Starting Strength Wikia

Nutrition and Supplements[]

General Questions[]

I would like a detailed description of exactly what I should eat? []

Take it to the nutrition forums. A detailed discussion of nutrition and supplementation belongs there, not here. It is beyond the scope of this FAQ. is also a useful resource on supplements.

Generally, how should I eat []

I am NOT going to get into minutiae and specifics about this subject, because there are as many opinions about "how to make a fat guy lean" as there are fat guys on the planet. We'll gloss over 3 methods for determining your daily calories.

Method One: Basal Metabolic Rate[]

One way of determining your daily caloric needs is by determining your Basal Metabolic Rate. Your BMR is the baseline for how many calories you'll burn in a 24 hour period.

Go here to calculate your BMR.

This calculator assumes:

That you are not inordinately fat or slim, muscular or weak, athletic or untrained

The biggest problem with this and just about every other BMR calculator on the internet is that they do NOT take lean body mass (LBM) into account. As such, they provides a "bell-shaped curve" answer. In other words, it'll get the average guy or gal pretty close, but if you are noticeably large or small, athletic or untrained, you will get skewed results.
Once you've calculated your BMR and accounted for any additional calories you'll burn throughout the day (from exercise, manual labor, walking, playing basketball, etc), you'll have the number of calories needed to maintain your present weight. Naturally if you want to gain weight, you'll need to eat more than this amount. Start with an extra 500 cal/day and adjust from there (either up or down) based on your own observations (scale, mirror, body dimensions, calipers, etc.).

Method Two: Body Type[]

This method is also fairly easy to employ. First, you'll figure out how many calories per pound of bodyweight you need to consume, then you'll multiply that number by your bodyweight. The total sum is how many calories to shoot for in a day's timespan.

Teenage athletic types will probably be able to eat whatever the hell they want. If you want to get extremely strong (football linebacker) and you want to gain weight, multiply your bodyweight (in pounds) by 20-22. That number is how many calories you'll want to consume throughout the day.

If you are a skinny teenager, multiply it by 20-22.

If you are either a) skinny or b) a teenager, shoot for 18-20x bodyweight.

If you are an average sized adult, multiply your bodyweight by 16-18.

If you are a chubba bubba and you want to drop blubber, you can probably get by with somewhere between 12-15 calories/lb of bodyweight, depending upon how old you are, and how long you've been chubby. Chubbies who are extremely strong naturally (the stereotypical "big Samoan mofo") will have faster metabolisms because of their natural base of strength, as will chubby teenagers. If that's you, err toward the 15. If you're an old fart like me, check what 12x does for you.

Method Three: Weekly Weigh-In/Food Journal[]

This is in my opinion, the most accurate way to identify your ideal calorie intake. The only downside is that it takes a little more work from you to get it right.

  1. Weigh yourself after your morning bowel evacuation. Note this weight.
  2. Catalog your diet in a nutritional log, such as the one found here, for an entire week.
  3. After a week of following your controlled nutrition plan weigh yourself again and see what the difference is.
  4. If you've gained a lb, then you are approximately 500 calories per day above your daily caloric maintenance level, assuming you ate the same # of calories each day. (½ lb over = 250 cal over, 2 lbs = 1000 cal, etc). If you've maintained your present weight, then you are eating approximately at your maintenance level (calories in = calories out). If you've lost a pound, then you're 500 calories below your maintenance level.
  5. Determine your maintenance level. From there, adjust your calories for your weight gain/loss goal. +500 kcal daily to gain 1-lb weekly, +750 kcal daily to gain 1.5 lbs weekly, +1000 to gain 2-lb weekly (don't do this if you're over 25, you'll get fat), +1500 if you want to gain 3-lb weekly (don't do this if you aren't still growing in height, you will get fat, unless you are a mutant). This is NOT 100% IRONCLAD, but is a pretty easy and cheap way to get the ball rolling.

This works in combination with the above methods too. You can make a quick determination of daily calories with Method 1 or 2 and then use Method 3 to check the efficacy of your menu. I recommend doing this every week or two and reassessing where your calorie needs stand.

How many Proteins, Carbs and Fats should I be getting?[]

Skinny dudes probably will want higher carb and fat levels, and can shoot for about 25-50-25 for their PRO-CHO-FAT ratios. This means, 25% of calories will come from protein, 50% from carbohydrates and 25% from fat. This is NOT an exact specification! Skinny dudes don't need to follow the "super-high protein" type diets. You simply won't build muscle all that fast. You'll need the carbs and especially the fats to keep your body from catabolizing muscle tissue to use as fuel, just make sure you have a steady supply of nutrients entering your body during the day. NO SKIPPED MEALS!!!!

Guys with more body fat will want lower carb levels and higher protein levels. give 50-30-20 or 50-25-25 a try and see how that works for you. Again, no skipped meals.

Natural mesomorphs (i.e. athletic types, those who are naturally pretty strong and lean) can probably do best (or do real well) on a diet that is somewhere around 40-40-20 of protein-carb fat. To be honest, almost anything will work for these guys, as long as they have their caloric needs met throughout the day.

