If you're training hard and training often, the side effects may include bigger biceps, thighs the size of tree trunks, and a new PR getting set on a regular basis. But alas, these awesome freebies aren't really free. For most people, inches on the measuring tape come with inches—and digits—being added to the grocery bill, too!

When getting enough protein to grow on is the mission, the answer isn't just to throw another—and another—bag of skinless chicken breasts into the cart at the warehouse store. You need more options, or you're going to be dreading every meal and plowing into junk food.



The answer is ground meats! Here's why and how to make the most of them.

1. They've got protein by the pound

Ground protein should be the star of your menu during a muscle-building phase. For one, it's protein, which is essential for muscle growth and repair. But it's also a protein source where half of the chewing has already been done for you! You'll have a much easier time piling ground meat on your plate when going back for seconds, versus cutting and chewing another chicken breast to meet your calorie needs. That's because of the easy digestibility ground protein presents.

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2. Any meat can be ground

Ground meat offers a variety of flavors to match your taste buds. This is invaluable during a bulking phase, when your appetite is likely going to be nonexistent for much of the day. In most grocery stores' packaged-meat sections, you can find some combination of:

  • Ground beef
  • Ground turkey
  • Ground pork
  • Ground chicken
  • Ground lamb

Depending on the store and your budget, you may have other more exotic options, such as goat or ostrich. And to be clear, you're not limited to what's in the case! Almost any store with a butcher's counter can grind cuts of meat to order.

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3. You can go fatty or lean

In most stores, the lean-to-fat ratio in packaged ground meats ranges from somewhere around 70-30 to 98/2 or leaner. The fattier options are higher in calories—good when getting plenty of calories is the main goal.

But these cuts are also usually cheaper. That's because the labor required to trim the fat to, say, 93/7 adds man hours and expense to the processing. In some stores, you can find ground beef with fat at or higher than 90/10 for around $2 per pound. Remember, the fattier, the cheaper.

At that price point, for just $10 per week, you can get 5 pounds of protein. And sure, it will have some accompanying fat content, but remember three things:



  • Some of that fat will be lost during cooking.
  • Calories are your friend when you're gaining.
  • Saturated fat has a positive impact on testosterone production.

If there's one time when you shouldn't fear ground chuck or ground pork, it's now. Eat up and grow!

About the Author

Paul Salter, MS, RD

Paul Salter, MS, RD

Paul Salter, MS, RD, CSCS, received his BS in dietetics from the University of Maryland and his MS in exercise and nutrition science from the University of Tampa.

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