If you’re trying to build muscle, you’ve surely been told that you should load up on chicken—and with good reason: Each serving of chicken breast has about 28 grams of protein. But it’s certainly not your only option if you’re trying to supplement all of the hard work you do at the gym by stocking your kitchen properly. We consulted with several experts to get their best suggestions for other foods that help you bulk up—without draining your wallet.

SPINACH

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spinach

there is a reason this was popeye’s go to for muscle-building. since there’s a ton of spinach packed in to each can, you get more protein than going with fresh spinach(about six grams per cup). “i usually saute canned spinach with olive oil, sea salt, and cracked pepper,” says corey Peacock, Phd, assistant professor of sports nutrition at Nova southeastern university in fort lauderdale, florida, and head performance coach of the blackzilians, boca raton’s mixed martial arts team.

EGGS

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eggs

every single expert we spoke with recommended eggs. its easy to see why; each one pack six grams of protein, plus choline, a nutrient that’s necessary for cell creation, adds Coach Pradeep nain. (founder fz sports academy).

BEANS

FZ SPORTS ACADEMY
BEANS

canned beans are cheap, but dried beans are crazy cheap. each cup has about 15 grams of protein but just 220 cal. “just combine beans with grains or other plant food to complement the amino acids  for maximum muscle building,” recommends Coach PRADEEP,. national judge bodybuilding and founder of fz sports academy an academy of nutrition and dietetics spokesperson. the one two punch will ensure your body gets all the amino acids it needs to optimize your muscle grwoth.

MILK

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glass of milk

Research shows  that consuming dairy proteins post-workout can aid in muscle-building. Calcium also helps with muscle function, notes PRADEEP NAIN., MD FZ – an Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics spokesperson

BEETS

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beets

Research suggests that inorganic nitrate may help muscles function more efficiently—and beets are high in the nutrient,

YOGURT

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yougurt

Since Greek yogurt is a more concentrated form of yogurt, it also contains a higher concentration of protein: 15 grams per cup. Prices for the dairy product have been on the decline, according to the USDA, but Armul recommends buying the store brand or looking for sales (one of the leading brands is almost always marked down) to make it even more affordable.

COTTAGE CHEESE

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cottage cheese as a protein source

Don’t knock it just because your grandma used to eat it. Cottage cheese is packed with even more protein than Greek yogurt, with a whopping 28 grams per cup. “It also contain calcium and probiotics, which provides digestive support,” says Pradeep nain.

PEANUT BUTTER

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peanut butter as a protein source

This is one of the cheapest plant-based proteins you can get. Each two-tablespoon serving contains eight grams of protein, says coach  Pradeep nain , along with other nutrients like vitamin B6, magnesium, and fiber. Just make sure to look for varieties with only two ingredients: peanuts and salt.

LEAF GROUND BEEF

leef ground beef...protein
leaf ground beef good protein source

This affordable staple is a great source of protein—you’ll get about 24 grams per four-ounce serving—and it’s also a good source of zinc, iron, and creatine. “Zinc and iron can speed up some of the chemicals and reactions responsible for muscle building, so it’s always a benefit to consume enough of each,” says coach Pradeep nain (MD FZ ACADEMY). Creatine, meanwhile, helps reduce fatigue and increase exercise volume, which ultimately means more muscle mass for you.

SUNFLOWER SEEDS

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sunflower seeds

These are filled with six grams of protein per ounce, and they’re easy to eat straight out of the bag or throw on a salad.

SARDINES

one of best protein source, sardines
one of best protein source, sardines

When they pack ’em in, like, well, sardines, you get more protein for your buck: Each tin has about 23 grams of the good stuff. They’re also a good source of healthy fats. “The omega-3 fatty acids found mainly in fish and fish oils supplements result in lower inflammation, and muscle building is usually associated with some inflammation (micro damage to the muscles followed by repair and muscle growth),” says COACH PRADEEP NAIN. “If inflammation continues after exercise, it can adversely influence muscle soreness, tissue repair and growth. Omega-3 fats have also been shown to increase blood flow to muscles during exercise, decrease muscle soreness and swelling.”

EDAMAME

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Frozen bags of edamame are common at grocery stores these days and provide you with a budget plant-based protein (each cup contains about 18 grams). “In addition to protein, edamame has mono- and polyunsaturated fats, which are good for your heart, help absorb other fat-soluble vitamins (vitamins A, D, E, and K), and may help improve cholesterol levels,”

TUNA

tuna fish/protein/ gym pradeep/coach pradeep nain/fz
tuna fish

Flavored tuna packets have helped make this high-protein snack more affordable and portable. Each three-ounce serving contains about 22 grams of protein, and “they also supply healthy fats to help fill you up,”

QUINOA

quinoa_

Quinoa has reputation for being expensive, but its price has actually been on the decline recently. And with eight grams of protein per cup, quinoa beats other grains when it comes to muscle-building. “It’s a complete protein, so it contains all nine essential amino acids,” . “You can save money on quinoa by choosing the generic brand, buying from wholesale stores or buying in bulk,” she says. “It can also be cheaper to buy plain and flavor it yourself with basil, garlic and other herbs and spices.”

ASPARAGUS

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A cup of cooked asparagus has 4.5 grams of protein—more than what you’ll find in many veggies—but just 40 calories. “It’s

also an excellent source of vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin K and folate,”

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