by Christian Duque
As fans of bodybuilding and aspiring bodybuilders in our own right we simply can’t ignore the ever-increasing prices for food. Just the other day I did a double-take when I saw what a dozen eggs were selling for. I’ll be honest I’ve never much cared for them and so I don’t buy them. I think it’s the sulfur content or maybe it’s the smell of them cooking. Maybe I don’t have an actual allergy but I always get nauseous whenever I eat them. Call me a spoiled brat but it’s like clockwork. I eat eggs and I suddenly want to hurl. That said, I consume any number of protein products and supplements that have eggs in them and I never have an issue. So therefore maybe I am a spoiled brat, but let’s get back to the actual cost of eggs per dozen.
Last time I bought a dozen eggs was way before the pandemic. I think I paid $3, but I always buy cage free brown eggs. Just a few days ago I nearly died when I saw that the regular, mass-market, socially irresponsible factory farmed dozen was just over five dollars! Five dollars for a dozen eggs? Then I looked at the cage free, socially conscious eggs per dozen and that was close to ten dollars. I was flabbergasted to say the least.
How do fitness-minded folks make ends meet given that we live in a country that doesn’t recognize price controls and where [some] markets will gladly price-gauge their customers? For example, there’s a market chain in the nicer parts of town that makes Whole Foods seem like Save-A-Lot. Their prices are quite frankly offensive but rich people are largely oblivious. Then again maybe they pay the high costs because they’re privy to the fact that that will keep everyday people out. Who really knows?
The fact is food is the foundation of bodybuilding. Before any talk of food-based supplements, exogenous hormones, and/or joining high-end gyms, food must be taken care of. Physique-based athletes have very high protein requirements, carbs must be wholesome for the most part, and not all fats will do.
Most bodybuilders will only use clean fats and you can forget about trans fats. That’s actually a form of plastic and no self-respecting fitness enthusiast will consume substandard macros, even if it means saving a few bucks. After all, true fitness fanatics subscribe to the theory that the body is the temple. And for most, especially active competitors, longevity is the name of the game. No one who strives to build a great body is going to sacrifice their time on the stage or on top to save money.
The fact of the matter is that bad food will counteract all the benefits of the best drugs and the best equipment accessible at the finest gyms. I have literally seen guys who are pinning themselves with thousands of dollars not growing because they live at fast food chains and they lack proper hydration. I could name names if you didn’t believe me, but I’m not looking to scrap all of my journalistic integrity so you’ll just have to take my word for it. That said, a simple YouTube search and you might be able to discover many of the guys I’m talking about. It’s all about how badly do you want it?
There’s countless people in our sport that aren’t rich. They work 9-5’s, they pay their bills, and yes sometimes they struggle. That said they find a way. Many have memberships to Costco or Sam’s Club. They’ll buy industrial-grade refrigerators and buy in bulk. This can work but buying in bulk still bears some of the brunt of out-of-control food prices. Food has become as volatile as fossil fuels and/or interest rates when it comes to fluctuations. These prices aren’t pegged to weather conditions, rather, the market has become far less predictable and speculators are having a field day. Retail establishments are having a nightmare. On the one hand they want to offer the best customer service possible, but on the other hand they know that constantly raising prices will turn many away. People need to have the basics (e.g. milk, eggs, and bread). If stores can keep prices somewhat agreeable on these, then people will keep coming back. The problem is it’s a lot easier said than done. When milk, bread, and eggs are becoming luxuries as opposed to basic staples, then what do retailers do? They can’t operate at a loss but they also see their profit margins shrinking before their very eyes.
Many fitness enthusiasts are now pressing companies more than ever for supplement contracts. As opposed to asking for money as has always been the case, a great many prospective sponsored athletes are actually very happy to take whey for work. I know that may sound funny to some and/or even insulting to others, but the price points are getting so crazy for groceries that it’s most definitely crossing over to supplements.
For years we’ve been preparing ourselves for a massive creatine shortage and the fact it hasn’t happened yet by no means says it won’t. The market has just been able to stave off the inevitable but a time will come when demand for creatine soars and there won’t be the requisite supply to meet it with. At that point, we may see creatine prices return to their 1990’s numbers where a 300g tub could cost as much as $100 per unit. If that happens, you can bet your bottom dollar that prospective sponsored athletes will be all too glad to take some whey and creatine monohydrate for a day or two’s worth of work at a crowded expo.
There are still a number of ways to save on food though. This includes buying bulk but it could also include going to farmers’ markets and even growing your own vegetables. Some athletes have even approached local markets and grocery chains for sponsorships. That’s a pretty novel thought, especially with local shops and local grocery stores. If an athlete can land a deal where they appear on promotions, maybe give out some samples in-store, and in exchange maybe get a small amount of money and the ability to shop on the house each week, that’d be a heck of a deal!!
Most guys and gals I know, especially those who live on their own, are spending a minimum of $150 a week on groceries. That’s $600 a month and that’s as spartan as it gets. Some of the really big bodybuilders I know are spending $500 a week! That’s six grand a year just on food. If the food is off, then the supps and training won’t fill the gap. Everything needs to be on point, whether you’re doing a photoshoot or a bodybuilding show. Looking your best is the name of the game.
What do you do to save? Assuming you’re even able to save? In some smaller cities and towns, for example, you might only have one grocery store for the next 50-100 miles. At that point fuel constraints might force you to take a big hit when buying groceries or lose what you save in driving. Others have it even worse. Imagine living in Alaska or Hawaii. Now you’re not just dealing with soaring food prices, but everything there has always been more expensive because you’re detached from the mainland and transport accounts for a large fraction of what you’re paying for.
The bottom line is that food prices are going to continue to increase and competitors are going to have to figure out a way to get all their macros without breaking the bank. Can this be done? Absolutely, but it’s going to take some very creative thinking. Competing has always been expensive, but it just got a heck of a lot more so. What are some ways you can think of saving money on groceries?