Bulk on a Budget

Bulk on a Budget

Written by Ben Bunting: BA, PGCert. (Sport & Exercise Nutrition) // British Army Physical Training Instructor // S&C Coach.


Since Arnold Schwarzenegger and Lou Ferrigno's reign over bodybuilding, many individuals have cycled between bulking and cutting phases of eating to build muscle mass, and eating in order to reduce fat without compromising strength or mass gains.

Bulking involves eating in an excess caloric intake to build mass faster while cutting involves eating at a deficit to shed unwanted bodyfat without compromising strength or mass gains.

On a bulking cycle, your workouts should consist of lifting heavier weights for fewer repetitions per set - this is an effective way to build strength while adding muscle size.

But just because lifting bigger loads may be easier doesn't mean you should settle for subpar training; bulking requires rigorous hard training that emphasizes heavy lifts such as squats, deadlifts and bench press with shorter rest intervals between sets.

As your aim when bulking is to build muscle, increasing the intensity and duration of your workouts should also increase accordingly.

That may involve training with a partner or adding in additional exercises like dumbbell rows, super sets or EMOMs - although taking too many exercises at once can lead to soreness or injuries which slow progress down considerably.

For optimal results it's wise to seek guidance from a fitness professional such as a dietitian, trainer or medical doctor.

Calculating maintenance calories as well as protein needs should also be part of your fitness journey; online calculators provide a good starting point.

You should consult a registered dietitian or personal trainer if more in-depth guidance is required. 

In this article we shall cover the following:

  • Bulking
  • Metabolic rate calculations
  • Tips to bulk on a budget
  • Budget planning
  • Frequently asked questions


Bulking up can be a difficult task. It can be difficult to balance a busy schedule with a high-calorie diet and exercise. It's harder if you are bulking up on a tight budget.

You can achieve your training goals and keep your budget happy with a good meal plan, and some simple lifestyle changes. We'll show you exactly how. 

Bulking involves eating more calories than you need and then using that energy to gain muscle. Bodybuilders utilize this process to maximise their gains. The bulking phase is followed by the cutting phase, which involves reducing calories to burn fat. 

Studies show that excess calorie consumption--combined with resistance training-- is the best muscle-building method around. Bulking is very effective for bodybuilding beginners. 

You can learn everything about the two phases of bodybuilding by reading our guide on how to differentiate between bulking and cutting. 

How to Calculate Basal Metabolic Rate

Most people are unaware that they're constantly burning calories even while resting, with vital organs like the heart and lungs burning energy to keep functioning as intended and to fuel basic metabolic processes such as digestion using fuel from those calories burned - this process is known as basal metabolic rate or BMR.

Understanding how to calculate your basal metabolic rate (BMR) is vital when trying to reach or maintain healthy weight levels. Your BMR depends on factors outside of your control such as gender, age and height - these must all be factored into consideration before arriving at an estimate of your BMR.

There are various online calculators that can provide an estimate of your basal metabolic rate (BMR), with some being more accurate than others. However, to get an exact figure requires an expensive medical procedure performed by an accredited doctor - DEXA scans.

A BMR calculator estimates how much energy your body burns at rest by analyzing oxygen and carbon dioxide breath patterns.

Although each calculator uses different equations, Harris-Benedict equations were first published in 1984 while other popular options include Mifflin St Jeor Equation and Katch-McArdle formulas can also help estimate your BMR; though all have some accuracy issues these are good places to start when trying to calculate individual BMR estimates.

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What is the Harris-Benedict Equation?

An easy way to determine daily energy requirements is to calculate a person's basal metabolic rate (BMR) and multiply that figure by their activity factor; BMR takes into account factors like height, weight and age in its calculations. A calorie calculator then estimates their total daily energy requirement, or TDEE.

The Harris Benedict Equation remains one of the most widely used prediction equations to determine RMR, having first been published in 1918 and revised again in 1984; and is still widely utilized today.

Though the Harris Benedict Equation can be useful, there are certain key limitations to keep in mind.

For instance, it does not take into account body composition and lean muscle to fat ratio of its users, leading it to overestimate the needs of highly muscular people while underestimating those of very fat individuals (hence under-estimating calorie requirements and overestimating energy requirements respectively).

Another issue is that the formula does not take into account any preexisting diseases or conditions, leading to errors in energy requirements and overfeeding in frail patients with multiple health complications.

