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Capsules vs Powder

Are Capsules or Powders Better to Supplement With?

December 14, 2015
Updated May 15, 2020

Supplements have gone through quite a few changes over the years. Thick, chalky tablets are no longer the norm. Supplement and vitamin companies have expanded their repertoire, surveyed consumers, and have come up with solutions for just about everything. There are sustained-release capsules, gel caps, powders, liquids, sublingual applications, you get the idea.

But when you’re assaulted by all these different choices, what are you supposed to choose?

The answer, unfortunately, is not cut and dry unless you’re like 40% of the US population and have difficulty swallowing pills. Then the choice is easy – get powdered versions of your favorite supplements and drink them down! (Or break open the capsules and tip them in your drink).

But it is entirely possible, if not easy to pick something that works best for you. I’ll help you with a bit of a checklist.

Capsules

capsules

Most people prefer capsules thanks to their convenience.

Transportable

Capsules are easier to drag around to the gym with you, to your work, or wherever you need it. Since everything you need is contained with a small protective shell, you can just toss it in a pill organizer or small, dark, air-tight container and take it with you. You can’t do that with powder. You’ll either have to find a big enough container or you’ll have to take the whole tub with you. If you’ve got a couple of powdered supplements, have fun explaining why your desk looks like a GNC to everyone that walks by it. But you can pack a bunch of supplements in a small, airtight container and take it with you wherever you need to go.

Capsules Play Nice Together

Most powders come with some sort of taste (or else why would you take them?). But mixing Melon and Natural Spice might not elicit the taste you’re looking for. But a handful of supplements is different. There’s no need to worry about what sort of demonic taste you’ll create when you mix them all together because supplements are virtually tasteless. Just drink ’em down with some water, have some food if the directions say so, and move on your merry way.

Delayed Release

We’re not all like Veruca Salt. There are times when it’s worth the wait. Like if you’re taking a pre-workout and you’ve got a delicate stomach. Having a capsule is like ingesting a friendly time bomb. Once the capsule dissolves, the contents are released and are absorbed. It’s just a matter of time.

Powders

Protein Powder

As I mentioned earlier, there was a study done by Harris Interactive. They found that 40% of Americans had difficulty swallowing capsules. It’s pretty understandable when you know the mechanism behind it.

We need food to function. Food is fuel and all that. We, however, do not need rocks. Or tiny things that do not look like food (or so our brain tells us). Many people have a hard time with capsules simply because their brain disagrees with the purpose of capsules. Your brain is fine with it being spat out or staying in your mouth, but it has absolutely closed the gate to the stomach. If you’re one of those people, then powders need to be your weapon of choice. If not, then consider these other reasons.

Concentration

Capsules need to be small so people don’t choke on them. That’s 100% reasonable. But it’s also why whey protein doesn’t come in a capsule. You just can’t cram that much into a tiny capsule. Does that mean they’re ineffective? Not necessarily. You don’t need giant scoops of supplements for them to work. Most supplements and vitamins can have an effective dose encapsulated in the given space. But there are certain products (like protein supplements) that require too large of a serving to fit in a capsule.

Quicker Absorption

Veruca Salt would want powders. Well, she’d probably want ready-to-drink supplements, but if she had to choose between capsules and powders, the choice is obvious.

Vitamin capsules just aren’t built for instant results. They’re designed to work their way through your system before they start getting absorbed. Powdered supplements, however, don’t have a barrier. The only barrier is your mouth. So just add water, drink it down, and your body begins absorbing it right away – which leads to quicker benefits.

Taste

There’s a lot to be said for taste.

It’s not always a good thing – taste. For instance, krill oil. There’s absolutely no way you can make me take liquid krill oil. But a capsule? By all means, hand it over.

Capsules are tasteless by nature, but you can have all sorts of fun with powders. Chocolate, chai, peach…whatever you want. If something is delicious, you’re more likely to drink it. If you’re more likely to drink it, you’re more likely to remember to take it. And if you manage to create a habit, you’re more liable to start seeing results thanks to your consistency. It can be difficult to remember to take a capsule because you’re not really looking forward to it. A frothy Matcha Chai sure beats a green tea capsule.

In the end, there’s not really a wrong choice as long as you choose your supplement based on what you need.

Onnit Research Team
The Onnit Research Team is comprised of medical professionals, researchers, and scientists interested in providing data-driven, actionable information.

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