We asked an expert whether using protein powder after its expiration date is OK, or if it's smarter to toss it.

By Mirel Ketchiff
Updated: April 09, 2019
Photo: iprogressman/Getty Images

If you still think protein powder is only for muscle heads who never leave the weight room, you're sorely behind on the fitness nutrition-times. Protein is an essential macronutrient that helps you recover from tough workouts, build muscle, and stabilize blood sugar so you can maintain good energy. (Pst, here's your complete guide to the 'IIFYM' or counting macros diet.)

But try as you might, if you're not one to reach for a scoop of whey protein (or soy or brown rice, or casein protein) every time you make a post-workout protein shake, it can be hard to use up those huge tubs of protein powder before the sell-by date. And while you might admit to using things like milk a few days after the carton says it's expired, do the same iffy "rules" apply to protein powder? (I mean, is expired food really bad for you, anyway?)

Most likely, it's OK, reassures Robert Wildman, Ph.D., R.D., chief protein officer of Premier Protein. He says that since protein powders are such dry products, there's little risk of bacterial growth or spoilage. (Looking for a plant-based option, here are 3 clean vegan protein powders we love.)

What can happen is that they'll stop tasting so great, he says. "The sell-by date is usually a year or more out, but after a long enough period, the intensity of the flavors can start to fade. It's still safe to eat, but that's when you might want to start cooking with it instead." Wildman likes to add it to smoothies, pancakes, muffins, or even sprinkle it over oatmeal. (We'd suggest one of these 12 Sweet Ways to Sneak Protein Powder Into Your Meals.)

To keep your protein powder tasting great for as long as possible, store it in a cool, dry place, like your pantry. And keep it off the top of the fridge; the heat and humidity can cause it to degrade faster, says Wildman. (Wondering which kind of protein powder is best for you? These are the best protein powders for women, according to nutritionists.) And if you are planning on trying to down it past the expiration date, mix up a little in water and do a smell- and taste-test before using it. If it seems rancid or off in any way, trust your nose and ditch it. He also recommends tossing any protein powder once it's a full year past the sell-by date-just to be on the safe side.(Or forgo the powder entirely for the next big protein trend: crickets.)

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