How Long Do Protein Shakes Last After Mixing?

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A scoop sitting in a pile of protein powder

How quickly should you drink a protein shake after mixing it? 

There are two answers here, depending on whether you’re leaving the drink at room temperature, or storing it in the refrigerator:

Room Temperature – 2 Hours: Some say 4 hours is the limit, but I think that’s pushing it at room temperature (especially when you consider what a variable term “room temperature” really is).

Refrigerator – 24 Hours: If you’re able to mix your protein shake and then put it in the refrigerator, you have a full day to drink it before it becomes noticeable unpleasant.

In an ideal world, you’ll drink your protein shake as soon as you’ve finished mixing it!

It can be quite hard getting a protein shake down you, especially when you’re new to them, and it’s fair to say these things only get less pleasant over time.

You do have the option of store-bought protein shakes, but these contain all manner of preservatives, and the costs can add up quickly over time.

In the rest of this article, I’m going to explain the topic in greater detail. Things get a little more complicated when you’re comparing protein mix with whole foods, for example.

I’ve also included a few tips for keeping your protein mixer bottle clean and odor-free.

(Want to learn more about juicing and blending? Take a look through my collection of guides and reviews.)

What Happens When Protein Shakes Go Bad?

It’s not so much that you couldn’t drink a protein shake after the times I’ve outlined above. It’s fair to say, however, that it will certainly become a less pleasant experience!

There are also some question marks about the effectiveness of the shake for its intended purpose, after these limits have been passed.

The only thing you can be sure of is that it’s only going to get less pleasant the longer you leave it after mixing.

Protein Mix Vs Fresh Ingredients

Let’s take a quick look at the situation based on whether you’re using protein powder mix or fresh ingredients.

Protein Mix

If you’re using a protein powder, you’ll want to refer to the instructions on your own particular brand. They’ll likely contain information on the optimal drinking time after preparation, and you should generally follow that advice.

Once the powder’s been exposed to any kind of moisture (be that water or milk), you’re on a ticking clock in terms of performance and pleasant taste!

We all know what an off protein shake smells like. You really don’t want to actually drink anything that’s got into that condition.

As for the powder itself, it tends to last for quite a long time. Again, each brand will include a best before date on the packaging. 

Fresh Ingredients

If you’re using fresh ingredients to make a protein shake in a blender, things can turn much more quickly. 

This is particularly relevant if you’re working with fruits or any other acidic ingredients.

Unless you’re storing your protein shake in the refrigerator, you definitely want to consume it within that 2 hour room temperature window.

A protein powder scoop sitting in a big pile of white protein powder

Can You Prepare A Protein Shake Overnight?

In an ideal world you’ll make your shake as soon as possible after your workout. 

If you’re working with protein mix, there are many manual mixer bottles on the market. All you have to do is fill it with the mix, then add water at the gym.

Obviously that’s trickier when you’re making a protein shake using fresh ingredients. In this case, stick to the refrigeration rule of 24 hours. The cooler temperature will slow the rate at which the contents start turning.

The only alternative is to grab a protein shake from the store, although that’s obviously costly in the long run.

What’s The Best Time To Drink A Protein Shake?

Healthline has a very useful article on this topic, and I recommend reading it if you’d like to know more about protein intake in general.

To summarize, the best time to drink a protein shake from a workout perspective is widely believed to be 15-60 minutes after exercise.

According to a study referenced in that article, the window may be larger at 2 hours. Until that’s more conclusively settled, aim for within an hour of finishing your workout session.

How Should You Clean A Smelly Protein Shake Bottle?

We all know a stinky protein shake bottle when we smell one!

What’s the best way to clean it up and get it back to usable condition though?

Prevention Is Better Than Cure

As soon as you’ve finished your protein shake, give the mixer a good rinse using cold water. If you’re at the gym, there’ll be a water source so it’s easy to do.

By rinsing it out quickly, you’ll get rid of most of the protein residue. You can then give it a proper clean out when you get back home.

Don’t Use Hot Water

I mentioned using cold water in that last section. It’s only a marginal issue, but hot water encourages the protein to stick to the plastic surface of your mixer bottle.

If you use cold water instead, you’ll flush much more of it from the surface. That will make the clean-up process back home much easier.

Wrapping Up

There’s no getting away from the fact that these drinks can turn quite quickly, regardless of whether you’re using protein mix or whole ingredients.

If you can prep your shake immediately before drinking it, you’ll get the best results.

A little bit of planning goes a long way here though, and so there’s no reason why you can’t add a little convenience to the process. 

Just stick to that 2 hour (fresh) or 24 hour (refrigerated) guideline and you’ll be fine!