I felt like this post was much needed. As I have moved forward in life and time has passed by, bodybuilding has almost become a luxury item. It can get very expensive indeed, but sometimes we spend more money than we have to on it. I'm guilty of it myself, I'm not perfect by any means. So many times I'm in a grocery store thinking to myself that I NEED something when I really don't. There are more affordable ways to do it, but sometimes we try to tell ourselves this is just the bullet we bite for this.
The problem is, often so much goes into this that other things in life can slip. I know there are affordable ways to do this, because I've known people who have gotten their best physiques ever when they were at a low point in life financially. I think the bottom line is how bad you really want it. I know a guy right now who is having a very hard time with money. He is basically forced to diet and stay hungry a lot, but his physique is better than it's ever been. There are many days where he only eats 2-3 times a day instead of a more desired 5-6, but he is still extremely large and conditioned.
In this post I will explain how the mind frame and eating tactics change when money is tight. Of course the best solution is to go make more money, but it takes awhile sometimes.
OK, first off, get this perfect little diet out of your head. Yes, in a perfect world we want protein shakes, exactly 8-10 ounces of chicken or fish per meal, egg whites, etc. But this isn't a perfect world, and sometimes you need to improvise. What you need to be thinking here is OLD SCHOOL. No more egg whites, too expensive. 3 or 4 whole eggs for breakfast will suffice, possibly a serving of cottage cheese to go with it.
Try posting an ad on Craigslist looking for someone who owns chickens and wants to sell some farm fresh eggs. Buy them in bulk if you can. A 6 serving tub of cottage cheese is about $2.50-$3, so if you're buying 2 tubs a week then we'll say $6 there, and lets say 2 dozen eggs a week, that's $3-4$. Lets say $6 for both for the week, one day you go without cottage cheese for breakfast. Now we need a carb source with it, large container of generic oatmeal, $3. You can make that last a week, 1 or 2 servings with breakfast. Let's just say $10 for everything breakfast related for the week.
Now, let's move onto meat. Please get this shit out of your head that you need 2 grams of protein per lb of bodyweight. That is straight nonsense, you can get plenty large on 1 gram/lb and nothing has ever been proven that the body utilizes more than about .8-.9 grams/lb anyways. You can find boneless chicken for $1.99/lb at Walmart, so lets say you get one 5 lb pack, that's $10.
Now, you won't be able to afford to eat this every meal, so we need some sort of additional protein source that's cheap. In comes kidney beans or lentils. You can get a can of beans for under a buck, so my advice is to grab about 5-8 cans to help get you through the week. So between a pack of chicken breast, breakfast, and some beans, we are at about $28 so far.
Next comes an additional carb source besides just oats. In comes a 10 lb bag of potatoes or large bag of rice for about $5. That should last all week.
Then we get into vegetables, the best and least expensive option is an economy bag of frozen broccoli, $5, should last most of the week (if you miss a day or two fuck it). I'm at $38 now, let's say $40 for sake of arguing.
On to healthy fats next. Fuck almonds and nuts, too expensive! Fuck avocados, too much! Your choices are a jar of natural peanut butter or a jar of olive oil. I'd go for the olive oil first, but it's a couple bucks more usually. Anyways, let's say $4 here for healthy fats. I'm at $42 now.
Let's get some sort of condiment to stir into the rice or chicken, or to put on the eggs. 1 container of generic BBQ sauce $1, 1 jar of hot sauce for my eggs $1, now I'm at $44 for the week so far.
Fruit? OK, it's getting expensive for fruit nowadays, but we'll go with bananas here. Let's say $3 for bananas. I'm at $47 now.
Post Workout Meal
Now my post workout meal, generic instant oats, 2 packs, and some sort of protein source. Let's say a can of tuna fish here, 5 cans of tuna fish for the week (we'll just say I work out 5 times a week right now) $1 a can, and $2.50 for the instant oats (which at 2 packs post workout times 5 workouts a week gets me a week off 1 box). Now I'm at $54.50 total for the week.
Let's just say I'm extra hungry this week and I'm afraid I'll run out of food. Let's throw in 10 packs of ramen noodles (of course we are eating without the flavoring and all the salt!). Let's say $1.50 for the ramen noodles. $56 is where I'm at right now.
Let's also not forget a can of spray for the pan, $1.50, and coffee for morning and pre-workout ($4, it may not be Starbucks but STFU, it's coffee!). So $5.50 for those, on top of the $56 is $61.50 total.
Now, here is the big ticket item, red meat! Look, we don't need a fucking fillet mignon here, what we need is some cheap ghetto steak that's lean! That's means either a London broil, top or bottom round, or shoulder steaks. You don't need to eat red meat every day, but lets try to go for 3 times a week to get some nutrients and iron that we aren't getting from the chicken and fish. $10 for the red meat we'll say. Let's just round it off and say we are at $70 now.
Most people have a cheat meal once a week, so let's budget that out too. I'm putting myself in the shoes of a broke college kid here, or maybe myself from time to time, ha ha ha. Lets say a $5 Little Caesar's pizza and a milkshake, $8. That's it, we are just under $80 total for the week.
Now, lets put it all together:
Meal 1 – 4 scrambled eggs with hot sauce, 1 serving cottage cheese, 2 servings oats
(42 grams protein-60 grams carbs-23 grams fat, 615 cals)
Meal 2 – 8 oz chicken, 1.5 cups rice
(45 grams protein, around 60 grams carbs, 420 cals)
Meal 3 – banana, pack of Ramen noodles without flavor, 4-6 oz lean steak
(40 grams protein, 86 grams carbs, 24 grams fat- 720 calories)
— GYM TIME —
Meal 4 – 2 packs instant flavored oatmeal, 1 can of tuna fish
(32 grams protein, 52 grams carbs, 4 grams fat- 372 cals)
Meal 5 – 1 cup rice with 1 cup red kidney beans, and broccoli
(45 grams protein, 155 grams carbs, 4 grams fat- 820 cals)
These 5 meals come out to just under 3,000 cals/day, 410-420 grams carbs, just over 200 grams protein, and just under 60 grams of fat. This is a great starting point for trying to cut up for someone who is about 210-240 lbs, or a bulking point for someone who is under 200 lbs, but for building I'd probably throw in a little more healthy fats each day.
This is strictly an example, a template, for someone with limited funds who wants to bodybuild. I don't have any protein powder in there. If you can afford it then great, but you're honestly better off eating this diet than including shakes. But for convenience you could add a shake in place of a meal or two. Just be sure to consume it with some sort of carb, since carbs are protein sparing and will also slow digestion of the whey protein.
Don't forget, you still have potatoes to use, so you can replace the rice with 8-12 oz servings potatoes instead if you'd like.
Question: But $80 is still too much money, how could I cut corners more? I'm a broke college kid!
Answer: Replace boneless chicken breasts with chicken quarters and peel the skin off. Drop the eggs to 3 a day instead of 4, cottage cheese 3 times a week instead of 6 days a week. Frozen pizza instead of a $5 pizza for cheat meal.
OK, NOW THIS IS HOW I'D DO THINGS STRAPPED FOR CASH.
But in all honesty, I spend about $30 more a week than this on my groceries, which is still a lot because I still have groceries for a family to buy as well. I'm working on making more money, until then I have to do things in an affordable way.