Does Protein Powder Expire? If It’s Expired, Is It Safe To Use?

Does Protein Powder Expire
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 So, does protein powder expire?

There is no doubt that it is very handy to have protein powder around the house.

All you have to do is toss a bit into your smoothie or even your brownies batter and you have a favorite snack, packed with protein.

Sometimes, however, when the expiry date on the tub or box has passed, we wonder what we should do with the remaining powder.

Is it safe to use? Will it still work?

But actually, the expiry date on the box or tub is not a safety date, it’s a quality date.

A study from the Journal of Dairy Science says that protein expires after about 12 months [1] from being manufactured – but that there are some that can last for 19 months.

This will depend on the brand and the ingredients.

So can you use your protein powder after the expiry date on the container?

Mitzi Baum says that dry products such as protein powder actually have a low risk of making you sick [2].

But in the same breath, you don’t want to just keep on using your old protein powder.

After all, it’s going to get old and ineffective at some time, surely? 

What Do These Dates Really Mean? 

According to the FDA (Food and Drug Administration), the “best by” dates mean that you will want to use the product by the said date.

More, because that’s when it’s at its best quality. If you see the words “use by”, it really is the same thing as “best by” or “sell by”.

Basically, if you do use a protein powder past the expiry date, it is not something that is necessarily dangerous.

But still, they are not going to stay good forever. 

Like all foods and even protein powder, all foods will expire at some time.

Usually, foods go bad because of things like heat, moisture, fungi, bacteria, oxygen, etc.

If you manage to keep the above things that make food go bad away from your protein powder, as well as keeping it tightly sealed and kept in a cool and dry place, it can last pretty much go a bit beyond the “cut-off” date.

But is the expired protein powder still safe to use?

As we mentioned above, if you have stored protein powder properly and it has gone past its “sell by” date, it’s not likely that you are going to wake up in the morning and find that your protein powder has gone rancid and is totally inedible.

No doubt, you could probably carry on using it for a couple of weeks.

Maybe you could continue using it even after a couple of months – that’s what Jennifer Quinlan, Ph.D., associate professor at Drexel University’s Department of Nutrition suggests [3].

She says “It’s such a dry product that it’s fairly inert, like a canned product.

Generally, the carbs and protein and amino acids are in the protein powder, over time, don’t really break down.”

Just one factor, however, might cause a bit of trouble beyond the expiry date and that is if your protein powder contains fat in it, as some do.

This can make the product go rancid.

What are the signs that the protein powder has gone off?

If too much moisture, or air, or heat, or whatever has got into your protein powder’s container, then the unstable fat in the product could get spoiled.

But then you will notice a rancid ‘different’ smell to the protein powder smell. You will notice it the minute you open the container.

Another sign that the protein might be going a bit off is that it might have started to clump. That can indicate that it is going moldy.

It certainly won’t taste like the chocolatey or strawberry powder that you first bought.

If you get any of these instances, then it is best you toss the powder out.

Studies have determined the shelf life of protein powders

Researchers in one study [6] discovered that whey protein powder has a shelf life of more than 12 months.

That’s if stored properly under the right conditions.

To keep the protein content stable, the storage conditions in this study were temperature at 70°F (21°C) and 35% humidity.

The researchers confirmed that no significant changes had occurred to the dry powder when it was stored for 19 months.

Researchers conducted other studies using whey protein again.

They discovered the protein had a shelf life of nine months when it was stored at 95°F (35°C).

This rose to 18 months when it was stored at a room temperature of 70°F (21°C) with 45–65% humidity.

It can’t be said whether the shelf life as determined by the above researchers would apply to other protein powders

It remains unknown whether protein shake powders like Yes protein powder or other products that have lysine amino acid structure will retain or lose protein content.

But it is thought that other protein powders would have similar results should they be stored under the same conditions. 

What are good ways to keep protein powder fresher for longer?

Here are some good tips backed by food science:

  • Store protein powder in the container it comes in because the dark packaging usually protects it from the light
  • Keep your protein powder in its container in a cool dry place as your protein powder will be preserved best in a dry environment. If you bought it and have opened it, and you aren’t going to use it for a long, long time, you can freeze it.
  • Don’t keep your protein powder standing on top of the fridge. The heat from the mechanics  and also the possible humidity emanating from the fridge for example will short the shelf life of the protein powder
  • Most protein powders spoil due to exposure to high temperatures. Remember heat denatures proteins.
  • Make sure the scoop you use to serve the powder is always dry. Once a bit of water gets in, it will spur on mold growth and a rancid smell.

Still, you don’t want to consume protein powder that is no longer effective

Whichever one you use, whether it’s the plant-based protein powder, the dairy-based formula, or other stuff, the micronutrients are more than likely going to decline over time.

The vitamins might not be as effective if you drink the powder two years later for instance.

You want to consume protein powder mixed with your favorite liquid when it still is capable of building muscle and improving your strength.

