Curious (or bored) as you blend your protein shake, you decide to read the expiration date listed on the supplement tub. Uh oh. It’s like more than two weeks old—at least according to the “use by” date.
This expired protein powder you just frothed into a delicious, muscle-building shake—do you now drink it or toss it?And, if make the daring decision to dump some expired protein powder into your workout shake, could the supplement make you sick?
Even more questions: Is protein powder like milk, where you can do a quick sniff-test to determine its likely effect on your gastrointestinal interworkings? It is made from milk ... right?
These are the (somewhat) eternal questions. And your quest for answers—or at least reassurance—is understood. You have, after all, paid kindly for your powdered muscle fuel, but you don't want to pay for protein powder by coming down with some kind of weird stomach thing.
And you also don’t want to consume protein powder that has lost its ability to do what you bought it to do: build more muscle and forge greater strength.
So if you’re looking for the short answer, it’s that protein powders don’t spoil the way meat or dairy does. Meaning that—unless something has gone seriously wrong—you won't open your old tub of protein powder to find mold, bacterial growth, or a baby Graboid from Tremors.
But if the protein powder you’re using is made from animal protein, how is this lack of spoilage possible?
Does the Expiration Date on Protein Powder Matter?
Not really. That's because a dry environment within the jug makes it nearly impossible for microbes to grow within the powder, says Bob Roberts, Ph.D., a professor of food science at Penn State University.
Same goes for plant-based protein powders too.
So unless you’re storing your canisters in a warm, humid place (like the bathroom or your gym locker), you’re likely not going to get yourself sick.
That said, there are a few other things to consider.
What Happens to Protein Powder After It Expires?
As for the muscle-building mojo of protein powder, it does diminish after the use-by date has passed.
You can blame a chemical reaction called Maillard browning: The protein reacts with sugar left over from when the manufacturers extracted the whey from the milk, resulting in a gradual breakdown of the amino acid lysine.
“If you lose lysine, then the powder will not be as complete of a protein,” says Roberts.
That means less muscle-building power for your powder.
Is There a Way to Check if Protein Powder Goes Bad?
Only a day or two past the expiration date? Put a bit of it on your tongue. Another telltale sign of Maillard browning is a fade in flavor, says Roberts. If you taste cardboard, toss the protein powder.
And your protein powder has always tasted like cardboard, then no wonder the stuff sat around for so long.
Maybe it’s time to go shopping for a new brand. May we suggest a few?
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