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November 09, 2021 9 min read

Protein powder is by far the most popular supplement. Whether you’re a powerlifter, bodybuilder, or anything in between, it’s likely that you’ve got a few tubs of it sitting in your cupboard.

Sometimes, you might forget about them or maybe you’ve not been able to be consistent with your diet.

We get it, it happens. But now, you’re probably wondering if the protein in those old tubs is even good anymore. In this article, we’ll talk about whether or not protein expires and how long it lasts. Additionally, we’ll talk about if it’s safe to consume if it’s past its expiration date.

Protein Powder Overview

Before we directly answer your burning question, it’s important to know what protein powders are made of and how they work.

That way, you’ll understand the answer that we’ll give you. If you don’t already know, protein powder is a type of common supplement in the world of fitness.

Whey protein

It has a lot of health benefits, such as increased muscle growth, and can help you reach your daily protein goals, and can even act as a meal replacement if needed.

There are a couple of different types of protein powders that you should familiarize yourself with:

  • Whey Protein Powder: This is the most common type of protein powder that you’ll see on the shelves of supplement shops or grocery stores and are the most popular when it comes to muscle building. There are products like WHEY-PRO  which are dairy-based and contain things such as lactose and other dairy ingredients. The biggest difference between this type of protein and the other is that it digests very fast. For that reason, it’s the best protein powder to use right after or before a workout to get your muscles the necessary fuel they need for either recovery or maximum performance. 
  • Casein Protein Powder:  Much like whey protein, this is a dairy-based protein. However, there’s one key difference with this one. This type of protein digests very slowly in your system, making it a poor choice to have right before or after a workout. That being said, it can still have its uses. Some people will have a casein shake right before they go to bed to help their muscles recover while they’re resting. And, of course, you can always enjoy them at other times of the day when you’re not working out. 
  • Plant-Based Protein Powders:  These type of protein powders are, as you guessed, made out of some sort of plant. Examples include soy protein and pea protein. They’re what many vegan fitness enthusiasts use and they actually do have some benefits over the other types of protein powders we’ve mentioned. For instance, if you’re lactose intolerant, this is a great alternative. Also, these vegan protein powders are usually lower in calories. So, if you’re training for weight loss while also trying to meet your protein goals, a tub of VEG-PRO will certainly keep you on the right track.

What Else Is In Protein Powder? 

There are other nutrients in protein powders such as carbs, vitamins, minerals, amino acids and fats. This is why they can make for effective and quick meal replacements. However, you need to be careful as some protein powders do contain a lot of additives.

It’s important to make sure that your supplement doesn’t have a lot of added sugars, always be sure to check the ingredients. 

Some protein powders will actually contain have more than one protein source in them. For example, you might find that one powder actually has both whey and casein protein within them. This is done in order to change the rate at which it’s absorbed into your body or even make the protein cheaper. 

There are other additives in protein powders, such as artificial flavors or things that help to make the resulting shake thicker or creamier. It’s always important to check the ingredients of your protein powder, especially if you’re on some sort of strict diet or have restrictions due to a medical issue.

Can Protein Powder Expire? 

Now we got to the answer to your question. To keep it short and sweet: Yes, your protein powder can expire. If you haven’t checked or haven’t seen it already, your protein powder should have some sort of expiration or “best by” date stamped on it somewhere.

However, it should be known that manufacturers don’t actually have to put an expiration date or “best by” date on their products. 

So, if you can’t find the expiration date on your protein powder, how do you know if it’s gone bad or not? Well, there’s a general rule of thumb for when protein powder goes bad. Usually, these products have a lot of additives and preservatives in them to significantly increase their shelf life, or how long they’ll stay good for.

With protein powders, they have enough additives in them to keep them good for a year or more, in steady conditions. If you’re storing your powder in a hot, wet area then it probably won’t last longer than more than nine months.

Does Vegan Protein Go Bad? 

Vegan or plant-based protein powders are actually an exception to the rules when it comes to protein powders. Because these protein powders do not contain any type of dairy product it actually allows them to stay better for a longer amount of time.

Specifically, plant-based powders can actually stay good for two years.

This is because the absence of dairy makes it a lot harder for bacterial growth to show up on it. That being said, it’s already difficult for bacteria to grow on protein powder because it’s so dry.

Can You Consume Expired Protein Powder

There is a bit of a discrepancy when it comes to this. You see, the expiration date on your tub of protein powder doesn't tell you when your protein powder will become unsafe to use, but rather when the quality will start decreasing. So, it’s very likely that if you use a protein powder after that date, you’ll notice that it can be harder to mix.

It should be safe to eat at that point, but there are signs you should watch out for to tell if your protein powder really has gone bad. 

If you pop open your tub of protein powder and are greeted by a very foul smell, or notice that it’s color has changed, that’s a good indicator that it has gone bad. Other indicators are things such as a bitter taste and clumping. Sometimes, this can happen before the expiration date on the tub if it’s not properly stored. If you consume protein powder when it’s exhibiting signs of going bad, you’ll get sick.

