As you grab your gym bag ready to crush a workout, you notice a Core Power shake hidden underneath it. Packed with up to 42g of protein, this drink is a convenient way for gym rats to start or end any workout.
Your initial reaction is that of pleasant surprise–it’s even your favorite flavor! But then doubt begins creeping in. You don’t know how long it’s been trapped inside your car, and it’s been pretty hot lately. Is it still safe to drink? You can’t even remember when you last bought one. Is the extra protein worth possibly spending that night sitting on the porcelain throne?
As hypothetical you debates whether to drink or discard this protein discovery, let’s delve into the question at hand: Do Core Power shakes need to be refrigerated?
Read Fairlife’s Label Instructions
As you glance at the back of the bottle, written alongside the nutrition facts your answer emerges: “Refrigerate After Opening.” So that answers one part of the question.
Do Core Power shakes need to be refrigerated? Yes, they need to be refrigerated once they’re opened.
But this particular bottle hasn’t been opened and checking the cap says it isn’t past the best-by date yet. Feeling a little more assured, you take the bottle and bring it with you inside the gym. While waiting for a squat rack to open, you decide to check Fairlife’s website and gain some insight about Core Power shakes.
In one of their FAQs, a key piece of information appears: “Aseptic packaging allow us to be shelf-stable for 9 months. After opening…should be consumed within 14 days…and kept refrigerated.” Faced with another clue, you decide to look up what aseptic packaging is.
Understanding Aseptic Packaging
Milk sold in stores undergo Ultra-High Temperature (UHT) pasteurization. This process sterilizes the milk, killing any harmful bacteria and microorganisms present to extend its shelf-life.
Aseptic packaging takes sterilization one step further.
According to the Food and Drug Association, aseptic packaging also sterilizes the packaging and makes sure that the sterile milk and the sterile bottles are combined in a sterile environment. This ensures that contamination is unlikely, or at best, a rare occurrence.
So it’s sterile, it’s shelf-stable, but what temperatures can UHT milk withstand until it starts getting compromised? How long in a hot car until it’s unsafe to drink?
Temperature Sensitivity of Milk
This 2019 study has found that UHT pasteurized milk is still safe to drink if stored in 98 degrees Fahrenheit for 15 weeks. Beyond this point, changes in the milk’s taste and color can be noticed. However, UHT milk can last up to 36 weeks if it’s stored between 39 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit.
So typically, even if left in a hot car for 15 weeks, Core Power shakes can still be safe to drink as long as they haven’t been opened. However, once you crack the seal, they should be either promptly consumed or refrigerated like ordinary milk.
It’s prudent to keep in mind that, while safe to drink, the prolonged exposure to less-than-ideal temperatures might have affected the taste or texture of the shake. Nobody wants to start a workout with a curdled shake. So, while there’s no health risks in consuming it, a better drinking experience can be prepared for in the future.
Tips for a Better Drinking Experience
To get the most out of a Core Power shake, consider these scenario-specific tips for storage:
Since unopened shakes don’t need to be refrigerated, storing them in a cool, dry place, away from direct sunlight is enough to maintain freshness. To up the enjoyment factor, put them in the fridge or freezer and consume 30 minutes before going to the gym for a chill, protein-filled pre-workout drink.
Bringing a cooler to the gym is too extreme, but rolling the bottle up in a towel with an ice pack can help keep it cool until you’re ready to down your post-workout protein source. As a bonus, you also have a refreshing towel as you cool down after the workout.
If you can’t finish an opened bottle immediately, make sure the cap is on tightly and refrigerate it as soon as possible to keep the most freshness.
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Do Core Power shakes need to be refrigerated? Yes…and no.
As long as they’re unopened, they can be kept safely for weeks in moderate temperatures. However, once opened, they should be treated like regular milk and not let to stay out in 40 degrees Fahrenheit for prolonged periods.
In general, the Food Safety and Inspection Service states that the “danger zone” for food is between 40 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit, where bacteria can double every 20 minutes. Make sure to consume the opened shake to avoid any unfortunate bathroom trips.
So, next time you discover another forgotten Core Power shake, you know that refrigeration mostly matters if it’s been opened.