Almost everyone can do pretty well on a 30-40-30 or a 33-33-33 type diet as well, assuming the carbs are clean (specifically this applies to chubbies).

Are these absolutes? No, of course not; they are starting points. Use them as such. If you know that you don't respond well to those same ratios, then great! Congrats. You already know what to eat, why are you reading this? :p

Let's do the calculations for a skinny 150-lb teenager, using the "Body Type Method".

150lbs x 22kcal/lb = 3300 calories.

25% protein = .25 x 3300 = 825 calories. 825 calories divided by 4 calories/gram ~ 205 grams PRO.

50% CHO = .50 x 3300 = 1650 calories. 1650 / 4 ~ 410-415 grams CHO

25% fat = 825 calories. 825/ 9 ~ 70-75g FAT.

That is the BASELINE. You will almost definitely want to add to this, especially because you have to account for the extra calories you are burning during training. Chances are good skinnies will want to add to the carbs and especially the fats.

Other General Considerations[]

Eating a ton does NOT mean you're absorbing a ton. You have to properly absorb your calories in order for them to be of use. If you are farting and crapping yourself every 10-15 minutes, then you added too many calories too fast. Scale back a bit and work your way back up. Too much too soon can overload your system. A good digestive enzyme can help remedy this.

You also may have a food allergy (wheat gluten and dairy lactose are 2 major culprits here) There are volumes upon volumes written about diet, go read up and learn more for yourself.

It takes approximately 3500 calories above maintenance to add a pound of bodyweight in a week (3500 calories/7 days = 500 calories/day).

It is consistent with typical muscular weight gains to put on .5-1.5 lbs. per week. If you're gaining more than that, and you're not a teenager, chances are you are gaining more than a bit of fat. If you're not a teenager and are gaining more than 2 lbs per week and it's muscle, then you're either a) a genetic freak, b) on steroids, or c) a genetic freak on steroids. Only teenagers (damn them all) have this unique ability.

Bottom line:

Eat too few calories, your gains will suffer. Eat too many calories, you'll add fat. As far as gains go it's better to overeat. In the end, it's up to you to determine your sweet spot as far as total calories. Keep a food log if you want to see how many actual calories you're eating, it's VERY difficult to estimate correctly.
Start a Food Log here

Sample of Men's Weight Loss Log

I've been doing this program for a month and I've only gained 2 lbs. What is wrong?[]

Eat more.


It doesn't matter what program you are on, weight gain is ENTIRELY dependent upon how much you eat.

If you don't eat enough, then you will not get heavier, simple as that. The weight training program doesn't determine how heavy you get, it only determines how much of that "added heaviness" is muscle and how much is fat.

Let me say this one again so that you understand.


Your training plan will help determine how much of that weight gain is muscle, and how much is fat.

If I eat too much protein, will I end up with kidney stones?[]

Probably not. If you have healthy kidneys and you drink the necessary 1 gallon (preferably more - up to 1.5 gallons) of water a day, you should not have any problem whatsoever with your kidneys. Get your calcium, drink your water, and all will be well.

What supplements should I take while doing Starting Strength?[]

Vitamins, minerals, Omega-3 fatty acids (via fatty fish or fish oil), and a whey protein isolate or concentrate supplement are all good products for any trainee to take.

Creatine taurine  and Oxy Elite Pro Super Thermo Powder Through USP LABS are quite helpful and quite cheap but not necessary. Stay away from pro-hormones, NO-X supplements, anything with shiny labels and anything that promises to "add slabs of muscle". Keep it simple for now, you don't need to spend the $$$ on something that won't make that much of a difference since, as a beginner, you will "add slabs of muscle" anyway.

Diet and training are 95% of the equation. Supplements make up about 5% of the equation. For a beginner, it's even less.

Bottom Line

Don't obsess about supplements. Obsess about consistency in your training and consistency in your nutrition.

Further Reading

Sports Supplement Guide for Beginners - From the author: This is a compilation of basic knowledge of supplements I have accumulated over the years. This guide only covers sports supplements related to the aesthetic purposes of bodybuilding including building muscle or weight lifting & power lifting.

Heavier Guys[]

Can I do a cut diet and do cardio while on Starting Strength?[]

Ideally speaking, any initial weight training will be done with a minimum of cardio and while eating a caloric excess. This will allow for optimal muscle growth during the time in your training "career" that is optimal for that muscle growth. Less cardio = more calories for growth, hypothetically speaking.

The need for cardiovascular exercise varies from person to person, and from goal to goal. Very few definites about weight training, bodyfat loss, muscular gain and cardiovascular exercise type/intensity/duration and their interrelatedness exist. However, the following can be stated unequivocally:

  • Muscle builds most rapidly when adequate supplies of micro- and macronutrients are available at all times. This rarely happens unless you are eating a caloric excess.
  • In order to burn bodyfat, you must take in fewer calories than you need. This generally will result in you taking in less micro- and macronutrients than you need to build muscle, even if you take every supplement on the market.
  • Burning bodyfat while gaining muscular bodyweight is confined to mutants, younger (i.e. teenage) males, those who are new to the iron and those who have been previously well-trained, but are now out of shape and are relying on "muscle memory" to work a little magic while they get back into shape.
  • Males will have a SIGNIFICANTLY easier time increasing their lean mass while reducing bodyfat than women. Younger guys will also have a significantly easier time of this. In fact, it is almost too easy for a younger guy (under 25) to make this happen for several years, and for a teenager, it's WAY too easy.

