How long are protein shakes drinkable after mixing?

Protein shakes have become a popular nutritional supplement for athletes, bodybuilders, and anyone looking to add more protein to their diet. But once mixed up, how long do homemade or premade protein shakes remain safe and effective to drink? Here is a comprehensive look at the shelf life of protein shakes and how long you can expect them to last after mixing.

Factors That Affect Protein Shake Shelf Life

Several key factors impact how long protein shakes stay fresh and potent after mixing:

  • Ingredients used – Whey, casein, plant proteins have varying stability
  • Use of preservatives
  • Packaging – Is it air tight and preventing oxygen exposure?
  • Storage temperature – Heat and sunlight degrade proteins faster
  • Hygiene – How clean is the mixing & drinking container?
  • Acidity level – Lower pH preserves better

Paying attention to these factors allow you to maximize the shelf life of your protein shake.

Shelf Life of Premade Protein Shakes

Premade protein shakes you buy at the store typically use pasteurized ingredients and preservatives to maintain stability and prolong shelf life. Here’s how long some popular brands last:

Protein Shake Brand Unopened Shelf Life After Opening
Ensure 10-12 months 24 hours
Boost 12 months 24 hours
Muscle Milk 9 months 5 days
Orgain 18 months 3 days
Premier Protein 12 months 5 days

As you can see, unopened premade shakes typically last around 12 months before exceeding the manufacturer’s recommended best by date. However, once opened their shelf life drops dramatically to just 24-48 hours if refrigerated.

Maximizing Homemade Protein Shake Shelf Life

Making your own protein shakes at home offers flexibility in ingredients but requires more care to maximize freshness. Here are some tips:

  • Purchase high quality whey protein powder and use by the “best by” date
  • Store powders in a cool, dark place to prevent moisture and heat damage
  • Use powder within 30 days of opening
  • Mix with cold filtered water for best flavor and texture
  • Mix only amount you will consume shortly to limit time sitting
  • Consider adding preservative ingredients like lemon juice
  • Refrigerate immediately after mixing and shake before drinking
  • Store mixed shake in an airtight container
  • Consume within 24 hours for best safety and protein quality
  • Don’t mix more than needed for a few days at most

How Storage Temperature Impacts Shelf Life

Proper storage temperature is one of the biggest factors determining protein shake shelf life. Here is how temperature impacts duration shakes stay fresh:

Storage Temperature Unopened Shelf Life After Opening
Room temperature (68-77°F) 6-8 months 24 hours
Refrigerated (34-40°F) 12 months 3 days
Frozen (-4°F) 18-24 months 1 week

Storing shakes at cool temperatures is ideal for extending shelf life. Refrigeration preserves opened shakes for a few days, while freezing allows storage for up to 1 week.

Signs Your Protein Shake Has Spoiled

How can you tell if an opened or homemade protein shake has gone bad and needs to be discarded? Here are some signs to watch out for:

  • Change in consistency – Becomes overly thick and clumpy
  • Change in color – Unnatural darkening or gray tones
  • Separation – Clear liquid separating out on top
  • Off smells – Sour, rancid or rotten odors
  • Off tastes – Bitter, sour, medicinal flavors
  • Gas and bloating – Caused by spoilage microbes
  • Upset stomach – Nausea, vomiting or diarrhea

If you notice any of these warning signs, it’s safest to discard the protein shake immediately rather than risk drinking a spoiled beverage.

Does Freezing Extend Shelf Life?

Freezing protein shakes can significantly slow down spoilage and extend shelf life. Here’s how freezing works:

  • Low temperatures halt microbial growth – bacteria, yeasts and molds can’t multiply
  • Greatly slows chemical reactions – oxidation and nutrient loss
  • Reduces water activity – microbes need available water to grow
  • Minimizes ice crystal damage by freezing quickly at coldest temperature

For best results, freeze shakes in single serving airtight containers. Thaw in the refrigerator before drinking to prevent separating or freezing again. Frozen shakes may last 1-2 weeks but optimal taste and nutrition is within 3-5 days of thawing.

Tips for Freezing Homemade Protein Shakes

Follow these guidelines when freezing your homemade shakes:

  • Mix shake and refrigerate briefly to thicken texture
  • Pour into airtight freezer containers leaving headspace
  • Seal lids tightly to prevent freezer burn
  • Lay flat in coldest section of freezer for fast freezing
  • Label containers with shake flavor and freeze date
  • Consume frozen shakes within 1 week for best quality

Reasons Protein Shakes Go Bad

There are several common reasons why opened and homemade protein shakes can spoil faster:

  • Microbial growth – Bacteria, mold and yeasts multiply over time, especially if not refrigerated.
  • Oxidation – Exposure to air and light degrades proteins and fats.
  • Separation – Water separates from the thicker components.
  • Improper storage – Heat, sunlight and lack of refrigeration speed up spoilage.
  • Poor hygiene – Dirty mixing containers quickly contaminate shakes.
  • Repeated freeze/thaw – Ice crystals degrade texture and nutritional quality.

