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Supplement Godfather

Don Gauvreau MSc, CSCS
Don Gauvreau, A.K.A. The Supplement Godfather, is one of the leading researchers and product formulators in the sports supplement industry.
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Supplement Expiry Dates

Best before dates on supplement labels and what they really mean.

So, you finally get around to cleaning out your kitchen pantry and cupboards and you find a bunch of opened and half-used supplements that are all past their listed expiry dates. Should you simply toss them all in the garbage? Can you salvage any of them? Are they still safe to consume? And if so, will they still be effective? There’s a lot of questions and confusion when it comes to supplement expiry dates, so let’s clear the air.

First off, in the USA, dietary supplements aren’t actually required to have an expiry date. Most supplement companies still stamp an expiry date on all their products because it’s something consumers expect. Up here in Canada, natural health products, aka NPNs (the Canadian term for dietary supplements), are required to have an expiry date printed on the label or packaging. If an expiry date is on a supplement, then the manufacturer of those supplements is required to have stability data that shows the supplement will still maintain the potency of its listed ingredients until that date. Now that being said, I can tell you that 90 percent or more of the sports supplements that are sold in North America don’t have any stability testing done on them. One of the only countries in the world where they actually enforce stability testing on supplements is in Australia. We’re fortunate to have our PharmaFreak brand made and sold in Australia, so we’ve been required to conduct ongoing stability studies. Although it’s costly, at least we’re one of the few sports supplement companies that can claim that we’re conducting real stability studies on our products.

Okay, now enough of the regulatory lesson. Let’s get down to the nitty-gritty useful info. Can you still safely consume expired supplements? And will they still work? The quick answers are yesand yes, to a certain degree. The majority of ingredients in supplements decompose over time, which means they’ll be less potent. But this doesn’t mean they won’t be safe—they just won’t be quite as effective. Certain vitamins decompose quicker than others—for instance, B vitamins and vitamin C. To account for decomposition, most manufacturers add more than the amounts of vitamins listed on the label, so over time, the labeled potency will remain true. On the actual date of manufacturing, most vitamin supplements will actually have a higher potency than what’s listed on the label.

If your supplements are stored properly, some can last up to four to five years, although the general rule of thumb is that they can maintain their potency for two to three years from date of manufacturing. The main factor that determines the shelf life of a supplement is the initial quality of the ingredients used to make it and the quality control standards of the manufacturer making the products.

Lastly, I just want to touch on protein powders. Are they also safe to consume past their expiry date? Yes, more often than not, they’re okay. Dairy-based protein powders such as whey won’t go bad the same way milk goes bad because a dry product makes it very difficult for microbial bacteria to grow. This is why it’s really important to store your protein powder away from heat and humidity. Plant-based proteins are also okay past expiry, but the protein can certainly denature over time and lose some of its potency. The one thing that might change significantly past the expiry date is the taste/flavour—that aspect of a protein powder can definitely change. A very simple way to determine if your expired protein powder is still okay to use is by simply giving it a little taste! If it tastes normal or close to normal, then it’s probably still okay to use. If the taste is too far off, then it might be too denatured and not worth using. 


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