High-Protein Diet on a Budget

How to Create Cheap High-Protein DietIf you’re hard training athlete or just an ordinary fitness enthusiast that is trying to gain strength, build muscle and lose fat, high-protein diet would probably be the best option for you (of course, if you have no kidney diseases). But have you ever wondered how the hell you are supposed to follow high-protein diet and don’t spend all your income on it? How to make it happen? I’ll try to answer these questions in the post and show you on my own example how I made high-protein diet more affordable for me here in Ukraine.

What Is High-Protein Diet?

I don’t use macro-nutrient ratios in my diet (I mean accurate percentages). Dieting is no fun (well, at least for me (maybe just a little)) and percentages make it even less fun. So I’m using bodyweight ratios. I count only calories and protein. Calories were determined in experimental way. As for protein, any diet that consist at least 1 g of it per 1 lb of bodyweight (of course, if you’re not obese) is considered high in protein.

[UPDATE: the situation changed a bit right now. I count everything. It seems that  for my metabolism speed there’s a law: “the less fat you have the more counting you need to make”. Gladly, there is such service as FitDay.com which makes my life MUCH easier]

[UPDATE#2: I'm experimenting with simpler approach and it seems to work. I'll share the detail later]

Ok, here are my numbers for those who are interested:

Height: 180 cm (5’11”)

Weight: 82.5 kg (181.5 lbs)

Maintenance: ~2500 kcal per day

How to Create Your Own High-Protein Diet?

As you can see, my bare minimum of protein per day is approximately 180 grams. If I want to gain muscle, I’ll need to increase it to approximately 270 grams (maybe even more). Why so much protein? You can read here. Well, you may need less in several occasions. But I’ll discuss this later. Remember, all this is just an advice. If I want to lose some fat, I’ll be ok with 180 grams.

So the next step would be to create a menu that will satisfy our protein requirements. You can pick from several protein sources. They could be animal or plant. In my experience animal protein products are far superior to plants. I don’t know whether it’s because of incompleteness of plant protein sources or any other reason, but I see less results in muscle building and fat burning when eating plants compared to tasty dead animals and their products. Of course, vegetarian and vegan diets would be cheaper here in Ukraine, but, man, I hate those beans and lentils. I gave them a try. I wasted my time.

[UPDATE: just recently I had a conversation with a guy who wanted to try vegetarian (and possibly vegan) diet. We sat down and counted value of 1 gram of protein [V1gP] from different food sources. The lower the value – the cheaper the protein source. So it came out that meat was the cheapest option. Why did I use value of 1 gram of protein? Obviously, because protein is the most useful nutrient as well as the most expensive. Here are rough numbers from several foods (I’ve used FitDay.com as calorie counter):

  • Chicken breast (complete protein source): 1 kg costs ~40 UAH (~$5). It contains ~315 g of protein (fried). V1gP = 0.13 UAH;
  • Turkey breast (complete protein source): 1 kg costs ~60 UAH (~$7.5). It contains also ~315 g of protein (fried). V1gP = 0.19 UAH;
  • Pork (complete protein source): 1 kg costs ~60 UAH (~$7.5). It contains 265 g of protein (fried). V1gP = 0.23 UAH;
  • Beef (complete protein source): 1 kg costs ~65 UAH (~$8). It contains 300 g of protein (fried). V1gP = 0.22 UAH;
  • Salmon (complete protein source): 1 kg costs ~100 UAH (~$12.5). It contains 185 g of protein (fried). V1gP = 0.54 UAH;
  • Almonds (incomplete protein source): 1 kg costs ~130 UAH (~$12.5). It contains 210 g of protein (raw). V1gP = 0.62 UAH;
  • Eggs (complete protein source): 10 eggs cost ~10 UAH (~$1). It contains 62 g of protein (fried). V1gP = 0.16 UAH;
  • Split Peas (incomplete protein source): 1 kg costs ~4 UAH (~$0.5). It contains 245 g of protein (raw). V1gP = 0.02 UAH.

