Does Protein Powder Go Bad?

expired protein powder

Protein powder is a substance commonly used by athletes and bodybuilders, or people who want to lose weight. It’s often added to smoothies or juice as a dietary supplement. Some ingredients found in protein powder include eggs, soy, and other hardy ingredients. Remember, all these things can expire.

Protein powder has a relatively long shelf life compared to the ingredients. However, it can also expire. 

Does protein powder go bad? How can you tell? How can you keep your protein powder good for the longest time? Continue reading to find the answers. 

Does Protein Powder Expire?

Protein powder can expire, but it takes a long time if it is stored properly in a dry and cool place. If stored properly, it can last up to 18 months before going bad or expiring.

The Food and Drug Administration claims that people are throwing out approximately a third of the food between the food industry and American consumers. And this is worth around $161 billion annually. The FDA insists that uncertainty over the actual meaning of dates on various food packaging labels plays a part in 20% of household food waste.[1]

In the United States, food labels don’t come with uniform descriptions, thus causing much confusion. 

Different protein powder brands might use different date labels, but you’ll probably find a “best before” date highlighted on their containers. Although utilizing a protein powder past that actual date isn’t necessarily harmful to consume, it might be of poorer quality than its original fresh state.

Several studies have been performed to gauge the protein powders’ shelf life. For instance, researchers in a particular study discovered that whey protein powder possesses a shelf life of more than a year under normal storage conditions. The scientists reported no significant changes occurred to the powder when it was stored for 19 months.[2]

In a different study, scientists concluded that whey protein’s shelf life is about 9 months when stored at 35 °C. It has at least 18 months when kept at room temperature, with 45 – 65% humidity.[3]

More Research About The Shelf Life Of Protein Powder

The most common type of protein powder is whey protein. Because of this, most studies have involved this form of powder. It is still unclear whether the recommended shelf life relates to other protein powders. That said, it’s probably the same if stored under similar conditions. 

It would not be prudent to utilize a protein powder that has much passed its expiration date. However, it is unlikely to spoil overnight when stored properly.

First, it’s worth acknowledging that it’s safe to consume expired protein. But lysine is an essential amino acid found in the protein that can break down and ultimately affect the overall quality. If this occurs, the protein might be less effective at helping muscle building.[4][5][6]

Protein powder can also have a rancid taste or go bad before its expiration date, particularly well not stored under the ideal conditions.

Dairy Science & Technology published a study that discovered that when whey protein was kept at 45 °C for at least 3 months, there was a notable increase in oxidation. Eventually, this triggered the release of compounds that brought about an unpleasant taste.[7]

Based on research, some common signs that your protein powder has already gone bad include bitter taste, an unpleasant smell, clumping, or change in color. Just like consuming spoiled foods, taking protein powder with any of these signs might make you ill, irrespective of the expiration date.[8]

How Can You Tell Whether Protein Powder Has Gone Bad and is expired?

One of the best ways to tell whether a protein powder has gone bad and is expired is to use your senses! That’s right. Common sense must always prevail. Here’s what you should look for:

The Date

Can you see use by or best before date on the product? Avoid using a product whose use-by date has expired.

The Packaging

If the product has been opened for more than 2 years, it’s likely it doesn’t offer the same nutritional value or quality as it once did. Therefore, that is something you need to be aware of. And if the packaging or the seal has been damaged, the product inside might have been affected.

The Appearance

If the powder looks clumpy or discolored, it might be that moisture has penetrated the product. It will affect the texture and might have led to bacterial growth and contamination. 

The Product’s Smell

Does the powder smell off in any way? Quite frankly, it’s wise to avoid products with a terrible smell.

The Taste

Perhaps it doesn’t taste how it should? Maybe it has a poor aftertaste or it’s overly sour? If you notice any of these signs, consider putting the shaker down and moving on.

If you don’t feel like a particular product is safe to use, don’t! As ever, always exercise caution with products that are out of date or expired. 

How Can You Store Protein and Lengthen Its Shelf Life?

Store your powder in a cool and dry environment with a temperature close to 70°F (21°C). Mostly, kitchen pantries are a safe bet.

If you put your protein powder in a room that’s generally warmer than 70°F (21°C), it may spoil or reduce your protein powder’s shelf life. Also, please keep it away from any area with moisture or high humidity. Store your powder in a dry place.

Is It Safe To Consume Expired Protein Powder?

You could consume expired protein powder if it was stored properly, in a dry, cool place and in a proper container that has a secure lid. If the powder smells okay and looks okay, then it should be fine to consume from a safety standpoint. However, some of the amino acids can degrade over time and thus, the amino acid profile can change slightly over extended periods of time.

Can you get sick from consuming old protein powder? As previously stated, the FDA doesn’t require supplement brands to add expiration dates on their particular products. However, many do anyway. It’s worth noting that these “use by” or expiration dates are usually not safety indicators. But instead, they are there to ensure quality. Although these dates can tell you how long the powder will be its best quality, they don’t necessarily tell when it will go rancid.[9]

You should note that consuming protein powder just after its expiration date is probably safe if that product has been stored correctly. That said, protein powders may lose protein content over time. So if you use a product after its actual expiration date, it may not have the best quality. As aforementioned, lysine can break down through a process referred to as the Maillard reaction.[10][11] Whenever amino acids break down, the protein powder becomes less effective.[12]