Calorie calculators can be an invaluable resource to assist individuals in managing their diets and maintaining healthy weight.

However, it should be remembered that using such an aid should only serve as an aid; final decisions regarding how many calories to consume and burn is ultimately up to each individual themselves. 

How Accurate Are the Harris-Benedict Equation?

Harris Benedict equations have long been the go-to method for estimating basal metabolic rate (BMR) and daily calorie requirements, first published in 1919. BMR measures how many calories your body uses when at rest; it depends on several factors including gender, age, height and weight.

Harris-Benedict equations, however, are far from perfect and tend to overestimate BMR in those with more muscular anatomy while underestimating it for fatter individuals - this is particularly problematic for patients who are overweight or obese as their BMR can often exceed what is indicated by their BMI.

We compared measured RMR by indirect calorimetry with six recently developed prediction equations in a large population of healthy volunteers, using indirect calorimetry.

Of these equations, one proved most accurate - World Health Organization/FDA/International Obesity Task Force's (WHO/IOTF) equation which correctly predicted RMR within 10% of measured BMR in 99.99 of cases and within 15% in 50% cases for the remaining six prediction equations.

Calculating Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE), involves multiplying your Basal Metabolic Rate with a factor that represents your activity level and multiplying that figure by 1.

To get the daily caloric intake recommended to maintain existing body weight. TDEE can be useful in helping those seeking to lose weight decrease their daily calorie consumption below their calculated maintenance intake number, or assist those looking to gain weight by providing an estimate of daily caloric consumption needed in order to reach desired bodyweight goals.

How to Calculate the Additional Calories Required to Gain Muscle Mass

Men and women often struggle to find an optimal calorie balance when it comes to building muscle mass, often under-eating in an attempt to avoid extra body fat while failing to build muscles as desired.

Step one of determining how many extra calories you need to gain muscle is calculating your daily energy expenditure (the total energy the body expends during rest and physical activity).

Once this number has been identified, additional calorie requirements can be estimated accordingly. Usually an additional intake of 300kcal-500kcals is required. 

Muscle growth requires the right blend of nutrients, such as protein, carbohydrates and fat.

Protein is especially crucial to muscle building as it stimulates protein synthesis and speeds recovery; carbohydrates provide energy during exercise while glycogen storage keeps muscles active for extended periods; while fat provides essential fatty acids that aid hormone production as well as muscle development.

How many calories it takes to build one pound of muscle depends on a variety of factors including training, starting body composition and genetics; as a general guideline though, roughly 700 Calories worth of energy is necessary to create 1lb (roughly 500g) of muscle.

To gain muscle, it's usually necessary to create a small calorie surplus by increasing their daily caloric intake by 5 percent or so - this can be accomplished by prioritizing foods that support muscle growth such as proteins, carbs, and healthy (unsaturated) fats.

The Best Tips for Bulking on a Budget

Here are some tips for those who want to gain weight on a tight budget. 

1. Plan your meals

If you're looking to bulk up and increase your strength while staying within a budget, planning is essential. 

You need to know your macronutrient goal. Why? You'll need to give priority to protein if you want your muscles growing. 

A higher-protein diet may increase the body's capacity to convert fat into muscle. When bulking, the recommended daily protein intake is between 1.6-2.2 grams of body weight. It is about double the recommended daily dose. 

If you want to gain weight on a tight budget, plan your meals.

Don't ignore the other macronutrients because you are focusing on protein. Fats can provide a boost of energy and are essential for many bodily functions. The carbohydrate component of your diet is also important for training. It regulates hormones and provides fuel. 

You can then create a plan to help you achieve your goals. Healthy food options that satisfy your nutritional needs are important. Consider meal preparation options to suit your busy lifestyle. For example, consider packed lunches on those hectic workdays. 

For top tips to create a meal plan that is both budget-friendly and effective, read: 10 nutritious foods you should include in your diet for gaining weight. 

2. Enjoy Home-Made Food

It is easy to gain weight on a tight budget by preparing, cooking and eating food at home. 

You can control what you put in your food by cooking it yourself. This way, you know exactly what you are eating. By avoiding impulse purchases, you are more likely to adhere to your food budget, meal plan and training goals. 

You may need to grab a quick bite between meetings or while out with your friends. That's fine (we all deserve a little treat every now and then). 

You can also check out the restaurant's menu before you go to make sure that it has all of your desired dishes, options and prices. Prep your lunch, bring it along, and enjoy your hard work in the location you choose (ideally with a nice view). 

