Get Big On a Budget

Maintaining a high-quality bodybuilding diet with all the required calories and macros can be tricky if you’re on a tight budget, especially when you make a stop at the meat department.

To gain serious mass you need to be able to afford to eat a lot – supplements aside, we’re talking about bodybuilding staples such as beef, chicken and fish. While some people believe you have to spend big to get big, we wouldn’t necessarily agree. Although it’s true that the bodybuilding lifestyle comes with a price, you don’t have to be a millionaire in order to maintain it.

There are a lot of guys out there who’ve succeeded in getting big on a tight budget. If you feel like you’re hitting your budget’s ceiling, all you need is to put some effort into smarter shopping – there are a lot of budget-friendly high-protein foods out there waiting for you to notice them.

You can get a great cost advantage by avoiding famous, massively advertised brands (or those flashy “hormone-free“ and “100% natural“ labels that are more often false than not, so make sure you read the labels thoroughly) and sticking with the unpretentious store brands, as well as buying in bulk.

Also, try buying huge packs of meat -it’s cheaper and can be kept in the freezer for up to six months, and opt for frozen vegetables and fruits instead of fresh ones. Read the rest of this article to find out which foods can give you more for your dollar!

1. Powdered milk

Switching from regular to powdered milk has a special importance when it comes to saving big – the price of the milk tends to keep going up together with your consumption of protein shakes. Powdered milk is a great inexpensive alternative to liquid milk – it will cost you up to 40% less, it’s low in fat but packed with protein and it lasts much longer if stored properly.

2. Whole chicken

Next time you go to the supermarket, choose a whole chicken instead of chicken breasts and you’ll be taking home a great amount of low-cost proteins. You could roast it on the weekend and then consume it all week long in a variety of tasty dishes – it will save you both money and time. Even better, you can also use the carcass as a chicken stock for soups and stews.

3. Bone-on pork chops

When you need a break from eating all that chicken, pick up some pork chops. Opt for pork rib chops instead of pork blade chops, since the latter contains about twice as much fat. Cuts from the side, back and belly of the big are the highest in fat, while meat from the loin such as tenderloin and center-cut pork chops are much leaner and rather affordable.

Besides its protein-richness, pork meat is a good source of vitamin B12. A 3.5-ounce serving of pork chop contains 0.66 micrograms of this crucial nutrient, which is about 28% of the recommended daily intake. Vitamin B12 helps your body metabolize the food you consume, i.e. turn calories into fuel and plays an important role in the function of your brain.

4. Traditional yogurt

Greek yogurt has most certainly elbowed its way into our refrigerators because of it’s flavor and and protein richness – but is it really that irreplaceable?

It’s true that it packs up a double portion of protein while cutting sugar content by half compared to traditional variants, yet both Greek and regular yogurt in their low-fat forms can be an equally valuable part of a bodybuilder’s diet.

See, you don’t have to be a part of the hype and pay the extra price of the first one like it’s the only possible way to meet your daily protein consumption requirements – simply stir some protein powder in your regular yogurt and spend the extra bucks on something else.

5. Eggs

We couldn’t possibly talk about cheap high-quality protein without mentioning eggs. The average whole egg contains about 72 calories, 6 grams of protein, 5 grams of fat, about 200 milligrams of cholesterol and almost zero carbs.

Typically, the egg whites are preferred over the yolks because the first contain around 40 different proteins and the latter come with a percentage of fat and cholesterol, but studies have shown that it’s much more beneficial to consume both the egg white and the yolk together.

The yolk is packed with great amounts of vitamin A, vitamin D, vitamin K, B vitamins, selenium, zinc, iron and phosphorus – and blood cholesterol levels are not negatively affected by consuming whole eggs contrary to some claims from the past.

At the same time, fat found in egg yolks is important for maintaining higher testosterone levels. This means that including more eggs in your diet will help you save more money and achieve greater gains at the same time!

6. Canned fish

You don’t have to spend $5 on a can of fish and anyone suggesting you to do so does not live in the same world as most of us. In any supermarket you can buy canned tuna or sardines for less than two dollars and quality doesn’t always follow price. Sardines are an exceptionally good source of much needed nutrients like protein, omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin D.

By the way, some recent studies have shown that a higher intake of vitamin D is associated with enhanced muscular strength and increased testosterone levels.

7. Mussels

Mussels are a lot cheaper than salmon yet provide roughly the same amount of omega-3 fatty acids. In addition, they’re incredibly easy to prepare – simply put them in a pot and steam them in a simmering liquid until they pop open.

8. Beef heart

Beef heart is actually more nutrient-dense than other cuts of steak, containing a higher amount of essential amino acids, zinc, selenium, phosphorus and coenzyme Q10. Since it’s a muscle like other common steak cuts, it can easily replace them in terms of flavor, while being a lot cheaper because of a lack of demand. And it fits perfectly in any beef recipes.

Prepare it for cooking by first cutting away the fat, connective tissue, valves and tendons, then cutting it into slices and letting it soak about an hour in a marinade. It should be cooked slowly and served medium rare. Another low-cost lean steak option is top sirloin, with an amazing 6-to-1 protein-to-fat ratio.

9. Dry lentils

While being such an excellent source of protein, dietary fiber and complex carbs, legumes and pulses are pretty damn inexpensive and yet overlooked by most bodybuilders! If you’re lacking some plant-based protein in your diet, try dried lentils – mature beans that have been dried and then removed from their pods. They’re even cheaper with an equal nutrient density and don’t have to be pre-soaked in water before cooking like dried beans.

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