As you can see, chicken breast is the cheapest option. “But what about split peas?” – you may ask. They have incomplete amino acid profile, twice as much carbohydrates as protein (as well as not optimal macronutrient profile) and they taste like shit. The only concern about the chicken is that here in Ukraine it is highly “chemicalized”. Lots of people seen it with their own eyes, but nobody gives a fuck. I heard stories that chicken increases in size 2 times (!) during the process. So it’s quite scary to eat it. Turkey seems to be the second best option due to its macronutrient profile]

So I usually pick from animal protein sources. My top choices would be:

  • Meat
  • Poultry
  • Fish
  • Eggs
  • Cottage cheese

I like to keep it simple and don’t add any fancy stuff. If you have an OCD you can go ahead and calculate the price of 1 g of protein in each of these sources. [UPDATE: haha] But this isn’t needed. Just compare prices and concentrations of protein in all these sources. [UPDATE: never mind, look at the update above]

My top picks again would be: chicken breast, 0% cottage cheese (it tastes like shit (I’m not saying that I’ve tasted shit, but I guess that it may taste even better than this devil’s trick)), 9.5% cottage cheese, 17% cottage cheese (it tastes awesome) and eggs. Also I can eat occasional lean beef, lean pork or fish.

These are the cheapest high-protein sources available here in Ukraine. I wouldn’t eat canned food. And we don’t have organic craze here. So I don’t really know whether my food organic or not. As the proverb says: “The less you know – the better you sleep”.

Then I create menus for your workout and non-workout days according to your calories and protein needs. I like to add some carbs on workout days and to go low-carb on non-workout days. And workout days should have generally more calories and non-workout – less.

For example, here are two menus for fat loss for me or someone with my stats:

1) WO Day

250 g fried chicken breast

230 g 9.5% cottage cheese

6 fried eggs

250 g 17% cottage cheese with dry fruits

130 g rice (I measure it dry before boiling; it’s half a cup)

+ any amount of veggies

Total: 2549 kcal

Protein: 187 g

Cost: 40 UAH ($5) per day

2) Non-WO Day

10 hard-boiled eggs (you may think “holy shit!”, but I just love eggs and their price)

460 g 0% cottage cheese

250 g 17% cottage cheese with dry fruits

+ any amount of veggies

Total: 2013 kcal

Protein: 186 g

Cost: 40 UAH ($5) per day

As you can see such diet will cost me $150 per month. And there’s no supplements included (when we’re talking about diet on a budget, food should be your number one priority). Of course, you should remember about variety, and once you hit plateau you’ll need to create new menus.

Intermittent Fasting And High-Protein Diet

As you could already notice I’m a big proponent of intermittent fasting. It keeps you energized, it promotes fat loss, it trains your mind and your body, it gives you freedom, it keeps you full and satisfied and it regulates your hormones to name just few advantages. Another great thing about it that while you’re fasting and not eating protein your sensitivity to it increases. According to Ori Hofmekler, author of the Warrior Diet, protein absorption during periods of overfeeding preceded by underfeeding periods increases up to 160%. That’s quite big advantage for me. However, as everything in life intermittent fasting is not for everyone. I wouldn’t recommend it for people with fast metabolism and weak-minded losers.

Closing Thoughts

So now you have all the keys to create your own high-protein diet and no excuses. High-protein diet shouldn’t be expensive as many may think. Make smart food choices and spend all the saved money on strippers and booze. As always, thanks for reading. Comment, ask, like, share.

Alex Zinchenko

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37 thoughts on “High-Protein Diet on a Budget

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  11. joker

    hey I think I have to read all the articles of your website :), I really love it, I can understand everything with the exemple that you give
    thx !

    ps:
    Do you eat the eggs with the yellow part or only the white part ?

    Reply
      1. blazkovitz

        I read your article “high protein diet on a budget” with a great attention. I’m from Poland and we have similar problems to Ukrainian.
        Good high protein products are also expensive if we equate it to salaries.

        In your article in my opinion you forgot about one great and cheap
        protein source – milk and its preserves for e.g yoghurt.
        When I was teenager I completely hadn’t money for good diet, but I
        wanted to be big and strong. In that time I hit on an idea to do my own
        yoghurt. It’s cheap and simple..

        You need only milk (1 litre), natural yoghurt from the shop (the
        cheaper the beter) and at least one litre thermos I prefer thermos for
        soup.

        If you have everything simply heat up the milk, It should be warm but
        not too hot. After that add yoghurt to heated milk and stir it
        THOROUGHLY. If it comes about amount of yoghurt if you measurably feel the taste of yoghurt in warm milk it’s enough.

