It’s a question we all want answered, “Can You Leave Protein Powder in a Hot Car?”
We’ve all done it.
You don’t want to forget your post-workout protein shake, so you generally have your tub stored in the car.
Perhaps, you’ve recently purchased a new tub and completely forgotten about it being in your car for the last couple of days.
Now, we’ve all heard “horror stories” about protein powder and heat, so will leaving it in a hot car totally ruin it?
Allow me to explain everything you need to know about protein powder, hot cars, and excessive temperatures.
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Can You Leave Protein Powder in a Hot Car?
It’s perfectly fine to leave protein powder in a hot car. In fact, it will have little to no effect. Protein powder may clump at excessive climatic temperatures and humidity, but it is still perfectly safe to consume. Protein powder will typically denature at temperatures higher than 70C, so more so through cooking than anything else. However, this simply means that the protein has changed structure, not that it has lost its nutritional value.
1. It’s Not Really Hot Enough
I guess most of us are worried about the effects of heat on protein powder.
Firstly, if it’s whey or casein, it’s a milk-based product, and no-one particularly wants to drink milk that’s been left in a hot place for a while.
You could even say the same of egg or soy-based protein as well.
In truth, a milk-based product in powder form is very different to actual liquid milk.
So, if you had pre-made your shake you’d want to consume it within a couple of hours if left at room temperature.
Therefore, in liquid form it’s much the same as milk.
So, you definitely wouldn’t want to drink a made up protein shake that had been left in a hot car for over an hour.
This would probably cause some stomach and digestive issues, plus I doubt it would taste that great either.
But, as I say, things in powder form are slightly different.
If you think about it, you can say exactly the same for powdered milk.
This is a dry product stored at room temperature that typically lasts for many years.
So, even powdered milk is different from liquid milk.
However, it’s not just the taste or the potential effects a heated milk product may have on your stomach.
In reality, you’re probably worried about protein powder losing its effectiveness.
Well, allow me to put your mind at rest.
If you leave protein powder in a hot car pretty much NOTHING will happen to it.
Okay, depending on exactly how hot it is, and especially how humid, your powder may clump.
Nevertheless, the temperature will never reach a level where it starts to denature the protein powder (more on this in a moment).
Admittedly, if your protein powder has clumped together it may be harder to dissolve into a shake.
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However, this doesn’t mean it won’t still contain the same macronutrients, i.e. protein, fats, and carbohydrates.
2. Protein Powder Denaturing isn’t What You Think
The word “denature” conjures up all types of negative connotations.
But, in truth, it’s nowhere near as bad as you think.
Protein powder will typically start to denature at around 70C.
So, even if you’ve parked your car in Death Valley on the hottest day of the year, with the tub right up against the window facing the sun, you probably still won’t reach a temperature high enough to denature it.
However, even if you did, this won’t actually ruin or destroy the protein powder.
Denaturing simply means that it has lost its structure.
The tiny molecules of protein within the powder will unfold or break apart.
But, our bodies automatically do this anyway when we consume protein powder.
Basically, we break down the amino acids and digest the protein content.
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3. Extremely Excessive Heat MAY Damage Protein
With that being said, there are certain amino acids that are more susceptible to heat.
That is, they will become damaged at higher temperatures.
These include the amino acids Lysine, Histidine, Threonine, Methionine, and Isoleucine.
They are all pretty stable up to 120C, but the damage occurs from being exposed to heat for longer periods.
According to a 1983 study, these amino acids would lose 20% effectiveness at a temperature of 100C for 24 hours.
And they would lose 100% effectiveness at a temperature of 180C after 24 hours.
Realistically, you would never heat protein powder for that period of time.
Most foods high in amino acids, e.g. eggs, meat, poultry are actually more palatable and safer to eat once heated through cooking.
You could even slightly burn (sear) a steak and it will still taste great and maintain its nutritional value.
Okay, admittedly you could burn a steak to a cinder in far less than 24 hours.
And yes, it probably would lose its nutritional value, i.e. its protein content, but you’re hardly likely to eat it.
So, denaturing isn’t as bad as it sounds.
Plus, it’s inconceivable that you would heat protein powder long enough for it to get damaged and lose its nutritional value.
So, unless you’re looking to cook protein powder in an oven for around 24 hours, or nuking it in a microwave for a good 20 minutes, then you’re good to go.
4. You Can Cook With Protein Powder
It’s actually perfectly safe to cook with protein powder.
Okay, you’re obviously going to heat the powder at above 70C, so it will denature.
But remember, this simply means that it will lose its structure.
Additionally, denatured protein powder may be harder for the body to digest.
However, it will still maintain its nutritional value.
With that being said, it is important to realise that denatured powder is harder on the digestive system.
So, if you are someone that has digestive problems or a weak stomach then it may not be a great idea to cook with protein powder.
But still, it will remain as protein with the same number of grams of protein per scoop.
This is of course unless you decide to excessively heat beyond the point of it being edible.
Cooking with protein powder is a great way to satisfy your sweet tooth.
There are a wide variety of desserts that you can make with protein powder.
These include pancakes, waffles, brownies, cakes, or muffins.
You can even create your own protein bars.
Plus, let’s not forget that you can add protein powder to your oatmeal or blend it as a smoothie.
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So, there are a number of ways you can use protein powder in recipes, and you don’t have to worry about it losing its effectiveness.
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So, as you can see, nothing untoward will happen to your protein powder if you leave it in a hot car.
At worst, high climatic temperatures and humidity may cause your protein powder to clump.
This in turn may make it harder to dissolve in liquid.
However, it is still perfectly safe to consume and it will retain its full nutritional value.
Protein powder will start to denature at temperatures higher than 70C.
But once again, it will retain its full quota of protein.
Hi, I’m Partha, owner and founder of My Bodyweight Exercises. I am a Level 3 Personal Trainer and Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist through the Register of Exercise Professionals, United Kingdom. I have been a regular gym-goer since 2000 and coaching clients since 2012. My aim is to help you achieve your body composition goals.