Just like in the UK, it is possible to find pharmacies in South East Asia that stock supplements, but it does depend on the country. For example, the places we visited in rural Cambodia didn’t stock anything like this, but those in Thailand and Laos did. Typically if they do stock supplements, you will find a selection including things like protein powder, weight gainer, bcaas and creatine. I have even seen pre-workout on sale in a pharmacy, so it may well be worth a check.
2) Buying supplements from gyms
Most of the bigger gyms around South East Asia will sell tubs of protein or protein shakes. In poorer countries, such as the Philippines or Cambodia, the gyms also sold individual amino acid tablets or single servings of protein or pre-workout. Many of the places that we visited were willing to give me a discount on buying 10 shakes at a time, so long as I bought a tub to put them in. Gyms are far and away the easiest and most common place to find supplements and most gyms will have a good selection which usually includes protein, weight gainer, bcaa and creatine, ZMA, glutamine, and pre-workout.
Buying from gyms isn’t always that much more expensive than buying from wholesalers, for example in Muscle Fitness Centre in Cambodia they sold baggies for protein for a dollar each. Other gyms such as Hammerhead Fitness in Bali or Go Gym in Northern Thailand will sell protein bars. In Bohol in the Philippines it was actually cheaper to buy the baggies of protein from the gym than it was to buy a tub from a store.
Sometimes gyms can be a real lifesaver as CK Fitness Centre in Sumatra, Indonesia was the only place in the whole country that I managed to find protein. Stock up whilst you can!
3) 7/11s or corner shops
In Thailand, 7/11’s sells pre-made protein shakes for about £1 each. These contain about 22 grams of protein, but they are pretty high in sugar, so you may not want to rely on them exclusively. But they are better than nothing and good if you need a protein top up during the day.
It is also worth checking the ingredients list for the energy supplements stocked by the 7/11s. I have found vitamins and healthy energy supplements which contain creatine, glutamine and even BCAA’s. Again, probably a last resort, but it is defiantly worth knowing about.
4) Supplement stores
In bigger cities, such as Bangkok, Ho Chi Minh City, Siem Reap, Phnom Penh or Manila, I managed to find supplement stores which sell imported products. Whilst there are usually more expensive than buying the same products online, it does mean you can pick your supplements up the same day and you will usually have a pretty good selection to choose from.
Buying from supplements stores direct is usually cheaper that buying from gyms, but I would AVOID GNC in Vietnam as they tried to charge me £80 for 1kg of protein.
5) Buy supplements online
If you are staying in same place for a little while you might be able to order your supplements online and get them delivered to your hotel or hostel. You need to check with them first if this is ok and make sure that you trust them to give them to you when they arrive:
I have done some research online and these look like good sites for each of the countries I have visited so far:
6) Gym buddies
If you can make good enough friends with the locals, then you might be able to convince one of your new gym buddies to sell you some protein, or accept delivery of an online order for you. Most of the guys that I have met in the gym whilst travelling have ordered their supplements online in bulk, just like we do in the UK.
But don’t blame me if you get caught in a dark alley with baggies of white powder that you just picked up from a guy met in gym. Good luck explaining that!