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Protein is probably the most important aspect of muscle building, yes even more important than exercise selection, genetic potential, or how often you train.
If you’re not getting enough protein then you won’t be able to build muscle. It’s as simple as that.
But you know what? Not everybody is super rich. We don’t all walk around eating $30 steaks for breakfast (partly because you should never walk and eat – it’s a choking hazard).
Nor can we all afford fresh venison steaks, or ostrich meat, or whatever else you see on so many food plans.
Luckily this article is going to provide you with 12 high protein foods that are affordable for the common man (or woman).
Each food item is high in protein, and contains a decent protein to calorie ratio. This means that it’s high in protein without also being high in fat and carbs.
For this reason peanut butter is not on the list. 100g of peanut butter might contain 25g of protein, but it also contains 50g of fat, and 20g of carbohydrates. This means that 100g of peanut butter comes in at 588 calories of which only 100 come from protein (17%).
Food #1. Whey Protein Powder
There is a myth that whey protein powder is an expensive food item, and it’s easy to see why.
You can see large tubs of the powder selling for $60-100 at a time. But that $100 tub could contain around 200 servings, while a serving of protein powder is not exactly a meal, it can contain 100 calories and 20-25g of protein. This works out at $0.50 per serving of protein.
Compare that to an expensive steak, or even a relatively cheap chicken breast. Suddenly whey protein powder is looking like a bargain.
Whey protein also has one of the highest protein ratios, with up to 90% of each serving being made up of protein (though this can vary quite a lot depending on the brand).
Whey protein can be mixed with a number of other items, including some on this list (Greek Yoghurt, and Oats), making it very versatile.
Food #2. Cod
Fish can be a surprisingly good source of protein, but is usually quite expensive. But cod is one of the cheapest fish out there while also containing a decent 18g of protein per 100g.
It’s also very easy to cook, can be prepared in many different ways, and can be bought frozen in bulk (to save you even more money in the long term).
Food #3. Lentils
A staple part of Indian cuisine (often made into a meal called Dal), and necessary for any vegetarians and vegans looking to pack on muscle.
Lentils may not be the highest protein food on this list (9g per 100g) but they are amazingly cheap, low in fat, and very versatile.
Food #4. Greek Yoghurt
Greek yoghurt isn’t always cheap, it used to be but it has become more and more popular and is now seen by many as a luxury item.
But, if you are prepared to shop around you can still find it at bargain prices.
Just make sure that it is legitimate Greek yoghurt rather than “Greek style yoghurt”. It can contain as much as 10g of protein per 100g, or 40 calories out of 60!
Food #5. Eggs
The cheapest food ever, there has never been a student bodybuilder who didn’t rely on eggs to bulk (made up statistic alert).
Hitting 13g of protein per 100g and selling at ridiculously cheap prices, you can live off this as your main protein source if you have to.
Also, even someone who can’t even work a microwave could probably manage to cook an egg, the simplest thing ever!
Food #6. Kidney Beans/Black Beans
Another great vegetarian or vegan option, and just generally healthy food choices.
Kidney beans come in at 24g of protein per 100g (at 33% protein to calories), while black beans are 21g.
You can create three bean salad as a high protein vegetarian snack, or add them to beef for an excellent chilli, or add them to stews and casseroles.
Buying a can of either is also super inexpensive.
Food #7. Lean Ground Beef
We’ve mentioned beef steak as the ultimate luxury protein source a number of times in this article, but you can get all the protein from steak at a fraction of the cost by buying lean ground beef.
A 100g serving of lean ground beef is around 22g of protein per 100g (based on just 4% fat content). If you choose a higher fat content then consider draining it to help reduce calories and fat.
Ground beef can be used for chilli, spaghetti bolognaise, it can be used in Mexican food, English food (Shepherd’s pie), and Italian foods like Lasagne.
Food #8. Rolled Oats
Rolled oats are not an exciting food, but they are incredibly cheap and contain 13g of protein per 100g.
You can add them to Greek yoghurt with a scoop of whey protein to create a really high protein (and delicious) pre-bed snack, or you can have them as oatmeal.
Food #9. Chickpeas
Like black beans and kidney beans, chickpeas are surprisingly high in protein, and can be used in many vegetarian and vegan dishes.
They can be made into hummus, added to chillis and casseroles, they are also very cheap and have many other health benefits.
Food #10. Chicken Breast
The ultimate bodybuilding food, the most versatile meat on earth, a fantastic source of protein, and still cheap to buy.
Frozen chicken breast is particularly cheap, and can be bought in bulk and kept in the freezer (obviously).
You can use chicken breast in Mexican food, Indian food, Chinese food, Italian, French, English, American, there is no end to the uses of this incredible bird.
It manages to pack 31g of protein per 100g or 124 calories out of 165 (75% protein ratio).
Food #11. Ground Turkey
Not as delicious as ground beef, but still an excellent tasting protein source.
Ground turkey is probably one of the best protein foods out there, it contains 18g per 100 with only 12g of fat.
It can be used to make just as many dishes as ground beef, but due to its more neutral taste it tends to require more seasoning to bring out flavour. It’s also very cheap.
Food #12. Canned Tuna
The final item on this list, is a classic bodybuilding staple.
It’s very high in protein (30g out of 100g or 120 calories out of 184), super cheap, and can be used in a variety of dishes.
The humble tuna sandwich is perhaps the perfect high protein lunch choice, while tuna pasta is an easy and high protein meal choice. Canned tuna is also a very cheap food.
So there you have it, twelve high protein foods that are all very cheap to buy in stores.
If you really want to save money though, you need a large freezer, and you need to hunt for bargains.
When tuna is on sale buy in bulk, when your supplement website has a sale on whey grab two tubs.
Most of the foods on this list have a long shelf life. When you buy at a discount you are saving even more money per gram of protein.
Find coupons, search the discount section, look for amazing deals, shop around, compare prices online. Become a bargain hunter. You’ll see the difference in the mirror and on the gym floor, not to mention the bank balance!