Hey there, yes you, I see you! With your busy life, but still wanting to make the best of your health and fitness at any opportunity. I see you looking for all the best ways to make time in your schedule for working out, and what better way than to make up your protein shakes in advance, right? Or to keep your protein powder in your car in case of an impromptu gym visit? And if you meant to take your shake with you to the gym, but you left it on the side - that’s fine, you can just drink it when you get back!
That’s got to be fine, right?
As it turns out, there are a lot of questions about whether making up a protein shake in advance can reduce its efficacy, the best way to store and keep protein shakes throughout the day, and if the way that you store your powders can have an impact on your shakes.
We’ve written before about whether protein powder can expire, and what to look out for when opening that protein powder you might not have used in a little while. Here, we look at the ways in which you can store your powders and shakes to prevent spoilage, waste and the disappointment of not being able to indulge in that shake you lovingly prepared this morning!
Due to the processes they go through as they’re created, protein powders can be stored differently from the raw ingredients from which they’re made. For example, whey protein powder isn’t made to be stored in the fridge, but you wouldn’t want to leave any dairy products in your kitchen cupboard, would you! Plant proteins usually keep better than their animal based counterparts, as the elimination of dairy from a product reduces the levels of concern about bacteria.
However, like any consumable product, all protein powders do have a shelf life, and will eventually go bad if left alone long enough. Protein powders with artificial ingredients have a tendency to last longer due to ingredients such as maltodextrin, a thickening agent which helps to improve the shelf life of certain products.
The thing you really need to watch out for when you’re storing your protein powder is that the container or packaging is completely resealable. With protein powders being dry products, allowing moisture to get into it can significantly increase the likelihood of introducing bacteria and other microbes, which could contaminate the product itself and make it unfit for use. This is the primary reason why protein powders should not be kept in the fridge or the freezer. The sudden changes in temperature when taking the powder in and out of these environments to make a shake can encourage condensation within the packaging and may lead to spoilage of the powder. In short, the only time you should get your protein powder wet is when you’re making a shake!
The amount of time you keep your protein powder is also something to pay attention to. Over time, especially after the best before date of the product, the protein content within the powder can begin to degrade, which will make your product less efficient. In a similar fashion, any vitamins and minerals which are added to protein powders to benefit your health can also begin to lose their potency, so sticking within the manufacturer’s guidelines for best before and use by dates is important to ensure that the ingredients are still functional. If your powder is discoloured, clumpy or smells bad, then it might be too far gone to make a shake with.
So, keeping your powders sealed and dry is important - but what about temperature? Well, tests have suggested that protein powder remains better for longer in cool and dry conditions, so a kitchen cupboard is practically perfect, whereas keeping it in your car is less so, as it can get both very hot and very cold in there! We know that keeping powders in very cold conditions can cause condensation, but storing them in hot conditions is also detrimental to the powder. If stored in hot conditions for extended periods of time, there can be an increase in oxidation in protein powder, which can cause changes in taste and texture.
How can I store a shake once I’ve made it?
If you’re not in a position to make your protein shake when you need it, then it is definitely possible to make it beforehand, as long as you follow a few simple guidelines.
If you’re going to be travelling, then ensure that you place your shake in an insulated container to keep it cool. This is especially important if you’re making your shake with animal milk, or whey protein, as milk can spoil even at warm temperatures. Even from a flavour and texture point of view, keeping your shake cool can help to maintain the flavour and texture profiles that you expect from a freshly made shake.
Some advice states that once you’ve made a shake, you can store it in the fridge for up to 24 hours, but that if you’re not going to be able to keep a premade shake cool, then it’s best to keep the liquid and powder components separate until you’re ready to make it up and drink it straight away.
Whether or not you’re making your shake with water, plant milk or animal milk, you’ll want to give your shake a vigorous shake before you drink it, just in case there has been any separation. I do mine to music, having a little dance before a protein shake really gets those good vibes going!
So - keep your powder dry, cool and dark until you’re ready to use it, and refrigerate your shakes if you’re not planning to drink it right away!