As with all consumable products, protein powder has a shelf life. Its expiration is determined by a number of factors, including what type of protein it is, whether the powder has been opened or not and whether it’s been stored correctly.
No one wants to consume a product that’s gone off, and that’s why there is so much research and testing involved in product development to ensure that expiration dates and shelf life are as accurate as possible. This ensures that you are getting the best out of your product, and when that product is designed to complement your health and wellbeing routines, you want to make sure that it’s going to do its job!
Below, we’ll explore how long your protein powder lasts, and how expired protein can be less effective, along with tips for how to get the most out of your protein!
How long does protein powder last?
One of the important things to recognise is the difference between ‘use by’ and ‘best before’ dates. Use by dates are the limit at when a manufacturer states a food product should not be consumed due to potential bacterial contamination or spoiling. Best before dates give an indication that the product is still considered safe to eat after that date has passed, but the product might not be at its best and, in the case of protein powder, may have lost some of its nutritional value. When you’re assessing your protein powder make sure you check what kind of date is on the package first! Most protein powders have a shelf life of around 6-12 months, but this may be reduced if the ingredients in the powder are from more natural sources.
The longer the shelf life of a protein product, the more artificial ingredients and preservatives it is likely to have. Ingredients such as maltodextrin are often used in protein powders to expand their shelf life and preserve taste and texture for longer.
With as many natural ingredients being used as possible to fill Vivo Life’s pouches, the shelf life might be a little shorter. But that’s because there’s no fillers or artificial ingredients in there! However, with plant-based protein, the lack of animal products means the risk of spoiling is lessened.
The consensus is that unopened protein powder is likely to expire two years after the best before date, and less if the package has been opened. It’s always recommended to follow the manufacturer’s guidelines on usage.
Why does protein powder expire?
So, does protein powder go off? Like any foodstuff, protein powders aren’t immune to degrading over time and in some cases can go bad after the expiration date. Moisture entering the dry product can introduce bacteria and microbes which can cause contamination of the powder.
There is also a chemical procedure called the Maillard reaction or Maillard browning which occurs when the amino acids in the protein powder react with sugars in the product. This reduces the effectiveness of certain ingredients, such as the amino acid lysine, which affects the overall protein content of the powder. This is more common in whey protein powders which often contain added sugars.
Is it dangerous to consume expired protein powder?
One of the best things about protein powder is that it’s dry, so as long as it’s been stored sensibly and sealed correctly, then expired protein powder is unlikely to cause you any damage - especially if that powder is plant-based. This is due to the lack of animal-based sugars, which can speed up the Maillard reaction, and can introduce bacterial contamination and spoilage into the product when those sugars start to break down.
However, it’s always good to exercise some caution if you’re returning to the protein shakes after a break, and make sure you check before you chug!
How can you tell if protein powder has gone bad?
The best way to tell if a protein powder has gone off is to use your senses! Here’s what to look for, and remember that common sense should always prevail – and if you’re not sure, don’t risk it!
- The Date – Is there a best before or use by date on the product? It is not recommended to use a product with an expired use by date.
- The Packaging - If that protein has been opened for longer than two years, it’s unlikely to have the same nutritional value as it once did, so that it something to be aware of. Similarly, if the seal or the packaging is damaged, then the product inside may have been affected.
- The Look – If the powder looks discoloured or clumpy, it may be that moisture has gotten into the product, which will affect texture, and may have caused bacterial contamination.
- The Smell – If the product smells ‘off’ to you in any way, then it is probably best not to try it.
- The Taste – If nothing appears to be wrong in steps 1-4, make some up and give it a look over – if it doesn’t taste the way it should, if it’s overly sour or has a poor aftertaste, then it might be best to put the shaker down and step away.
If you don’t feel like something is safe to use, then don’t and, as ever, exercise caution with anything that’s out of date.
What can you do with expired protein powder?
Don’t throw away your out-of-date protein powders! So much of what we buy to consume is wasted and ends up in landfill when it’s not necessary.
One of the best things you can do with your expired protein powders is use it as an alternative to plant food and give your plant babies a boost of essential vitamins and minerals, without the added chemicals of traditional plant food.
Expired protein powders can also be composted, but make sure you double check the ingredients first!
Some tips for using your protein powder in a timely fashion:
No one likes waste, so here are some ideas for preventing protein powder waste:
Use it in baking and cooking. There are loads of recipes for incorporating protein into your meal plans and baking (you can find plenty over on our vegan recipe pages). Plus, making a tray of flapjacks or muffins with added protein will make you the family favourite at parties, whilst keeping it healthier! Our RITUAL vegan protein powder works fantastically in a range of different dishes, from pancakes to smoothies.
Try out a smaller pouch first to make sure you like the flavour and the results: Vivo Life offers smaller (532g) pouches of PERFORM vegan protein powder with BCAAs in 6 flavours, so if you’re an intermittent protein user, or just getting used to the protein routine, then this might be for you. It’s also a great way to try new flavours, like the Strawberry and Vanilla!
Use a subscription service where you can change the delivery dates if you’re not using your powder before the next one arrives to prevent a backlog.
Above all, enjoy your protein!
Does protein powder expire? https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/does-protein-powder-expire
Does vegan protein powder expire? https://vegfaqs.com/does-vegan-protein-powder-expire/
Best before and use-by dates: https://www.food.gov.uk/safety-hygiene/best-before-and-use-by-dates
Control of Maillard Reactions in Foods: Strategies and Chemical Mechanisms: https://pubs.acs.org/doi/10.1021/acs.jafc.7b00882
Effect of Maillard Browning Reaction on Nutritional Quality of Protein: https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-1-4757-9113-6_22