What is the GOMAD diet? Risks, Benefits, Hype
- Drinking a gallon of milk a day to gain muscle mass and fat quickly has long been a fad diet.
- Dietitians have said the diet is a quick fix that won’t cause long-term changes in body composition.
- The GOMAD diet may increase the risk of heart and kidney problems.
The GOMAD diet — popular since the early days of bodybuilding in the 40s and 50s — promises a quick way to gain muscle and weight due to the high protein and saturated fat content of milk. Eating with a calorie surplus is the best way to build muscle because your body will break down muscle tissue for energy if you eat too little.
Although experts recommend building muscle to strengthen bones and improve heart health, the GOMAD diet represents the dark side of weightlifting. The desire to achieve a muscular, swole physique had driven many fitness influencers to take performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs) in secret, despite their negative health effects. An estimated 5-10 million people suffer from body dysmorphia, a mental health condition that causes intense distress about one’s appearance.
Speaking to Insider, three nutritionists said they believe – or hope – the GOMAD diet is just a fad that will die out. Although they all agreed that the GOMAD diet is likely to deliver on its promise of rapid weight gain and that milk is nutrient-dense, they said there were obvious downsides and serious risks to consuming so much milk.
How the GOMAD diet works
Robin Barrie Kaidendietitian and certified personal trainer, said the motivation behind the GOMAD diet likely stems from a desire to gain muscle mass quickly.
Building muscle requires eating enough calories and protein. Not only does eating with a calorie surplus help build muscle, but strength training can boost your metabolism because muscle burns more calories at rest. Not eating enough protein can also hamper muscle building, as the macronutrient helps repair muscle fiber tears during workouts.
Some people have trouble eating because it takes so much to gain muscle mass, Kaiden said, and drinking calories is often easier than eating. A gallon of whole milk contains 128 grams of protein and 2,400 calories.
Kaiden said the GOMAD diet might help build muscle, but excess calories can also lead to fat gain because the calories the body doesn’t use in a day are stored as extra fat.
Another appeal of the GOMAD diet is its convenience for people who don’t cook or prepare meals, said Amy Stephens, Registered Dietitian and Certified Sports Nutrition Specialist. But learning to eat a balanced diet will lead to long-lasting, lasting body changes, Stephens said. The results of the GOMAD diet will likely wear off as soon as the dieter stops drinking milk.
“It’s obviously a quick fix, because diet culture loves quick fixes,” Kaiden said.
The dangers of drinking a gallon of milk a day
Not only is the GOMAD diet ineffective at building and maintaining muscle long-term, but consuming a gallon of milk a day leads to numerous health issues, some of which can be life-threatening.
Stephens said a gallon of milk contains four times the daily intake of saturated fat, or fat molecules found in animal products and tropical oils. Although saturated fat is not as unhealthy as previously believed, too much can raise a type of cholesterol that increases the risk of heart disease.
A gallon of milk contains almost all of the recommended daily amount of sodium and large amounts of calcium, said Jason Machowsky, a registered sports dietitian. Too much sodium can dehydrate the body and too much calcium in the kidneys can form kidney stones.
Milk in moderation is OK
Despite the problems associated with drinking a gallon of milk a day, cow’s milk contains a number of important vitamins and minerals, including potassium,
and calcium, and dietitians approve of drinking the drink in moderation for people who can tolerate dairy.
For vegans or people who are lactose intolerant, nutritious, high-calorie foods like nuts, seeds, dried fruits and avocados can help with weight gain, Machowsky said. Soy milk contains nearly as much protein as dairy, though Stephens is wary of the high amounts of sugar and gum in some brands of milk alternatives.