Tiktok does one of two things for dietitians these days, usually at the same time:
1.) Gives us second hand embarrassment due to the sheer amount of nutrition “gurus” who are actually just really loud boneheads.
2.) Gives us some major job security from people coming to us to clear up the confusion of the conflicting and downright ridiculous info that circulates on that app.
The latest Tiktok trend that’s doing both for me right now? Dry scooping.
It’s one of the latest Tiktok trends gripping the FitTok and it involves scooping pre-workout powder “dry” straight from jar to mouth.
Now, for the uninitiated, pre-workout powder is SUPPOSED to be mixed withwater and then consumed like a drink. However, fitness influencers would like you to believe that dry scooping pre-workout instead of diluting it with water makes it more effective.
Let’s ignore the fact that this assertion has no roots in science whatsoever, but even if it did, the risks of dry scooping outweigh the supposed benefits.
A Canadian study published just this year found that 17% of adolescents they surveyed reported dry scooping their pre-workout, with the prevalence being highest in those who engaged in weight training and spent more time on social media. This is deeply concerning to me given the risks. So, let’s talk.
Why Are People Dry Scooping?
It’s not an entirely new thing for Tiktok to issue challenges that people will fall over themselves to follow mindlessly. After all, what’s the lifespan on these things? 2, maybe 3 days before it’s old news? Better chop chop if you want to get those views, kid. Less Googling about safety and more filming and sound searching!
Influencers that promote dry scoop insist that, by taking pre-workout without any liquid, it will absorb into the mucus membranes of your mouth directly and get into your blood more quickly. Then, somehow, this “faster hit to the bloodstream” is conflated with better exercise performance in the gym.
Well, given that pre-workout isn’t cocaine (at least it usually isn’t), it doesn’t exactly work this way.
Dry Scooping Risks
Pre-workouts contain a vast number of ingredients, including stimulants that can affect heart rate and amino acids that require a lot of liver work to metabolize. That’s why it’s smart to take pre-workout as directed on the label.
So, before you coat your mouth with that palatably gritty, super easy-to-swallow powder, let’s talk about the potential health risks:
People in the fitness world tend to crave instant gratification, so having your caffeine hit instantly is an attractive prospect.
However, the massive amount of caffein) included in many pre-workout supplements (you know, to get you super jacked, bro) can turn toxic if not diluted. This becomes even more dangerous when you consider the results of a 2019 study showing that some pre-workout supplements even have a much higher caffeine content than the label discloses, especially since supplements are not regulated by the FDA.
That said, studies have shown that ingesting 10 grams of caffeine in a day can be lethal with the results being irreversible kidney or liver damage. Now, to be fair, it could take quite a lot of pre-workout to ingest 10 grams of caffeine.
For perspective, most energy drinks contain around 300 milligrams of caffeine, which is about 3% of the lethal dose.
However, the combination of the sudden assault of caffeing on your system that dry scooping provides, plus taking a pre-workout whose caffeine content is understated on the label and ingesting caffeine from other sources throughout the day can put you unintentionally, but dangerously close to a caffeine overdose.
This danger has less science behind the explanation and is more of a point of…well just common sense.
To put it plainly… it’s super difficult to swallow dry powder without water, people! Not only is it unpleasant, but it can lead to choking and trouble breathing if you inhale it while trying to get it down.
As you can imagine, having a fruity powder full of chemicals inhaled into your lungs isn’t good for them and can lead to pneumonia and even lung damage, especially if done continuously.
Make no mistake, this isn't a scare tactic. A quick Google search will show you several stories of people who have developed heart palpitations and even had a heart attack after dry scooping because they saw people doing it on Tiktok.
As mentioned, the amount of stimulants included in pre-workouts being introduced to the system too rapidly when it is dry scooped. This can cause a quickly rising blood pressure and a spiking heart rate which can be dangerous, especially if you have a pre-existing heart condition that you may not know about.
Ingesting a huge amount of substances without diluting them, no matter how effective they may be at boosting your workout potential, can be harmful to your digestive health as well. That’s because the powder is meant to be diluted with water and your gut knows it.
In their raw, powdered state, all of these substances will make your gut try to dilute them on its own. It does this by pulling water from your body quickly and suddenly into your gut to restore equilibrium and make the powder easier to digest.
Unfortunately, this sudden fluid shift can cause severe stomach cramps, nausea, diarrhea and vomiting. Not exactly what you’re looking for your body to do in the middle of an intense workout.
The good news is, this can be avoided by just, you know, being kind to your intestines by mixing your pre-workout with some water first.
How to Safely Use Pre-Workout Supplements
The best thing you can do? MIX YOUR PRE-WORKOUT WITH HECKING WATER. END OF ARTICLE.
Just kidding, but seriously. The FDA recommends Americans limit their caffeine intake to 400 milligrams a day and many pre-workout powders contain more than this amount.
The danger is even greater when a high amount of caffeine is combined with other stimulants like beta-alanine, taurine, citrulline and whatever other unique “proprietary blend” of energy boosting compounds.
It’s also a good idea from a safety standpoint to choose a pre-workout that has been third-party tested from bodies like NSF for Sport and Informed Choices.
That doesn’t mean that it’s okay to dry scoop third-party tested pre-workouts either, but it does mean you know that the powder actually contains the amount of caffeine that it is labeled to contain. You also wanna watch how much caffeine you consume from other sources throughout the day too.
Before taking any dietary supplement, consult your healthcare provider to ensure you aren't unintentionally exposing yourself to any health risks.
The Bottom Line?
Sports dietitians are constantly fighting the battle of debunking the ridiculous diet and fitness claims and practices on social media. Most of them are dumb, but harmless. However, the dry scooping trend is downright dangerous.
Given all of the compounds contained in pre-workout supplements that have pronounced and sometimes dramatic effects on our bodies, it’s important to listen to the manufacturer, not social media influencers, to keep yourself safe.
So, you heard it here first. The next time you think about dry scooping pre-workout powder, just don’t. Your heart, lungs and tummy will thank you for it.