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I'm Broke - Single Most Important Supplement?

I am currently a grad student getting my doctorate in Psychology, meaning I’m totally broke (in debt) and likely will be for a significant amount of time. There are some pros to this: I don’t have the money/time to go out for food and drinks, I get a free gym membership at my school and there is plenty of motivation in the form of attractive girls in my program.

However, the obvious negative is that by necessity I’m “balling on a budget”. My diet consists of a lot of canned tuna/chicken, eggs, oats and peanut butter. That being said, if I could only choose one supplement to enhance my gains, what would you guys suggest? Obviously I’d like it to not be too expensive, but I would live if I spent a little $. The research I’ve done seems to suggest fish oil or creatine, but I wanted to get a bunch of opinions. Thanks!!

More food.


If you are able to afford and consume enough protein in a day through whole foods (i.e. without needing to supplement for whey), then I guess creatine, but you can get a year supply of that for like $15.

When I’ve had to live on my tightest budget, I think whey still came out to be the most important supp for me. If anything, having whey saved me some money. Cost of poultry is dependent on where you live, but for me, a generous scoop of whey was more cost-efficient than a couple of chicken breasts or cans of tuna.

Obviously still get as much of your protein through whole foods as you can, but if you have 40-50 g of whey a day that can end up saving you some money. Another supplement to look into that can actually save you money would be dextrose. It’s not the ideal carb source, but it is simple, works, and is cheap as heck. Again, whole foods are preferable, but if you are on that tight of a budget, the use of whey and dextrose can help you save $$, have decent peri/post workout nutrition, and still meet your macros.

As your research has yielded, fish oil is good, too. Since dextrose and whey would technically be saving you money (operating under the premise that you have specific macro goals) and since creatine is dirt ass cheap, maybe you would be able to squeeze fish oil into your budget. How badly you need it/how noticeable it would be is dependent on your goals, but definitely everyone can benefit from it.

out of curiosity: how old are you and what do you weigh?

I’m 22, weigh 175-180. Squat 365, Deadlift 375, Bench 275 if that means anything. Been plateauing the 2 months or so, hence me asking the question I did.

Nice lifts man. Out of curiosity, which doctoral program are you in? 22 is pretty young for a PhD. Psy.D.?

The reason I asked is because I wanted to know what kind of progress you’ve been making, and your numbers are good. It’s not like adding a protein shake or two is going to automatically jump your numbers up.

I like JFG’s suggestion of more food, but honestly if money’s that tight then just spend the money you would have spent on whey or whatever on something more interesting. Take one of the honeys from the gym out for a few drinks.

Your gym life is doing fine; don’t feel like you have to divert more resources to it, particularly when they’re scarce.


I agree that the whey would not necessarily help your performance. Merely suggesting it as a means of helping your budget (same goes for the dextrose/other cheap carb sources).

Creatine isn’t something magical, but it’s so damn cheap you should be using it.

Changing your programming will be more effective than any supps in helping you with your plateau.

Thanks!! I’m actually pretty good with my macros- I only dip below 150g protein on a bad day, usually am able to get 180 in. Still playing around with carbs/fat to optimize everything.

I’ll look into dextrose–any recommendations on where I should get it?

And you guessed correct-I’m getting my Psy.d. I start in the fall, I just graduated undergrad a few weeks ago

That’s awesome man, clinical psych is a great field.

Just the NOW Foods 10 lbs tub of dextrose on Amazon goes for $29. That would last you about 6 months. I used this in college when even just intra-workout gatorade and post-workout bananas started getting too pricey for me.

Obviously, it’s not the best source of carbs, but when taken peri/post workout, it suffices. Again, just something to consider if you are trying to save money.

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One supplement? That’s a tough question. If you have insurance get your vitamin D3 levels checked. If the reading comes back between 40 and 60 you are good to go. If it is lower than 40 that one supplement should be vitamin D3. There are so many interactions in the body and mind that have to do with vitamin D3 that it needs to be an entire separate post.

If your D3 is good if I were you I’d take Flameout (fish oil). Focus on something that will bring you more good health. Without good health your gains will go out the window along with your ability to do much of anything else. Guard your health like you would a pile of gold as it is worth far, far more!

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If I were you, I’d go with creatine.


When you guys say dextrose, are you taking about corn starch or is there some misunderstanding on my part?

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Most often derived from corn, yes. Again, I cannot stress enough that this is far from the ideal, but for people on a budget, it can work sufficiently for peri/post carbs as long as the other aspects of your diet are kept in check.

The dextrose and whey went on a tangent from the OP. They are not going to boost his performance, but rather are options to save him additional money as long as he still consumes most of his macros through whole foods, as he has been doing. I’d imagine that if he is having to pick between creatine or fish oil that he doesn’t have much of a budget, so just trying to provide possible ways to save money while still keeping a decent diet.

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Creatine. Cheap and it does work.


I don’t disagree with it as an ingredient, I just wouldn’t find it necessary to order online from a supplement manufacturer.

In the baking aisle, sure. There’s also kayro syrup and agave that can be used to mix up some pre- workout rocket fuel on the cheap too.

My understanding of the vast majority of supps on the market is this-

Cornstarch + Caffeine + Creatine = super blasto explosive with mega uptake enhancement scientifically proven to be on par with dranobolin.:grinning:


Oh hahah I gothcya. For me, I’ve found that ordering powder form online is the cheapest means. At least going by $/grams, haven’t found any grocers with comparably priced sources of cheap carbs. I should probably check out Costco or other wholesale places, but $29, free shipping for ~4,500 grams of simple carbs is tough to beat.

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Ah, well corn starch is slightly different than corn sugar (dextrose). The sugar gets derived from the starch and is digested more quickly, which is its main appeal intra-post workout. Sorry, I didn’t catch that distinction in your original post. I suppose if you were really on a budget the starch would suffice. It’s by no means a slow digesting carb. I would think it acts similar to WMS or even maltodextrin, which are good to mix with dextrose if you’re trying to mimic the high-end PWO supps. Corn starch + dextrose would seem to be a poor man’s mix of simple + complex carbs, but I’m good with just the dextrose.

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I would say hydrolysed whey. Big bang for your buck supplement. Save it for just one or two heaviest workouts of the week -just need one scoop immediatley post workout and get major recovery boost. Look around for internet bulk powder suppliers.

Next step up for tiny bit more money would be Biotest’s Surge, similar but slightly better.

After that i’d say wholefoods FTW, especially beef like pack of quality lean mince