Does Protein Powder Expire? Here’s What You Need to Know

Protein powder and some barbell plates

Does Protein Powder Expire? Here’s What You Need to Know

If you want to build or maintain muscle mass — or simply want to keep up your energy for the day — there’s a good chance you’ve bought a tub of protein powder. And unless you use it very regularly, it’s probably been sitting there for a while. In which case, you might be wondering: Does protein powder expire?

We’ll answer that question and also review what protein powder does for you. We’ll explain how to tell if you can still use it and how to store it correctly in the first place to make sure you’re getting the most for your money.

Why Use Protein Powder?

Protein is one of the three macronutrients we all need for optimal health and wellness — the others being carbs and fats.

Protein gives your body the essential amino acids it needs to build muscle, as well as your bones, organs, skin, cells, and other essential parts of your body. It also gives you energy, helps to stabilize blood sugar and blood pressure, and can even help with weight loss, as it keeps you feeling full for longer. 

You can get some of that muscle-building protein from the food you eat, but if you’re an athlete or bodybuilder, someone who’s extremely active during the day, or an older adult who wants to maintain muscle mass, you need more protein than others. In these cases, you may not be able to get enough from food, and protein powder supplements can help.

Protein powder is extremely convenient as it can be added to protein shakes or smoothies for a quick boost during the day or to more substantial meals like oatmeal, soups, or stews.

There are many types of protein powder available. Some of these are animal-based, like collagen, casein protein, egg white protein, or whey protein powder. Others are plant proteins, like rice, hemp, or pea protein.

For both animal-based and vegan protein powders, the question remains: Does protein powder expire?

Important note: If you have a health condition of any kind, make sure you consult a nutritionist or other medical professional before adding supplements to your daily routine.

How Long Does Protein Powder Last?

Woman drinking protein shake from her tumbler

When does protein powder expire? It’s difficult to answer the question without knowing specifics.

Protein powder is a fairly dry product, so it doesn’t expire in the same way as other food products, such as fish, meat, fruit, or vegetables. Still, it’s sensitive to similar factors — it doesn’t do too well in hot or moist conditions, which tend to stimulate bacterial growth. The shelf-life of protein powder also depends on what’s been added to it.

Preservatives like carrageenan, soy lecithin, or sodium benzoate are common additives to protein powders and can extend the shelf-life of protein powder up to about two years. Depending on the ingredients and the conditions it’s kept in, protein powder can last anywhere between 9 and 18 months.

When Does Protein Powder Expire?

As a supplement, protein powder is regulated differently than other food products and drugs.

Although the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) doesn’t require an expiration date on the label, many protein powders have at least one date stamped on them to help you understand when your protein powder does expire. 

You may see any combination of these date labels:

Sell-by date: This tells retailers when the product must either be sold or removed from the shelf. You can certainly use it after this date, but if it’s sold much longer after that, most customers probably won’t be able to use it up in time.

Best by date: Up until this date, the product is at its best in terms of quality, and it should be safe to use.

Use by (or expiration) date: This is the date after which the quality, safety, and effectiveness start to decline. There may be changes in the taste and color of the protein powder.

What If Your Protein Powder Has Passed Its Expiration Date?

Does protein powder expire: banana with chocolate shake

If your protein powder does expire, you may still be able to use it for a few weeks or months afterward. But as we’ve mentioned, it probably won’t do its job as well as it should. One constituent you’ll definitely lose out on — due to a chemical reaction called Maillard browning — is the amino acid lysine, which protects your bones. The loss of lysine also means that your powder won’t be as complete a protein as it was.

Expired Protein Powder: When Protein Powder Goes Bad

While protein and carbohydrates are less likely to go bad, protein powders — particularly animal-based products — do contain some fat, which is more unstable and can go rancid. As such, protein powder does expire eventually.

If you notice any of these signs of spoilage in your container of protein powder (whether it’s past the official expiration date or not), it’s probably best to throw it out:

  • A rancid smell when you open the lid
  • Clumping of the powder, which often indicates mold growth
  • A bitter taste in the smoothie you make from it

If you decide to go ahead and use it anyway, you may experience some side effects like nausea or an upset stomach. They may not be life-threatening symptoms, but they’re certainly unpleasant. Instead, invest in a new tub of protein powder that you know will give you all the benefits you’re looking for.

How to Store Protein Powder to Extend the Shelf Life

Does protein powder expire: person holding a spoonful of protein powder

Let’s start with an important point here. Make sure you get the best protein powder you can afford.

Look for a high-quality brand that’s been proven to be highly bioavailable, like Ingredient Optimized ioWhey Protein, ioPea Protein, or ioCollagen. These can be found in our partner products:

Ingredient Optimized products promote increased muscle mass, strength, and recovery, helping you to optimize your workouts.

Extend the shelf life of your Ingredient Optimized (or any other) protein powders by following these tips:

  • Store your protein powder in an opaque, air-tight container.
  • Don’t open it before you need it, and don’t decant it.
  • Make sure you close the lid properly when you’ve used it.
  • Keep it in a cool, dry place (not in your bathroom or on top of your refrigerator). A dry environment helps prevent bacterial growth.
  • Make sure you use a dry scoop to measure out your protein. Adding any moisture increases the chances of bacterial growth.

Does Protein Powder Expire?

Protein powder helps to build and maintain muscle and is also involved in many other functions in the body. It often comes in large containers and takes some time to use up, which leads us to the question: Does protein powder expire?

The short answer is yes — but not the moment the “use by” date indicates. To decide if you can still use that protein powder you’ve had for a while, check the dates on the label and also use your eyes, nose, and taste buds. Of course, start with the best quality protein powder you can find to make sure you’re getting all the muscle-building benefits you’re paying for.