EAT ON THE CHEAP

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If you're on a tight budget, you may believe that you don't have the resources to join a gym, eat all the quality food needed and take all the supplements required for making the type of gains you seek. That need not be the case. Below we offer a variety of meal and supplementation plans to allow you to construct the ideal program for your budget.

Food can be expensive, but you have to eat to live anyhow. A bodybuilding diet doesn't have to cost much more than a regular diet Even if you're a bodybuilder who needs tons of calories for growth, you can construct an affordable meal plan high in protein. All the meal plans we lay out contain at least 4,500 calories and 300 grams of protein. FLEX assures you that if you eat this quantity of food every day, you will grow. Although many professional bodybuilders eat more food than this, 4,500 calories a day, every day, are enough to allow anyone to gain mass.

A bodybuilder on a tight budget might make the mistake of putting too large a part of his financial resources toward supplementation at the expense of food. But growth won't come without a surplus of calories: On a limited budget, quality calories, emphasizing plenty of protein and complex carbohydrates, must become a priority. Supplements can be an important part of a get-big plan, especially considering the easy-to-eat calories in weight-gain protein powders and drinks. But supplements are not a magic bullet. Solid training and nutrition programs must be in place before supplements will provide an extra edge.

THE BUDGET
How much can you afford to spend on bodybuilding nutrition and supplementation each month? That's a personal question that only you can answer. We estimate that a 4,000-plus-calories-per-day diet, with sufficient protein, will cost approximately $375 a month. That presumes you're willing to eat basic inexpensive bodybuilding foods, but it doesn't account for any deals you may come across by buying in bulk or taking advantage of sales. You can probably save 20% or more by shopping wisely. That means you can conceivably put yourself on a hardcore bodybuilding diet for about $300 a month.

BUDGET MEAL PLAN

($18 PER DAY)

This meal plan emphasizes the least expensive foods. Adhering to a diet of these is demanding, but if you're on a strict budget and you're committed to your bodybuilding nutrition goals, taste be damned, then you can save some serious cash each month by swallowing what you can afford.

Download the FLEX Meal Plan

Keep in mind that the difference in cost between a 6 oz. steak and a can of tuna is $2.50 a pop ($3.80 versus $1.30). Over a month, the difference is $75; over a year, that amounts to $900. That's just the saving achieved by substituting one food at one meal daily over a year. Steak and tuna are both excellent sources of protein and other bodybuilding nutrients, so the tradeoffs in terms of bodybuilding gains in substituting one for the other are minimal. It's a matter of taste and finances.

Our estimate for the total cost per day of this nutritional plan is a little over $18. It is based on purchases of these foods at their current supermarket prices. Again, you can probably do better than that by buying in bulk and taking advantage of sales. FLEX. FLEX FORUMS: Discuss your diet with fellow bodybuilders.

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