3. Buy Smart

It's possible that coupon-cutting has a negative reputation. Bulking can save you money on your grocery bills. 

Most supermarkets offer weekly coupons or special deals. Subscribe to the rewards program of your local supermarket and receive updates about their special offers. Your bank account will be grateful. 

Newspapers and magazines can be used to find the best bargains. You can reduce the price of your weekly shop by using supermarket's own brands. 

Bulk-buying and budget-friendly bulking up are the perfect match. Use bulk food stores to buy long-lasting foods such as rice, pasta and canned goods. To get ahead, you have to think big. 

It takes some effort to shop at wholesale stores and find coupons, but when you are in the flow of things, it becomes a piece of cake. You'll also be able to add more calories and fats into your diet while staying within budget. 

4. Clean Bulking

In order to stick to a bulk budget diet, dirty bulking means consuming unhealthy food at a low price. While it is an appealing option, dirty bulking has some drawbacks. 

A good bulking meal (one which will provide you with the best results) must be nutritious. A diet that is high in processed foods with few nutrients will lead to health problems such as obesity, hypertension, and heart disease. 

Because junk food is low in nutrients, it doesn't fill you up. You will eat more food if you are not satisfied. Eat cleanly and you'll stay on track. 

5. What Supplements Should You Buy to Bulk Up?

You can use supplements to ensure you get all the macronutrients, calories and nutrients that are needed to achieve your goals. Be sure to factor in the cost of supplements before you click the "buy" button. 

When will you need the supplements most? Do you need a breakfast protein shake? Is it a protein powder for breakfast? 

Supplements can save money if you add them to your budget for bulking from the beginning. They will replace any unexpected purchases of snacks and meals. These supplements will fill any nutritional holes in your workout plan. 

Maximise Your Budget

It takes time to learn how to increase your budget. It all boils down to preparation: 

  • Make a meal plan 
  • Schedule social events in your calendar. 
  • Buy essential nutrients in bulk and shop smart 
  • The right supplement is important 

This preparation will help you to stay on target with your goals, and save money as you bulk up. This is yours. 

Bulking Stacks are a great way to get the fuel you need for success.


What is the best way to bulk up on a budget?

Planning and preparation are the keys to bulking up within a limited budget. Set your goals for training and nutrition from the beginning to ensure you get results without going over budget. 

You can reduce the cost of your groceries by using coupons and purchasing in bulk. You can also save money by incorporating a supplement to your budget. 

How can I bulk up on a budget?

These food products will help you bulk up on a tight budget without draining you bank account: 

  • Tinned tuna
  • Ground turkey
  • Legumes and lentils
  • Green beans
  • Peanut Butter
  • The egg white is a good alternative to the yolk.
  • Cottage cheese
  • Low-fat milk 
  • Porridge
  • Pasta
  • Rice
  • Bread

What is the best way to consume 3,500 calories per day?

You should consume small, frequent meals to get the 3,500 calories you need per day. 

You can also get the nutrients and calories you need on the road by planning your meals ahead of time and cooking in bulk. 

The right supplements can help you achieve your muscle-building goals, while also reducing the amount of calories you consume each day. This will save you money in the long run.


Bulking is an integral component of muscle growth. Unfortunately, a bulking diet can quickly become costly if not monitored carefully.

There are a few strategies for keeping costs under control when engaging in clean bulks; they include tracking sales and buying bulk quantities while using less-expensive protein sources and carbs as possible.

Lean chicken breasts are an economical source of protein. Perfect for salads, wraps, quesadillas and pasta dishes alike, lean chicken works beautifully when combined with rice, potatoes or even sweet potatoes as part of meal prep.

Plus you could save even more by buying larger cuts on sale and trimming away fat at home as part of meal preparation!

Oats are an economical source of carbohydrates packed with vitamins, minerals, and fiber.

A half cup of oats provides approximately 52 grams of carbohydrates and 13 grams of protein; perfect for enjoying as a breakfast item with fruit and nuts or adding them into protein shake or bar recipes!

Beans are another inexpensive carb source packed with essential nutrients like folate, iron, magnesium, calcium phosphorous and potassium.

You can buy canned or purchase dried and cook at home to save even more. Finally, nuts and seeds provide a cheap source of both proteins and fats; almonds provide nine calories of fats while providing a substantial amount of proteins - ideal choices when looking to cut costs!

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