Case in point...when I first got very serious about weight training, after a few years of farting around, I weighed 185. 2 years later after very serious weight training, I STILL weighed 185, but from the neck down, I looked like an entirely different person. My Mom accused me outright of using anabolic steroids, as did several of my friends (this was almost 20 years ago, before the general public really knew about steroids). I had added a good 500+ lbs to my squat, bench and deadlift in those 2 years, yet I hadn't gained a single pound. My chest and shoulders grew by about foot each, my waistline dropped by about half a foot, and my arms and forearms were almost 2x as big.

Yet I weighed the same. That, my friends, is what happens when a young male with the proper bodytype (I am a meso-endomorphic type) lifts like a lunatic and eats solid and clean (and everything in between.... ;) ). I was chubby when I started, and I was pretty damn lean when I was "done". So in essence, I managed to find a balance of calories-in versus calories-out that allowed me to pile muscle on while convincing my body that all that excess bodyfat I had stored up as a semi-lazy teenager wasn't necessary, but the muscle I was piling on WAS necessary.

My basic advice to ANY teenager who starts lifting weights is to do the following

1) Clean up your damn diet. Dump the chips, get rid of the french fries, lose the Pepsi/Coke/Dr. Pepper, and stop with the beer and pretzels on the weekends.

2) Eat every 2 hours. It doesn't need to be a lot, but make sure you have a good 20-40g of protein in each meal, and make sure you eat some complex carbs and some fats with each of those meals. Don't stuff yourself, but eat good solid food or if need be, drink a healthy protein shake...not one of those "megaMass 4000". They are just piles of liquified shit that have 400g of sugar per serving and send your colon into a spastic fit.

3) If you can manage to eat cleanly for a month straight, while taking in sufficient protein, carbs and healthy fats, you will add muscle at a rate that will shoot your metabolism through the roof. Just by eating clean, your body will become very efficient at burning bodyfat, and you won't NEED to diet or do an excess of cardio in order to burn bodyfat. Just eat healthy, lift like your life depends on it, and do some light cardio for your health, and the bodyfat will melt away.

4) As a teen, you should REALLY take advantage of the time when you can add muscle the best. Dropping 10 lbs of bodyfat is easy compared to adding 10 lbs of muscle. Ask anyone who has been around the iron game for any period of time. It's much easier to lose bodyfat than to add muscle. The more muscle you have, the EASIER burning bodyfat will be. So take this time to eat clean and add muscle, and wait until late spring before you start worrying about your abs.

So, to sum it up, do a bit of cardio for health, clean your diet up, and lift hard and heavy. You will burn way more bodyfat than you can imagine by doing this.

Here is a specific diet that I used with great success for recomp (bodyfat loss + strength gain). I'm a natural fatty with a good bit of muscle, and I was getting back into shape. I was 5'9, ~15-18% bodyfat, 215ish lbs.

0600 - 25g Isopure + water + 4g creatine + 4g taurine
0630 to 0730 - cardio
0800 - 1/2c slow oats + 25g whey + 25g casein + 1c skim milk
1030 - 4-6 oz dead animal + "dinner starch" + veggies
1300 - 1c skim cottage cheese + 25g whey + 25g casein
1500 - preworkout drink (50g whey)
1530 to 1700 - lift
1700 - 50g dextrose + 40g whey + 4g creatine + 4g taurine
1700 - 4-6 oz dead animal + dinner starch + veggies
2100 - 1c skim cottage cheese + 2T ANPB + 2c skim milk

2-3g fish oil caps with each non-workout associated meal. On days I didn't lift weights, I cut the 1700 dextrose out. The meat sources were either 95% lean ground beef browned, rinsed and drained, round steak, turkey, chicken (breast AND thighs), and fish (salmon or tuna or perch). "Dinner starch" was either 1/2 yam, 1/2c lentils or 1/4c brown rice. If I had a coffee grinder, I wouldn't have bothered with the dextrose, I just would've ground up some oats, cooked them in water, and added them to the protein drinks pre and post-workout. That is definitely adviseable.

I varied the exact meat and starch sources but the overall serving size was measured. This provided enough variance to keep calorie totals fluctuating enough to prevent adaptation, and it also kept things interesting. Some days, I would have the salmon, steak and ground beef along with the lentils. Those days were higher calorie totals and protein. Other days, I ended up with chicken and turkey breast along with lean fish, so my totals were lower.

The results were that in 4 months, I went from 211 (severely dehydrated) to 212 with a drastic muscle mass and strength increase, coupled with a 4" loss in my midsection measurement. Also note that I went from a dehydrated 211 to a 212 using 8g creatine + 8g taurine daily, both of which are associated with cellular volumization. In other words, you usually gain a lot of weight. The recomp probably allowed me to switch out a good 5-8 lbs of muscle for an approximately equal amount of fat.


