every day was just another victory for me. I think everyone should run a six-week program of Super Squats and a gallon of milk a day, just to get it in their system.
Rick, 29, Massachusetts — GOMAD for two months
I was new to working out, had limited knowledge on nutrition and automatically correlated “strength” to being more muscular, so that’s why I started drinking a gallon of milk a day.
While I did gain quite a bit of strength, and at a much faster rate than normal, I also got fat. I gained about 3 pounds per week and did the program for two months. The first month I did a gallon per day and the second I did a half-gallon per day. That said, my deadlift at the beginning was 260 and in two months it shot up to 345.
The biggest downside I had with GOMAD were the farts, man. I’m not good with dairy, so more often than not I felt like ass, literally. I was quite bloated the first two weeks from the excess fluid in my body, but eventually I adapted.
But at the end of the day, to be honest, it wasn’t worth it and I wouldn’t recommend it. Without steroids, and outside of having the appropriate factors to promote muscle growth (good programming, enough volume, proper rest, proper nutrition), you can’t force your body to grow muscle faster than it’s naturally set to. If one truly wishes to gain weight, they should look to gain maybe 0.5 pounds per week at most, not 2 to 3 pounds like on GOMAD. At that rate, they can slowly gain muscle and strength over time while limiting the amount of fat gain.
Drinking a gallon of milk a day is entirely unnecessary, and from my experience, there are far better methods to gaining strength than just plowing through limitless calories of milk while packing on unnecessary fat. I think programs like this have a special place reserved for World’s Strongest Man competitors (400 pounds plus), but for the average Joe who just wants to gain strength and has limited gym experience… steer clear.