GOMAD Grazing my approach to improve recovery, reduce body fat, increase muscle mass and enhance overall health. The idea is to take a small amount of nutritious drink frequently, using the grazing principle. The name GOMAD comes from "Gallon Of Milk A Day", a technique strength athletes have used for years to boost their calorie intake and gain muscle mass. GOMAD Grazing builds on that idea, adding extra ingredients and carefully structuring the intake along the principles of Nutrient Timing.
- 1 The origin of GOMAD Grazing
- 2 GOMAD Grazing and the daily diet
- 3 GOMAD Grazing Principles
- 4 The GOMAD Timing
- 5 The GOMAD Mixture
- 6 Modifications
- 7 GOMAD Calculator
1 The origin of GOMAD Grazing
As in increased my weekly running mileage, I found a plateau at about 130-140 miles/week. I figured I needed to improve my nutrition, so I started to take smaller meals more frequently, but this was inconvenient. Inspired by tales of bodybuilders who eat far more frequently and in a regimented manner, I tried making up a big batch of Protein shake and drinking a bit at a time throughout the day. This made it easier to train 140-150 miles/week and even hit a high of 180+ miles/week.
2 GOMAD Grazing and the daily diet
GOMAD Grazing is part of my overall daily diet, which includes breakfast, recovery, GOMAD Grazing, evening meal and sometimes overnight feeding.
- Breakfast. By consuming a breakfast that is high in Protein but low in carbohydrate, I optimize my workout. Taking Protein before my workout makes it available for recovery by the time I've finished. Avoiding carbohydrate before the workout maximizes fat burning and helps limit Glycogen usage.
- Recovery. For 30-45 minutes after exercise our bodies will replenish Glycogen faster than normal, and getting some fast carbohydrate in this period keeps our muscles sensitive to insulin. Delaying fueling for two hours after exercise has been shown to increase body fat and decrease muscle mass, so don't delay.
- GOMAD Grazing. After the post-exercise window, GOMAD grazing provides a continual stream of nutrients for ongoing recovery while minimizing fat deposition. Making up a gallon of the GOMAD mixture and drinking 8oz every 30 min provides nutrients for 8 hours.
- Evening meals. While it is possible to continue GOMAD Grazing, I find it better to have some extra variety. The evening is also the time when many people eat badly, myself included, ruining the careful eating earlier in the day. I have a large salad which provides variety and satisfaction, often followed by some oatmeal.
- Overnight. Some athletes will wake up in the night to eat, but the compromised sleep seems to outweigh any benefits. On the other hand, if you are waking up anyway in the night, consuming some extra Protein does help. I often wake in the night to go to the toilet, and if I'm recovering from a race or a particularly tough workout I'll drink some GOMAD mixture or a simple Protein shake. I always have the drink prepared so that I don't have to wake up any more than absolutely necessary.
3 GOMAD Grazing Principles
- Keep blood sugar low. Most of the time you want to keep your blood sugar low to prevent the calories you consume being stored as fat. By taking a little at a time of a slowly absorbed drink, your blood sugar should stay low but stable.
- Don't provide more than can be used. If you give your body more calories than it can use for repair or fuel (Glycogen) storage, it tends to turn it into fat.
- Constant Protein supplies. To recover and rebuild, our bodies need a mixture of Protein, fat and carbohydrate. Our muscle repair is a balance between breakdown and synthesis. When we are fasted, the balance is shifted to net breakdown. Exercise and carbohydrate intake can reduce the net breakdown, but to create a net synthesis requires a Protein intake. Therefore providing a constant supply of Protein optimizes our ability to recover.
- Fiber. Taking in large quantities of Protein without Fiber is likely to cause constipation. Fiber also slows up absorption and helps keep you feeling full for longer.
- Essential fats. The western diet is generally short on Omega 3, with an excess of omega-6. This tends to create inflammation and a number of health problems. The GOMAD mixture boosts the intake of Omega 3 via flax oil and flax meal.