I'm skinny and I want to get huge, what should I eat?[]

You are going to need to eat like mad. Unless you eat junk food and drink Coke and Pepsi constantly, you don't eat enough. 

Do you have the ability to eat 3500-4000 calories EVERY day without consuming tons of junk food? Nothing wrong with eating pizza and a double cheeseburger (or two!) every day, as long as you keep lifting hard. Dump the candy, soft drinks, donuts, cookies, etc....stuff that is high in calories with no protein or nutritive value. You want *quality* calories.

Convince Mom to buy seven pounds of the 93% ground beef, and finish off an entire Hamburger Helper box with a pound of ground beef daily, as well as 2 or 3 peanut butter and banana sandwiches and as much milk as you can stomach. Don't like hamburger helper? Go for a box of mac-n-cheese along with your ground beef, but put down 1 lb of beef and 1 box of starch per day at least. Don't like mac-n-cheese? Make a bunch of spaghetti noodles or some rice or corn and peas, baked beans, potatoes. And eat dead animal. Lots of it. Don't want to eat a pound of ground beef? EGGS! Eat them! All of them!

The grocery bill is going to knock mom for a loop. Do your chores, wash the dishes, keep your room clean, etc, and Mom probably wont' freak out too much.

Make no mistake. The best weight training program will make you strong, but it won't make you big. Weight lifting does NOT make you big. It makes you strong. Eating properly is what makes you big. If you eat a ton of calories without the weights, you get fat. Eat a ton of calories WITH your weight/strength training, and you get big, strong muscles.

Follow me here...your bodyweight is determined by diet (how much you eat). The proportion of fat and muscle you have is determined by your training.

Here is a sample 4000(ish) calorie diet, that is quite clean. It is approximately 25/50/25 for calories.

breakfast ~ 820 kcal - 52/103/22
2 egg whites + 2 eggs = 22g pro, 3g CHO, 14g fat = 333 kcal
1.5 cup oatmeal = 15g pro, 78g CHO, 3g fat = 295 kcal
2 cup whole milk = 16g pro, 22g CHO, 5g fat = 195 kcal
3 fish oil capsules - 0/0/3 = 27

mid-morning snack ~ 525 kcal - 26/58/24
1 banana = 1/30/0 = 125 kcal
2T All Natural Peanut Butter (ANPB) = 9/6/16 = 200 kcal
2 cup whole milk = 16/22/5 = 195 kcal
3 Fish oil capsules = 0/0/3 = 27 kcal

lunch ~ 640 kcal - 44/54/25
4 oz turkey breast - 30/0/1 = 200 kcal
2 slices whole grain cracked wheat bread - 6/52/3 = 260 kcal
slice whole fat swiss cheese - 8/2/8 = 112 kcal
1T olive oil - 0/0/13 = 117 kcal

preworkout - 400 kcal - 25/75/0
3/4c glucose - 0/75/0 = 300 kcal
1 scoops whey - 25/0/0 = 168 kcal

postworkout - 510 kcal - 50/75/1
3/4c glucose - 0/75/0
2 scoops whey - 50/0/1

1 hour postworkout - 642 kcal - 38/91/14
4 oz round steak - 28/0/8 = 276 kcal
3/4c (uncooked) Brown rice - 9/79/3 = 379 kcal
3 fish oil capsules + pile of rabbit food - 1/12/3 - 77 kcal

final meal - 709 kcal - 40/59/32
1/2c cottage cheese - 15/9/0 = 96 kcal
1/2c plain yogurt - 15/19/0 = 136 kcal
2T ANPB - 9/6/16 = 204 kcal
3 fish oil capsules + sliced banana - 1/25/3 = 104
1T olive oil - 0/0/13 = 117 kcal

265 pro, 506 CHO, 102 FAT = 4206 kcal total
26% protein, 51% CHO, 23% fat

As a skinny, you won't really need to eat that clean, but it is to your benefit if you do.

You can get more info on weight gain diets here:

I don't really like to eat that much "health food", but I want to gain weight. Please help.[]

Here are a few easy "tricks" that I used back in the day when I was lazy and didn't need to cook for anyone but myself.

  1. Brown 1-lb. ground beef and/or George Foreman a pound of chicken
  2. Make a box of macaroni and cheese
  3. Mix the 2
  4. Get a jug of milk
  5. Drink milk and eat the chow
  6. Makes 2-3 meals

Hamburger Helper - oh hell yeah! Just use 2 lbs of beef, and make 3-5 meals out of it

Peanut butter and banana sandwiches + milk = bulk food extraordinaire

Egg Sandwiches = scrambled eggs + cheese + whole grain bread and salsa = YUM! Turbo charged musclechow.

  1. Stick 4-6 eggs into a skillet, cover
  2. Let eggs get cooked on one side
  3. Flip it over carefully, and cook the other side
  4. Throw it on 2 pieces of toast or bread with salsa

Buy some extra virgin olive oil and take a T of it here and there throughout the day. Great antioxidant properties, great nutritive properties, and helps you get in some healthy calories. Oddly enough, it tastes decent as well.

