Cheapest protein sources

It should be common knowledge by now, that protein is an essential macro nutrient and very important for both muscle growth and fat loss. And not just for bodybuilders!

There's a problem with protein though. It's by far the most expensive macro nutrient. And a lot of people simply don't have the money to buy several pounds of high price beef every week.

So I set out to present you with cheap ways to get your protein in. Let's have a look at the list first and afterwards, I'll add my 2 cents.

Note that all prices are based on what I could find in the UK and no offers were included, except for whey protein, which is basically always on offer. For whey I used the average price I paid for my last couple of orders.

Obviously prices will vary from country to country, but the general trend will mostly be the same.

THE list

Protein sourcePrice per 100g of protein
Lentils (dry)£0,58
Whey protein powder£0,96
Eggs (whole)£1,15
Chicken breast (frozen)£1,52
Plain yogurt£1,76
Cottage cheese 0% fat£2,15
Egg whites (from eggs)£2,34
Chicken breast£2,41
Tuna (drained weight)£3,07
Beef mince 5% fat£3,21
Tofu£3,31
Low fat greek yoghurt£3,64
Salmon£6,49

Alright, there you have it. I included meat, dairy and some vegan options, so there should be something in here for everyone. Of course, there are a lot of other protein sources out there, but these are the most common ones.

A few things to add here:

  1. Lentils are by far the cheapest source, but also have the smallest amount of leucine, which is the most important amino acid for muscle protein synthesis. Hence you'll need to consume more protein (and therefore calories) from lentils, to get the same effect. Note that other legumes have similar protein levels and are also low in leucine. So swap them as you please. Canned legumes are always a bit more expensive than dried ones. And they can lead to more gas issues, if not rinsed properly...

  2. Whey might be more expensive in your country. However, always buy online directly from the source, if possible. Never in a supplement shop. They will always have higher prices, because they have to pay staff and rent. MyProtein is widely available and has a good track record from several lab tests. But use whatever you like of course. I personally never pay more than £9/10€/$11 per kg.

  3. While protein is super important, as mentioned earlier, don't be dumb and consume insane amounts of it. 1g per pound or 2g per kg is enough for most people. There's no scientific evidence that suggests you'd need more in any circumstance! Plus, less protein is easier on your kidneys and wallet.

On a fat loss diet

When it comes to a fat loss diet, a caloric deficit is key. There's no way around that. And in order to make our lives a bit easier, it's usually better to use low calorie foods, rather than dense, high calorie ones.

The following table lists the exact same protein sources as above, but this time with the amount of protein per 100kcal. By using both lists, you should have a nice starting point to plan your next grocery shop.

Protein sourceGrams of protein per 100kcal
Lentils (dry)7g
Whey protein powder20g
Eggs (whole)9g
Chicken breast (frozen)21g
Plain yogurt8g
Cottage cheese 0% fat16g
Egg whites (from eggs)22g
Chicken breast22g
Tuna (drained weight)25g
Beef mince 5% fat17g
Tofu11g
Low fat greek yoghurt7g
Salmon8g

One thing to keep in mind here: some sources increase weight when you prepare them, due to added water, while some lose weight.

For instance: 100g of lentils will end up being 250-300g on your plate, while 100g of chicken breast will be roughly 60-70g.

Some people feel better on meat, because it's digested very slowly, some feel better on legumes, because they have more mass and a ton of fiber.

So if you're a good eater and struggle with satiety, try different protein sources and see if you feel a difference in satiety.

Conclusion

As you can tell from the first list, it can be rather cheap to get your protein in, if you commit to legumes and protein powder for the majority of your protein intake. If you combine the two, you'll also get enough leucine in, without thinking too much about it.

And while it's certainly a bit harder for vegans to hit their protein goals, especially on a calorie restricted diet, it's possible, if you know what you're doing.

I hope this helps some people with their food shopping and if you know a cheap protein source that I missed, let me know in the comments down below!

Maybe you have one that is only available/cheap in your country? I'm curious to know!

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