Low cost protein-rich foods

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Most people with an interest in fitness know they have to eat a diet high in protein to aid muscle recovery and repair. They also know that a high-protein diet is usually more expensive than eating a standard high-carb diet. But eating for strength and fitness doesn’t have to cost the Earth – the savvy shopper can make some sensible choices to bring down the weekly protein bill. Here are five excellent cheap sources of protein.

Liver Approximate price 17p per 100g, 100g contains 21g protein (less than 1p per gram)

Ox liver is among the cheapest protein sources available and, like most offal, it’s also among the most nutrient-dense foods. But because the liver is the major organ of detoxification for mammals, it can harbor toxins the animal has been exposed to, and liver from bigger, older, non-organic animals is potentially more toxic. Your best bet is chicken or lamb’s liver – organic if possible. Liver contains massive amounts of vitamin A, b12, iron and the full range of B vitamins as well as protein. 

Mussels Approximate price 50p per 100g (frozen), 100g contains 11.9g protein (around 4p per gram)

This is the most expensive protein source here – but at 4p a gram mussels are still great value, especially since they it also contain high levels of minerals such as zinc, selenium, iron and vitamins B12 and C. They’re also high in healthy omega 3 fats. The other advantage is that they’re seriously delicious. Try cooking them in wine, garlic and chilli. Tip – if they don’t open when you cook them, don’t open them.

Quark Approximate price 34p per 100g, 100g contains 13.6g protein (2½p per gram)

This protein-rich creamy cheese is a good source of calcium and B vitamins. You can also use it to thicken up sauces – in fact, you can even throw it into your wine and garlic sauce for the mussels to achieve both a creamier texture and a double protein hit.

Beef Approximate price 30p per 100g (frozen), 100g contains 20g protein (1½p per gram)

Not a surprising protein source, although not usually cited as a cheaper one – but frozen beef can be bought cheaply in bulk and is just as high in protein as fresh steak. Beef also contains good levels of iron, B vitamins, and other useful minerals such as zinc.

Lentils Approximate price 18p per 100g, 100g contains 25.8g protein (0.7p per gram)

You can get lentils for this ridiculously low price if you buy in bulk – and they keep for ages. But even if you buy small packs they come in at around 25p per 100g, so they’re still a remarkably cheap protein source. They also contain vitamin B6, iron, magnesium and folate, plus plenty of natural fibre. 

Whey Approximate price £2.20 per 100g, 100g contains 75g protein, depending on brands (3p per gram)

Real food should come first but if it’s too expensive or impractical – you may not have anywhere to keep a liver or mussel-based snack fresh until your workout – whey is a convenient and fairly inexpensive source. You can easily add it to smoothies, pancakes and porridge. It also has high levels of cysteine, which helps the body produce cell-protecting antioxidants such as glutathione.

Kinetica Sports brand ambassador Matt Lovell is a nutritional therapist with a special interest in elite sports performance. Visit kineticasports.com

Nick Hutchings worked for Men’s Fitness UK, which predated, and then shared a website with, Coach. Nick worked as digital editor from 2008 to 2011, head of content until 2014, and finally editor-in-chief until 2015.