Keep a jar of All-natural peanut butter and a spoon with you. Eat a tablespoon every hour or 2, depending upon how many calories you need to fill in.

You get the message. Be creative. You're a skinny bastard, have some fun gaining weight while us fatties eat green beans and lentils. You need calories more than you need exact super-health-type foods.


I can gain muscle just by blinking, I eat whatever I want and don't have a shred of bodyfat, so how bout that?[]

Okay, you guys are the scourge of the training world. You're in a borderline "newb" status for almost your entire training life. Guys like Ed Coan and the majority of the bodybuilders and professional lifters are either natural mesomorphs or primarily mesomorph. You will possibly be able to maintain a linear periodization routine for your entire life. We respect you, but we hate you (we = normal people) because we envy you.

You naturally maintain a lower bodyfat and higher muscular ratio. If you eat too much while training, it will probably go to muscle. If you don't eat enough, you will probably burn a lot of bodyfat.

You suck, but you are blessed. Eat whatever you want, you'll still make progress, and we will all envy you.

Here is an adjustment to the basic skinnyboy (ectomorph) diet I posted earlier. Still about 4000 calories, but more protein

breakfast ~ 645 kcal - 55/77/13
4 egg whites + 2 eggs = 29g pro, 3g CHO, 14g fat
1 cup oatmeal = 10g pro, 52g CHO, 2g fat
2 cups whole milk = 16g pro, 22g CHO, 5g fat
3 fish oil capsules - 0/0/3

mid-morning snack ~ 713 kcal - 51/46/25
1/2 banana = 1/15/0
2T All Natural Peanut Butter = 9/6/16
2 cup whole milk + scoop whey = 41/25/6
3 Fish oil capsules = 0/0/3

lunch ~ 500 kcal - 44/54/12
4 oz turkey breast - 30/0/1
2 slices whole grain cracked wheat bread - 6/52/3
slice whole fat swiss cheese - 8/2/8

preworkout - 400 kcal - 50/50/0
1/2c glucose - 0/50/0
2 scoops whey - 25/0/0

postworkout - 510 kcal - 50/75/1
3/4c glucose - 0/75/0
2 scoops whey - 50/0/1

1 hour postworkout - 721 kcal -77/52/20
8 oz round steak - 56/0/16
1/2c (uncooked) lentils - 20/40/1
3 fish oil capsules + pile of rabbit food - 1/12/3

final meal - 505kcal - 65/46/24
1c cottage cheese - 39/18/0
2T ANPB = 9/6/16
2c whole milk = 16/22/5
3 fish oil capsules - 0/0/3

392 pro, 400 CHO, 95 FAT ~ 4025 kcal total
39% protein, 40% CHO, 21% fat

Again, however, you probably won't need to eat that clean.


What is GOMAD?[]

Plainly stated: Gallon Of Milk A Day. In other words, you drink a gallon of whole milk every blessed day.

Why milk?[]

1) It is VERY easy to consume. Most kids can down a ton daily with cereal, pop tarts, ice cream, protein drinks, etc, and for a skinny kid who is growing vertically as well as horizontally ( yeah puberty!), this is a VERY easy way to ensure you get your calories.

2) Protein, yeah protein...tons of high quality protein. Whole milk will have a nearly ideal macronutrient profile for a growing kid as well.

3) It is rich in calcium, vitamin A, B-12, D, potassium, phosphorus, niacin, and riboflavin.

4) Calorie for calorie it is one of the cheapest ways you're gonna get fed on a budget. T-bone steaks and fast food are gonna quickly drain your wallet.

Mark Rippetoe:

Milk works because it is easy, it is available, it doesn't need any preparation, and it has all the components necessary for growing mammals, which your trainees most definitely are. There also seems to be something special about milk that the equivalent amount of calories, protein, fat and carbs can't duplicate in terms of growth enhancement. It may be the fact that milk has been shown to have very high levels of insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1), a peptide hormone that has been shown to have some tenuous relationship to accelerated growth in mammals. But that research is far from conclusive; suffice it to say that people who drink lots of milk during their novice phase get bigger and stronger than people who don't.

Alan Aragon:

...milk is one of the best muscle foods on the planet. You see, the protein in milk is about 20 percent whey and 80 percent casein... it's ideal for providing your body with a steady supply of smaller amounts of protein for a longer period of time, like between meals or while you sleep. Since milk provides both, one big glass gives your body an ideal combination of muscle-building proteins.

Why WHOLE milk?[]

The fat adds more calories and it's all about calories. The fat also plays an important role in the delivery of certain nutrients and regulation of the body's hormones. There are other factors at play with what drinking Whole milk does to body composition too. Though I'm not privy to the science behind it, I am sure of the results.

Alan Aragon:

When it comes to building muscle, though, whole milk may be your best choice: Scientists at the University of Texas medical branch in Galveston found that drinking whole milk after lifting weights boosted muscle protein synthesis, an indicator of muscle growth, 2.8 times more than drinking skim did.

