I remember when I first made my “poor man’s bulking diet.” I was a broke college student trying to save money. Despite my lack of income, I was determined by get big—it wasn’t a “want,” it was a “must.”
So, I decided to create the most calorie-efficient, cheapest clean bulking diet possible—and I succeeded. On just $100 a month, I was able to successfully bulk up for the winter, putting on a solid 20 pounds of muscle. Plus, all of my lifts went up.
So, if whether you’re a broke college student, an entrepreneur trying to put all your money into a business, or just a guy who doesn’t want to spend a lot of money on food, here’s the best clean bulking diet for you.
First off, realize that this diet could be much cheaper. Like, it could literally be around $50 a month. Yep, that’s right—if you lived off of chicken breast for protein, and donuts for fat and carbs, you could easily cut the cost down by half.
This is what’s known as a “dirty bulk.” It’s when you throw caution to the wind, and just shovel down ice cream, donuts, pizza, and other foods to get a ton of calories in.
Although this is definitely tastier, I seriously urge you to have a clean bulking diet instead. You don’t want to destroy your body and wreck your health by downing garbage food. It’s much better to do a clean bulk, where you eat healthy, but cheap foods to get jacked.
You may notice that there’s also no supplements in this clean bulking diet. It’s not because they’re a scam or anything like that—plenty of them aren’t. But if you’re struggling to afford food, don’t bother with buying whey protein or anything else.
As one final note, you may get tired of eating the same stuff over and over. This is normal. If this happens, you can switch it up, but realize that if you do this, it’s going to cost more. Try to have some variety now and then, to preemptively prevent yourself from getting sick of a certain type of food.
An integral part of any bulking diet is the carbohydrates. Carbs get you big by boosting your insulin levels temporarily. This means that the more carbs you eat, the bigger you’ll get.
Just because you’re on a bulking diet doesn’t mean you can go crazy, though—there’s an ideal number of carbohydrates for you to have each day. For a specific bulking diet plan check out Scooby’s Calorie Calculator.
Anyways, the carbs we’re going to use in this diet are mainly brown rice and beans. They’re both very cheap, nutritious, and can be combined with a number of different foods. You can get a 15lb bag of brown rice at your local Asian grocery market for like $20. This will last you around half a year.
For the beans, go to Costco. You can get a 25lb bag of black beans for like $25. This will last you around half a year as well. You’ll have to spend a lot of time cooking these things, because they won’t be pre-cooked, but you can minimize time by meal-prepping one day a week.
If you want, you can mix it up with some other cheap carb sources like pasta or potatoes, but for the sake of money we’ll stick with brown rice and beans.
In addition to this, you can also use oatmeal and oat bran. Oatmeal is a great source of carbs when you’re on a bulking diet. In fact, for many people on a bulking diet (or even on a cutting diet), oatmeal is a staple source of carbohydrates and fiber.
It’s also dirt cheap. Oatmeal will literally cost you maybe $3/week, so it’s definitely something that you want to incorporate into your bulking diet. I used to have 2-3 cups of oatmeal just for breakfast, and sometimes even 1-2 cups before I went to bed.
Getting enough protein is absolutely crucial to any sort of bulking diet. You cannot build muscle without protein, period. You should aim to consume around one gram per pound of your GOAL body weight. So, for example, if you want to weigh 205, then you should consume 205 grams of protein a day.
For our clean bulking diet plan, we’re going to be using the classic protein choice of bodybuilders all around the world: chicken breast. Chicken breast is incredibly cheap—you can get a 15lb bag at Walmart for like $25, and this will last you 2 weeks. For a cheap bulking diet, you must rely heavily on chicken breast.
If you want some variety, however, you can also get some canned tuna. Canned tuna isn’t as cheap as chicken breast, but one 4oz container of the stuff runs you only 88 cents at Walmart. If you want to spend more money, you can buy some pork chops or ground beef in bulk. Buy these sparingly, however, because they’re far more expensive.
A lot of people think that fat isn’t very important when you’re on a bulking diet…this is not true at all. Your body uses fat to create neurotransmitters, repair cell membranes, and to build new muscle cells. You absolutely need fat, there is no way around this.
However fats can get expensive; that’s why I recommend taking shots of olive oil on my bulking diet. Yeah, I know—it takes some getting used to, because it’s kind of gross at first. But, if you’re willing to do what it takes, you’ll save a lot of money.
