There are three macronutrient groups – fat, carbohydrate, and protein. Of these three, protein is arguably the most important. If you don’t eat enough protein, your body will start catabolizing or breaking down your muscles. Losing muscle is never a good idea and could lead to weakness, a slower metabolism, and poor recovery from exercise.
Foods like chicken, fish, beef, eggs, and dairy all contain protein, and there are plant-based protein sources too, such as nuts, beans, and seeds. However, even if you eat a lot of protein-rich foods, it’s not always easy to consume adequate amounts of this critical nutrient.
That’s where protein supplements come in. They make it much easier to meet your protein needs. Most protein supplements are powders designed to be mixed with water, meaning they can be consumed almost anywhere and anytime. Available in a wide range of flavors, protein powders are a staple supplement for many exercisers and dieters.
But, once opened, does protein powder go bad?
In this article, we discuss the shelf life of protein powder and whether it’s safe to use even if it’s past its use-by date.
Does Protein Powder Go Bad
What Is A Protein Powder?
Most supplements are designed to have a specific effect, such as pre-workouts and fat burners. Protein powder is a little different in that it’s really a sort of food. In fact, you could use protein powder as a replacement for things like eggs and meat in your diet.
Broadly speaking, a protein powder is any source of protein that’s been dried and granulated. Once added to water, these supplements make protein shakes. You can also add other ingredients to protein powder, such as bananas, peanut butter, or chia seeds, to make a protein smoothie.
Some protein powders can also be added to savory foods to increase their protein content, such as soups and stews.
Protein powders are made from a range of ingredients, and there are plant-based and animal-based protein supplements. They’re also available in a vast range of flavors, from staples like chocolate and vanilla to the more exotic, such as birthday cake, mango, and salted caramel.
In many cases, protein powders contain artificial sweeteners and flavors, but some are made from all-natural ingredients.
Different Types of Powder
There are lots of different types of protein powder. All protein supplements are made from ingredients that are naturally high in protein. Different protein powders digest at different speeds, and some are more compatible with certain diets than others. There are animal-based and plant-based protein powders, so there are protein products to suit all users.
Types of protein powder include:
- Bone Broth
- Brown rice
- Pumpkin seed
How Long Does Protein Powder Last Once Opened?
Most protein powders are sold in airtight containers such as plastic tubs or resealable bags. They’re hermetically sealed to keep them free from moisture and air. Most are also packed with a small packet of silica granules, which absorbs any moisture and prevents spoilage.
Once opened, air and moisture can affect the condition of the protein powder, causing it to form lumps. While you might have to work a little harder to blend your protein shake, these lumps won’t affect the potency of your protein shake, and most protein powders remain usable for 12-18 months after opening.
Keep your protein powder in optimal condition by storing it in a cool, dry place and away from strong odors. Also, make sure you put the lid back on the tub correctly and squeeze any excess air out of bags before resealing them.
Protein powders also have “best before” and expiry dates, indicating when they should be used by. This is often referred to as a product’s shelf life. This date is determined by the ingredients and the packaging and is specified by the manufacturer in accordance with food manufacturing regulations.
Most protein powders have an expiry date of 12-18 months after they were manufactured. More natural products, such as pure, unflavored collagen protein powder, tend to have a shorter shelf life. Products made with lots of artificial ingredients and preservatives usually have a longer shelf life.
Can You Still Use Expired Protein Powder?
Providing you store your protein powder properly, you may be able to use it even if it’s past its expiry date. This is especially true if the container is unopened. After all, it’s contact with air and moisture that affects the viability of protein powder.
Before using an out-of-date protein powder, smell it to make sure it hasn’t gone off. If it smells unpleasant, it’s probably not safe for consumption. The powder should also be a uniform color, and any clumps should break up easily. If it looks and smells okay, make a small serving and sip it. If it tastes okay, it’s probably safe to consume.
However, if your protein powder smells or tastes wrong, you should throw it away. Also, if you have any adverse effects after drinking your out-of-date protein powder, such as stomach upsets, bloating, diarrhea, etc., you should stop using it and throw it away.
Interestingly, the main problem with out-of-date protein powder is not food safety but product potency. Expired protein powders start to lose some of their protein content. In studies, protein powders past their use-by date had around 5% less active amino acids than newer products.
Can Old Protein Powder Make You Sick?
Protein powders are essentially a type of food, and like all foods, they can go off. Consuming any food that’s past its best can make you sick. An out-of-date protein powder could cause food poisoning, the symptoms of which are:
- Watery or bloody diarrhea
- Abdominal pain and cramps
Most cases of food poisoning are caused by bacteria, such as e-coli, listeria, and salmonella. While unpleasant, food poisoning is rarely fatal. However, in the very young and very old and people with underlying medical conditions, it can be very serious. Consult your doctor if you think you have food poisoning.
Protein powder is a staple supplement. Using protein powder makes it much easier to hit your daily protein quotient. Protein powders are convenient to use and are also cost-effective, especially if you buy a large tub or bag. They taste pretty good too.
However, it’s those super-sized bargain purchases that are most likely to last beyond their expiry dates. After all, if you only have a 50-gram shake a day, that five-kilo bag could last several months!
Keeping your protein powder in a sealed container and in a cool, dark place away from strong odors will ensure it stays viable for longer. You should also check out older protein powders to make sure they’re still safe to use. If it looks, smells, or tastes off, you should bin it.
Manufacturers often sell off protein powders that are close to their use-by date at a reduced price. That’s good if you get through a lot of it and expect to use it quickly. But, if you don’t use a lot of protein powder, you could end up with a product that could potentially do you more harm than good. At best, you’ll just end up throwing it away. At worst, it could make you sick.
Avoid all these issues by buying small tubs of protein powder, storing them correctly, and using the product by or close to its best-before date. After all, if you aren’t using protein powder regularly, it probably won’t do you much good anyway.