Tuesday, March 10, 2009 by Daniel


By now, the Gallon-of-Milk-a-Day (GOMAD) has become synonymous with Starting Strength and Mark Rippetoe, though the two are actually quite distinct. Rippetoe prescribes GOMAD to skinny adolescents who need, more than anything, to pack on some bulk, and whose metabolism is such that they can afford to take on far more calories than they likely will actually consume in a day. So what is the nutritional content of a gallon of whole milk?

Calories: 2344
Fat: 128g
Carb: 204g
Pro: 124g

On top of everything else you're supposed to eat, that's about a 5k-6k cal/day diet. Not to mention the carbs, which are over twice my daily limit in the milk alone. Yikes! It's no wonder that Rippetoe says, in his own ineffable style:

Older adults using milk for weight gain may find that they get a little chubby on this program. This is because as growth hormone and testosterone levels diminish with age, the ability to easily build muscle on a heavy training program diminishes as well. This means that less of the nutritional input can be converted to muscle in response to stress, and consequently more fat will be deposited.

This is rotten, shitty fact. I personally am offended every time I contemplate this. But the fact remains that older lifters cannot grow as efficiently in response to training as younger lifters can because of their inability to recover, and the efficient conversion of nutrition to muscle is a major factor in recovery.

(By the way, the forum thread that this comes from, a Q&A with Rippetoe on the Strength Mill forums, is well worth reading in its entirety both for the quality of the information contained therein, as well as the hilariously cranky comebacks he fires off.)

Well, I don't want to fork out $7 a day to choke back glass after glass of room-temperature whole milk so that I can gain a little muscle and a lot of fat. Not to mention the logistics (and mockery) involved in hauling around eight pounds of milk all day, every day. It's my hope that there's a better way.

Introducing Kefir

Kefir is fermented milk, invented bajillions of years ago by tribes in the Caucuses and Eastern Europe. You can buy it ($2.69/quart at Trader Joe's), but it's even better if you MAKE it. I've been making my own for a few months now, and it's about as simple a task as you can do in the kitchen:
  1. Pour milk into container
  2. Add kefir grains
  3. Wait 1-2 days
  4. Strain out grains, decant kefir into container(s)
  5. Repeat
But...why drink a quart of the stuff a day?

So many reasons.

COST: Homemade kefir is about $1.75/qt using organic whole milk. I haven't found anything remotely like that in the store.

TASTE: It's goooooood.

EASE-OF-USE: It's a helluva lot easier to down a quart of kefir than a gallon of milk. You can drink that much with dinner, or bring it to the gym as an all-natural post-workout drink.

NUTRITION: I know this will shock the Rippetoe fans out there, but kefir is superior to milk, nutritionally speaking. First, the nutritional profile is somewhat better:

The majority of digestible carbohydrate of kefir is milk-sugar [lactose], of which at 24 hour fermentation followed by 24 hour storage seems to be approximately 3.5%, going by the figures available. This is about 50% reduction of the original lactose content in fresh milk.

Second, kefir is a probiotic (meaning it contains bacteria beneficial to digestion)

Kefir contains live active cultures of normal flora which is made of vary strong strains of microorganisms that help to over take pathogenic organisms, repopulate the digestive tract and aid in digestion. The microorganisms predigest the protein that enchanting protein digest and absorption and also use the lactose thus many people whom have lactose intolerance problem can be consume kefir.

Kefir has the complete proteins that are partially digested and in this respect the body easily utilizes them.

...Not sure whether that's a translation or an English-as-second-language issue in there, but you get the idea. At any rate, the second part is the money quote, and the reason I'm doing this whole experiment. Basically, the hope is that by drinking (somewhat) pre-digested proteins, the bioavailability of the protein in the kefir should be higher, and therefore translate more effectively to muscle repair and growth than regular milk.

Who knows whether it will work. I'm not doing a very scientific introduction of the plan, since I'm also introducing meat into my diet, and I'm sure it's all throwing my inner system for a loop. But I plan on trying it out over the course of this strength cycle, and will have a better clue at its efficacy in about eleven weeks.


Jenn said...

Rippetoe prescribes GOMAD to skinny adolescents who need, more than anything, to pack on some bulk, and whose metabolism is such that they can afford to take on far more calories than they likely will actually consume in a day.

I think Rip's comment should be further modified to say "skinny adolescent males." The vast majority of adolescent girls would become complete butterballs on a GOMAD, no matter how active they are. Because they don't have the jacked-up testosterone of boys, I suspect that they don't convert nutrition to muscle nearly as efficiently.

That said, I may try the kefir thing with my son. He wants to gain weight, by just can't bring himself to drink a GOMAD (not to mention the additional drain on the grocery budget). If the kefir's taste is acceptable to him, that may be a good alternative. At 6' and 130#, he could use a few extra calories.

Maximus Lewin said...

Funniest thread ever!

Ev said...

Way to rock the CFEB site. You got referenced on CFO site too. You're smart and a funny writer :)

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