- Saturated fat and fat soluble nutrients. Some saturated fat has been shown to boost testosterone levels, improving recovery and fitness. This saturated fat could be taken from full fat milk, but eggs provide many extra fat soluble nutrients as well as added Protein.
- Tweaks. There are some ingredients that can help boost the value of the GOMAD mixture.
4 The GOMAD Timing
My general guide is to take 8oz of the GOMAD mixture every 30 min, spreading it out over 8 hours. However, I often find that immediately after a run the simple Protein/carbohydrate mixture from Nutrient Timing is not sufficient, and I need to take in more of the GOMAD mixture. I'll therefore take 8oz every 15min for the first 60-90min, then drop down to 8oz every 30 min. I have tried a pattern of 8oz every 15 min for 4 doses, then 8oz every 20min for 3 doses, then 8oz every 25 min for 2 doses, then the remainder at 8oz every 30 min, but that's tricky to remember.
5 The GOMAD Mixture
The term GOMAD comes from 'Gallon Of Milk A Day', but GOMAD Grazing uses a rather more sophisticated mixture.
5.1 Mixing the GOMAD
These are the ingredients I use in my GOMAD mixture, though I don't always use all the ingredients all the time. Some of these ingredients absorb liquid over time, so you will need to blend everything, and then blend again after 5-10 minutes. Some of the ingredients will also settle, so shake or stir the mixture before taking a drink.
How much of each ingredient you need depends on the level of exercise you are doing and your objectives.
- You will need to estimate the calories you need before exercise. This can be estimated from your height, weight and age using http://www.bmi-calculator.net/bmr-calculator/
- Add in the calories from your exercise. For running, you can estimate the calories you burn from your weight and distance. If you multiply your weight in pounds by 0.63, you get the extra calories you burn from running a mile. For walking, multiply by 0.3 rather than 0.63.
- Objectives. Are you trying to focus on gaining muscle mass, training harder or losing body fat?
- For gaining muscle mass, aim to take in slightly more calories than you are burning, and focus on a higher Protein intake.
- Training harder will require an even or slightly positive calorie balance, with more calories coming in the post-exercise window.
- To lose body fat, aim for a negative calorie balance and limit carbohydrate intake.
- Milk. This is the basis of the GOMAD and the origin of the term.
- For nearly everyone, fat free (skim) milk is the best choice. The saturated fat in milk provides a lot of calories and is low in the essential fats and fat soluble nutrients. If you want a lot more calories, add in eggs to skim milk, as they provide a better variety of nutrients.
- The carbohydrate in milk is Lactose, which is a sugar, but is slowly absorbed. If you're trying to limit your carbohydrate intake, substitute water for some or all of the milk.
- Milk contains a high percentage of Protein, with about 20% Whey and 80% Casein (see below).
- I recommend using organic milk. Given the amount of milk you are drinking, you want to minimize the number of toxins present.
- Quantities. A gallon of skim milk contains about 1,500 calories, so you may need more or less than a full gallon depending on your objectives. When I'm running 16-25 miles/day, I will use 1 to 1.5 gallons of milk in my GOMAD mixture. When I'm running less than 16 miles/day I will use less than a gallon and make up the mixture to a gallon with water.
- Whey powder is the most common form of Protein powder. It is quickly absorbed and reasonably cheap, but watch out for contamination. I use Optimum Nutrition 100% Whey.
- Quantities. I normally only add a single scoop of whey regardless of my mileage, relying on Casein and the milk for the protein.
- Casein powder is more slowly absorbed than whey protein, helping to keep your protein balance even. Casein is also thicker and richer than whey protein, giving the GOMAD mixture a better texture. The downside to casein is that it is more expensive than whey.
- Quantities. I use 2-3 scoops of I use Optimum Nutrition 100% Casein.