Full article:

What does the nutritional makeup of Whole Milk look like?[]

You can find the nutritional makeup of whole milk here:

How many liters are in a Gallon?[]


A Gallon of milk has a ton of salt in it! That can't be healthy[]

You have to remember, this is done for a short term heavy mass gain; not as a health regimen or lifestyle diet, not to get cut, it's to get big and strong. I can't imagine drinking a gallon of milk per day for more than a few months tops, those kinda muscle gains don't last forever and eventually you will get diminishing returns. Once you've put on 20-30 pounds of meat, feel free to go back to a healthy eating lifestyle.

Won't I be ingesting way too much Vitamin D?[]

The tolerable upper limit may be close to 10,000 IU per day - fortified milk does not even come close to that amount.

Milk contains 400 IU per quart, or 1600 IU per gallon.

What about all of the sugar that's in milk? What is its GI (Glycemic Index)?[]

Milk gives a fairly moderate insulin spike. The GI of milk is approx. 30, hardly a worrisome number.

The large amount of fat blunts the insulin response from the lactose sugar, this prevents your body from storing fat like it does with straight sugar.

There's a lot of Palmitic acid in milk. What about that?[]

There is no definitive proof of any negative effects from palmitic acid. There are studies that show it to have positive effects as well... but nothing certain one way or the other.

Do you have a smart answer for all the saturated fat too?[]

No, I don't. But rip does:

The deal with saturated fat is that, above all, it is not poison. No study in existence has ever shown that saturated fat causes [cardiovascular disease], and its presence in a food that is useful should not prevent you from using in your diet. No one is suggesting that you get half of your calories from the "butter" they use on movie popcorn, but whole milk for a growing young lifter is much more valuable than the fat it contains is dangerous. Milk is quite literally better than steroids for a novice lifter to grow on, and no supplement produces the same effect.

More on the myths of Saturated Fats: Is saturated fat bad for me?

I'm still convinced that that much Whole Milk can't be good for you[]

That may be true, but even at its worst assesment I think a healthy younger trainee who only does the milk diet for a few months tops won't suffer any lasting health consequences. This isn't a lifestyle diet after all, just a short term bulking/strength tool that is rarely administered. The fact that the muscle/strength results are lasting, however, I think outweighs the short term health impications which can be easily reversed, if such implications actually exist.

What do I eat in addition to the Milk?[]

Anything you still have room for. I'd take it easy on adding in more dairy on top of all the milk though. Too much of a good thing and all that. ANYTHING ELSE

Do I still need to drink a gallon of water on top of the gallon of milk?[]

The milk will account for most of your daily hydration needs. Just drink plenty during your workout.

--Edit--Actually, this is debatable. In Practical Programming for Strength Training, Rippetoe recommends one liter of water for every 1000 calories expended (p. 46-48). This would work out to a gallon a day for someone using 4000 calories a day. Rippetoe also states that other liquids (i.e. milk) contribute toward this total, but it seems fairly certain that he doesn't intend for them to completely replace the water. Keep drinking at least some water.

I'm lactose intolerant and I only have one pair of pants to spare.[]

They make lactose free milk, called Lactaid, and also most drug stores carry lactase which is the digestive enzyme that people who are lactose intolerant lack. One or the other is usually a suitable solution. I also recommend 'NOW Foods Super Enzymes,' just as a general digestive enzyme (it doesn't include lactase enzyme however).

Does this mean you HAVE to drink 1 gallon of milk daily and that it must be WHOLE milk?[]

No. Is it recommended? Well, it sure is effective for adding necessary protein and calories while growing. If you are worried about the calories and fat, then drink skim. Note that Hola Bola, one of the best built natties on, drinks damn near a gallon of 1% or 2% daily. Granted, he is enormous, and has the resultant metabolic "advantage" of having over 200lbs of LBM, but he is also 25, not 15, and he isn't growing vertically as well as generally filling out.

Skinny dudes and relatively lean, athletic dudes can probably get away with drinking 1% or 2%. For those painfully skinny early teens, whole milk. Chubbies should stick to skim milk, obviously.

Milk isn't magical, although it is quite effective. Keep your calorie totals in mind when figuring out how much milk to drink.

Alan Aragon:

It depends on your taste. While you've probably always been told to drink reduced-fat milk, the majority of scientific studies show that drinking whole milk actually improves cholesterol levels, just not as much as drinking skim does. One recent exception: Danish researchers found that men who consumed a diet rich in whole milk experienced a slight increase in LDL cholesterol (six points). However, it's worth noting that these men drank six 8-ounce glasses a day, an unusually high amount. Even so, their triglycerides ? another marker of heart-disease risk ? decreased by 22 percent.

The bottom line: Drinking two to three glasses of milk a day, whether it's skim, 2 percent, or whole, lowers the likelihood of both heart attack and stroke - a finding confirmed by British scientists.

If you're dieting, the lower-fat option is an easy way to save a few calories. When it comes to building muscle, though, whole milk may be your best choice: Scientists at the University of Texas medical branch in Galveston found that drinking whole milk after lifting weights boosted muscle protein synthesis - an indicator of muscle growth - 2.8 times more than drinking skim did.

