Bulking on a Budget
Updated: Apr 7
When it comes to packing on some quality muscle and increasing strength (also known as ‘bulking’) for most males, having a sufficient intake of carbohydrates and protein is necessary in addition to lifting weights and resistance exercise.
We also want to limit the amount of processed food (ie. fat and sodium) consumed to maintain health, therefore it isn’t advisable to consume large amounts of Big Macs, desserts or char kway teow in order to hit that caloric target. This is especially because such foods consist almost entirely of simple carbohydrates, with very little protein to sustain your muscle growth. However, it may be expensive or inconvenient to focus on ‘clean foods’, particularly if you have a naturally high metabolism which requires a lot of calories to build muscle.
Here are five cheap, affordable and accessible foods which are really good for your health and ideal to consume to help you build muscle.
1. Chicken Rice (1 plate = 611 kcal, 19.5 grams of protein)
The quintessential Singaporean food which is very cheap and easy to find in most hawker centers and delicious. If they have white rice rather than the oily chicken rice, that would a better option. Always double or triple up on the meats so you can hit your protein intake. Remove the skin to control your fat intake. You should also try to lay off on the sweet sauce and the chilli as they can be a source of excess sodium and simple sugars if used in excess.
2. Eggs (1 egg = 70 kcal, 7 grams protein)
Eggs are super cheap to get in bulk (a 12-pack of eggs from NTUC usually costs about $3). They’re delicious and easy to cook. A quick tip is to hard-boil the eggs in batches so you can peel and snack on them throughout the day. Try to limit yourself to not more than 4 egg yolks a day, as they can be high in cholesterol and fat. You can also add eggs to your normal caifan to increase the protein content of the meal.
3. Oatmeal/Cereals (1 packet = 120-200 kcal, 21 grams carbohydrate)
These are heavy in carbohydrates and yet nutrient-dense, making them perfect pre-workout meal. Try to choose cereals which are low in sugar (for example, choose golden cornflakes over Frosties or Honey Stars). An ideal option for busy working adults is to do overnight oats for a quick breakfast on the go, and mix in fruits, Milo or chocolate powder to make it more appetizing for you to consume.
4. Whey Protein (1 scoop = 120 kcal, 20 grams protein)
Whey protein is a form of protein which is most easily absorbed by the body. You can take it as a shake with water/milk or as a protein bar, and there are numerous recipes online on how to make protein pancakes, protein cookies etc which can be very delicious! They are easy to carry around and there are also numerous flavors and brands out there so its hard to get bored. The price for a generic brand of protein powder is generally at about $1 per scoop, which is relatively affordable if you have difficulty consuming sufficient protein through natural food.
Nut butters are here because they are cheap, so delicious and easy to eat while being a reasonable source of protein. You could eat several tablespoons spread over bread, in a smoothie or just plain out of a jar. High in calories, they make the perfect snack to have throughout the day. You can also opt for the powdered version (comes with all the fat pressed out) or protein nut butters.
Bulking up doesn’t have to consist of nasty mass gainer powders or endless boxes of brown rice and boiled chicken breast. It can taste good and be affordable as well.
When bulking, you are basically eating more calories which will be converted into both muscle and fat. Hence it is important to try and get as much of these calories from healthy, nutrient-rich sources rather than pizza and char kway teow to avoid overconsumption of saturated fat, sodium and sugar. Eating foods high in fat also results in more excess fat gain compared to eating nutrient-rich food. Of course, lifting some weights at the gym to encourage the development of lean, quality muscle mass rather than fat is important. Ensure you get a good balance of aerobic and cardiovascular exercise (eg. running or calisthenics) as it not only complements weight training (by increasing your body’s efficiency) but also helps you keep lean and reduce excess fat gain as you bulk. If you are unsure how to train during this bulking phase, feel free to approach our team at FITLUC for advice. You can book a personal training trial at www.fitluc.com/personaltraining or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org . Happy eating and bulking!