Here at CSN we appreciate that bodybuilding can be expensive so we’ve decided to produce this hopefully helpful guide in order to help you reach you’re muscle building, mass gaining goals. So here it is, bulking on a budget: easier than you think. In order to build muscle we need to be consuming enough calories, but more importantly than that they need to be from good wholesome sources, to provide you with the quality macro and micro nutrients you need to support muscle growth and avoiding overly processed refined foods that will lay down excess fat and are difficult for the body to absorb and digest. Now if you’re trying to do this on a budget and you want to do it properly then this can be easier than you think, the key to all of this is having a plan, calculating what you need and buying these in bulk. This means the diet might not be varied or interesting, but it will be effective for building quality lean tissue.
What protein source?
Protein as I’m sure you are aware is the key muscle building nutrient and unfortunately it also happens to be the most expensive part of the diet, that is unless you look in the right places. Instead of using supermarkets go to local butchers, ask nicely and I’m sure they’ll do you a bulk deal on chicken (I get 10kg, yes 10kg for £32 pounds that lasts me 2 weeks easily!), online sites can get you some great deals and even top quality chicken breasts like those provided by gold standard nutrition, should cost you around £20 to give you three meals of chicken providing 30-40g of protein per meal. Minced meat, although slightly fattier, is also relatively cheap and you should be able to get another meal of meat per day for an extra few pounds. Eggs are also another great source of protein and micronutrient dense fats in the yolk, and are cheap if you again buy in bulk. A good tactic can be too add foods into the diet that are high in nutrient combinations for example all natural nut butters are cheap, high in fats and have additional protein, helping cover both bases macronutrients wise, as are tinned tuna and salmon providing you with good quality protein with good amounts of the healthy fat omega-3. The addition of a decent quality of whey protein to be used post training should mean that you’re protein quota for the day can be met for around £30-35 pounds per week, if you are willing to look around and this should also cover a large portion of your dietary fats.
What about fats?
Additional healthy fats can be got from nut oils or coconut oil, these are cheap and will last you weeks at a time so should cover your basis and still be able to get quality, healthier sources of fats for just a few pounds per week and as these are calorie dense are a good way of adding in extra calories without increasing volume of foods, making consuming enough food to grow easy and not leaving you feeling overly full and bloated all day.
What carbohydrates should you buy?
Carbohydrates, especially low GI carbs, which should make up a vast majority of your diet are very cheap, oats, rice and potatoes can be bought to cover a full weeks meals for less than £5 a week if not longer, if you buy in much larger sacks which are readily available in the wholesale sections that now exist in most major supermarkets. In most people’s weekly shopping the real unnecessary expense comes from buying snacks, well quite honestly this is down to bad planning, if you plan your meals you can be eating 5/6 meals per day, of nutrient rich foods, that should keep you full and satiated all day long, snacking should be the last thing on your agenda! But if it is, rice cakes and peanut butter are a cheap and effective way of bumping up your calorie intake add on some sliced banana and you have one of my favourite snacks, on a budget or not!
What about the extras?
Another hidden cost can be cooking sauces and flavourings for food. We all like a bit of variety in our diet, but instead of paying pounds for jars and sachets, invest some money in a selection of herbs and spices to add extra flavouring, which when stirred through rice and the addition of a little oil make awesome dressings. I use this even when I can afford to buy jarred or packet sauces, it tastes better and can be used to season meats and removes unwanted salts ans sugars and some spices and herbs have amazing health benefits. I also like to use honey for sweetening oats or as a glaze for chicken, and nut butters can also be used in cooking and make excellent additions to meat. I like to use peanut butter to bind minced meat when making meatballs, this makes them taste incredible, trust me!
What about vitamins and minerals?
Obviously this diet is missing vitamins and minerals from fruits, fresh fruit can be expensive and would always be recommended, but frozen fruit and veg are cheaper and are still very micronutrient dense, as are tinned fruits, just be careful as these are often preserved in high sugar syrups, unless you want the sugars to replenish muscle glycogen post training! Even things like fruit squash can be replaced and used to your advantage, there are many flavoured multi-vitamins available on the market that are water soluble, adding a nice flavour to water but also helping keep you topped up with your vitamin and mineral needs. So next time you’re at work and in a rush and go for a ‘meal deal’ remember that that adds up to between 15-20 pounds per week, add in a couple of take outs a week at between £10-15 and normal food shopping and snack foods and hopefully you will start to see, that with a bit of forward planning and a lot of Tupperware I honestly believe you can be on a diet of 6 meals a day with over 200g of protein and 3000+ calories, and you’ll be saving yourself money and smashing your training and muscle building goals in the process. As a final note, next time you have a good night out, (which we all deserve once in a while I admit!), remember that £50 you’ve just spent is the equivalent of 40+ meals! We hope this has been useful, here at CSN we want to help you in whatever way we can to reach your goals, so if you need any help or advice please don’t hesitate to ask! Paul Rimmer (BSc, MSc).