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Cheap Food that Builds Muscle Fast

Updated on May 20, 2013
Edamame is an excellent example of food that builds muscle fast.
Edamame is an excellent example of food that builds muscle fast.

When you are first getting into weight lifting and you are trying to build up your overall muscle mass, you probably aren't that interested in paying for expensive supplements and protein powders, shakes and bars. Some of your bodybuilding friends might tell you that you are missing out, and while it is true that you could be getting those muscle building benefits more conveniently through all of those supplemental foods, the reality is that you can build muscle cheaply with a few basic food items. And these items are great sources of the three main nutrients that are necessary to build muscle, choline, leucine, and protein.

Muscle Building Nutrients

If you take in adequate amounts of these three nutrients your body will have more than enough of what it needs to rebuild muscles at maximum capacity.


During intense workouts it is possible to deplete the level of choline in your body. Since choline is necessary for the creation of acetylcholine, a lack of this nutrient means that you could end up reducing your performance, as well as your focus and your memory during and after difficult workouts.

Getting around 1 gram of choline a day should be more than enough to help compensate for any that is lost during difficult workouts.


Leucine is an essential amino acid that your body needs but cannot produce on its own. Scientific studies show that leucine is responsible for stimulating muscle growth after a difficult workout. For maximum results it is important to be taking in a good supply of leucine while you are trying to build muscle. Shoot for 10 grams of leucine every day, and it is best to have it broken down to around 2 to 3 grams with every meal that you have.


Proteins are the actual blocks that your body uses to piece together your muscles when they are being repaired after a workout. Without a good supply of protein your body can't repair itself properly, and you can't build muscle. Several studies have shown that you need between .4 and .8 grams of protein for every pound of bodyweight that you have while doing light to heavy exercise. When doing very heavy weightlifting you should be more towards the .8 gram side of the spectrum.

The Food List


One can

  • 30-40 g protein
  • 3g leucine
  • 47 mg choline

Tuna is a delicious source of protein that also happens to come packed with tons of leucine to boot. It's extremely cheap to obtain in canned form, and you can store large quantities of it without worrying about it going bad anytime soon.

A side bonus of tuna fish is that there is a large number of different ways to prepare it, and with a little creativity you can maintain plenty of variety in your diet, while relying on this plentiful food.


One Large Egg

  • 6 g proteins
  • 330 mg leucine
  • 400 mg choline

Eggs are incredibly cheap to purchase, easy to prepare, and very convenient to eat on the go if you prepare hard-boiled eggs at the beginning of each week. They are high in all three of the essential groups, making them one of the best sources of cheap protein that you can get.

Eggs should be given special notice because they are much higher in choline than anything else on this list. If you are having a hard time meeting the daily gram of choline, then you should add an egg or two into your daily regime to make it easier to attain.


1 cup

  • 5.57 g proteins
  • 330 mg leucine
  • 133 mg choline

Quinoa is very cheap as long as you buy it from an affordable location and make it yourself. Although it does take some time to prepare, it gives a good amount of protein and leucine, with an okay amount of choline as well. It isn't an ideal source of protein by itself, but it is good to combine with other sources for variety.

Cottage Cheese

1 cup

  • 28 g protein
  • 2.8g leucine
  • 40.5 mg choline

I'll be the first to admit that cottage cheese isn't all that appetizing. Even though it may not taste like the greatest food in the world, it's an excellent muscle building source of food that any self-respecting body builder should know about. It's an excellent source of both proteins and leucine, while the tiny amount of choline is just an added bonus.


1 cup

  • 12.1 g protein
  • 800 mg leucine
  • 86.8 mg choline

Edamame is a great source of both protein and choline, while also helping you keep down the total number of calories that you consume. It's easy to obtain in frozen form in most grocery stores and a single bag usually goes a long way toward muscle building. You can also get this at some farmers markets and grocery stores in its fresh form, which is decidedly more appetizing.

If you are looking for food that builds muscle fast, each of the items on this list are extremely effective for the price that you have to pay for them. While it may be convenient to pay for whey protein powder, it certainly costs more to do it that way, and if you want to save yourself some money you can simply add these five foods into your diet.


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    • bskinner profile image

      bskinner 4 years ago

      No problem, I know what you mean. Lately I have just started working out again, and decided to try and get all the needed nutrients from real food rather than spend a fortune on supplements and powders.

    • soconfident profile image

      Derrick Bennett 4 years ago

      Thanks a lot I've been trying to eat healthy, but it can be expensive.