Protein powder is a very versatile nutritional supplement most often used for building muscle or losing weight. But even if you don’t have any dieting plans, it still has many different uses such as balance out your protein levels or simply using it as a baking substitute.
However, if you have ever seen these containers, you know that they are massive and very expensive. It seems like such a waste to toss it out once expired, but how long does it really last?
Can protein powder go bad? The short answer is yes it can. The good news is that if you store the protein powder in the correct conditions and keep it away from moisture, it can last up to 2 years! This way you have plenty of time to finish the batch without losing any money.
Continue reading to find out more about the shelf life of protein powder and how to determine it, how to correctly store it for the longest possible time and how to tell if your protein powder has gone off.
What Is Protein Powder?
For those of you who have seen these powders on the shelf but still don’t know what they are, protein powders are used as nutritional supplements.
They are mostly used by people who exercise a lot or by bodybuilders to aid them in building muscles, making enzymes and tissue repair. However, these powders can also help with weight loss when paired with the correct diet.
Protein powders can also help people whose diets or body lack in protein. Protein is an essential building block for healthy and strong bones, muscle, skin, blood and cartilage. It is also a very important component in aiding and repairing damaged tissue.
Can Protein Powder Go Bad?
If you have ever seen a protein powder container, you know that they are usually massive as well as very expensive. That is why it is important to know what you are planning to use it for.
If you want to use the protein powder on a daily bases as a meal replacement or additional supplement as part of your exercise routine, the large containers will probably be finished before you ever reach the expiry date.
However, sometimes you might not like the flavor, or you have to take a break from using it or you simply don’t need it anymore; no matter what the case might be you end up having a truck-load left.
Fear not, because although protein powders do have an expiry date, it isn’t for a couple of months.
Protein powder can go bad, but if stored correctly you can help it last as long as possible.
How Can You Determine The Shelf Life Of Protein Powder?
Every protein powder manufacturer has different compositions of ingredients to make their own unique protein powder. Most, if not all, contain preservatives like lecithin, maltodextrin or salt that considerably extends the shelf life of the powder as long as two years.
The easiest way to determine the shelf life of your specific protein powder is by checking the “best by”, “sell by” or “use by” date on the packaging.
Supplement manufacturers aren’t required to add this date to their product and that is where it gets tricky.
On average, a protein powder should last anywhere between 9 -24 months if stored correctly. See if there is a “manufactured” date on the package and simply add the average shelf life to it. Write the rough date on the container so you can remember.
After that date has been reached, before every use, look for signs that your protein powder has gone bad before using it.
How Long Does Protein Powder Last?
The shelf life of protein powder is mainly affected by oxygen and light. That is why it is important to store your protein powder correctly and at the correct temperatures (see How to Store Protein Powder below).
Protein powder should last at least 6 months after you bought it. This obviously will depend on how old the product already was (how close to the expiry date it is) before you purchased the batch.
The average container of protein powder lasts about 9 months, if of course you haven’t used it all by then.
Protein powder, due to the preserving agents added, can last up to 2 years after the manufacturing date.
Keep in mind; the warmer your storage area, the shorter the shelf life will be.
How to Store Protein Powder?
Oxidation, exposure to light and fluctuating temperatures are the three main components that aids in spoilage of produce and products, therefore, by eliminating the products’ exposure to oxygen, light and varying temperatures, you will create the perfect storage conditions for it.
The best way to store protein powder is in its original packaging. This packaging was designed specifically for the product and is therefore your best option to keep it fresh. These containers are usually large tubs that can be re-sealed or zip-seal packages.
If the packaging doesn’t allow you to reseal it, you can store it in an air-tight container that is stain and odor-free. Protein powders absorb odors very easily which will then translate into the taste once used.
The best temperature to store protein powder in is at room temperature, around 70˚F (21˚C). The best way to maintain a stable temperature is to store it in the pantry or food cupboard. Do not store the container on top of a heat source, like the refrigerator.
Also, try to keep the protein powder away from an area with high-humidity or any wet area (like underneath a sink or above the kettle on a shelf). Moisture is not a friend of protein powder and will speed up the expiry date.
To prevent light from affecting the powder, as we have already mentioned, store the container in the pantry or food cupboard. For smaller on-the-go containers, you can store them in a desk drawer.
Can You Refrigerate or Freeze Protein Powder?
It is best to avoid the refrigerator or freezer when it comes to protein powders. The constant fluctuation in temperature might cause condensation in the container which will cause the powder to clump.
We would also not recommend pre-mixing a protein shake and then refrigerating or freezing it, as the liquid will start to break down the protein into amino acids – something that should be happening inside your body. Not to mention that it will also not taste that great!
How Can You Tell If Protein Powder Has Gone Bad?
If your protein powder has reached its stamped expiry date, it is best not to use it.
If you are unsure whether or not it is safe to use, look out for any of the following signs;
- Any soy, egg or milk-based (whey) protein powders will have a funny smell. The best way to describe it is almost sour, tart or bitter smell – like rancid milk or butter.
- If you are still unsure, you can taste a tiny bit on your finger. The taste of off protein powder will also be rancid (sour, tart and bitter). Some people also describe this off-taste like that of wet cardboard.
- If your protein powder starts changing color in any way, it is a sign of the powder becoming hazardous to use. The older the powder is, the lighter (or more faded) the color of the shake becomes.
Color changes also occur when the powder has been exposed to oxygen (oxidation).
- If your protein powder starts to clump, it is another sign that it is too old. Clumping is caused by moisture getting into or forming inside of the container. Once that has happened the protein powder will go bad very quickly.
Is It OK to Use Expired Protein Powder?
Protein powders don’t contain a lot of moisture thus isn’t prone to bacterial growth, however, there are still a few reasons you shouldn’t be using expired protein powder.
The older the protein powder becomes, the more it loses its effectiveness (protein content), and so by the time it reaches its expiry date, it anyway isn’t as effective as it used to be.
As with any and all consumables, expired produce can and will make you ill.
It might seem tempting to use the expired protein powder as it was very expensive, but we wouldn’t recommend it. Rather don’t take the risk and toss it out.
Do different protein powders have different shelf lives?
As you might know, protein powders have different forms of protein as a base. Although these forms on their own might have different shelf lives, all protein powders are enhanced and stabilized using additives such as maltodextrin, lecithin and salt.
These additives are what essentially determine the shelf life of the powders.
Therefore, different protein powders will have more or less the same shelf life, around 9-24 months.
Are there any other ways to make protein powder last longer?
The best and only way to preserve protein powder is by applying the correct and optimum storage conditions. This will prevent oxidation and will extend the shelf life of the powder.