That is, what if, instead of all other fluids, they lived like an infant and consumed nothing but milk for hydration? What would happen to their bodies? Would they gain weight more efficiently and be able to lift heavier stuff? Could they, like the hydro-haters I covered last year, cut out water altogether? Would they die?
I dug deeper. Would you be surprised to learn that the question wasn’t merely hypothetical? Indeed, some bodybuilding bros say they actually tried it — effectively cutting out all other fluids while they chugged whole milk and packed on dairy weight.
Milk is basically water, they argue. Plus, they get all those delicious calories needed for #gainz that they’d otherwise be missing out on.
I reached out to learn more.
Unlike the GOMAD guys, they’re not necessarily chugging as much milk as they possibly can — they’re just not drinking any other substance besides milk. At the same time, much like the GOMAD guys, they were unfazed by the consequences: constipation, diarrhea and lack of nutrients. The prospect of major gains was too appealing, they tell me.
“I went through two to three liters of milk a day for about three months,” says Adam, a 25-year-old living in Florida. “I drank it instead of water, though I did drink water while at the gym.”
He opted to swap water for milk in order to bulk up. He tends to undereat, he says, “and in order to bulk up, you need to get more calories in, particularly in the form of protein.”
“Milk is both calorie-dense and high in protein, not to mention liquid, which is much easier to down for someone who is not used to eating a lot,” he reasons.
Marcus, a 19-year-old living Germany, opted to join the Only Milk Club for similar reasons. “I’ve always had a sensitive stomach, so eating enough food to the point of becoming bigger seemed impossible, because I would feel way too full all the time,” he says. “This wasn’t the case for drinking stuff, so I wondered if drinking a ton of milk, since it is quite rich in nutrition beneficial for weight gain in terms of protein, was the way to go.”
“I had a glass of water every morning because I just need that, but apart from that, I had [milk] after every meal, before workouts, after workouts with some protein powder, and quite a few times in between when I felt like it,” Marcus adds, saying that all the milk added up to about “three to four liters [around one gallon] a day, maybe more.”
Though Adam quickly realized he was lactose-intolerant, that didn’t stop him.
“I can handle small amounts of lactose, but not the excessive amounts I was taking in, so I had to switch to lactose-free,” he says. “I was gaining back muscle I had lost before.” He stopped drinking strictly milk when he reached his goal. “The milk had achieved its purpose: rapid weight gain. I gained 35 pounds in three months.”
While Adam realized he was sensitive to lactose, Marcus, who substituted milk for all liquids for just over a week, did not — and suffered for it. “It was abysmal,” he says. “I have always had a quite sensitive stomach, and this idea of only drinking milk ended up not being helpful. … It got pretty uncomfy very quickly. By the first night, I was already letting gas go at inhuman rates, with loose stool accompanying it.”
Did it work? “Overall, it made me feel way too bloated and kept me from eating more, so it didn’t achieve what it should have, which is weight gain,” Marcus admits.
Adam says that after three months of rapid weight gain and drinking only milk, his appetite for solid foods came back. “Solid foods [became] a better option,” he says. Then he decided to start losing weight as well, which meant cutting the extra milk calories out.
Do these guys recommend substituting any and all liquids for milk? Like the GOMAD guys, their answer is a resounding “probably not.”
“My rate of progress was a lot higher than someone just starting out,” Adam says. “But if a regular skinny guy who had just started going to the gym tried this, they’d probably pack on some muscle too, but also a whole lot of fat. I think drinking calories is still the key for skinny guys to get more calories, but a more moderate amount like one liter a day would probably get much better results for most people. … It’s also not something you should be doing long term.”
Nutritionist Summer Yule, whom I spoke with for the GOMAD piece, would agree: Drinking only milk is a bad idea.
Not only have researchers have found an association between dairy intake and prostate cancer, Yule told me, 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 says. “High calcium intake is associated with constipation and … other health risks.”
Marcus, despite shitting liquid for a week straight, agrees as well: “I would say this idea is very individual in terms of your body’s reaction to it. I could see a few people being successful with this, or maybe a 80 percent milk, 20 percent water diet or something along those lines.”
As with most things, it’s all about moderation, Adam concludes. “I still drink a lot of milk, but also a lot of water, so that’s progress.”