One giant container of olive oil will run you around $20 at Walmart, and it can be your fat source for nearly 2 months. Just 50ml of the stuff is around 450 calories! What a great way to add in some healthy fats to your diet.
In addition to this you can also get healthy fats from ground beef, grass fed butter, or nuts. I’m personally allergic to peanut butter, but nut butters are a great way to get in some quick and easy calories, plus a ton of healthy fats.
Every morning have:
This amounts to roughly 925 calories with 50 grams of protein. Considering the cost of this meal, which is something like $0.50, that’s pretty fucking good.
If you want to use some cheap sauces for the chicken, you can as well. I used to dunk my chicken in BBQ sauce, honey mustard, and ranch. This adds on an additional 100 calories or so, and one bottle will last you for ages.
Optional: Sometimes I threw 1-2 cups of frozen berries and 2tbsp flax seed into my oatmeal, but this will obviously cost more. Do things like this sparingly, to save money on your clean bulking diet.
For lunch here is what I would eat:
This is roughly 1100 calories, with about 75 grams of protein.
Again, you can dip the chicken breast in a different sauce if you want to retain your sanity, but this is optional. The reason why I didn’t have very much fat with this meal, is because having fat post workout increases the time it takes for protein to get to your muscles.
I recommend consuming the bulk of your daily fat requirements in the morning and in the evening (assuming you’re bulking). This will keep you full throughout the day, and well into the night.
For dinner I was in for a treat:
This adds up to about 1300 calories and 80 grams of protein.
To make my tuna brisket, throw the following into a bowl:
Mix it all up and throw it in the microwave for 2 minutes—it’s delicious, and it tastes like brisket. Doing little things like this every day was how I maintained my sanity. It’s important to have a meal that you look forward to when you’re on a stringent diet. It helps you stick to it more easily.
This all amounts to roughly 3,325 calories a day and 205 grams of protein.
That’s pretty good for like $25 a week.
A lot of men won’t even need this many nutrients. In fact, some men will only need around 2200 calories to do a clean bulk! If this is you, then you’re lucky—expect to only spend $75 a month on a clean bulking diet.
Don’t expect to get a lot of satisfaction out of this food, though—it isn’t supposed to taste that great, it’s supposed to be a lean and mean alternative to spending $400 a month to get big. Repeat after me: food is fuel, food is fuel, food is FUEL!
Sauces are probably the easiest way to add variety into a clean bulking diet. You can use BBQ sauce, ranch, Chipotle, hot sauce, and more. You can dip chicken breast in pretty much any type of sauce, which helps remove some of the monotony of always eating the stuff.
In addition to this, you can put different things into your oatmeal to make it more favorable. Cinnamon is a good, cheap option—just be sure to get pure cinnamon, and if you want, you can put pure sugar in afterwards (it’s cheaper this way).
In addition to this, you can also put fruits like blueberries or blackberries into your oatmeal, but be sparing—if you buy them in bulk, they’re not that expensive, but they’re definitely a hell of a lot more expensive than just plain oatmeal.
Become an expert at spices and herbs, as well. Rosemary goes well with pork, thyme with chicken, pepper with beef, and cilantro with rice. Become a master at experimenting with different spices and seeing what tastes best.
Here are some additional cheap foods that you can add if you wish:
Ultimately you’ll have to just decide what your goal is and go from there. If you can afford to spend more, consider spending more. I take it that if you’re reading this article, however, you want to be as cheap as possible. If that’s the case, stick to the bare bones: brown rice, beans, chicken breast, and olive oil.
“But Jon! There’s no vegetables here – isn’t that bad?” Yeah, it’s fucking bad. But this isn’t health 101, this is get big as fuck on a budget 101. This isn’t meant to be a sustainable diet, but rather something you do for 4-8 months when you’re tight on money and want to save up.
If you really want vegetables that bad, just buy broccoli in bulk once a week and chop it up and boil it. You can also get frozen vegetables in microwaveable packages, but those will cost more (I think they’re around $2.99 per bag).
Either way, I hope you guys follow my clean bulking diet plan. If you have any questions, comments, or concerns, leave a comment down below—and, as always, I’ll see you next time.
After learning to successfully trade the market, build a six pack, start a social circle from scratch, and increase his IQ by 15 points, Jon Anthony has decided to teach others how they can, too. He plans to move to Las Vegas next year to invest in real estate and live it up.