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Some of the best values in sports nutrition and fitness supplements are found in the Clearance Sections either online or at your local store. Some clearance items are because of being over stocked, but most clearance supplements come from items that are “short dated” - items that are about to expire or may be recently be expired.
Below is my blog on expired supplements, whether they are safe, and their effectiveness. I even outline how long you can take a supplement passed its sell by date on some of the more popular types of supplements in the industry today.
Are Expired Supplements Safe to Take?
I get this question a lot. The new year has passed, and you’ve probably gotten into some type of healthier nutrition and exercise regimen and maybe you’ve found last year’s supplements in the back of cupboard now expired and you are wondering if they are still safe to take. Who wants to waste all that money they spent on supplements last year, (or even the year before)? Is it necessary to throw all these out and start over? Although I would like the uptick in sales, I’m also a good guy so the short answer is, No…
For the most part expired supplements are safe to take and won’t harm you. It is hard to imagine that if you have a tub of protein sitting on your cupboard and its OK consume on 2/28, but when the calendar flips to 3/1 you can no longer take it and you must throw it in the trash and buy a new, larger tub from JustMaxFitnessNutrition.com.
In the process of moving my inventory from my spare bedroom to the “store” in the Garage of Gainz, and I am finding hundreds of dollars of expired or near expired fitness and sports nutrition supplements. I have been taking expired supplements for years and nothing bad has ever happened to me. I’ve never gotten sick or even had stomach discomfort, (my cerebral palsy is from birth, it certainly has nothing to do with taking expired supplements) so I thought I’d some actual research and get some answers for those looking for them, and see if I can remain in good conscious while selling some of my near-expired and expire supplements at discounted rates. As a smaller shop some of my products don’t turn as well as others (and even I can’t take this large of volume on expired supplements, so often you can find great supplement deals on anything from protein, pre-workout powders and even some of the top weight loss supplements in the JustMaxFitnessNutrition.com Clearance Section.
Why do Fitness and Sports Nutrition or Fitness Supplements have an Expiration Date?
It turns out that the FDA doesn’t require manufactures to put expiration on their supplements, however many do so as a quality control mechanism. The expiration date is the last date the manufacture can guarantee the potency of the ingredients that are listed on the label.
The compounds in any fitness and sports nutrition supplement start to break down the moment the they are manufactured, and the potency listed on the label is the potency guaranteed at the time of expiration. (This also means that if you get your hands on some supplement that was just made by a manufacturer you could be getting a slightly stronger potency then what is listed on the label).
An Expired Supplement can Cause Changes in Flavor
The one downfall in expired supplements could be changes in flavor. Just like active ingredients of supplements breakdown overtime, so too will the flavor components of a supplement (and the flavor components usually break down faster). From my experience the flavor component doesn’t drastically change, but it certainly doesn’t taste the same as when you open a fresh supplement.
If you’re taking a supplement that is long past the expiration and you can’t stand the taste, then it means it is time to throw it out and get some fresh stuff. If you don’t throw it out, it will just sit back on the counter and be another two years past the expiration date the next time you try it, just toss it out!
So How Long Can I take an Expired Supplement?
Expired Protein Powder
Expired protein is probably the most common of all supplements in the industry, the bigger container you buy the better deal you get per pound. From my personal experience when I buy protein powder, I usually get sick of the same flavor every day, I will open up to three different tubs and one ends up in the back of my supplement cupboard, and before I know it it’s expired. I recently found a tub Rivalus Native 100 that expired in November and I only have 6 scoops gone out of it. I certainly fined the tub, I just added a little more than a full scoop to make sure I was still getting all my protein needs.
Protein powder is a dry product so if it is stored properly there is little chance that bacteria will grow or cause it to spoil. Protein can be good for up to a year passed it sell by date. Always do a small smell taste with a spoonful or two of protein in water to ensure nothing smells bad or taste rancid before mixing a large smoothie or meal replacement. If you pass that test, then you are good to go!
Expired Protein Bars
Expired protein bars and other food type products are one of two supplement types that I would exercise caution regarding consuming them. Many of the protein bars on the market are loaded with synthetic ingredients and preservatives in order to increase shelf-life, there has been a shift in the industry to provide real food and whole food bars and snacks. These type of protein bars (Like Quest protein bars, or my favorite - the Anabar) should be consumed within 3-6 months after the expiration date because of the whole food components that can spoil and rot over time.
If you have something hiding in your cupboard that you’ve found and they are well passed the expiration date (more than the 3-6 months), I would recommend tossing these. Eating spoiled food can cause more trouble than it is worth.
