Bodybuilder Competition Diet on a Budget

Bodybuilder Competition Diet on a Budget

It’s a common misconception that you have to spend a fortune on food while sticking to a bodybuilding competition diet. One of the biggest keys to adhering to a budget while implementing a bodybuilder competition diet is putting together a shopping list and sticking to it. Creating a list of your top priority foods and only shopping off that list will keep money in your wallet while delivering the macronutrients you need.

If the goal is to purchase the cheapest food possible, there will have to compromise on variety, but there’s no question that you’ll be able to head your macronutrient target and make gains.

This article covers macronutrients and provides information about the best budget foods for each macronutrient. We close with a few significant Bodybuilder Competition Diet budgeting tactics.  

What are macronutrients?

The three most common macronutrients are fat, carbohydrates and protein. You’ll sometimes see these referred to as “macros.” Macronutrients have the food components that your body needs for energy and maintenance of the body’s structure and systems. Macros are required in large quantities to help our body function properly.  

Macronutrients provide bulk energy required for average growth, metabolism, and other functions of the body. Macronutrients are different than micronutrients, which include vitamins and minerals. Micronutrients are necessary for growth and disease prevention.

Many nutritionists agree that body transformation, be it weight loss, fat loss, or muscle gain, requires consuming a balanced diet that includes all three macronutrients. This includes complex carbohydrates, lean proteins, and healthy fats.  These are factors to include in meal planning for your Bodybuilder Competition Diet.

Here are the calories per gram of each:

  • Protein: 4 kcal
  • Fat: 9 kcal
  • Carbohydrate: 4 kcal

Cost-Effective Options


Protein is a crucial building block of not only lean muscle but bone, skin, and cartilage. Consuming an adequate amount of protein is necessary to maintain and repair tissues. A high protein diet will help speed recovery after exercise, build lean muscle, reduce muscle loss, and curb hunger.

Though it may vary, the average male will need 180 to 220 g of protein per day. The average female will need 100 to 120 g per day. These are great targets to build muscle. Protein is the building block that helps build muscle tissue. It’s also vital for repairing and recovering post-workout. After all, with hard training being critical to making gains, recovering from the stress is essential.  

Budget protein options:

  • Eggs
  • Chicken
  • Whole milk 
  • Peanut Butter
  • Tuna
  • Cottage Cheese
  • Black Beans
  • Whey Protein Supplements

Where’s the steak?!?! Red meat is loaded with protein. But the reality is, red meat isn’t always feasible on a budget. The key to integrating red meat into the bodybuilding competition diet is watching for sales and taking advantage of those sales. Stock up when you can.  


Carbs are a prime source of energy to fuel physical activity, but not all carbohydrate sources are ideal for helping to increase muscle mass. There are two different types of carbohydrates: simple and complex. 

Simple carbohydrates are broken down quickly and give the body a fast dose of energy.  

Foods like sugary drinks, crackers, cookies, and foods made with white flour are examples of simple carbohydrates. These foods might taste good, but they are not ideal for people looking to reduce body fat. Simple carbs tend to have a lower nutritional value. 

On the other hand, complex carbohydrates take longer to digest, deliver energy more slowly, and are often higher in nutrients. Complex carbohydrates are a good source of fiber which helps with digestive health.  

What does this have to do with building muscle? Consuming protein alongside carbohydrates post-workout can improve the storage of glycogen and promote muscle gain. A slice of whole-wheat toast or adding a cup of fruit to a protein shake will do the trick.  

Carb cycling is also an option, including increasing carbs and high activity days or decreasing carbs by a certain percentage on lower activity days. The influx of carbs on higher activity days delivers energy and replenishment when your body can use it the most.

Budget carb options:

  • Rice
  • Oats
  • Spaghetti Noodles
  • Potatoes
  • Fruit
  • Vegetables
  • Quinoa
  • Legumes
  • Nuts


Consuming healthy polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats can:  

  • Lower your risk of heart disease
  • Reduce blood pressure
  • Lower inflammation
  • Increase good HDL cholesterol levels
  • Boost muscle movement

The amount of fat in one’s diet can vary. According to this article in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, Dr. Eric Helm Ph.D. recommends a lower fat intake between 15 to 20% of calories for most figure competitors. This percentage is appropriate if higher fat intake would reduce carbohydrate or protein below ideal ranges.

Budget fat options:

  • Olive oil
  • Butter 
  • Heavy Cream
  • Almonds

Fruits and Vegetables on a Budget

Buying frozen items in bulk is a fantastic way to save money yet benefit from consuming fruits and vegetables. Fruits and vegetables are good sources of a wide variety of micronutrients. Purchasing frozen bags of these items offers the benefit of longer shelf life and reduced waste.

Budget Bodybuilder Competition Diet Tactics

When it comes to sticking to a healthy Bodybuilder Competition Diet on a budget, planning meals is essential. By pre-planning your meals, you’ll reduce waste by evaluating what you already have on hand and stretch ingredients further. Planning out meals also encourages sticking to a grocery list, which will keep you away from purchasing food that you do not need. Look for generic brands for most of the products on your shopping list. Generic brands are less expensive and generally have the same ingredients.  

Cooking at home is often cheaper than dining out. Cooking at home allows you to make twice the food for about a quarter of the price. Learning how to cook is a skill you can benefit from for a lifetime. Preparing bigger portions and storing the leftovers for meals throughout the week will save you time and money. The convenience of having a well-balanced meal ready when you want it is under-appreciated.  

In the carbohydrate section (above), whole foods such as rice, oats, and other whole grains are cheaper per serving than most processed cereals. Highly processed food often lacks beneficial nutrients and can be more expensive than natural food alternatives. Less processed foods are generally more affordable. These foods can be purchased in larger quantities and offer more servings. Over the long term, the increased number of servings will save you money.  

For more professional physique altering fitness and Bodybuilder Competition Diet coaching, get in touch with the best Sacramento personal trainers at Team Iron Body’s and Minds. Our team is ready to help take your fitness and body transformation goals to the next level.