Protein Powder Loses Protein Content As It Ages

Something that you macronutrient lovers out there might want to know is that protein powders actually lose their protein content over time.

Importantly, an amino acid known as lysine will begin to break down over time. However, without this particular amino acid in the mixture, protein shakes tend to lose effectiveness. 

That being said, it’s nothing crazy, maybe a 4-5% decrease in overall protein content. And that’s if you’re waiting a long time to use your protein supplement, like maybe a year or more. However, if you’re trying to squeeze every little gram of protein out of your protein supplement it might matter to you.

It should be noted that this effect is increased if you’re not storing your protein powder properly. 

Getting a little technical, but the process that causes this to happen is known as Maillard browning. Without getting too deep into the science, the protein that's present within the powder will actually start to react with the sugar. Even if it's only a little bit, this process will start to break down the lysine.

How To Properly Store Protein Powder

After hearing about how protein powder can god bad, you’re probably wondering what the best way to store it is. After all, you probably spent a good amount of money on all those tubs stored away in your cupboard. Luckily, storing your protein powder isn’t all that difficult to do.

The most important thing to do when storing protein powder is to always make sure that the tub or bag is closed.

Never leave the container of protein powder open as the moisture and heat from the surroundings could end up hurting the product. Even worse, there could be possible contaminants, especially if you're not storing it in a dry environment. If your protein powder comes in a bag, make sure that you do your best to squeeze all of the air out of the bag before you seal it back up. 

Beyond that, you’ll want to make sure that you store your protein powder in a cool, dry place to avoid spoilage. A pantry or cupboard is ideal, as it will make sure that your powder doesn’t encounter too much moisture or heat.

Can I Leave Protein Powder In Liquid For A While? 

Sometimes, when you’re heading to the gym and are in a bit of a rush, you forget your protein shake on the table. Or maybe you decide you want to make the shake now and then save it for later. These are two fairly common situations that happens to people. 

If you happen to leave your protein shake out somewhere warm for a while, then you shouldn’t drink it. It goes bad very easily and you’ll want to dump out the contents and wash it well. Be prepared for a smelly surprise when you open your shaker cup, though. 

Storing your protein shake for late is a different story. You can actually keep protein in a liquid if you store it somewhere cold, like in a refrigerator, but it won’t stay good for very long. You have about two days maximum to drink that protein shake before it goes bad. As always, make sure that your shaker cup is sealed or else it’ll likely go bad even quicker. 

Also, if you finish your shake and think you can just leave your cup in the car while you’re at work or somewhere else, you’re very wrong. Take it from us, leaving a dirty shaker cup in your car, especially on a hot day, is a great way to start spending a fortune on air fresheners for your car. Not only that, but you’ll likely have to throw out your entire shaker cup.

Recipes For Protein Powder

Now that you know about how protein works and what happens when it eventually does expire, you might be looking at some of your tubs and thinking that you should use them as quickly and efficiently as you can before they go bad. Well, there’s good news for you. Protein shakes are not the only way that you can make good use of your protein powder. There’s actually a lot of different foods that you can mix your protein powder into to increase their nutritional value while also making them pretty tasty. 

Pancakes made with collagen or protein powder.

  • Protein pancakes  are an excellent way to start off a morning on the weekend. All you need to do is add your protein powder to your mixing bowl along with your pancake mix and add enough water for both of them before pouring the mix onto a pan. After that, you’ll have a tasty, nutritious way to start your morning. 
  • If you’re looking for a quick meal during lunch, you can actually add protein powders to oatmeal. However, certain protein powders tend to be hard to mix into the oats and ruin the consistency. Therefore, you might want to try it on a small bowl before you feel like you’re eating dirt instead of delicious oatmeal. 
  • To add to that, we highly recommend trying out overnight oats with an added scoop of protein powder. For those of you who don’t know, overnight oats are a tasty, nutritious, and easy way to prep oatmeal for breakfast or other meals. All you need to do is soak oats in milk in a mason jar, or another air-tight container, while also adding your favorite protein powder and other healthy ingredients like fruits and some extra little things like cinnamon for added flavor. This is a great food as it will actually help to keep all of the nutrients from your oats and other ingredients, unlike regular oatmeal. 
  • Smoothies are another incredibly simple and easy way to include your protein powder in a meal or snack. All you need to do is add your favorite protein powder into your blender when you’re making one. After you blend everything together you’ll have yet another tasty, nutritious food to get you through the day.

Final Verdict

Protein powder  can indeed go bad. However, it lasts a long time due to the fact that it’s a dry powder and the additives in it. That being said, it should still be properly stored so that your protein powder doesn’t go bad sooner than expected.

Always be sure to keep your protein powder container closed and keep somewhere cool and dry. If you notice that it has developed a rancid smell, changes color, or starts tasting bad, you should throw it out or else you might get sick.