I work/go to school for much of the day and don't have access to a fridge, will I have to drink it warm?[]

Hell no, that's disgusting. Bring a thermos or two with you. It will keep it cold throughout the day and two thermoses hold about a half gallon of milk.

Another option is to ferment your milk (see GOYAD). The bacteria from the ferment will keep the milk safe even if it is kept at room temperature all day.

I've seen pictures of Mark Rippetoe. Why would I take nutritional advice from a guy who looks like that?[]

Because he turns skinny kids into frothing beasts. Yeah, that's milk froth I'm talking about.

C'mon people, he's a strength coach, not in the running for Mr. Olympia. Have you seen some of the coaches in the NBA and NFL? Mark is 52, strong as hell, and in good shape. Why wouldn't you take his nutritional advice?

How much weight can you gain with GOMAD?[]

Weight gain can vary on GOMAD from person to person but it can be expected that an individual can put on 15 to 30 lbs of mass in a month's time. Granted, this weight will not all be muscle for someone who is strength training but will likely be mainly fat. Although this can help those who are already underweight.

Full Article:

What is GOYAD?[]

Plainly stated: Gallon Of Yogurt A Day. This is an extension to GOMAD because drinking fermented milk has a number of benefits over the traditional GOMAD.

You can make kefir at home from a gallon bottle of store-bought milk and some kefir grains. Other options are using a quality yogurt starter. Kefir or yogurt can be easier to digest than than milk for some people because it contains probiotic cultures. Kefir or yogurt can also be kept at room temperature for those without access to refrigeration.


Can I do cardio for fat burning while on this program?[]

Cardio is something that should be done by everyone on the planet, just for general health. If you are a chronic chubb-dogg (like me!) then cardio should be a daily habit at least once, sometimes twice a day.

The key is in modulating the intensity and duration so as to positively affect your barbell training, rather than negatively affect it. The chronically chubby will notice a DRASTIC difference in the body's ability to process calories, especially carbohydrates, if consistent cardio training is added to a consistent weight program. Frequently, the chubbage will melt away while the muscle gets packed on. It is a natural characteristic of the endo-meso somatotype to be able to add muscle while losing bodyfat if calories are clean, protein is relatively high, and cardio is performed daily. In many cases, adding some cardio will actually enhance barbell progress because of the positive "CHO-useage" effect cardio has on many naturally bulky trainees.

Skinny dudes REALLY need to be careful of this, however. A brisk walk is all that is needed, just enough to keep the heart healthy. Mesomorphs, being the bastards that they are, can probably get away with very little cardio at all, and they will burn bodyfat simply by switching from 2% to 1% milk (Yes Hola, I'm talking about you...bastard!)

The biggest mistake a novice can make is to undertake a new barbell training routine and then add in a ton of high intensity cardio. This will exhaust the trainee far earlier than what would normally occur, and the hindered muscular progress will be reflected in hindered metabolic increases. More muscle = faster metabolism = more calories and fat burned during the day.

Burning calories through exercise is 1 way to get leaner. Adding muscle, which increases BMR, is another. Since the novice will experience the most rapid muscular bodyweight increases, it makes sense for them to focus on barbell training rather than excessive cardio, even if they are chubby.

Originally Posted by Mark Rippetoe, pg. 204 Starting Strength A program of this nature tends to produce the correct bodyweight in an athlete...if he needs to lose bodyfat, that happens too...they will notice...looser pants at the waist, legs and hips staying about the same, shirts that are much tighter in the chest, arms and neck, and faster strength increass than their skinny buddies. Their body composition changes while their bodyweight stays close to the same, the result of a loss in bodyfat due to their increasing muscle mass.

As a personal attestation to this, I got serious about training during my first year of college. As described in various other places, I maintained my bodyweight for the first 2 years of serious training, yet my strength, LBM, and the resulting BMR shot through the roof. I didn't "diet", didn't do a lot of cardio, yet bodyfat melted from my body as muscle accumulated on my frame.

Chubbies need to take advantage of these novice gains. You only have 1 real chance to make this happen. Milk it for all it's worth! Keep cardio to a minimum as a newb, just enough to keep the heart healthy.

I want to bulk but I want to stay in good shape. Can I do some cardio during this program?[]

Not only can you, you should! However, the emphasis is going to be on LIGHT CARDIO. You must be VERY careful not to overdo this. Start the program with a brisk walk in the mornings on non-training days and preferably some strength-oriented GPP as part of your barbell sessions as described in the GPP post. Increase time/intensity/speed on the cardio/conditioning/GPP in a very conservative manner. Monitor your barbell progress closely. If it seems like your gains slow down as you increase the conditioning work, then drop back on the conditioning!

There are frequently advantages to doing some cardio work while trying to bulk.

  1. It increases appetite, especially when done in the morning. Makes me hungry like the dickens.
  2. If done at a low enough intensity, it can help enhance recovery by bringing more blood into the various areas of the body that need it, especially if the exercise contains a very mild or no eccentric component (some ellipticals, bikes, and sled pulling share this similarity)
  3. Cardio frequently has VERY positive effects on carbohydrate utilization and insulin sensitivity, especially for the chronically chubby.
  4. Your heart is a muscle too, take care of it!
  5. Good cardiovascular conditioning can ensure that rest periods between sets aren't unnecessarily long. Moving quickly between sets, assuming no loss of strength occurs, can significantly enhance the overall training effect.

