There's a myth that fitness fanatics all over the world are buying into. They think: "I've gotta spend a boatload of money on fitness-related accessories in order to get cut."
I'm here to tell you nothing could be farther from the truth.
Sure, you could blow a wad of you or your parents' hard-earned cash on ritzy health foods and gym memberships, or you could do it without all that stuff and hold onto your dollars.
That's right, boys and girls: You can look superfly on a meager college budget. I've done it. I'm not going to sit here and say it was a breeze, but it's not complicated if you know where to start. Here's what I learned when it comes to building photo-shoot-ready muscles for pennies:
Nutrition On A College Budget
Being broke isn't that bad. OK, maybe it is, but from a nutritional standpoint, you can make this plight work in your favor. "Lean" on these budget-friendly options to get you through tough times, but also to help your gathered flab shrink and muscle tone pop. There's an old bodybuilding adage that says abs are made in the kitchen, not the gym. Keep that in mind, and with the following groceries in your kitchen, you're on your way:
Nothing fancy here. Eggs are tried
and true when it comes to both
building an envious physique and
slashing your grocery bill. They're
rightfully touted as one of the most complete sources of protein, and you can make an endless variety of muscle-building meals from the incredible, edible egg. Think omelets, egg sandwiches, and eggs tossed into your Asian stir-fry.
Don't neglect yolks, either. They're nutrient-dense and are a good
source of omega-3 fatty acids. There are all kinds of research showing the ways omega-3s are good for you, but here are a couple of reasons students might find especially interesting: Some recent studies suggest that omega-3 supplementation helps ward off depression and ADHD. Presumably whole foods sources would produce the same effect.
We're all familiar with this canned good, a hard-and-fast staple for your carbohydrate, protein, and fiber needs. Doesn't get much cheaper than a can of beans! Oh wait, it does: You could buy the dried beans, soak them overnight, and then boil them up in a big pot with onions and a load of spices. A pot of beans can feed you for days, and you can use them plenty of different ways: beans and rice dowsed in hot sauce, burritos, soups—you get the idea.
Packaged peanut butter is just the start. You can also buy peanuts, almonds, or cashews in the bulk foods aisle and make your own nut butters in a blender or food processor. This version is fresher, often cheaper, and makes for a better breakfast than what 90 percent of your classmates are eating.
Buy generic plain yogurt instead of brand-name flavored versions and you'll save a bundle while getting loads of protein and calcium. Mix in honey or fruit for an incredibly cheap and surprisingly awesome dessert, or try it as a sour cream substitute with chips and salsa or with the last few scoops of that epic pot of beans.
If you want to look good, you need these—no, really, you do. Grocery stores often have weekly deals, so take advantage! Then it's up to you to research all the ways you can cook them up. A few tips: Consider kale or mustard greens, both of which are way healthier than lettuce and taste better than you think. Eat oranges and apples like they're vitamins and look for the occasional pineapple or berry clearance. Buy big quantities, and when they start to get soft, don't throw them out. Make smoothies instead.
Hit the bulk bin for a bargain-basement steal that you can jazz-up to suit your taste. With a few egg whites and a scoop of protein, you've got a muscle-building oatmeal pancake or cookie mix you can fry up anytime. No matter how much of a disaster you are in the kitchen, the Internet can help you find a recipe that will work.
Taters give you all the carbohydrate energy you need to build lean muscle, and more nutrients than you'd expect. They're readily available, cheap, they last forever, and they're easy to make. Nuke that sucker!
Truly versatile and incredibly healthy, this protein-packed grain can be cooked and eaten on its own, added to salads, or mixed with protein powder into cheap energy bars that taste surprisingly like chocolate peanut butter brittle. Again, a quick search on the Internet or flipping through some cook books will give you all the ideas you'll need.
Training On College Budgets
So your college recreation center is likely a joke, and you don't have the scratch to shell out for a monthly gym membership. You still have a few options.
You could track down the local iron/underground dungeon/bodybuilding gym, where the serious lifters hang out. Pretty much every town
has one of these, and if the name doesn't give it away, one look
at the inside of the place usually will. The guys who run these
places are usually bros who care more about muscle than
money, and sometimes you can work out a deal with them
once they know your situation.
If that fails, you could always scour the online marketplace for
used equipment. Watch Craigslist for long enough—or hit enough
yard sales and estate sales—and you'll eventually find someone
willing to basically let you have their old barbells just to get rid of
them. This can be the start of your own home gym.
In the meantime, you have no choice but to work with the weights you carry around every day. Yes, a top-level physique can be done with bodyweight training—if you know how to do it. Don't believe me? Try 10, 1-legged pistol squats (ass to grass) and let me know how those compare to leg extensions. Or try 10-to-20 Spiderman push-ups!
There's a reason you find yourself 'mirin the bods coming out of yoga classes. Bodyweight exercises burn fat and build muscle in every
part of the body, and they make you sore in places you didn't know could get sore.
The bodyweight exercise list is long, but with some creativity and research, you can do everything people pay trainers thousands of dollars to teach. Save money and work out like a cover model on-the-go!
K.I.S.S (Keep It Simple, Sexy)
You may have picked up on an overarching trend in this article: Building a cover model body takes drive, perseverance, and know-how. It requires you to change the way you think and act in drastic ways. What it doesn't require is lots of stuff.
When you're trying to build a bod, it's totally understandable to get caught up in fancy foods and training protocols. Do yourself a favor: Before you dial in your perfect macronutrient breakdown, focus on being consistent with both your eating and weekly training regimen.
The biggest mistake I see people make when on they're in pursuit of the elusive 6-pack is making things complex. Instead, try making a list of the essentials when it comes to your training and nutrition—what you need to do and need to eat. Then stick to it like your life depends on it. Do you really need to know the difference between hammer, spider, cambered, barbell, and cable curls when you can't even manage three sets of 10 chin-ups?
There's nothing stupid about simple. If anything, it's pure genius! Cut the crap, get back to basics and plan for results. Trust me, they'll come!