Does Protein Powder Go Bad?

I don’t know about you, but I often buy protein powder in bulk to save money. And that means that at some point I’ve had too much protein powder and I started wondering “does protein powder go bad?.” Sound familiar?

Guess what, you’re not the only one who has bought more protein powder than needed.

Maybe you’ve overestimated your needs, or added more protein to your meals and cut back on the protein shakes. Or perhaps you’ve fallen off the workout wagon for a few months, and now you want to know if your supplement supplies are still fit for consumption.

No matter which scenario you fall into, it’s important to know a thing or two about storage, shelf life, and signs of spoilage of protein powders. Read on.

Scoops of three protein powders (from left hemp seed, whey concentrate, whey isolate)
Scoops of three protein powders (from left hemp seed, whey concentrate, whey isolate)

How To Store Protein Powder

The most important rule of storing any protein powder is sealing the container tightly. Many protein powders come in big plastic jars that are easy to open and seal. If yours comes in one, you can keep the powder in it after opening. If it comes in a non-resealable package, transfer the powder to a new container after opening the package.

I keep one or two empty jars of protein powder exactly for that purpose.

Protein powder, like pretty much any other powder (e.g., flour), absorbs any moisture that it can. And if that moisture gets to it, clumps will form, and the powder will go bad if there’s enough water.

Tip

The only situation when you want your protein powder to get in contact with any liquid is when preparing your protein shake.

Chocolate-flavored protein powder
Chocolate-flavored protein powder

How Long Does Protein Powder Last?

There are many types of protein powder out there. Whey protein is probably the most popular, but there are also other popular options such as casein and egg white.

There are also some vegan options. Soy protein powder or plant-based mixes that usually have proteins extracted from pea, brown rice, and chia seeds are such.

Fortunately for us, the shelf life of every one of those is quite similar.

On every container of protein powder, you can surely find a “best by” date. This date is usually at least a year from the production date. Please note that It’s not an expiration date. It informs you for how long should the product remain at peak quality.

It’s safe to assume that protein powder should be fine for at least a few months after the date mentioned on the package.

In most cases, it will be edible (not spoiled) for a year or even more. You can easily find stories of people who used protein powder that’s old. The powder was two or three years after its date and the shakes they’ve made turned out just fine.

Protein powder and protein shake
Protein powder and protein shake

Please take into consideration one more thing. In some protein powders, there are vitamins added to make the shakes even healthier. Some of those vitamins may lose their potency over time. That means if you eat old protein powder, you won’t provide your body with all the nutrients that fresh protein powder would provide.

Once you have prepared the protein shake, it should be used within about 24 hours and stored in the fridge.

Of course, the shelf life of the prepared shake depends on many factors. Some of them are if you used water, milk, or another liquid as the liquid base for the shake, or if there are some other ingredients added.

Many athletes prepare their protein shakes before driving to the gym. They leave them in a hot car while they work out, and wonder if it’s okay to do so. There isn’t one right answer to this question. The best piece of advice I can give you in such a situation is to store the powder and liquid base separately and to combine it right before drinking the shake.

 Pantry
Protein Powder (Closed)“Best by” + 6 – 9 months
Protein Powder (Opened)“Best by” + 3 – 6 months

Please note that the dates above are approximate and protein powder should last much longer if stored well.

Smoothie with protein powder
Smoothie with protein powder (credit: Zepfanman.com)

How To Tell If Protein Powder Is Bad

You’ve found a container of protein powder that’s a few months past the date on the package, what you should do?

No rocket science here. Start with checking the looks of the powder and how does it smell. If any moisture got into the powder, there would be wet clumps or even mold, and that means you should throw it away.

Of course, the powder can form some clumps on its own, but if they are dry, you can easily break them down with your fingers or a fork. Such clumps are not harmful in any way.

When it comes to the smell, make sure it smells pretty much like it usually does. If it developed a funny, off, or sour odor, discard the powder.

Okay, we’ve established that the powder looks and smells okay. The last thing you can do is to taste its flavor. Prepare a shake using a minimal amount and give it a taste.

Even if there is something wrong with the powder, consuming such a small amount likely won’t cause any negative consequences. If the flavor turns out okay, feel free to use the powder. If the shake tastes terrible, or the flavor is not good enough for you to enjoy it, throw it away.