You can treat any expired pre-workout much like an expired protein powder. Pre-workouts can also be good for a at least a year passed the expiration date. Your pre-workout is still good even if it is clumpy. Pre-workouts often get clumpy even before the expiration date because the ingredients in them attract moisture from the air when kept room temperature.
The biggest thing to watch for with expired pre-workout is discoloration. If parts of the pre-workout are different colors from the rest of it, ie. your blue raspberry pre-workout (which is usually a blue powder) also has brown spots in it - your pre-workout is going bad and it’s time to order a new tub from JMFN.
I wrote a rather extensive blog on creatine and all its wonders already but forgot to add a section on expired creatine. So here it is... Creatine probably lasts the longest of all expired supplements. Like all supplements it will certainly lose some of its potency but can still be good for up two years beyond the expiration date.
If you are trying to ensure that you are getting your recommended number of grams per day (most recommended serving sizes are 5 grams) its potency, simply take a scoop and a half or even two scoops to get the same effect as one scoop. You may get more than your body needs by using this strategy and excrete it out, but it beats the alternative of throwing it in the trash.
Like a pre-workout, creatine can clump up because of moisture as well, and like pre-workout this doesn’t mean its bad either, it is just attracting moisture from the air.
Expired Fat Burners
Fat Burners are the most popular supplements in the industry today and have been for years. So, you’ll be happy to know that expired fat burners can be taken long after the expiration date like the other popular supplement listed above. The one guideline I wouldn’t follow is that of taking extra to increase potency. Many of the top fat burners contain stimulants and those should never be taken beyond the recommended dose. This can cause harm and even make you sick (unrelated to the fact they are expired). If you’re taking an expired fat burner it is best to stick with the recommended dose as they may take a considerable amount of time to lose their potency (remember, the expiration date is the last guaranteed date of full-potency. And they aren’t going to lose half potency in 24 hours. As you get further from the expiration date your fat burner won’t be as effective, but it sure beats the alternative of throwing it in the garbage.
Expired Fish Oils and Probiotics
Fish oils and probiotics are the second category of fitness supplements that I would use with caution when passed the expiration date. Fish Oils are a fat and can oxidize when exposed to light which can make them rancid. Fish Oils are also a liquid (even inside the capsule) and supplements in liquid form do degrade faster than that of powdered supplements like protein or creatine.
Tips for Storing Your Supplements
There are ways you can store your fish oils and probiotics (as well as your other supplements) to extend their freshness and shelf-life. Almost all supplement labels have the direction to “store in a cool, dry place” and this is the easiest way you can improve the shelf-life on any supplement.
Additionally, you can store your liquid supplements, Fish oils, and probiotics in your refrigerator to help maintain freshness. Store any pre-workouts (including the new pump products in your freezer after opening if the “clumping” bothers you, but it isn’t essential.
We at Just Max Fitness Nutrition also have one do not do that a surprising number of people don’t know about (or don’t care) but it can increase the self-life of that precious jug of protein.
Do not store your protein on top of the refrigerator. Your refrigerator generates a lot of heat, and heat rises. This can create humidity and your protein has the potential to absorbing some of that moisture that will make it to degrade faster then normal. So, do not store your protein on top of your fridge!
Expired Doesn’t Mean Bad
In conclusion, expired does not necessarily mean “gone bad.” Whether or not you can take an expired product really depends on the product itself. As outlined above the expiration (sometimes sell by date) doesn’t indicate the true shelf-life of a product. Some supplements like; protein, creatine, and pre-workout powders can be used well passed their expiration dates (some even a year past!). But others like protein bars, other food-like supplements should be used within 3-6 months after the expiration date because of the whole food components that can spoil or rot over time, as mentioned in the protein bars section.
Of the supplements that I researched, Fish Oils and probiotics are the only supplements that should be tossed after reaching the expiration dates. This is because of the oxidation of the fats and the live bacteria components respectively.
If you’re not sure on whether a supplement past its expiration date is still good, it is always better to error on the side of safety and toss it. Getting sick in any capacity will usually keep you out of the gym and no one wants that!
If you have a question about supplement that I didn’t cover in this blog or have comments or concerns regarding this blog, leave a comment below or join the Just Max Fitness Community in our Facebook Group and have your question answered by one of your peers!
Disclaimer: I am not a doctor, so this should not be taken as medical advice. This is my experience with expired supplements. If you don’t feel comfortable taking expired supplements, don’t take them.
Your Friend in Fitness,
- Joshua Myers, Founder of Just Max Fitness Nutrition