- Metamucil. Fiber is important for digestive health, and without sufficient Fiber the GOMAD mixture is likely to cause constipation. The Fiber also slows absorption, making you feel full for longer. When Metamucil is given time to absorb liquid, it acts as a thickening agent, improving the texture of the drink.
- Quantities. This is something you will need to experiment with. Too much can cause as many problems as too little. I generally use 3-5 teaspoons of the sugar free Metamucil, but you will need to find out what works for you. If you want to reduce the level of Fiber, reduce the Metamucil before the spinach or ground flax seed as they have benefits beyond providing Fiber.
- Flax seed oil. This is one of the best sources of omega-3, and it blends into the GOMAD mixture to give it a richer, smoother texture. Fish oils would provide better (longer chain) omega-3 but are expensive, frequently contaminated and generally taste unpleasant.
- Quantities. Normally I will use 2 tablespoons of flax oil, though I may cut this down to 1 if I'm losing weight, relying on the ground flax seed.
- Ground flax seed. By grinding up flax seeds, you get the fresh flax seed oil and some soluble Fiber that thickens the GOMAD mixture. I recommend grinding flax seeds yourself using a coffee bean grinder. It is not easy to get the seeds ground finely enough, and you can end up with a bitty texture. The ground flax seeds tend to settle, so you need to shake the mixture before drinking.
- Quantities. About 4 tablespoons is my usual quantity, though I will add slightly more if I'm trying to lose weight.
- Caution: Flax seeds contain cyanogen which is harmless in small amounts, larger amounts could stop your thyroid from absorbing iodine. Therefore it is recommended that you limit your intake to 4 tablespoons per day. Note that Cooking inactivates Cyanogen, and Cyanogen is not a problem with flax seed oil, only the ground flax seeds themselves.
- Cocoa. Cocoa powder is a source of antioxidants, similar to those found in red wine, called polyphenols. It is important to get cocoa powder that is not 'Dutch processed' (treated with an alkalizing agent) as this removes most of the polyphenols. I use Now Foods 'Cocoa Powder Certified Organic'. Cocoa powder also adds to the flavor of course.
- Quantities. 1 or 2 tablespoons gives a good flavor.
- Spinach. Spinach contains natural plant steroids (phytoecdysteroids) that can increase muscle synthesis. There are also nitrates in spinach that may act in a similar way to Beetroot to improve performance. Spinach includes Fiber for fullness, and gives the GOMAD mixture thickness, but too much gives a poor texture. The spinach needs to be thoroughly blended in a powerful blender - a hand blender will not be sufficient in my experience.
- Quantities. Too much spinach can provide too much Fiber, so experiment. I normally take 4-6 oz.
- Green Tea Extract. Another source of the antioxidant polyphenols is green tea, particularly EGCG. EGCG has been shown to shift the metabolism to burn fat, as well as having anti-cancer properties. The green tea extract can settle in the GOMAD mixture and give a bitter taste at the end, so remember to shake before drinking. I use LEF Mega Green Tea Extract (Decaffeinated).
- Note: Bioflavonod supplements, including green tea extract should not be used by pregnant women.
- Quantities. I have one capsule in my breakfast drink and another in the GOMAD mixture.
- Yoghurt. The vast multitude of bacteria in your digestive tract are vital to your survival. Live yoghurt provides a supply of these beneficial bacteria that improve digestion and health. Live yoghurt is particularly important if you have to take antibiotics which will kill of the good bacteria as collateral damage.
- Quantities. I don't measure the yoghurt, but simply add a dollop of plain fat free yoghurt to the mixture.
- Eggs. The saturated fat in eggs can boost the level of testosterone, which helps with muscle growth, fat burning and fitness. The eggs also provide fat soluble nutrients, protein and improve the taste and texture of the GOMAD mixture. I would recommend using eggs that are high in Omega 3; while the flax seeds have a lot of Omega 3, the eggs will contain the longer chain Omega 3 that is especially beneficial.
- Quantities. I normally take two eggs.
