Training Log

Starting Strength in the Real World

Gaining Bodyweight Without GOMAD

When you're not a young, underweight, male

by Cody Miller, SSC | December 17, 2015

gaining muscle without gomad

Drinking a gallon of milk a day (GOMAD) is undeniably the most effective nutritional strategy for adding slabs of mass to young, underweight males. Milk is relatively cheap, painless to “prepare”, the macronutrient profile is very balanced, and calories are always easier to drink than eat. Unfortunately, those interested in muscular hypertrophy who are NOT “young, underweight and male” – populations where GOMAD is NOT recommended – will need to put more effort into the battle to avoid excess fat accumulation.

Body composition can be manipulated progressively much like barbell training to achieve the best results. For example, the Starting Strength novice linear progression holds exercise selection, frequency and volume variables constant . Every 48-72 hours, the load (stressor) is incrementally increased to elicit an adaptation in strength. If the load increase is too significant or insignificant, the desired adaptation won’t take place.

Similarly, if calorie consumption and daily activity are relatively constant, one can manipulate body composition by increasing or decreasing food intake in a linear fashion on a weekly basis. In this case, calorie manipulation is the stressor and an increase that is too significant will favor fat accumulation while an insignificant increase will slow muscle gain down more than is necessary.

Body recomposition specifics are highly individual but aiming for an increase of 0.5-1.5lb of bodyweight each week is a good place to start. Taking weekly photographs and using a simple waist measurement at the navel will help determine if muscle hypertrophy is being favored somewhat more than adipose tissue.

Much like the productivity of adding 2.5-5lb to a barbell exercise, a weekly calorie increase of 2.5-5% can be highly effective. After each week of increase, one should compare his bodyweight to that of the week prior. If a lifter gains less than 0.5lb, he should increase calorie intake by 5%. If a lifter gains 0.5-1Ib, he should increase calorie intake by 2.5%, and if the lifter gains 1-1.5lb, he can choose to stay at the same calorie intake or increase by 2.5%.

In Practice – Rick

Rick is a 28-year-old intermediate lifter who is 6’1”, 210lb and ~14% bodyfat. His goal is to gain 10lb of lean body mass in order to improve his lifting leverages and appearance. He prefers to gain the weight gradually to avoid excess bodyfat accumulation.

During week 1, Rick records his food intake on a mobile phone application for 7 days and then weighs himself the next morning. His average calorie intake ends up being 3,250 calories per day without any change in bodyweight. Rick decides that this calorie intake must be in the ballpark of what is needed to maintain weight.

In hopes of jumpstarting the gain train, Rick aims to increase his calorie intake by roughly 5%:

           3,250 calories x 0.05 = 163 calories

To keep things simple, Rick adds 1 cup of whole milk to his typical diet (1 cup of milk = 150 calories).

The rest of the process completes as follows:

  • After week 2: 0.4Ib gained, calories increased 5%, 2 cups of milk/day
  • After week 3: 0.7Ib gained, calories increased 2.5%, 2.5 cups of milk/day
  • After week 4: 1.2Ib gained, maintained, 2.5 cups of milk/day
  • After week 5: 1Ib gained, calories increased 2.5%, 3 cups of milk/day
  • After week 6: 1.1Ib gained, calories maintained, 3 cups of milk/day
  • After week 7: 0.8Ib gained, calories increased 2.5%, 3.5 cups of milk/day
  • After week 8: 0.4Ib gained, calories increased 5%, 4.5 cups of milk/day
  • After week 9: 0.7Ib gained, calories increased 2.5%, 5 cups of milk/day
  • After week 10: 0.9Ib gained, calories increased 2.5%, 5.5 cups of milk/day
  • After week 11: 1.4Ib gained, calories maintained, 5.5 cups of milk/day
  • After week 12: 1Ib gained, calories maintained, 5.5 cups of milk/day
  • After week 13: 0.4Ib gained (10Ib total), calories maintained

At the end of 13 weeks, Rick finally reaches his goal of weighing 220Ib while only increasing his bodyfat to 15%. Notice that he only had to add a little over a quarter gallon of milk/day in total to make this happen. Individual results will vary.

Linearly progressing food intake can be as complicated as one prefers. Rick chose to keep it simple but daily monitoring of each macronutrient does provide the benefits of a more tightly controlled experiment that is accurate, reliable and easy to adjust. GOMAD may be in your past, but simple dietary adjustments that are progressively managed over a longer duration of time can prove just as rewarding.

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