Trying to pack on muscle is all fun and games … until you tally up the monthly expenses you’re raking up on grocery costs alone – all thanks to the steaks, turkey breasts, beans, etc., that you’ve been buying (and eating!) ?
At the rate your wallet is emptying, you might end up broke before you even see an increase in lean muscle mass.
Because let's face it: muscle-building takes time. Lots of it, in fact.
Meaning? If you’re truly serious about improving your physique, you're going to need to start looking at ways to get in your daily protein requirements on the cheap; from the protein source itself to the way you cook it.
And that’s what this article is for.
Pick a cheap protein source (low cost to protein ratio)
First up: you’re going to find a cheap protein source – or, for variety and micronutrients’ sake, at least 5-6 sources – that you can base your meals on.
Steak is delicious. For sure. Especially when steeped in butter, then pan-seared to deep-brown goodness.
But it's expensive. Of course, 'expensive' is a relative term; so, what exactly deems it as 'expensive'?
Something called the ‘cost-to-protein’ ratio. Or, more specifically, just how much protein you can get with a dollar.
A universally agreed-upon cheap protein source is the humble egg. So let's work out how its cost-to-protein ratio stacks up against steak's, for instance:
- Egg: 15 Smart Price eggs from ASDA costs £1.18 (as of the time of writing). It contains 101.43 grams of protein. That means a dollar gives you 85.96 grams of protein (math: 101.43/1.18).
- Steak: 227 grams of ASDA Butcher’s Selection Prime Beef Sirloin Steak costs £3.69 (as of the time of writing). It contains 54.48 grams of protein. That means a dollar gives you 14.76 grams of protein.
That’s a huge difference.
And this is a pretty simple exercise for you to do when you're in the grocery store. Just compare the cost-to-protein ratio, and you'll find that picking a cheap protein source isn't that difficult after all. Of course, you'll have to do some math – but that's nothing a calculator can't help with!
Can’t stand math?
Here's a list of other cheap protein sources you can (safely) gravitate to: 1) peanut butter, 2) edamame, 3) canned fish (i.e. salmon and tuna), 4) plain Greek yogurt, 5) black beans, 6) cottage cheese, 7) lentils, 8) oats, 9) milk, and 10) pumpkin seeds.
Many of the high-quality vegan protein sources would make for great additions to your diet.
Cook with budget-friendly seasonings
Alright … you've got your choice of cheap protein source – and it's now nicely laid out on your kitchen countertop. The only reasonable thing to do is to cook it.
This is another area you could (potentially) be hemorrhaging money on.
The sizzle of butter. The aromatic fragrance of cinnamon. The expensive taste of Himalayan salt. All those may tantalize your tastebuds, but they’re taxing on your wallet and, sometimes, calorie-dense.
There are plenty of other cheap seasonings and spices that’ll level up the taste profile of your meal without costing an arm and a leg. Or eat away at your already-thin daily calorie budget.
So, here are a few suggestions for cheap seasonings and spices that’ll elevate any protein source of yours:
- Salt (the regular, white kind)
- Garlic powder
- Soy sauce
By the way: ramen eggs are easy, delicious, high-protein snacks that you can make at home. All you need are eggs (of course!), soy sauce, mirin, water, and time.
Oh, and if you ever run out of inspiration when it comes to cooking your cheap protein source of choice, Google will be your best friend. A simple search of ‘easy high protein meal ideas’ will turn up millions of results (75 million and counting, as of today).
Top up with cheap protein supplements
As a full-fledged adult, you only have so many hours to spare in your day after a full day of work, doing household chores, parenting, working out, and spending time with loved ones (phew).
You could have enough time to cook one or two meals, sure.
But all your meals? And in advance? That's a hard ask and is typically where dining out comes in. Unfortunately, though, high-protein meals outside are known to be ridiculously expensive.
That means you most likely wouldn't be getting enough protein to hit your daily requirements. So how do you remedy that without dipping into your life savings? Easy.
With cheap protein supplements, like protein powders. Now … you might be thinking, why not protein bars? Aren’t protein bars cheap? No.
As usual, let’s use the simple ‘cost-to-protein’ ratio to prove this:
- Protein powder: 5 kilograms of Impact Whey Protein costs £35.75 on Myprotein (as the time of writing). It contains 4,100 grams of protein. That means a dollar gives you 114.68 grams of protein per dollar – which turns out to be even more cost-effective than eggs!
- Protein bar: 12 Baked Protein Cookies cost £9.99 on Myprotein (as the time of writing). It contains 156 grams of protein. That means a dollar gives you a mere 15.61 grams of protein – which is even less than what you’d get from a steak.
Also, another reason why you should opt for protein powders (typically, whey) over protein bars is their macronutrient makeup.
Protein bars are typically packed with carbs and fat. As you can imagine, eating even one of these can make sticking to your calorie deficit super challenging. Compare that to whey protein, which is almost pure protein.
You’d be getting your protein in without consuming ‘unnecessary’ calories.
Need help with the training front?
Hitting your daily protein intake is just a tiny bit of your fitness journey. In truth, you also need to be training optimally for maximal muscle growth. That means you need to take care of:
- Exercise selection
- Training periodization
- And … much more
We can't help you buy your protein sources, cook them, or eat them, but we can help you train better.
GymStreak is an AI-powered personal trainer app that'll take care of all your training needs, so you don't have to. Just show up, crush your workouts, and watch your body transform. If that sounds good to you, check out GymStreak now.Get GymStreak