Nutrition

How To Bulk On A Budget

Building muscle requires commitment to the gym and consuming the right nutrition & supplements  – but does that mean spending lots of money?

Bulking on a budget advice is all well and good if it’s track tested and proven, but the reality is that everyone is different. Not everyone’s metabolism works the same, you may be a hard gainer or a beginner to the bulking game and taking advice from someone that has worked it all out for themselves might not know the best methods that will work for you. Throw into the mix your empty wallet and, well, getting big.

When you are bulking it means that you are gaining body weight, not just developing muscle, but adding to your overall mass. The pitfall is body fat. While you can go ahead and eat everything in sight, you will be wasting your resources on empty, refined carbs and you will mostly add to your fat mass which can soar anywhere from a 2:1 to 4:1 ratio of fat to muscle. A bit of design to your ambition is, therefore, a good idea.

In this article we will take a look at ways to practically approach bulking on a budget, including knowing the facts of what you need and how you can make sure you get it, check out the contents below:

Preparation

Know how much you should be eating – establish calories – establish macros

Macros

Everyone’s talking about them, but what are they and what do you need? Macros are protein, carbs and fat. Your body needs them for everything from day to day busyness, your body’s functioning even when you’re sat still, and especially needs them when you’re lifting heavy weights. Each has calories. Protein and carbohydrate have 4 calories per gram, fat has 9 calories per gram.

Calories

To work out how many calories you need, for men, multiply your bodyweight (in pounds) by 22, which factors in a higher level of activity and heavy lifting sessions. Females, do the same but multiply by 18.

Protein

For the amount of protein you need, multiply your bodyweight in pounds by 0.8

Fat

For the amount of fats you need, multiply your bodyweight in pounds by 0.3 to 0.6.

Carbs

Multiply your daily protein intake by 4. There are 4 calories in a gram of protein so this will give you how many calories you’re consuming from protein each day.

Making a shopping/meal plan list

Now that you know what you need, your first step is to avoid leaving things to chance. You have a plan when you stroll into the gym, right? A list of aims for the session, be it legs, chest or lats, and the number of reps or volume of weight you plan on lifting. So why not spare five minutes to apply your mind power to the same kind of planning for a shopping list.

As mentioned earlier, you could eat every last thing in front of you, but if you knew the nutritional value and what (perhaps little) there is to be gained from such an approach, you might think twice before thinking pizza and sandwiches are the answer. Some of the most appealing foods, sadly, tend to be refined carbs, also known as empty carbs. They provide little nutritional value and mostly offer a sugar spike, which drops leaving you worse off than when you started, while simultaneously added certain unwanted fats and cholesterol to your system.

The nutritional value and contents of the food you buy is available there for you to read on the labels, so you can’t plead ignorance and wonder how some people manage to get the right macros when you’ve been munching away and not seeing the right results. Take a look in your fridge and cupboards, and write yourself a shopping list.

Go non-branded

It’s the macros you want, so who said the brand has anything to do with it. Chicken is chicken, and tinned tuna does what it is meant to no matter the logo on the tin. When you are doing your own shopping and cooking you are not interested in how ready meals or pre-prepared food has been made. It’s the ingredients that you want. Better than going to more affordable shops, is going straight to the butchers or veg stall where you will get more, better quality produce for better prices.

Cook everything yourself

You don’t need to be an expert chef when your meals are macro based. It is more a question of maths and putting together the proteins and carbs that you will need. Taking this a step further, you can plan for several days’ lunches if you are busy working and find yourself ducking into shops to fill yourself up at random during a manic workday. In other words: meal prep. Set up some big pans and make enough rice or sweet potatoes for several dishes, then cook off strips of chicken.

Foods for bulking on a budget

As we mentioned in the previous points, this is where cooking everything yourself can help – along with hand picking what you need from a predetermined list. You don’t need to be a masterchef, but by buying a ready meal that sounds and looks healthy you have to bear in mind the preservatives and other unwanted and unnecessary contents that could be avoided if you’d chucked the same ingredients in a pan all by yourself. That said, here is a rough guide of some popular ingredients that may help to steer you:

