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The Cheapest Protein Sources / Food For Bodybuilding

Updated on May 13, 2014

This is ideal. However not always possible.

Protein eh? Sounds... Intriguing..

There is no point trying to put on weights and build muscle if you're not eating enough protein. Sometimes you need something you can just eat quickly to get your protein in without spending a fortune or and that's exactly what this article is all about.

How much protein do you need?

The popular opinion is that if you're active you need a gram of protein for every pound of bodyweight. There are people out there that say you don't need quite as much as that, but there are others that say you do. In my opinion err on the side of caution, if you have a little more than your body needs, then it's not going to cause you any problems, your body will just use it as an energy source. If you are eating less than your body needs though, you won't put on any muscle as the resources aren't there for that to happen.

Of course if you go insane with the protein intake, having five hundred grams a day say, then long term you may have issues. But I'm not talking about going way over the top like that. Aim for a gram per pound, if you go over it don't worry too much. You're not going to accidentally consume five hundred grams a day as that would basically involve eating a horse for breakfast.

So, a gram per pound then. This is actually quite a lot of protein. Now I weigh one hundred and eight five pounds, so need a corresponding amount of protein and that much protein is not what most people will eat in a day unless they're focussing on it. There are a lot of skinny guys out there that say 'Oh I eat like a horse but I can't put weight on'. Well the simple fact is, they might think they're eating enough, but they aren't. There are various methods of calculating calories needed to maintain or increase bodyweight, but I wont go into that here, this is simply a guide to some cheap and easy foods to help you hit your daily protein requirements.

Here they are;

A good egg

Boiled eggs

Eggs are cheap and easy to cook and eat. The nice thing about boiled eggs is that they come in their own wrapper so if you chuck six of them in your lunchbox, you don't have to wrap them, you just de shell and eat. They contain six to eight grams of protein per egg, depending on size, which isn't much to be fair, so even if you eat a few of them you're going to have to eat a lot of other food to reach your requirements for the day. However they're a great food to have. I generally eat four a day, scrambled on toast with a nice cup of tea!

Top tip: Boil them in salted water. This makes them easier to peel.

Canned Mackerel. Not pretty, but tasty!

Canned Mackerel / Sardines

This is a great food. Not only are they very proteinatious (yes that is a word that I made up), they are very tasty as well. Plus they cost buttons. I always stock up with lots of tins at the supermarket as a can of mackerel or Sardines are a nice and easy snack that you can put down in a minute without even really noticing you've eaten it. However you've then got twenty grams of protein inside you (from a typical small one hundred and twenty five gram can).

Both mackerel and sardines are equally tasty and I enjoy them both. I can't decide whether I prefer these with tomato or in oil with chilli. They're both nice, right at this moment the chilli is edging it for me though.

I just nosh these down straight from the can, but if you're feeling fancy then you can mush them up and spread them on toast. Well, that's not really too fancy I guess!

Top tip: Don't look too closely at what you're eating.

This is how to drink a protein shake

Protein shake

Protein shakes of course are an easy way to get protein inside you. They are a supplement, not really ideal to use as a main protein source, but they are probably one of the cheapest ways to get it in and also one of the easiest.

You will get about thirty grams of protein from a protein shake made with semi skimmed milk. Three shakes a day adds ninety grams, which is a decent amount to get in without much hassle. You can add oats to it, or icecream, honey and all sorts of stuff to get the flavour a bit better, or add a few calories. I don't bother to be honest though, just shake it up then glug it down in one.

There are all sorts of different proteins with various flashy additives, my advice is just to get a standard default protein shake from a name brand supplier. The extra stuff added to the really pricey ones is often unnecessary and just bumps up the cost.

Top top: If you're going to take one with you to work or wherever, just put the powder in the shaker then buy some milk while you're out. If you premix it then you'll have a horrendous experience when it comes to drinking it. Plus fill the shaker with water as soon as you've drank it otherwise it sets like concrete.

There is something tasty to eat. Bacon!


This isn't the sort of thing you can eat every day, but something that surprised me was seeing how much protein there is in a pack of bacon. A two hundred gram pack of bacon, which contains six slices has fifty grams of protein. Sure, there is fat in there, but if you are out and need some food then a couple of bacon sandwiches, especially if you put some eggs in there will get you some protein in and of course will taste delicious. Just don't eat them every day or you'll end up looking like the pig they're made from!

Precooked chicken

Precooked chicken

These are pretty easy and cheap to get hold of and an easy snack to have if you are too lazy to buy and cook a chicken, then put it into Tupperware boxes spread across the week (a good idea but a sight more work). You're looking at about twenty five grams of protein per hundred gram pack, so if you get a couple of packs, or simply buy the slightly larger hundred gram pack, then there you go, fifty grams of protein straight away.

Top tip: Try to eat the unflavoured variety. The flavouring adds lots of sugars and other stuff you don't necessarily want to be eating and after a while get pretty sickly anyway.

Peanut Butter Sandwiches

Peanut Butter Sandwiches

Peanut butter is a great food. It's packed full of protein. It is calorie dense and contains mono and polyunsaturated oils which are good for you, or so current research claims. A peanut butter sandwich with a hefty dollop of peanut butter and a large glass of milk will get you in the region of thirty grams of protein and isn't a tough meal to eat. Bear in mind you will feel pretty full afterwards though!

Top tip: Add some sliced banana for a bit of extra flavour and also because they're high in potassium. This stops you cramping up when you're exercising.

Put it in your mouth instead

Good old fashioned milk

It's not too tough to drink milk. What I tend to do as a snack when I'm out and about is have a tuna sandwich, banana and a pint of milk so I get protein, fibre and not too much fat all in one go. A pint of milk will give you 19 grams of protein. Personally I drink semi skimmed as I find full fat to be a bit too creamy nowadays to glug down, although it does taste nice. Skimmed milk tastes terrible, so please don't put yourself through that torture.

A lot of the protein in a protein shake comes from the milk you mix it with, so if you're calculating your protein requirements and drinking shakes regularly, be sure not to add the milk protein twice.

Top tip: Drink it?

How do you do it?

How do you usually consume your daily protein?

See results

There you go then, these are some of the high protein foods that I eat most days to keep my protein intake up. Of course I also have decent meals, which often consist of fish, chicken or beef with roasted vegetables, the things I've outlined here are just snacks to help you get your protein count up. You don't want to be living on them!

One myth that I have read plenty of times is the protein window, where people think that they have to get protein inside within thirty minutes of finishing a workout, or the other myth that your body can only digest thirty grams of protein in one sitting so you have to have lots of small meals a day. Both of these are just myths, when you eat a meal that's high in protein your body will take up to twelve hours to digest that protein so you'll have some in you anyway. If you have eaten in the day and then go to the gym, don't worry about getting the protein in within a certain time frame, as long as you get it in at some point that day you'll be fine.

Think back to caveman days, when we used to hunt for our food. You think that back then Ugg an Bugg used to ration off the meat on the animals they'd just caught? No of course not, they'd gorge themselves and probably not eat again til the following day. It is theoretically perfectly fine to have all of your daily calories / protein in one sitting, the only reason why it is generally preferable to split it into different meals is purely because its physically easier to get it in, not because your body can't digest it. So split it up however you like, as long as you're getting your one gram of protein per pound of bodyweight every twenty four hours, you'll be fine.

I hope this article was useful and gave you some advice on protein. If you train hard and eat enough food, then you will gain muscle, so get munching!

If you have any comments or ideas for other protein filled snacks, please leave them below. Thanks for reading.


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