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IFBB Pro John Jewett shares his guide on pills vs powders, specifically when it comes to travel.

The Traveling Bodybuilder’s Guide to Pills VS Powders

Last month I competed at the IFBB Indy and New York Pro, taking a 3rd and 2nd place finish respectively. I reside in Texas, so this meant traveling to my competitions with the mess that comes along with packing clothes, food, supplements, and lifting gear for an entire week—and more specifically a peak week. The main concern within my peak week was which supplement powders should I use and whether or not I should use pills instead. What is easier to pack? Will I lose efficacy with one over the other? Here is how my travel and peak week went down.

From Texas to the Show

I have some mainstay Animal products I keep in place year-round. Peak week or not, they do not change: Animal Pak, Whey, Juiced Aminos, and Pump Pro. I take Animal Fury if I need the extra kick in the ass before training, which on prep is every workout. It was a huge issue to pack up all of these supplements for the week and fit them all in my luggage. 

Pak pills have a big advantage over powders as I can just take baggies of the pills and not the entire containers, but I didn’t do this. For Animal Pak Multi, I brought the single-serve stick packs for easy packing because I personally don’t like taking so many pills. For the Whey, I downsized my 4 lb container to a 2 lb container and fit that in my luggage. For Pump Pro and Juiced Aminos, I packed what I needed in a plastic baggie and then had some Animal Fury stick packs as well. Having previously made a powder mess everywhere when I put my powders in baggies, I do see the pill advantage for a non-messy packing option. Maybe I am just too clumsy. In my situation, I didn’t need pills and still saved some space. I also take an extra suitcase with me packed with all my cooked food and supplements, which beats trying to smash everything into one bag or, worse, having your pre-workout baggy bust and cover your clothes in powder.

Peak Week Mornings

Knowing when to cut out certain supplements can be important on peak week. My morning routine has been to drink Animal Pak Powder with meal 1. I understand some bodybuilders limit fluids and might need to utilize pills to keep fluid lower at mealtimes. Do you lose efficacy with a powder compared to a pill? I would say this is a negligible difference and really comes down to preference. In a powder, you might have settling of certain ingredients and you might also leave some powder at the bottom of your glass. Again, this likely works out to be negligible in the grand scheme of things. Another consideration is sweeteners that could cause GI distress. It is understandable if you do need to limit them for this reason, but I keep them in place because they do not give me any issue or cause me to retain water. I drank my Animal Pak every day up until the morning of my show. When I did limit fluids with meal 1, I reduced my Animal Pak serving to just ½ a scoop to prevent slower digestion caused by too concentrated of a drink.

Training During Peak Week

I had some excellent training sessions in Indianapolis and Tampa (NY Pro was held in Tampa this year). I love going to new cities and finding bodybuilding gyms with new equipment. Due to a delayed flight, Renee and I got in to Tampa so late that we ended up training at 10 p.m. Having the option for stimulants or not is exactly why I formulated Pump Pro with no caffeine. Although a pill form of Pump is available, pre-training I prefer being able to get in more fluids. Powder supplements do have the advantage of promoting hydration if you get low in fluids. Same thing with drinking Juiced Aminos during training over taking Animal Nitro. However, I know some guys just like water during training so I would opt for the packs in that situation.

Show Day Meals

On show day I want enough food to bring about a glycogen-loaded muscle, but I also do not want any abdominal distention and bloating. I like a low fiber carbohydrate source and a protein source that I can really concentrate and that assimilates easily. I see no reason to cut out Whey protein on show day if you have used it all prep without digestive bloating. I like doing a whey and cream of rice mix on show day for this exact reason.

Show Day Pump Up

When I wake up on show day, the first thing I do is assess my look and weight, then decide how much fluid and how many carbs I want for each meal. My best look has been around 206-207 lb; I usually wake up around 204-205 lb. On show day I do have to limit water to not go too high in body weight. Once I go over that 207 lb mark, I get really full muscles but lose too much conditioning and hardness. So I have to be careful with fluid intake. I limit fluid to about 64 oz of water going into morning pre-judging.

Regarding supplements my rule of thumb is if I used a supplement or food during peak week and looked great, there is no reason to change it on show day. My pump-up protocol before getting on stage at Indy and NY pro was 16 oz of fluid, 2 scoops of Animal Pump Pro, and an extra ¼ teaspoon of salt for some extra vascularity. An advantage to the powder pre stage is that it’s easier to get the right quantity of product. Pump Pro is about a 20 g serving size, which would be around 20 pills in pill form. Not many people are okay taking that many pills. I also want to make sure the powder is assimilated very quickly, as there could be a delay with pill disintegration.

2021 New York Pro Pre-Judging Diet and Supplements

Mid Sleep Snack, 2:00 AM
  • 110 g white rice, cooked weight
  • 15 g peanut butter
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 8 oz water
Meal 1, 5:00 AM
  • 16 oz coffee first thing
  • 45 g Animal Whey Vanilla
  • 120 g cream of rice, dry measurement
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 10 oz water + 1/2 scoop Animal Pak Powder Green Apple
  • Between meal 25 oz water
Meal 2, 7:30 AM
  • 20 g Animal Whey Vanilla
  • 50 g cream of rice, dry measurement
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
Pump Up Mix, 7:45 to 8:30 AM
  • 16 oz water
  • 2 scoops Animal Pump Pro Blue Ice Pop
  • ¼ teaspoon salt

Wrap Up

Whether you choose powder or pills, the biggest decisions come down to personal preference. There are pros and cons to each—it’s not so black and white. Thanks to everyone for their support during my competition period. Let’s keep on growing and improving.

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