- Banana. The banana is mostly for flavor and some extra carbohydrate.
- Quantities. A single banana works well, and I prefer them quite ripe.
- Cinnamon. Adding cinnamon can not only add some pleasant flavor, it can also slow the rate your stomach empties, leaving you feeling fuller for longer. Cinnamon is an antioxidant and shows promise as an antiviral agent. In type 2 diabetes, Cinnamon has been shown to reduce fasting serum glucose, triacylglycerol, and total and LDL-cholesterol concentrations when taken for 40 days.
- Quantities. I use a teaspoon of cinnamon.
5.4 Problems and risks of GOMAD Grazing
The biggest short term problem with GOMAD grazing is that it is easy to take in far more calories than you realize. Some level of calorie counting is needed to make sure you don't end up like a sumo wrestler! The other possible problem is the quantity of milk consumed includes a lot of calcium, which acts as a natural antacid. Your stomach will adapt to this by producing more acid, and if you stop taking the milk, you can end up with some excess acidity. There may also be longer term risks with GOMAD Grazing that could cause health problems, as this is not a varied diet. There are concerns for instance with high protein intakes that may cause stress on the kidneys, and a high protein intake should not be followed by those with kidney problems.
I've played around with the GOMAD mixture quite a bit, and here are some of my more common modifications.
6.1 To lose weight
For general Weight Loss without compromising performance:
- Add more Metamucil
- Add more spinach
- Favor casein over whey
- Favor ground flax seeds over flax oil
- Swap some of the milk for water
- Possibly skip the banana
6.2 Weight gain
To get more calories and nutrients more quickly:
- Less Metamucil
- Favor Whey over casein
- Favor Flax oil over ground flax seeds
- Skip the Cinnamon
- A extra banana, and use riper bananas
6.3 Carbohydrate depletion
For pre-race carbohydrate depletion, or as part of a low carbohydrate diet:
- Replace most or all of the milk with water
- Skip the banana
6.4 Simple GOMAD
If you don't have access to a blender, you can still make a simpler version of the GOMAD with a shaker bottle using the Milk, Whey, Casein, ground flax seeds and Metamucil. Put the ingredients in a dry shaker, shake to mix up the powders, then add the milk and shake thoroughly. It's important to shake up the powders to prevent the Metamucil forming lumps.
6.5 Vegetarian GOMAD
My standard GOMAD mixture contains a lot of animal protein sources. It is possible to substitute alternatives, but you should use caution.
- Whey and Casein Protein Powder. Soy protein can be used instead of Whey and Casein powder, though it is not as effective (Soy powder has a biological availability of 74, compared with 77 for casein and 94 for whey). There are also health concerns with soy protein, primarily due to the presence of phytoestrogens which are similar to female sex hormones.
- Milk. Using Soy milk instead of skim milk will provide more fat, including some Omega 3. The concerns noted above on soy protein also apply to soy milk. Other non-animal 'milk' products, such as almond milk could be used. Note that most non-animal 'milk' products have added sugar.
- Eggs. I found no real alternative to eggs that provides the combination of proteins, fats and vitamins.
6.6 Lactose Intolerant GOMAD
If you are lactose intolerant, you should not have a problem with Whey and Casein protein powder, as there is very little lactose remaining. However, it is best to start with smaller quantities and make sure you are using a high quality powder. The more expensive powders typically have less lactose, but this is not a guarantee. The milk can be replaced with water or a milk alternative as noted above in 'Vegetarian GOMAD'. Note that if you have a milk allergy, you should avoid Whey and Casein as this is a far more serious condition than lactose intolerance.
7 GOMAD Calculator
Below is a simple way of working out the calories and nutrients in a GOMAD mixture based on the ingredients.
7.1 Input Form
Enter the quantity of each ingredient and hit 'Generate' to update the table below.
7.2 GOMAD Nutrients
|Milk||16 Cups (128 oz, 1 gal)||1328||0||192||128||0|