Come across an old tub of protein powder in the back of your pantry and wonder, "hmm, does protein powder expire?"
Yes, it does, but the real questions are...
Does protein powder go bad? Should you trust the expiration date? Can you still use expired protein powder?
Yes and no.
This article discusses how long protein powders last and tips to increase the shelf life of your protein powder.
PROTEIN POWDER AND SHELF-LIFE
Protein is an integral part of life. Whether you're animal-based, plant-based, or a mix of both, we all need protein, but sometimes it can be tough to get your adequate supply.
Here's where protein powders come in...
Protein powder provides a convenient source of protein to supplement dietary intake as well as support training regimes, increase muscle mass, improve recovery, and more.
Studies show that protein powder can help:
- Increase fat loss while maintaining lean muscle mass
- Build muscle mass and improve athletic performance
- Increase strength and power output
- Suppress your appetite
- Promote healthy blood sugar levels and blood pressure control
Whey protein is a common choice, but individuals can choose from plant-based protein powders as well.
Here's a list of common protein powder sources:
- Whey Protein
- Collagen Protein
- Casein Protein
- Egg White Protein
- Pea Protein
- Brown Rice Protein
- Soy Protein
- Hemp Protein
Before we discuss the typical shelf life of protein powder, let's first define the term.
Shelf life refers to the amount of time a product can be stored and remain suitable for use.
Research suggests that most protein powders have a shelf life of 9 months to 2 years from the date of manufacture. But this can vary based on the number of additives present, the quality and type of protein used, and storage conditions.
DOES PROTEIN POWDER EXPIRE?
So, can protein powder go bad? Absolutely.
The Food and Drug Administration does not mandate that manufacturers include an expiration date on protein powders and other dietary supplements. However, most companies voluntarily provide an expiration date or a suggested "use by" date as well as a manufacturing date.
As mentioned earlier, the type of protein used in the protein powder affects how long the protein powder lasts.
Let's take a look at a few popular types of protein powder and their average shelf life.
WHEY PROTEIN POWDER
Whey protein is the protein from whey, the liquid portion of milk that separates from the curds during cheese production. It contains all nine essential amino acids, making it a high-quality source of complete protein.
Whey protein powders are often used for muscle recovery after training because they are highly digestible and absorbed much quicker than other types of protein.
Many suppliers report a shelf-life of 12 months for whey protein. However, research shows that it lasts much longer when stored properly.
For example, one study found that whey protein lasts up to 19 months when stored under normal storage conditions — defined as 70°F and 35% humidity.
Another study found that whey concentrate protein powder has a shelf life of at least 18 months when stored at 70°F and 45-65% humidity. In contrast, the protein powder stored at 95°F had a shelf life of just 9 months.
Most protein powders on the market today also contain additives like maltodextrin, sodium, and lecithin, which can extend their shelf life by up to 2 years.
CASEIN PROTEIN POWDER
Like whey, casein protein is a complete protein derived from milk. It is made by draining whey and drying the remaining milk curds into a fine powder. Casein constitutes about 80% milk protein, while the remaining 20% is whey.
Casein takes longer to digest than whey protein and is often consumed before bed to help reduce muscle breakdown overnight and support recovery. Casein protein powder has a shelf life of 12 months to 2 years.
PEA PROTEIN POWDER
Pea protein powder is made by extracting protein from yellow split peas. As a plant-based protein, pea protein does not contain milk or dairy. This reduces the risk of bacterial growth and spoiling.
While research is limited on the shelf-life of pea protein and other plant-based protein powders, they generally last longer than whey and casein protein powders. You can expect pea protein powder to have a shelf life of around 2 years.
RICE PROTEIN POWDER
Rice protein powder is a plant-based protein powder made from grinding rice grains into a fine powder and treating it with enzymes to separate the starch from the protein.
Shelf-life studies performed on rice protein concentrate suggest that it has a 24-month shelf life in unopened containers stored at temperatures below 80°F.