In the end though, consistent and very close monitoring of barbell progress is of utmost importance. Keep in mind that the goal is to add muscular bodyweight and strength. As long as recovery between training sessions is complete, then the cardio can and should be continued. If it interferes with progress, then it needs to be reduced or dropped entirely.

Should I do cardio before weight training or after? Or should I do it separately from weight training?[]

Depending upon your goals and your exact cardio exercises and methodology, generally cardio is best kept separated from your weight training. The exception is the trainee who does cardio immediately postworkout while drinking a PWO drink.

An additional exception is a "strength-based" cardio program, a.k.a. "GPP" or "Strongman training". It is strength training with a endurance aspect, for the most part. This type of strength training is well-suited for immediate postworkout.

Whatever you do, do NOT do cardio BEFORE your weight training. This will hinder your strength and workout stamina, and that isn't cool at all.

Can I run 5 miles per day while on this program?[]

Not if you want to recover from your barbell training sessions. Running can be very very harsh on the knee joints when combined with thrice-weekly squatting. Additionally, the catabolic tendencies of distance running contraindicates the use of a daily 5-mile run in conjunction with a strength and mass-building program like the Rippetoe novice workout.

If daily running is a necessity for you, then you will want to consider looking into a barbell program with less leg work.

If, however, you have been running for years (i.e. cross-country runner, marine/soldier, etc) and your body is used to the exercise, then you should be able to work it into your schedule. Understand that excessive cardio WILL HINDER YOUR GAINS.

Can I do HIIT on my off-days?[]

Not if you expect to recover fully for your weight training. HIIT is fantastic for conditioning and fat loss, but it can dig into recovery when on a full-body routine. The amount of direct leg work in the novice Starting Strength program is rather immense, and HIIT is difficult to perform without hitting the legs pretty hard.

If fat loss is your primary goal and HIIT is how you plan on achieving it, then a different weight training protocol might serve you better.

What is GPP and how do I incorporate it into my training routine?[]

GPP stands for "General Physical Preparedness" ohhh yay, and it is a type of exercise that provides for strength development and conditioning. Start with once a week for no more than 5 minutes after a weight workout. As conditioning improves, you can add a minute per session up to a (probable) max of 10 minutes per session, once per week. You can add a second GPP/conditioning workout during the week, but start this additional workout easy (5 minutes) and work upward in time as described above. Once the trainee hits 10 minutes per training session, add weight to the sled, swing a heavier sledge/axe, or do what is necessary to increase the resistance.

The goal is to use this as a "strength and conditioning" session, in that order. "Faster" or "longer" are not necessarily better, in the context of the program, depending upon their goals. The trainee should get very winded and tired, but he should not be "sprinting" during the training, as this can end up having a seriously negative affect on recovery.

GPP/strength conditioning training workouts can be a very useful adjunct to the trainee's workout program, but extreme care and caution must be taken so that the training recovery rate is not adversely affected. The athletically gifted might be able to do 15-20 minutes 2 or even 3 times weekly with little or no adverse affects. They are mutants. Most trainees will not be able to break 10 minutes once or twice weekly without a negative affect on their strength development and especially (if desired) bodyweight increase. Like accessory exercises, GPP/conditioning should be used to ENHANCE advancement in the core benchmark lifts (the big 4 - squat, bench, deadlift, press and the row/clean). If it interferes with the advancement in said lifts, then the additional work is both unnecessary and detrimental.

Can I combine Crossfit with Starting Strength?[]

Mark Rippetoe:

It depends on where you perceive that your training should be focused. If you're not strong enough to effectively do the WODs, it makes sense to focus on SS for a while to get better at force production and then go back to Crossfit. If your strength is good now and your primary interest is in CF GPP conditioning, strength work occurs often enough in the WOD that you can just do it like that. Assuming you mean that you need to concentrate on strength for a while, I'd start with straight SS programming, and then add one metcon workout after 3-4 weeks and see how your strength work responds. Probably 2 metcon/3 SS workouts/week is all you can tolerate. I like 'Cindy' for starters. Any of the benchmark "girl" workouts are very good. They are short, intense, and useful.


If I could make one suggestion having had some experience running linear strength programs with CF style metcon wods....when you first start adding in the WODs, don't start with the ones that are overly muscularly demanding...they are more likely to interfere with your strength work....start with the ones that are more "cardio" intensive and add in the strength oriented wods little by little and usually scale them down a tad just to test your tolerances before you run them full speed....a couple more points....try designing your own WOD's using movements that you know won't wreck your body for the next few days....don't limit yourself just to the WODs on the'll probably find yourself doing lots of rowing, medicine ball work, kettlebell swings, and abdominal stuff as all of these things can be trained really hard with little to no effect on strength training....also, olympic lifts at high reps are great conditioning tools and are fairly easy to recover from....these are just my observations from expirementing with this stuff for a while...


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