I always remember reading an article in 2007 about Sylvester Stallone being caught bringing Human Growth Hormone (HGH) into Australia. At the time I marvelled at the absolute balls of the guy. Now I believe that he didn’t even think about it. But what does the law say? Can You Take Bodybuilding Supplements on a Plane?
It is possible to transport legal supplements such as whey protein, creatine, and multivitamins, on planes. But these should be declared at the airports, and you can expect to answer a lot of questions and have your bags searched. Remember, you can purchase supplements in pretty much every country in the world. This may be a better option.
In this article, I will look at what the law says, what that means in terms of practicality, and whether it is actually worth doing in the first place.
Legally, you can take supplements on planes. This is certainly the case in the USA, where the TSA allows you to pack them in your carry-on bags, and in checked bags. While the website does say that they are allowed, it also says this:
The final decision rests with the TSA officer on whether an item is allowed through the checkpoint.
That’s quite important. Just because you are legally allowed to transport supplements, if a TSA officer decides that you can’t, you have no say in the matter. They could tip your pre-workout in the trash and there’s nothing you can do about it.
The UK and EU have similar laws, and while I am not about to go through the individual laws of each country on earth, you can assume they are the same. One thing that I would say, it’s probably best not to bother at all with bringing supplements into Australia or New Zealand. They are super strict about food as it can affect their ecology, so it may not be worth the hassle.
Something else that you should consider, just because a supplement ingredient is legal in one country, that does not mean that it is legal in another. Every nation has different laws about what drugs are/are not permissible, what dosages are allowed, and what penalties are placed on using/purchasing.
Let’s say that you are bringing your supplements on a plane, you’ve got through airport security, your plane has landed, and now you are walking confidently towards the airport security of another nation. At this point, you want to be 100% certain that the supplements you are declaring are legal.
As I mentioned earlier, different countries have different ideas about which supplement ingredients are legal and which aren’t. Obviously, you’re probably going to be okay bringing whey protein with you, and although creatine looks pretty dodgy (personally, I’d steer clear of bringing a bag of white powder with me) it’s universally accepted as safe.
But what about your pre-workout? In my experience, pre-workouts are the most difficult supplements to talk about. They usually have a huge ingredients list, and they are also the most likely to have some designer-steroids that are only-just legal.
Jack3D is a good example of this. When it was made, the recipe contained ingredients that were legal in many countries. But over time, many of the ingredients were found to be dangerous and were subsequently banned. Some countries would have considered Jack3D illegal from day one!
Obviously, you can’t bring banned substances such as HGH, anabolic steroids, or the like, and it would be insane to attempt it. Even if you are rich and famous.
If possible, use a sealed package with all the labelling on it rather than some unlabelled box or bag. Many guides recommend you carry it in your carry on bag, as it is easier to declare. However, it makes more sense to pack it in your checked bags and declare it at the check-in desk.
If you are bringing your supplements in carry-on, place them in a clear plastic bag, and keep them separate from your other luggage when going through security. Declare it to the staff there. You may also want to declare what you have when you arrive at your location.
Yes, of course, there are. Packing supplements with you to travel on a plane is clearly an insane thing to do! There are very few scenarios where it makes sense to do this.
Firstly, how long are you travelling for? If it is less than two weeks, you can probably survive without them! Particularly if your reason for travelling is to go on holiday. Take some time off.
Alternatively, you do realise that almost every country in the world sells supplements too. Do a quick Google search and find a supplement shop, talk to the staff and see what they recommend. Most of the big names that you recognise will be there anyway.
I cannot envision a scenario where you would need to bring a tub of whey protein with you. Not only is it ubiquitous, it is just protein. Just eat more high-protein foods! Have a glass of milk. Can’t bring your pre-workout? Have a coffee.
Bringing your own supplements with you while you travel is a little like bringing your own bottled water. Not only is it a bit ridiculous (there are so many options), but it kind of defeats the purpose of travelling in the first place.
Sure, you may be travelling for work. In which case, your travelling is transactional in nature. You are there to work, not experience the culture. So packing your supplements at least makes a tiny bit of sense.
But if you are travelling for a holiday? Or to visit family/friends? Have a break. Embrace the local culture. Or spend 30 minutes grabbing the supplements you need from a store. Most airports have a pharmacy built-in, meaning you can grab all the multivitamins you can handle. They may also sell whey protein, and possibly even creatine.
Travelling forces you to change your life and adapt, that’s half the reason why people do it.
The hassle of bringing this stuff through customs, where there is always a risk of something going wrong, is (in my opinion) not worth the benefits of having your favourite whey protein flavour for a couple of weeks.
Matt Smith is the owner of Beer N Biceps. He has a degree in Sports Science, 10 years of experience working in the fitness industry, and has written for hundreds of fitness websites. He is a lover of good quality beer and believes that drinking in moderation can form part of a healthy lifestyle.