Traveling while staying healthy and on track with your diet can be extremely difficult. And it’s even harder when you’re trying to stay on top of your supplement intake.
A lot of people wonder whether or not they can take protein powder like MusclePharm Combat on a plane and if TSA will give them any issues.
Well, in this article we are here to clear up all the confusion.
We’ll provide you some clarity on TSA rules for bringing protein on a plane and also provide you with some really helpful tips so that your airport experience will be as smooth as possible.
Table of Contents
Can you bring protein powder on a plane?
Yes, you can bring protein powder on a plane in your carry-on or checked baggage. When bringing it as a carry-on, if the amount is greater than 12 ounces you need to place it in a separate bin for X-ray screening.
Also, the powder might be subject to additional TSA screening so you may want to place it in your checked luggage to avoid delays at security.
Keep reading below for some tips on how to best transport your protein and potentially avoid getting the additional screening!
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TSA rules on protein powder
TSA allows protein powder in both carry-ons and checked luggage.
Protein powder is one of the rare items where TSA provides additional guidance and they state:
Powder-like substances greater than 12 oz. / 350 mL must be placed in a separate bin for X-ray screening. They may require additional screening and containers may need to be opened. For your convenience, we encourage you to place non-essential powders greater than 12 oz. in checked bags.
Tip: 12 ounces is about the size of a can of soda.
Similar to traveling with electronics or liquids, if your powder is more than 12 ounces you will need to place your protein powder in a separate bin whenever it goes through for x-ray screening.
As far as I know, the x-rays should not affect the quality of your protein.
However, if you are not comfortable with your protein getting hit with x-rays you can talk with the TSA agent and they may allow you to bypass the x-ray scanner.
In that case you can pretty much guarantee that you’ll have to go through additional screening (which can also happen even when your protein powder does go through the scanner).
The biggest issue with bringing protein powder through airport security is the potential for additional screening.
Explosives and drugs can often come in powdered form and that is one of the main reasons why TSA applies extra scrutiny to powders.
Basically, a TSA agent would take your protein powder to a separate station, open up the container and then inspect the powder. They may even take a small sample of it for testing or give it a swab (along with yourself and other belongings).
Just how long will this additional screening take?
Well, it depends.
Similar to SSSS inspections, sometimes there needs to be a supervisor present when this type of testing occurs. If that supervisor is currently busy then it could be a while before you get through with your protein powder.
An additional wait time of 15 to 20 minutes is not unheard of.
If you are cutting it close with your arrival time to the airport then that could be a bad situation.
But in most situations you should be in and out within a couple of minutes.
It’s worth noting that agent discretion is involved. So if for whatever reason they cannot verify your powder is just protein, you could be essentially forced to hand it over.
How to take protein powder on a plane
Since protein powder is allowed you don’t have to worry about getting yourself in trouble for bringing it. Also, because there are no limits on the quantity you could in theory bring as much protein as you’d like.
But you might want to put some thought in how you are going to transport it so that you can reduce your chances of getting the additional screening.
There are a few ways you can transport your protein powder and some are better than others.
For example, wrapping rectangular blocks of white protein powder with duct tape and placing them in a false bottom in your black duffel bag (along with your cash) is probably not the ideal way.
So here are a few suggestions.
I’ll first give tips for bringing protein powder as a carry-on and then also give you some insight into personal items and checked baggage.
Leave it in the container/original packaging
If you leave your protein powder in its original packaging a TSA officer will probably be less likely to question it.
The problem is protein powder can come in pretty large containers, which can be difficult to store in your carry-on and a bit awkward to carry around.
To make things easier, you could always purchase a small container of protein powder that you use exclusively for traveling.
Or, you could purchase those small individual packs of protein and bring those with you.
Put your protein in a Ziploc bag
Another option is to place your protein powder in a Ziploc bag so that you can more easily transport smaller quantities.
Some people might put all of the protein into one large bag and others might load it into individual bags (for each serving).
You can go either route although I would prefer to keep my protein in one packaged container if possible.
If you are worried about getting questioned you could always put a label on the bag.
Just writing “protein” on the bag could be enough.
You might think that putting your unlabeled powdery substance in a Ziploc bag would be a bad idea but plenty of travelers get through without additional screening when transporting protein in plastic bags (or even tupperware).
Note: There are some reports of bags getting poked by agents and powder leaking out so you might want to have a second bag on hand in case that happens to you.
Put your protein bag in a shaker bottle
If you want to send a message to TSA that you are just a fitness nut traveling with your protein powder or meal replacement shake then you could put your bag of protein powder in your shaker bottle.
That might cause some agents to give you a pass since they can more easily make the connection between your powder and it being a workout supplement.
I would avoid putting your protein directly in your shaker bottle because it could leak or more easily get spilled during testing.
