Do protein powders expire? A dietician weighs

Understanding shelf life and storage guidelines

Getty Images / Djavan Rodriguez

Getty Images / Djavan Rodriguez

Medically reviewed by Jonathan Valdez, RDN, CDCES, CPT

Scoop, blend, and drink protein powder is a convenient way to meet your protein needs. Whether it’s for muscle recovery, weight management, or general nutrition, these powders have become a staple in many kitchens across the U.S.

But like any food, protein powders don’t last forever. What if you’re about to mix up your post-workout shake and realize your giant container of protein powder is past its expiration date? Is it safe to use or do you throw it away? Depends.

This article addresses protein powder expiration dates, why they matter, the factors affecting the shelf life of your protein power, and how you can keep your dietary supplement fresh, effective, and safe to use beyond that. the expiration date.

Related: The best protein powders for women

Do protein powders expire?

While they’re generally shelf-stable, protein powders don’t last forever. It’s not so much that the dietary supplement expires, but that the quality of the product degrades over time, including its nutritional quality. If you examine your container of protein powder, you’ll find an expiration date. Or, more commonly, a date labeled: Best before.

There are no set criteria for how food manufacturers label their food products. They may use different phrases such as expiration date, expiration date or expiration date on the label. As a consumer, it is important to know that the date on the food product, regardless of the phrase used by the manufacturer, is an indicator of the quality of the food, not necessarily of its safety.

The expiration date on your Protein Power container lets you know how long your supplement retains its best taste and nutrition. These dates are not required by law and it is up to you to decide if it is safe to consume the product after the expiration date.

Take away

Note that while it may be safe to consume protein powder past its expiration date, we generally recommend discarding protein after this date for better nutrition and taste.

Understanding shelf life factors

As a shelf-stable food, it is safe to store protein powder at room temperature (unless otherwise noted). There is no set storage time for protein powders, and expiration dates are set by the product manufacturer. In general, long-life foods have a shelf life of six to 24 months. You may find expiration dates on your container of protein powder that fall within this time frame.

There are many variables that affect the shelf life of your protein powder, including the type of protein, added ingredients, and packaging. For example, milk protein powders such as whey protein may not last as long as plant-based vegan proteins.

Factors affecting the shelf life of protein powders

  • Time

  • Type of protein

  • Ingredients (i.e. contains stabilizing ingredients, such as lecithin and maltodextrin)

  • An opaque, tightly closed container is optimal

  • Heat

  • Light

  • Humidity

Manufacturers can add stabilizing ingredients like lecithin and maltodextrin to extend the shelf life of their protein powder. Manufacturers also package your dietary supplement in opaque containers with lids to protect it from light, heat, and moisture.

However, time is the most important factor affecting the quality of your protein powder. Over time, the proteins and nutrients in your supplement degrade, decreasing its nutritional quality and changing its flavor.

Related: The best whey protein powders, tested and reviewed

Decoding of expiration dates

Expiration dates are a leading cause of food waste in the United States. You can throw away food if it has passed its expiration date. That’s why the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) encourages food manufacturers to use the expiration phrase instead of an expiration date.

It is generally safe to consume foods and nutritional supplements such as protein powders past their expiration date as long as the item is stored properly and shows no signs of degradation, such as a strange odor or color change. Read the label of your protein powder to find out how to store the supplement correctly so that it retains its nutritional quality and taste for as long as possible.

Storage guidelines for extended freshness

Heat, humidity and light are detrimental to the quality of your protein powder. You should store your protein powder in a cool, dry, dark place to maximize freshness and prolong use.

Research shows that most protein powders keep well at room temperature or no higher than about 85 degrees Fahrenheit. Keep the lid on tightly to protect your supplement from moisture and light.

Signs of deterioration or degradation

There are a few signs to look out for beyond the expiration date that may indicate your protein powder isn’t safe to use. Any change in color, smell, or texture is a sign that your protein powder has gone bad. The powder may look darker than when you first opened it, or it may smell rancid. You may also notice that it doesn’t mix as well as it used to.

The spoilage and degradation of protein powder occurs due to chemical reactions between the elements in the powder. Maillard browning is a chemical reaction that occurs when proteins react with carbohydrates in the powder. This reaction breaks down the protein in the powder, so it’s no longer a high-quality protein supplement, meaning it no longer has all the essential amino acids.

When exposed to heat, light, or moisture, any fat in the protein powder becomes unstable, causing it to spin and go rancid. If your protein powder shows signs of degrading, it’s time to throw the container away.

Maximize the freshness of your protein powder

Keeping protein powder in a cool, dark place can prolong its freshness. So instead of keeping the container on top of the fridge (which can be hot and humid), put it in the cupboard.

You also need to make sure the spoon is dry before putting it back in the container and that the lid is tightly closed after each use. You may also consider transferring your protein powder to an airtight container to maintain its freshness.

If protein powder isn’t a regular part of your daily routine, consider using protein powder packets in individual servings. While single-packed protein can be a little expensive (and not great for the environment), it could save you money in the long run if you end up throwing away half your large container of protein powder because of deterioration,

Safety precautions and quality assurance

For safety and quality, buy powders made by reputable companies. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not regulate dietary supplements the way drugs or food do, and it is up to the manufacturer to follow good manufacturing practices (GMP).

Look for products that carry a seal of quality assurance from independent supplement testing groups such as or NSF International. Also, check the expiration date on your protein powder before you buy it, and follow the recommended storage guidelines so your powder remains safe and effective. And always check your protein powder for signs of spoilage before using it.

Related: 8 Creative Ways to Use Protein Powder

Protein powder is a supplement, but you still need to treat it like a food. Check the expiration date and store the container in a cool, dry place so you get the most for your money. It is safe to consume your protein powder after its expiration date unless it shows signs of spoilage such as rancidity.

However, even if your protein powder shows no sign of spoilage after its expiration date, its nutritional quality may still be compromised. When incorporating protein powders into your meal plan, it’s always a good idea to prioritize safety, quality, and freshness so you get what you expect without compromising on nutrition or health.

Related: Is it safe to take expired vitamins?

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