Food (Per 100g) Protein Carbs Fat Calories
Almond Nuts 21.1g 6.9g 55.8g 614 kcal
Anchovies 14.5g 0.1g 2.8g 85 kcal
Asparagus 2.9g 2.0g 0.6g 25 kcal
Avocado 1.9g 1.9g 19.5g 195 kcal
Bacon 15.9g   19.8g 245 kcal
Baked Beans 9.5g 22.1g 0.4g 130 kcal
Bananas 1.2g 23.2g 0.3g 100 kcal
Beef Fillet Steak 20.9g 0g 7.9g 155 kcal
Bread (wholemeal) 11.0g 39.1g 2.2g 220 kcal
Broccoli 4.2g 3.2g 0.2g 31 kcal
Carrots 0.6g 7.9g 0.3g 37 kcal
Cheese 30.9g 0.1g 15.0g 260 kcal
Chicken Breast (Skinless) 23.5g 0g 1.7g 109 kcal
Coconut 3.33g 15.23g 33.49g 354 kcal
Cod fish 17.9g 0g 0.9g 80 kcal
Cottage Cheese 12.2g 4.5g 1.5g 80 kcal
Couscous 15.1g 73.1g 1.1g 365 kcal
Crab meat 18.1g trace 0.5g 80 kcal
Eggs 12.5g Trace 3.2g 151 kcal
Goji Berries 12.3g 57.7g 0.3g 285 kcal
Haddock Fish 16.4g 0g 1.2g 80 kcal
Hummus 7.4g 9.8g 26.8g 310 kcal
Lamb (Steak) 19.9g 0.8g 3.2g 115 kcal
Lobster 26.41 3.12 1.94 143 kcal
Milk (Semi Skimmed) 3.6g 4.8g 1.8g 50 kcal
Milk (Whole) 3.3g 4.7g 3.6g 64 kcal
Monkfish 24g   1.7g 76 kcal
Orange 1.1g 8.5g 0.1g 39 kcal
Orange Roughy Fish 22.64g 0g 0.034g 105 kcal
Pasta 12.5g 73.0g 1.4g 355 kcal
Peanut Butter (Crunchy) 24.9g 10.1g 50.2g 586 kcal
Peas 5.9g 9.0g 0.9g 70 kcal
Pizza (Pepperoni) 11.4g 28.0g 11.1g 260 kcal
Pork Chops 19.3g   20.3g 260 kcal
Porridge oats 11.0g 60g 8.0g 356 kcal
Potatoes 2.1g 17.2g 0.2g 80 kcal
Prawns 17.0g 0.3g 0.9g 80 kcal
Pumpkin Seeds 28.8g 15.2g 45.6g 586 kcal
Rice (brown) 6.9g 74.0g 2.8g 350 kcal
Salmon Fish Fillets (Boneless) 21.6g 0g 14.0g 215 kcal
Sardines (Fish) 21.5g trace 9.6g 172 kcal
Sausages (Pork) 13.9g 11.9g 17.0g 255 kcal
Soya beans 35.9g 14.8g 18.6g 375 kcal
Spaghetti 5.1g 33.0g 1.3g 165 kcal
Spinach 2.8g 1.5g 0.8g 24 kcal
Sunflower Seeds 23.4g 18.6g 47.5g 600 kcal
Tilapia Fish 24g 0 4g 105 kcal
Tofu 12.1g 0.6g 6.0g 105 kcal
Tuna Fish (Steak) 25.6g 0g 0.5g 110 kcal
Tuna Fish (Tinned) 26.3g 0.0g 10.7g 202 kcal
Turkey Breast (Skinless) 22.3g 0g 1.2g 100 kcal
Venison (Deer meat) 30.21   3.19 158 kcal
Yogurt 4.5g 6.6g 11.0g 145 kcal

Supplements for bulking on a budget

Supplements are as important as your meals for bulking. But maybe it is the price tag that is putting you off. This is a matter of choosing the supplements that will go the furthest. In other words: decide what you need. As you’re bulking, the obvious choices include whey protein, creatine or a bulk blend that has a little of everything you need.

Our advice for anyone trying to stretch their pennies is to invest in a larger supply of whey and creatine, which you know you will be using and likely buying again in the future. By purchasing the larger volume you will get extra servings for your money.

Take home message

Bulking can be difficult enough to manage without the constraints of budget woes. The best advice is to think in terms of the bigger picture and plan ahead. This means buying your food in terms of macros and the relevant ingredients, which may be purchased in bulk and that you can then us in your meal prep at the start of a week so that you know you will be getting the macros you need and when. Alongside this, supplements will ensure you get the surplus nutrition that mass bulking demands.

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Faye Reid

Faye Reid

Writer and expert

Faye has an MSc in Sport Physiology and Nutrition, and puts her passion into practice as goal attack for her netball team, and in competitive event riding. She enjoys a pun, and in her spare time loves dog walking and eating out.


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