Some avid workout folks use protein funnels, which are small funnels that can store your protein and easily be poured into a bottle.
These should be fine to bring through security.
Protein powder as a personal item
If your jug of protein powder will not fit inside your carry-on you can probably bring it along as a personal item.
In fact, some airlines might even consider your protein powder to count as food which means that it would be considered a free “bonus item.”
That would likely happen if your protein powder was in a shaker bottle.
So it could be possible for you to board the plane with a carry-on, personal item, and your protein in some situations.
Protein powder in checked baggage
If you have a large amount of protein powder you should probably just take TSA’s advice and put it in your checked baggage to avoid any extra hassle.
If you are packing it in a bag you might consider double bagging it.
For one, that can help prevent spills.
But there are some reports of protein bags getting punctured for testing and if you double bag your protein you can decrease the odds of spillage.
Different types of protein powder
All different types of protein powder should be treated the same: whey, casein, egg, pea, isolates, etc.
Some people feel more comfortable bringing dark-colored protein powder like chocolate flavored powder. The thinking is this type of protein powder looks (and smells) a lot less like drugs or explosives.
Once a TSA agent gets a big whiff of coco they may be less inclined to put you through the rigors of chemical testing.
Different forms of protein
You might also be curious about bringing different forms of protein along such as protein drinks and protein bars.
If you have a protein shake it’s a much different story getting through airport security.
If you made your own protein shake in a shaker bottle or if you purchased liquid protein in a bottle, either way your protein will be subject to the liquids rule.
This means that you would have to fit your protein shake within a 3.4 ounce container and have it placed in a clear plastic bag.
So it is possible to bring a liquid protein shake through airport security but it’s going to be a pretty small quantity and typically protein shakes take up more volume than that.
Solid protein bars or energy bars are allowed through security.
You might be surprised to find out that TSA allows all sorts of different foods through airport security as long as they are solid.
If you have some sort of pack containing a protein gel that will be considered a liquid and therefore be subject to the liquids rule.
This means that they should be stored in a single, quart-sized bag along with your other liquids. As long as it fits within that bag and is under 3.4 ounces you can probably bring it but you could run into some resistance.
Pills and vitamins
A lot of gym rats also tend to take different types of pills and vitamins.
These should be just fine as TSA is pretty relaxed when it comes to taking things like medication through security. (Just see my warning on international flights below.)
Other types of powder
It’s worth noting that protein powder is not the only powdery substance subject to TSA’s heightened rules.
Many other type of powders can cause TSA agents to apply more scrutiny to you when going through security:
What exactly counts as a powder?
Back when the rules changed in 2018 American Airlines issued a statement and helped to to provide some clarity:
“Powder-like substances are described as fine dry particles produced by the grinding, crushing, or disintegration of a solid substance (i.e. flour, sugar, ground coffee, spices, powdered milk, and cosmetics).”
So the rules above would also apply to things like: pre-workout powder, creatine, and BCAAs. Those tend to come in smaller servings so they often are easier to take with you through security.
Worth noting: certain powders are exempt from secondary screening, including baby formula, medically necessary powders and human remains.
If you are flying internationally you may want to do a little bit of research to make sure the country you are visiting does not have some type of weird or unexpected prohibition on certain protein powders.
Keep in mind that some protein powders are hemp-based and products like hemp can be problematic in certain countries.
Also, some supplements may have ingredients that are outlawed in certain countries.
It will probably be rare for you to run into issues like these but it’s something to at least look into when going abroad.
Yes, many travelers bring protein powder through airport security in a Ziploc bag. Try writing a label on your bag it says “protein powder” to decrease the odds of getting additional screening.
Putting your protein powder in your checked baggage can prevent you from dealing with additional screening with TSA. If you have over 12 ounces of protein, you may want to put it in your checked baggage.
Yes, if you bring protein in your shaker bottle it’s best to place the protein in a bag first and then insert the bag into your shaker bottle to prevent spillage.
Yes, bringing your protein funnels through TSA should not be a problem.
You can bring protein powder to many countries when flying internationally. However, occasionally a country will ban a certain type of supplement so it’s best to do some research for that individual country before you depart.
Yes, pre-workout will be subject to the same powder rules but it is allowed by TSA.
TSA is pretty lenient when it comes to traveling with protein powder. Your protein powder is 100% allowed to carry on although it is recommended to put it in your checked baggage if you have over 12 ounces. Try to keep your protein in its standard packaging to avoid extra suspicion and be prepared for TSA agents to perform additional screening on occasion.
Daniel Gillaspia is the Founder of UponArriving.com and creator of the credit card app, WalletFlo. He is a former attorney turned full-time travel expert covering destinations along with TSA, airline, and hotel policies. Since 2014, his content has been featured in major publications such as National Geographic, Smithsonian Magazine, Forbes, CNBC, US News, and Business Insider. Find his full bio here.