COLLAGEN PEPTIDES POWDER
Collagen peptides, also known as hydrolyzed collagen, are made by extracting collagen from the hide, bone, and connective tissue of animals such as cows, chickens, fish, and eggshell membranes.
Since collagen peptides are an animal-based protein powder, you can expect them to have a shelf-life similar to whey protein powder, 12 months, when stored under cool, dry conditions.
Food labels such as “sell by,” “use by,” “best by,” and “MFG date” have been confused for expiration dates on dietary supplements and foods for years.
While these labels do not necessarily indicate that the safety of your protein powder declines after that date, it is helpful to understand the terms.
SELL BY: A "sell-by" date tells the store selling the product how long it should be displayed for sale before quality deteriorates. Items are typically safe to consume after this date but may have a slightly altered taste or appearance.
USE BY: A “use-by” date is the last date that a product will be at optimal quality. It is only considered to be a safety date on infant formula.
BEST BY: A "best if used by'' date indicates when a food will be at its best flavor and quality. It is not a safety date. You’ll likely find “best by” dates on eggs, meat, and chicken.
MFG DATE: Also known as manufacture date, MFG date indicates the date a product was produced.
IS IT SAFE TO CONSUME EXPIRED PROTEIN POWDER?
It depends just how old that protein powder power is!
In most cases, it is safe to consume protein powder a few months after its date of expiration as long as you've kept it in a dry, cool environment. *Keyword, months, not years and years.
And of course, this only applies if it does not show any signs that it has gone bad (more on that later).
This is because protein powders are dry, low-moisture products, which means they are less prone to bacterial growth and spoilage.
If protein powder is stored in humid or warm conditions, the product may go bad long before the expiration date. This is especially true for dairy-based proteins like whey and casein because the milk proteins experience physical and chemical changes when exposed to high heat and humidity.
One study on whey protein concentrate found that storing it at very high temperatures — 113°F for 15 weeks — led to a significant increase in oxidation in the product. This caused the protein powder to become damaged, leading to undesirable taste changes.
Furthermore, as time goes on, the protein powder's amino acid content can diminish, resulting in a less complete protein.
COMMON SIGNS YOUR PROTEIN WENT BAD
If you have doubts about your protein powder, it's best to ditch it.
Consuming bad protein powder can make you sick and cause you to experience a fever, diarrhea, or vomiting.
Signs of bad protein powder include:
- Smells like funk.
- Changes in color.
- Appearance of mold.
- Texture changes, such as clumping.
- Taste bitter.
TIPS TO KEEP PROTEIN FRESH
The BEST way to get the most out of your protein powder and not worry about its expiration date is to USE IT.
Kills two birds with one stone by adding a scoop of protein powder to your morning coffee.
If you prioritize your protein and take one shake a day, you'll be able to use your jar up in a month and not have to worry about it going to waste.
The second best way to take care of it is by storing it properly...
- Store your protein powder in a temperature and humidity-controlled room at around 70°F or 21°C. The humidity in the room should be less than 65%.
- Do not store your protein powder in the freezer or refrigerator, as it may produce condensation, which can cause it to spoil.
- Keep the lid and seal on your protein powder until you are ready to use it.
- Only purchase a quantity of protein that you can realistically consume within a few months.
- Always check the manufacturing date on the protein powder to ensure you are getting the freshest protein powder possible.
Protein supplements are a staple for many people. If you don’t store protein powder properly, it may only last up to 9 months. However, if you store your protein powder in optimal conditions, you can expect it to last up to 2 years.
Making a protein shake a few months after your protein powder expires is unlikely to cause any significant harm.
If it's wayyyyy past the expiry date, looks like shit, and smells like shit, don't try to find out if it tastes like shit, cause it will probably give you the shits.
Like that repetition?
Bottom line, use some common sense. If it looks and smells sour, toss it and get a knew one.
We know a good one ; )