Let’s face it, for the most part students have quite a bit of spare time. Alongside the erratic sleep schedule and fairly frequent boozing it’s a fairly opportune moment to ingrain some healthy habits to hold you in good stead once you “get out into the real world”. It’s for this reason that you see such high attendance at students gyms, because – quite rightly – many young people want to look and feel good and are willing to devote a chunk of their time to doing so. Going to the gym at university is also a fantastic social outlet, allowing you to meet new people on the gym floor and join and perform well in several different sports team, so performance can also often be a factor.
The abundance of time in the student world often comes with it for many, a lack of cash, leaving you carefully pulsing your student loan at a low rate to make sure you don’t go too broke too soon. Sometimes the nutrition can be sacrificed as a result because it’s a common misconception that food needed to help your muscles recover and grow needs to be expensive. It’s therefore important to be aware of foods that won’t break your budget whilst allowing your muscles get the nutrition they need to recover.
As a former student at Loughborough University myself, I’m able to appreciate the fine line that is meeting your training goals without breaking the bank, therefore I’ve listed 6 cheap foods that will help you meet your macro and micronutrient intake necessary for general health and muscle recovery.
Egg consumption got totally demonized in the 1990’s as the ‘low fat’ nonsense gained some serious popularity. But fear not, eggs are not only safe to eat but also come with some macro and micronutrient benefits.
1 large egg contains ~7g of protein, however that alone doesn’t quite do it justice. Protein is a crucial component of a healthy diet because it allows our tissues to repair, but not all protein should be considered the same. Eggs are a complete protein because their amino acid profile contains all 9 essential amino acids necessary for muscle growth.
Vitamin D, which is responsible for bone density  and muscle strength  among many other things, is also found in abundance in eggs. Vitamin D deficiency is prevalent in the UK because the most common source is provided by the sun.
Depending on what the chicken has been fed, some eggs also contain omega 3, which is an essential fatty acid whilst helps to prevent inflammation , which is a crucial recovery factor.
At the time of writing this article (17/10/2018) you can get 6 free range eggs for £0.89.
I don’t like using the term ‘superfood’ but given the spectrum of nutrients that eggs contain along with the price it’s hard to find another phrase that does it justice.
The amino acid profile of whey protein is favorable to muscle growth due to the fact – like eggs – it’s a complete protein containing all essential amino acids.
The high leucine content in whey protein also make it an ideal protein source for muscle growth. Leucine is a branched chain amino acid (BCAA) that increases protein synthesis . With muscle mass equalling protein synthesis minus protein breakdown (to equal your overall net protein balance), keeping protein synthesis high when the goal is to build lean tissue is essential.
The amino profile of whey protein also makes it a very fast acting protein source, that’s perfect for post-nutrition recovery aid.
2.5kg of whey protein can be picked up from popular sports nutrition providers for between £25-£40. At the lower band this is the equivalent to £0.25 per 25g serving.
Don’t let the tinned element of this suggestion put you off (or the sardines!). Sardines are a nutrient-rich food, most notably high in omega-3 and with each tin containing 21g of protein. The fact that sardines are also high in omega-3 is also a massive added bonus. A lot of modern-day food choices are naturally high in omega-6.
The target for most is a ratio of 4:1 in favour of omega 6, however some anti-aging experts suggest 1:1 as optimal, the issue is many people in the western world currently have their omega-6 to omega-3 ratio as high as 14:1. This can lead to inflammation, cardiovascular disease and cancer .
You can pick up a tin of sardines for £0.40.
Nuts are very calories dense. When your spending lots of calories in the gym whilst you train, you need to ensure these calories are being replenished to prevent the breakdown of amino acids in a process called catabolism.
Red skin peanuts in particular are a good choice, they’re high in fats and protein and also l’arginine, a non-essential amino acid which functions as a vasodilator , allowing blood the reach the muscle and aid recovery, also known as ‘the pump’.
Red skin peanuts are £3.29 for 500g.
There’s more to an effective diet than protein. Granted you should be aiming for both a calorie surplus and 1.6g/2.2g of protein per kg of bodyweight to add muscle mass , however you need to broaden the scope and factor other nutrient dense foods.
Leafy green vegetables are one of the most important food types you can include in your diet. Kale contains magnesium which plays a key role in numerous enzymatic processes within the body which primarily allows us to derive energy from the food we eat. Kale is also packed full of:
Vitamin A – necessary for eye health as we age, along with helping to developing your immune system.
Vitamin C – a powerful antioxidant that protects your body from reactive oxygen species, free radicals which can lead to illness and premature aging.
Vitamin K – a fat soluble vitamin necessary for blood clotting and helping the body regulate calcium levels.
Kale costs £1 for a 250g bag.
Yogurt contains high amounts of casein protein. Unlike whey protein, which is water soluble and very fast-acting, casein protein is water insoluble and metabolizes much slower and works by ‘drip feeding’ the muscles with amino acids over a prolonged period of time . This makes yogurt an intelligent, protein-rich source for many before going to bed and having a long fasting period. Yogurt also contains high amounts of vitamin D and calcium necessary for bone health.
Yogurt prices vary, but typically sit at £0.85 – £1.50 per 500g. A personal preference in Icelandic yogurt (Skyr), which is even more protein-rich than most
Oats can form the foundation for a sound breakfast option when combined with other ingredients such as a whey protein, fruit and any type of milk.
Oats have a low-glycaemic index meaning that the sugars are broken down at a slow rate, allowing for more sustained energy throughout the day when compared to high-glycaemic breakfast alternative, such as cereals.
An oat based meal is also a good option for your post-session recovery meal, because the high amount of carbohydrates will replenish your glycogen stores, which are units of energy that we typically spend when we workout. Oats also contain beta-glucans which can help to reduce symptoms of both obesity and diabetes .
Price: £1.10 per 1kg.