Bodybuilding on a budget

Every penny I spend on bodybuilding is an investment; whether it’s training fees, supplements and most importantly food. When my wages come in each month the first thing I do before accounting for bills is stick £250 away for food, which never ends up being enough, £40 for gym memberships and £100 for supplements. For the average person this is likely to be ¼ of your monthly income, making it undesirable to fully commit to the essentials required to develop a winning physique.

Let’s look at the most important element to bodybuilding; Food. You can make smart decisions when it comes to food whilst still getting sufficient macro nutrients. In the off season we can opt for foods containing higher fat contents to satisfy both the protein intake and fats (dependant on type of fat). For instance when it comes to sources of protein; chicken thighs are a lot cheaper than chicken breast and minced turkey thigh / minced beef mince is going to be a lot cheaper than breast or steak.

I would say the majority of your money that is spent in the supermarket should be on your protein sources, as carbohydrates and fats are relatively cheap. When it comes to carbohydrates even quality sources such as sweet potato, rice, pasta, oatmeal are all reasonably priced for a large quantity. When it comes to fats; opting for nut butters, oils, cheese, avocados all quality fat sources and economical.

Shop around as well; go to a wholesaler / butcher and buy in bulk, make use of your freezer and portion your meats up for each week. I generally buy a months’ worth of meat when I get paid and portion it up for each week; tends to save me a lot of money compared to buying it daily / weekly.

Supplements

For me you could go on all day buying supplements; and I have done in the past. I tend to ramp my vitamins / minerals up a lot more when it comes to competition time; just as I am more vulnerable to injury and illness. It is important to understand the basics that are required to improve both health and performance. My go to vitamins are a good multivitamin/mineral; mainly as a lot of the food we eat are from poor quality soils and lack in providing sufficient measures of minerals, vitamin D which is the sunshine vitamin; living in the UK this is a must as vitamin D assists bone growth / health and also improves mental state, fish oils, glucosamine, pro biotic; mainly to ensure the food I ingest is being delt with effectively by my digestive system and curcumin for inflammation.

When it comes to supplements to improve muscle mass and performance my key products are; whey protein (tactical whey is going to be a great product to have in your arsenal given the blends of protein and added ingredients to aid digestion and inflammation, EAA (essential amino acids – EAAmmo again is a great product providing both EAA / BCAA, this is going to aid muscle growth and recovery, creatine again another supplement proven to aid strength and muscle increase and finally a carbohydrate powder; I use cyclic dextrin for intra work. Also a nice to have if your budget permits is a pre workout supplement; personally I use Maxxmuscle Atomic Bomb, having been dissatisfied over the years being uneducated in essential pre workout ingredients, therefore opting for the cheaper end of the scale, I have never gotten the desired affect. Atomic Bomb is a premium pre workout and is highly dosed in all of the essentials; citrulline, creatine, caffeine, glycerol, beta-alanine... to name a few , therefore if you are investing in a pre workout make sure you understand what ingredients to look for to avoid disappointment and wasted cash.

When it comes to buying supplements you need to remember quality is key; you wouldn’t buy a chicken breast that contained 2g of protein, therefore opting for your local supermarkets multi vitamin isn’t going to suffice, same when it comes to protein powders. Unfortunately to buy quality you need to be willing to invest a decent chunk of your budget. Making use of whey protein is a cost effective way to fulfil your protein requirements; a lot cheaper than chicken / beef / turkey.

Gym membership

The go to for gym memberships for the “average” person, i.e somebody who goes to the gym to do cardio, weight circuits / classes, fundamental lifting are commercial gyms like; pure gyms, the gym etc… as a cost effective solution. However if you are serious about bodybuilding you need to look further than price and sometimes even further again from the equipment within the gym. For me the person who owns the gym is the most important aspect, regardless of your equipment I would much rather prefer to train at a gym owned by an IFBB pro with decent equipment, than a gym set up by somebody with no interest in bodybuilding but has the best equipment on the market. The reason behind this is the array of information you open yourself up to from an experienced athlete, somebody that can train you, direct you and show you correct form, rather than having access to great equipment but not knowing how to use it.

Whilst it is hard to determine a ratio of how your monthly budget should be spent for me a 50/30/20 split would seem sensible in terms of food/supplements/gym memberships. You also need to remember the benefits of why you are investing this money every month, a lot of people opt for cheap / poor quality options as they are not seen as materialistic however would not think twice about a new tracksuit or trainers costing the equivalent of your monthly food bill.

Summary

To recap on the essential points in the above:

Make smart / economical protein choices in the supermarket especially in the off season

Buy in bulk

Quality is essential when it comes to supplements; don’t opt for supermarket branded

Gym memberships; don’t sign up because its £10 a month, consider what you want from the gym and invest in a membership that will assist towards reaching your goals.