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protein powder last: Hands holding scoop of whey protein and shaker with copy space healthy life

How Long Does Protein Powder Last? 

Convenient, versatile, and nutrient-dense, protein powder is something nearly everyone from bodybuilders to busy moms has on hand. The thing is, many protein powders are sold in tubs that contain an impressive 30 to 90 servings, making it common for people to have product that’s been sitting around for more than a minute. This begs the question: How long does protein powder last? Read on to learn all about protein powder longevity and best practices. 

Does Protein Powder Expire? 

Simply put, protein powder does go bad. When a protein has expired, it becomes moldy, clumpy, discolored, and may even begin to stink, says registered dietitian Jenna Stangland, M.S., R.D.N., C.C.S.D., cofounder of A4 Health and performance dietitian for the Minnesota Wild. At this point, it’s no longer safe to eat.

“Protein powders generally have a shelf life between nine and 18 months,” says dietitian and exercise physiologist Jim White, R.D.N., owner of Jim White Fitness & Nutrition Studios. Exactly where within that range the powder goes bad, though, depends on a variety of factors, including the number of ingredients, additives, emulsifiers, and preservatives, as well as the protein source, he says. The presence or absence of preservatives like salt and nitrites is the biggest determinant of a protein’s longevity. In addition, protein powders made from dairy derivatives (like whey or casein) are likely to spoil before plant-based protein products (like pea or soy) because they generally have greater moisture content, White explains.

Worth noting: While protein powder most certainly goes bad eventually, not all containers will have an expiration date stamped on them, according to White. Outside of infant formula, there is no federal requirement that foods be labeled with expiration information. 

Twenty or so states require some foods to be dated, but the laws vary from state to state—and typically apply to dairy products, pre-packaged perishable foods, and/or meats. Protein powders derived from dairy (whey and casein) or from animal derivatives (like collagen) may be more likely to have an expiration date. 

What of the ‘best by’ date you might see on a tub of protein, then? It’s typically a courtesy the brand extends to customers and serves as a useful guideline for when the product may stop being optimally flavorful. It’s not a legally required marking and doesn’t speak to the product’s safety or nutritional value, as expiration and ‘sell by’ dates do.

What Happens If You Consume Expired Protein Powder? 

Eat spoiled meat or rotten eggs, and you can bet your body will retaliate. And while downing a protein powder that’s past its ‘best by’ date might not be a big deal, consuming protein that’s clearly expired (think rancid odor, uneven texture, or a strange taste) may cost you, according to White. You see, texture, taste, visual, and scent changes typically suggest that the powder has gone moldy, and “consuming mold, bacterial growths, and contaminants can put you at risk for foodborne illness,” White explains. 

But even if the protein powder that’s been hiding in your pantry for the past year isn’t showing obvious signs of having gone bad, your health and fitness goals may be better served by opening a fresh container. “The protein content in protein powder naturally degrades over time,” says White. So, “your protein power may have lost some of its nutritional value relative to when it was first purchased.” That means that grams of protein per serving listed on the nutritional label may be higher than how much protein you’ll get per scoop or serving past that expiration or best-by date, says Stangland. “This then means that your protein powder will not support muscle repair as effectively,” she notes. Not ideal for anyone whose fitness or health goals require that they recover properly and/or pack in a certain amount of protein each day. 

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“The degree to which a protein powder’s nutrition degrades over time depends on whether preservatives were added to the supplement,” says White. Generally, the more preservatives a tub has, the longer the listed protein content will remain the actual protein content. Common preservatives include sugar, salt, nitrites, citric or ascorbic acid, sodium benzoate, calcium propionate, and potassium sorbate, he shares. Others include lecithin, maltodextrin, vitamin E (in the form of tocopherol), and sunflower oil.

How To Tell If Protein Powder Is Expired 

You shouldn’t rely on the presence of an ‘expiration’ or ‘best by’ date alone to clue you in on whether or not your powder should be chucked; you should also do a sight, sniff, and taste test, according to White. 

“If the protein powder looks clumpy or has an inconsistent texture in the tub, that’s a sign that it may be spoiled,” he says.  Clumping suggests that moisture has gotten into the tub, which increases the risk of mold and bacterial growth. In some cases, the clumps are actual bits of mold itself, which you definitely do not want to consume, he says. 

“Any displeasing aroma when you open the tub is also a sign that the powder has likely expired and isn’t worth tasting,” says White. And if the powder looks and smells normal but tastes off? Trash it, he says. After all, you probably wouldn’t drink milk that tastes spoiled even if the expiration date hasn’t yet passed. 

Where And How To Store Your Protein Powder To Help It Last

If your protein powder tub has a ‘best by’ date on it, know that how and where you store it can influence whether the contents last longer or go bad sooner than that. 

Storing your powders in an airtight container that you keep in a cool, dark, dry environment is essential for maximizing shelf life and nutritional value, says White. Moisture, heat, and light can all cause a chemical reaction to cause oxidation, which can lead to premature food spoilage, he says. 

“Moisture in and around the container also increases the potential risk of mold developing and making the powder go rancid,” he says. That means it’s essential that whatever scooper you use to dispense the supplement into your shaker bottle (or other container) be dry each and every time you dip it into the mound of powder. 

These days, most protein powders come in dark, light-blocking tubs. But if for whatever reason, yours did not, Stangland suggests transferring it. “Protein powders stored in clear plastic can expire faster,” she explains. So, transferring any protein powder packaged in a bag or clear tub into a dark, glass container will help it last longer. 

Read More: 3 Common Habits That Undermine Muscle Building

Assuming you have space in your freezer, White suggests storing your protein powder there to help support the preservation and longevity of the supplement—especially if you don’t have protein powder every day and thus take a while to work through a container. An important tip, though: As soon as you’re done scooping out a portion, return your protein to the freezer immediately. “Taking the protein powder in and out of the fridge or freezer can cause drastic temperature changes and could lead to bacteria growth, moisture trapping, or generally a quicker degradation of the protein,” says Stangland. 

Another alternative is to keep the powder in a cabinet that is not above or beside an oven, microwave, or other heat source, says Stangland. While it’s common for people to store protein powder on top of the fridge, she recommends against that, as refrigerators release heat and humidity that can shorten your tub’s lifespan. 

If these storage options aren’t doable given your space, consider investing in single-serving protein powder packets (like these Ancient Nutrition Multi Collagen Protein or BodyTech Whey Tech Pro 24 Whey Protein Powder options), which are wrapped individually and thus may last longer. 

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