Protein powder generally contains ingredients such as eggs, soy and milk products, all which are things that will expire. A question that is often asked is ‘Can protein powder go bad?’ While protein powder as a whole has a longer shelf-life than the individual ingredients it contains, it too will expire.
Protein powders are manufactured to boast a shelf-life of up to two years after the manufacturing date. Using an expired product is not recommended and it is best to throw it away once it reaches its expiration date. That said, it is ultimately your own choice whether or not you want to keep using an expired product.
Every container of protein powder will have a ‘use by’ or expiry date on display. This date is generally at least a year from the date of production. While the powder should still be safe to consume for at least a couple of months after the indicated date it will not be as potent as when it is fresh.
Certain nutrients will be broken down due to a variety of chemical processes leaving the product of less benefit to the consumer.
When shopping for protein powder make sure to not buy a product that has been sitting on the shelves for some time already. Rule of thumb applies – the fresher the better.
Storing Protein Powder
If you buy a good quality protein powder it will come in a durable, airtight container. This would be the best place to store your protein powder in. Protein powder is made to dissolve in liquid and is thus very predisposed to any kind of moisture. It is important to keep your protein powder container stored in a dry place and away from heat sources.
Never buy more protein powder than what you expect to use in a couple of months. It may seem like a bargain to buy in bulk but it is nothing but a waste if you can’t use all the powder before it expires.
Refrain from breaking the seal on jars or bags of protein powder until you want to use it. Open containers are much more vulnerable to moisture and micro-organism contamination.
Has Your Protein Powder Gone Bad?
It is impossible for your protein powder to stay fresh forever so how do you tell that if it’s time to throw it away?
- Visible wet clumps in the powder usually mean that the product has been exposed to moisture. As mentioned, protein powder is very sensitive to moisture and should these clumps appear it is best to discard the product.
- If your protein powder has a strange smell it is definitely time to throw it out. Bad odor is often the quickest way to tell if something has expired, especially with regards to products that include eggs, soy, or milk.
- If your protein powder is moisture free and doesn’t smell bad but you’re still uncertain if it is safe to use, you may want to taste it. Tasting a very small amount won’t make you sick. If your protein powder tastes odd it is time to discard it.
Use It or Lose It?
Since protein powders are so dehydrated chances of bacterial growth or spoilage aren’t great. Protein powder won’t spoil the way meat or milk does but as previously mentioned it will lose its potency.
Remember that most protein powders have added minerals and vitamins that could possibly lose their effectiveness once the powder has expired. This can turn out to be problematic if you are relying on your protein powder for your daily dietary requirements.
Consuming an expired protein powder is not likely to harm you but if you are a health-conscious individual you probably wouldn’t take the risk either way.
Some protein supplements also contain a vitamin core, fats that can dissolve and medium chain triglycerides (MCT’s). These can in fact expire.
The fats can go rancid and as mentioned the vitamins can lose their potency even with the smallest exposure to air. This means that if the protein powder has been sitting in a bottle for 2 years after expiration, the nutritional value of the vitamins may not match what the label claims.
That doesn’t mean it’s dangerous to take an expired vitamin, only that the potency of the product may be reduced and that you may not reap the desired rewards.
A pure protein powder that doesn’t contain fats, oils or a vitamin core and that is kept in a cool, dry location unopened will not expire for several years after the expiration date.
Marc David, author of “The No Bull Bodybuilding Guide” states that you could buy a whey protein powder (or any other type of pure protein) and stockpile it for a decade without harmful effects or any loss of nutritional value. This only applies to a sealed container though. Once the container is opened, even if you attempt to seal again, you can’t make the same claim.
What About Protein Shakes?
Individuals who live a fast-paced life often choose their protein shakes ahead of time as a time-saving method. Although it is true that this will not affect the potency of your drink, it will cause it to spoil a lot faster. If you absolutely have to premix your protein drinks be sure to refrigerate them until you are ready to consume them.
A refrigerated homemade shake can be kept safely for up to 72 hours. You are more than likely going to have to re-shake or re-blend it due to the separation that is bound to occur. This only applies to shakes mixed with water or milk. As soon as you start adding other ingredients to your shake you start to compromise its quality, taste and texture.
An unrefrigerated shake can safely last 2 hours at most.