Generally speaking, your protein powder mixed drink may not be effective after being stored for 48 hours.

Consuming protein powder shortly after it has been denatured by heat may not be harmful but it won’t have the nutritional value as a fresh protein shake.

The short answer to the above question is that protein powders don’t spoil in the way meat or dairy does.

It is not likely that you will open the tub and find bacterial growth, mold, or something else. 

The muscle-building mojo of protein powder will likely diminish after the use-by date printed on the container has passed…

Why is that?

Well, there is known what is called a chemical reaction called the Maillard browning reaction [4].

Look at the effect that the Maillard browning reaction has on the nutritional quality of protein [5].

Can you check to see if the protein powder has gone off?

Protein shakes powder is prone to spoilage, especially in warm or hot environments.

You can detect early signs of Maillard reaction going on in your protein powders as it is common in low moisture foods.

Try and put a bit of it on your tongue and taste and see. Your protein powder is more likely to have a bitter taste when it has been bad for a long.

The same goes for the protein mix from your shaker bottle.

Remember that your protein shake from your shaker bottle should not be older than 2 days.

The most obvious thing you may notice when your protein powder goes bad is wet clumps that smell bad like other spoiled foods.

One telltale sign of browning is that the color of the protein powder will change. It will fade. If yours has faded, don’t keep it.

If the expiration dates clearly show that the protein powder has stayed more than the recommended period, then you are using it at your own risk. In this case, the safe bet is to toss it away.

What about whey protein?

Whey protein concentrate is safe to consume once it has passed its expiry date.

The exact amount of time after the expiration date remains unclear though.

You should check the listed expiration date before buying any protein food supplements.

It is not really advised to consume expired protein after a few months past its expiry date.

It’s important to ensure that the container of protein powder should be kept air-tight always too.

 What about vegan protein in protein powders?

Today, vegan protein is fast becoming the order of the day.

And unlike whey, vegan protein is absent from any dairy ingredients. It presents a lower risk of getting spoiled and making you sick.

Vegan powder is considered safe to use past its sell-by date, maybe a few months extra.

It is not advised that you consume protein that has been laying on your shelves for a couple of years.

Remember, these foods also have additives in them to increase shelf life.

Under normal conditions, vegan protein powder’s shelf life will be longer than other milk-containing proteins for example.

That’s why it’s a good idea that you always check the ingredients.

Some manufacturers don’t add additives to increase the shelf lives of their products but more important factors count for the best protein powder.

They only add minerals and vitamins to help you to meet your daily nutrient needs.

Conclusion

Today, there are more choices than ever when it comes to choosing the best protein powder for you.

Your top choice most probably is a protein shake with effective and fast muscle-building power, right?

And if you are putting in the hours in the gym, it is only natural that you are going to expect bigger and stronger muscles.

But – if you aren’t putting in the same efforts in the kitchen, you will lack enough nutrition to support your workout regime, and the effects might be less than satisfying to you.

When we talk about the right food, we are talking about protein

Protein is imperative for rebuilding and repairing damaged muscles after touch workout sessions.

And it’s not only muscles here.

Protein is required for plenty of other critical body functions.

When you eat it, you feel fuller for longer too which is brilliant if you are trying to lose weight.

It saves you from reaching for fatty and sweet snacks regularly.

If you are looking to top the recommended 1.4-2g of protein per kg of body weight per day, it’s going to take more than a chicken breast here and there

It will take much more than that. But that’s where protein powders help out here so splendidly.

So when you buy your protein powders to suit your needs, treat them well.

Keep your protein powder in a cool, dry place.

Follow the tips provided regarding looking after your protein powder.

You don’t need to panic when you see that the expiry date on your precious box of protein powder has passed.

Is your protein powder expiring soon or it has expired? Now, what must you do?

Throw it out?

No, you will be delighted to know that you can use it still for quite a few months afterward – as long as you look after it properly. 

Yes, it is safe to use it up a day after your protein powder expires – But not if the protein product, whether it’s whey or vegan, smells or tastes off.

If it has been a few months since the use-by date stamped shows, treat yourself to a fresh pack.

Then follow the storage instructions to the letter, to ensure the longevity of your protein powder.

Yes, you can get away with downing an expired protein powder drink 

This will be mostly because the powder doesn’t have any moisture in it. This will ensure that no bacteria can thrive there.

This can all change, depending on how you store your product and even after you have opened it for the first time.

If you store your powder in a cool, dry place and keep it tightly sealed, the powder will likely be safe to consume after the expiry date.

Whether or not the taste or the quality of the product has degraded is another matter, though. But still, it can be considered safe to consume.

Just use your discretion as well.

Some people will throw out stuff if it is more than a few months old.

And when the powder starts to lose its taste, which is a prime reason why some people buy a protein powder, then maybe that is a good sign that it’s time to get a new, fresh box, with fresh ingredients.

It will probably make you feel like you are making a fresh start to your training regime too.

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