Is it bad to take expired supplements? While there are two sides to this “best by” debate, taking expired supplements and protein powder may not compromise your health.
How Long are Supplements Good after Expiration?
Before diving into why experts believe that you can likely still use supplements after their expiration date, it's important to discuss the FDA's take on vitamins, minerals, and supplements.
While the FDA does require foods and medicines to have expiration dates, they do not require companies to put expiration dates on supplements. That said, many of the most reputable companies generally put an expiration date, “best buy” date, or “use by” date on the supplement packaging. However, the date they choose is typically one that they feel that the vitamin, mineral, or supplement will lose its potency.
In essence, the use by date indicates the manufacturer’s data on how long that vitamin or supplement will have all of its ingredients in the capsule. Because some substances decay or decompose over time, companies will list this data on the packaging. While this may sound intimidating, all it means is that the vitamins and materials in the supplement are less potent than they were when you first bought them or before their expiration date.
For example, vitamins B12 and C generally decompose quicker than some of the other supplements and vitamins. So, if you take expired vitamins with these components, you may not experience the full effects of the supplement. However, it is not dangerous to your health to still take these vitamins. You simply may not be getting your money’s worth from those supplements.
Generally, anything that has a probiotic will decay much faster than supplements that don't have probiotics. Even so, probiotics are typically meant to last at least two years at room temperature. Similar to probiotics, vitamins and supplements are generally good for about two years after the expiration date. However, you can likely take supplements after their expiration date and even past the two years. You might not experience the same effects as when they were new.
However, the shelf life of a vitamin or supplement may differ depending on the form that it's in. For example, vitamins that are chewable or gummy may absorb moisture faster than the vitamins and supplements in tablet form. Thus, chewy and gummy supplements will degrade more quickly than dry tablets.
Is It ok to Take Expired Vitamins?
So, is it bad to take expired vitamins? The answer to this question seems to be more of a debate or effectiveness than health-related issues. In short, it is ok to take expired vitamins. This is because, unlike food, vitamins and supplements do not have ingredients that become dangerous to your health after they expire.
How Long Does Protein Powder Last?
Does protein powder go bad? How about whey protein? Does whey protein expire? We all know that protein powder isn't exactly the cheapest product that we use. For that reason, you may be wondering if you can use your expired protein powder. So, should you mix it, or should you toss it?
Similar to other supplements and vitamins, protein powder is not made from any ingredients and materials that will go bad or make you sick. Because they don't spoil the same way as raw meat or milk would, you really won't experience any dangerous side effects if you use expired protein powder.
Because the environment inside the protein powder container is dry and ingredients are dry, there is little possibility for any mold or bacteria to grow. So even if your protein powder is animal product-based, you still don't need to worry about it expiring. However, you still should not store your protein powder in a place that's warm or humid.
There have been studies done to show how long protein powder lasts. Even though it is likely safe to take protein powder after the expiration date if stored properly, the protein within a protein powder may not be as potent as before the expiration date. You can likely use protein powder for up to two years after production.
One study showed that lysine, an amino acid common in whey protein, went from 5.5% to 4.2% potent in only 12 months. This protein powder was stored at room temperature with about 45 to 65% humidity, showing that the protein powder can last for a significant amount of time even if the protein is not as strong as it once was.
Yet, another study showed that when whey protein was stored at 113 degrees Fahrenheit for about 15 weeks, the high temperatures lead to an increase in oxidation which drastically changed the taste of protein powder. Now, we all know that protein powder is not the best-tasting substance, and this hot temperature past the potential to make that taste even worse. So, store your protein powder in room temperature conditions.
Does Creatine Expire?
Like dry protein powders, dry creatine should last between two to three years after the expiration date. However, because some creatines are in liquid form, they will typically not last that long. However, some studies have shown that creatine powder breaks down incredibly slowly. According to one study, even after four years of storing the creatine at high temperatures, there is still only a minor breakdown.
So while you can likely trust your creatine powder for years after its expiration date, you should probably toss liquid creatine after it is expired to be safe.
How to Prolong the Life of Your Supplements
There are plenty of ways to prolong the life of your supplements. Typically, you want to store your vitamins and supplements in a place that is cool, room temperature, and dry. While many people choose to store their vitamins and a bathroom or kitchen, this is not a great place to keep your medications and supplements. The bathroom and kitchen are generally hotter and more humid than any other room in the house.
So, you should opt to store your supplements and medication in either a linen closet, bedroom drawer, or closet that is not near a water source. Further, you should avoid exposing any of your supplements and vitamins to sources of light. This is because some vitamins will lose potency after being exposed to lots of light.
If you are taking fish oil, flaxseed, vitamin E, or probiotics, you may also want to store these supplements in your refrigerator. This is because the products themselves are generally less stable at room temperature.
When Should You Dispose of Your Supplements?
When deciding whether or not you should throw away your potentially expired supplements, experts indicate that it is really up to you. If you have vitamins or supplements that have been sitting in your medicine cabinet for years, it may simply be best to replace them so that you can experience the full effects of the supplement.
However, if you notice that the capsules within the supplement container are wet or moist, you may want to dispose of them because that means that somehow water got into the container may have broken them down. Additionally, if you ever notice that the vitamins or minerals have a weird odor or if they appear discolored in any way, you should throw those supplements away and replace them.
To dispose of your expired vitamins and supplements, the FDA recommends that you should mix the tablets with used coffee grounds or cat litter and place the mixture in the trash.
So, is it safe to take expired vitamins? As we explored above, you generally can still take expired vitamins, supplements, and minerals after the expiration date. While there may be no threatening risk to your health, you may not experience the same benefits as when vitamins were first made. Therefore, consuming your expired vitamins will be at your own risk.
The information in this article is based on web-based research and expert opinion. The above information should not be taken as medical advice. You should always contact your medical doctor before making any health-related changes.