Cheap Foods for Healthy Weight Gain and Muscle Building

by Matjaž Macuh

Muscles with weight gain

The basis of any muscle building nutritional regimen is a caloric surplus which relates to an individual eating more calories than he/she burn throughout the day.

Energy surpluses should be of small to moderate amount (up to 500 kcal/day) in order to minimize fat gain during massing phases. Staying in states of energy surpluses for longer periods of time will yield the best results in terms of improving body composition.

This small/moderate caloric surplus has to be accompanied by sufficient protein intakes (of around 1.6 g of protein/kg of body weight/day) alongside adequate fat and carbohydrate intakes.

Individuals should be encouraged to achieve the above-mentioned caloric surplus mainly with healthy nutritious foods which contain larger quantities of any of the following nutrients: vitamins, minerals, fiber etc. Foods with higher protein content should also be favoured in order to help an individual achieve his daily protein requirements.

A common fear amongst individuals trying to bulk up is that they will have to spend enormous amounts of money on their weekly groceries. And that’s completely understandable, however, there are many healthy and at the same time cheap options for bulking up out there.

Here are a few of these foods which you can easily include into your nutrition program without spending too much money at the same time.

1) Milk

Milk is relatively high in high-quality protein which contains all the essential amino acids needed for muscle growth. Milk is also very high in calcium which is good for bone health.

What makes milk especially useful for all the “hardgainers” (people who have a difficult time putting on muscle mass or weight in general) out there is the fact that you are drinking rather than eating your calories which makes the process of attaining your daily caloric intake that much easier.

2) Eggs

Eggs are a great source of high quality fast digesting protein and they are very energy dense as well making them the perfect food for healthy weight gaining.

Eggs are usually very cheap and are of course extremely easy to prepare. It’s no wonder that eggs find themselves on the menu of so many fitness enthusiasts.

3) Nuts

Moving away from great animal food sources for gaining weight, let’s have a look at some plant-based healthy foods for bulking up. Nuts, in general, are very high in antioxidants, fiber, protein and of course they are extremely energy dense. They are also very convenient to eat as they don’t actually require any preparation whatsoever.

At what price you get nuts is going to largely depend on where you come from, however, certain nuts like peanuts are usually very cheap. Different kinds of nut butter (e.g. peanut butter, almond butter, cashew butter etc.) are also a great and very tasty bulking option.

4) Grains

Is it a coincidence that grains rhyme with gains? I think not. Grains, in general, are usually pretty cheap, high in fiber, high in micronutrients and in certain cases quite high in protein.

They are also very versatile and can be used in many different dishes you just have to use your imagination.

5) Lentils

The food which continues the trend of great plant-based foods for gaining weight listed here are lentils. Lentils can be bought at a very decent price, especially when bought in bulk.

Lentils are an excellent source of protein as well as fiber and certain micronutrients, especially iron, manganese, and folate. This makes lentils one of the best bulking options out there. 

6) Potatoes

Potatoes don’t rank too high on the energy density meter, however, what they make up for that is the fact that they are an excellent source of complex carbohydrates.

They are also a rich source of a variety of different micronutrient and you can use them in a spectrum of different dishes. 


The above-mentioned foods are just a few of the many healthy and in most cases very cheap foods you can include into your weight gaining diet.

One last tip which can really help you out in your bulking journey is that one should strive to learn how to cook and prepare tasty meals. So many people fail on their bulking diet simply because of the fact that they aren’t used to eating so much food.

Making your food taste great is really going to make things easier and using the above-mentioned foods is going to make things very easy as these foods can be used in numerous different dishes.

(Matjaž is currently attaining his master’s degree in Sports Nutrition and is the founder of where he regularly writes about different topics pertaining exercise, nutrition, and supplementation.)


Morton, R., Murphy, K., McKellar, S., Schoenfeld, B., Henselmans, M., Helms, E., Aragon, A., Devries, M., Banfield, L., Krieger, J. and Phillips, S. (2017). A systematic review, meta-analysis and meta-regression of the effect of protein supplementation on resistance training-induced gains in muscle mass and strength in healthy adults. British Journal of Sports Medicine, pp.bjsports-2017-097608.

Rankin, J. (2002). Weight Loss and Gain in Athletes. Current Sports Medicine Reports, 1(4), pp.208-213.

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