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I have searched for a definitive answer to this question on google but found conflicting opinions. My question and situation is as follows:

I am traveling from Ithaca, NY to Detroit, MI and back later this month. I am a big fan of weightlifting and am staying in Ann Arbor, MI to work in U Michigan Ann Arbor for a few days. I intend to buy a week pass to the gym and do some powerlifting in addition to work.

I am wondering if I could bring a zip lock bag of whey protein powder with me as part of my carry on and if anyone has had any similar experiences regarding this situation.

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Yes, you are fine bringing a bag of protein powder in your carry-on. The TSA requires food (which it would probably be considered) to be wrapped and to be sent through the X-ray machine at the security checkpoint, but so long as it is not a liquid or gel it isn't banned.

Note that, especially since it won't be in its original container, they may want to sample it for testing. The same goes for any powder (e.g. powder makeup, sugar, dietary fiber supplements, talcum, Gatorade). It goes without saying that powders which are hazardous materials (e.g. explosive or corrosive) are banned of course.

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  • Thank you for the very clear answer with links. I appreciate it. It cleared all my doubts.
    – Shion
    Mar 8, 2013 at 1:58
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    +1 for the warning regarding the sampling. It took me an extra 40 minutes to pass the TSA at SFO because I had placed some protein powder in a ziploc. The TSA agents told me it's fairly common to be scanned for it, and confirmed that the fact it wasn't in its original container was aggravating. By the way, the TSA does not care about when your plane departs. I would have missed my flight if it hadn't been delayed (which I only learnt after passing the TSA, as I couldn't check the information on my phone since all my electronics had been taken away as part of the explosive material search). Dec 3, 2018 at 2:42
  • The last link is dead. Feb 22, 2020 at 19:50
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I had mine in a separate bag and security would not let me through. Check in was fine but not carry on. It triggered as an explosive (???)

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I've done this...mostly. At the last minute, I thought about a big bag of unidentified powder, and stuffed the whole bag in a smaller empty protein powder container. It didn't even matter that it was a different powder from the one I was taking (which had a much larger canister) - the packaging let it go through without difficulty.

Stories I've head say it should be alright, with the caveat unlabeled bags or homemade packaging might leave you subject to a touch more scrutiny, and labeled packages less (irregardless of actual content) - and they've included such items as protein powder, sacred ash, or powdered herbal remedies. As long as you're willing to lose a bit of time and a sample if they notice and ask, it should get through fine.

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I am wondering if I could bring a zip lock bag of whey protein powder with me as part of my carry on and if anyone has had any similar experiences regarding this situation.

I've done exactly that at SFO: zip lock bag of whey protein powder (between 0.5 and 1kg) with me as part of my carry-on. My original plan was to have that bag in my checked suitcase, but it was slightly overweight and the check-in agent told me to move some item to my carry-on and assured me that the protein powder wouldn't cause any issue.

That zip lock bag of whey protein powder cost me 30 minutes of additional screening at the security checkpoint, as they have to bring someone else to check the powder. I would have missed my flight had my flight not been delayed (which I learned after finishing the security screening). Not a complain, but just keep in mind when scheduling that airport security will take the time they need to complete their screening, regardless of the flight departure time.

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