        Then pour your “potion of strengh” to the thermos and close it up.
        After night (7 – 8 hours), in the morning you will have great, dense
        high protein yoghurt. After all clean thermos thoroughly and leave some yoghurt to redo all process.

        I drunk every day one litre of this home made yoghurt and I gained 13
        kg after 2 months of weight lifting. I didn’t get too much fat.

        If you need accurate recipe you can find it in the web.

        Best regards from Poland :)

        Kamil

        PS. If you don’t like natural yoghurt you can add some jam to it before
        drinking. Give me your feedback please :)

        Reply
        1. Alex Zinchenko Post author

          Thanks for this great addition, Blazkovitz. I think a lot of people will find it useful.

          As for me, it seems that chicken breasts do the trick better than any other protein source. As soon as I make them my primary source, I always get leaner and bigger.

          – Alex

          Reply
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  22. Arek

    Woow man too much protein is not always better – there were many scientific studies performed on athletes that have shown that 1.8 g/kg is the highest number almost ANY athlete can successfully metabolise. You dont need no more protein than that – the more you get the more of it will be oxidised, removed via urinary tract or turned into carbs in the gluconeogenesis. According to those studies only athletes who took GH , Anabolic steroids , prohormones etc. could gain more muscle with more grams of proteins (more than 1.8g/kg) check out studies mentioned in this article: http://bayesianbodybuilding.com/the-myth-of-1glb-optimal-protein-intake-for-bodybuilders

    Reply
    1. Alex Zinchenko Post author

      Hey, Arek,

      I’m not a scientist. I make conclusions only from my experience. Seriously, why should you care what works for some generic athletes? The most important is not what some study says, but what is effective for you. It may be a complete failure scientifically, but if it works for me, I will stick to it.

      – Alex

      Reply
  23. Arek

    yeah I know your approach, used to do the same (2 and more g of protein per kg) and I didnt see any difference than a little bit less protein ( I tried this approach for many months). From my view when multiple different and independent studies show simmilar results the truth cant be denied, at the end of the day we live in 21st century…But do what works for you , maybe you have better genetics than me and therefore can benefit from higher protein intake. I love your website and articles about calisthenics, kettlebells AND sandbags which I also plan to incorporate into my workout ( I have just bought army duffel bag) Best Regards from neighbor country – Poland :) cheers

    Reply
    1. Alex Zinchenko Post author

      Thanks for the kind words, Arek. Your point is clear to me and definitely right for you. I don’t think I have better genetics. It is just the more protein I eat, the leaner and bigger I am (of course, when calories are in check).

      Good luck with your training!

      – Alex

      Reply
    1. Alex Zinchenko Post author

      Hey, Tungi,

      BCAA pre-workout may increase performance a little bit. I wouldn’t give this too much attention. Try it and decide for yourself.

      On the other hand, BCAA intra-workout can make you bigger and leaner. I would suggest up to 30 g per session. Mix the powder with water and sip throughout the workout. It usually tastes worse than vodka, but does good things to your body.

      – Alex

      Reply
    1. Alex Zinchenko Post author

      Hey, Konstantinos. I haven’t used it much because it is not popular here in Ukraine. I’d say that you can arrange a great diet without it if you in doubt.

      – Alex

      Reply
    2. Mayukh Sen

      Peanut butter is a great stuff,its healthy for you heart but most importantly its a lot of cheap healthy calories,it also good for your testosterone levels since its got zinc,personally,I take about 110gms of raw peanuts,soak it in water for 12 hours(8 hours does it,but I get them out right before my snack time),after they are some what detoxified,now I leave the skins on them and throw them into a grndr/juicer/food processor.Soon enough it turns to a white oily cream like stuff,its got no taste,but I just put 1 spoonfull in my mouth and swallow it with water,its not a sexy food per say,but you know what,after I am done gorging that plate,14 minutes later,I feel energy is surging within me,I feel sort of warm from the inside and feel like I suddenly got a lots of power to move around and do stuff.Best part about peanuts are they torch belly fat of a lots of lots of people,it might sound crazy,but yeah its true,it burns fat.So,you are good with it only if you have soaked it well and your intake is no higher than 200gm a day.

      Reply
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