Following proper storage guidelines and drinking shakes shortly after mixing can help counteract these common causes of spoilage.

Does Shaking Help? Techniques to Improve Texture

Shaking your protein shake before drinking can temporarily improve texture and re-blend separated ingredients. Useful techniques include:

  • Gentle swirling – Mixes settled contents without over-foaming.
  • Up and down shaking – Thick ingredients get resuspended for a smooth consistency.
  • Back and forth shaking – Creates turbulence to fully integrate ingredients.
  • Shake over sink – Allows room for foaming without making a mess.
  • Incorporate ice – Chilled temperature and cubes help improve texture.
  • Use blender – Provides smooth, consistent texture and re-emulsifies.

However, shaking cannot reverse actual spoilage that has occurred. Discard shakes if you notice signs of separation, smell or taste going bad.

Does Acidity & pH Impact Shelf Life?

Yes, the acidity level (pH) of protein shakes can affect how long they stay fresh after mixing. Here’s how pH impacts shelf life:

  • Low pH inhibits microbial growth – Bacteria and mold grow slower in acidic conditions below 4.6 pH.
  • Acids preserve – Lemon juice, vitamin C, and citric acid lengthen shelf life as preservatives.
  • Higher pH means shorter shelf life – More alkaline shakes above 5.0 pH spoil faster.
  • Whey protein is acidic – Naturally around 6.4 – 6.9 pH to resist spoilage organisms.
  • Avoid raising pH – Adding baking soda or non-acidic ingredients reduces acidity.

Maintaining an acidic pH below 4.6 provides the best chance of homemade shakes staying fresh longer after mixing. But extreme low pH can impact taste and protein nutrition.

Should You Keep Drinking Protein Shakes After Illness?

It’s generally not recommended to continue drinking protein shakes if they caused an illness. Possible scenarios include:

  • Consuming shakes past shelf life that contain spoiled, harmful microbes
  • Allergic reaction or intolerance to an ingredient
  • Contaminated products, unclean equipment or unsanitary handling
  • Underlying health condition triggered by components

If homemade or premade protein shakes recently caused nausea, diarrhea, vomiting or other symptoms, stop drinking them. Discard open containers and speak to a doctor to identify the cause before considering consuming them again. Don’t take risks with your health.

Can You Extend Shelf Life By Adding Anything?

Adding certain ingredients when mixing protein shakes at home can help extend how long they stay fresh:

  • Lemon juice – Acidic pH inhibits microbial growth
  • Vitamin C powder – Antioxidant properties prevent oxidation
  • Preservatives – Potassium sorbate and sodium benzoate prevent mold
  • Xanthan gum – Stabilizes consistency and prevents separating
  • Filtered water – Removes microbes and chlorine compared to tap water
  • Cold ingredients – Ice and chilled liquids slow deterioration

But any additions may impact intended flavor and nutrition profiles. Less than a teaspoon per serving of vitamin C, lemon juice or natural preservatives can prolong freshness.

Should You Drink Protein Shakes After Expiration Date?

It’s not recommended to knowingly drink protein shakes after exceeding the expiration or “best by” date on the package. Manufacturers determine these dates by extensive product testing to ensure optimal safety, quality and nutrient retention.

While shakes don’t necessarily instantly spoil once past the printed date, their texture, taste, potency and safety slowly decline over time. Drinking degraded expired shakes also provides reduced fitness and health benefits compared to fresh ones.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long do premade protein shakes last unopened?

Commercially packaged protein shakes typically last about 10-12 months if unopened and stored properly at room temperature. Check each product for its unique stamped expiration date.

Do protein shakes go bad if not refrigerated?

Yes, protein shakes will spoil faster if left unrefrigerated, especially after opening. Leaving shakes out at room temperature provides ideal conditions for microbial growth and oxidation to occur.

Can I drink protein shakes 2 weeks after expiration date?

It’s generally unsafe and not recommended to knowingly consume protein shakes more than 1-2 weeks past the printed expiration date. Nutritional quality and safety cannot be guaranteed beyond the manufacturer’s date.

What happens if you drink expired protein shakes?

Drinking expired protein shakes poses increased risk of gastrointestinal distress, nausea, vomiting or diarrhea due to degradation, oxidation and microbial growth over time.

How long after mixing can you drink a protein shake?

For highest safety and quality, homemade and premade protein shakes should be consumed within 24-48 hours after mixing if refrigerated. Just a few minutes for ready-to-drink liquid shakes.

The Bottom Line

Premade and homemade protein shakes remain safe and retain their nutritional potency for about:

  • 24 hours after mixing if kept refrigerated
  • 3-5 days if frozen immediately after mixing
  • Within several minutes for on-the-go ready-to-drink liquid shakes

But always err on the side of caution – if any change in smell, taste, texture or appearance, it’s best to discard aging protein shakes and mix up a fresh batch. Properly storing shakes and avoiding contamination provides the best chance for maximizing shelf life after mixing.

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