Earlier this year the dry-scooping challenge went viral and despite doctors’ warnings, some TikTokers are still participating in the trend.
Researcher Nelson Chow, a Princeton University student and intern at Cohen Children’s Medical Center, will deliver a new study abstract on dangerous pre-workout consumption methods on Saturday at the American Academy of Paediatrics 2021 National Conference and Exhibition.
As part of the study, researchers from the Cohen Children’s Medical Center in New York analyzed 100 videos from the “preworkout” hashtag and found that just eight of the videos showed the powder being used in the correct way. More than a third of the videos featured dry-scooping, with these garnering over eight million likes.
The researchers warn: “Physicians should be aware of the pervasiveness of pre-workout, dangerous methods of consumption, and the potential for accidental over-consumption, inhalation, and injury.”
So what is the trend all about, and why are researchers concerned about it?
What is dry-scooping?
Dry-scooping is when a person eats a scoop of pre-workout powder without first diluting it with water or milk.
Pre-workout powders are typically taken 30 minutes before hitting the gym. Packed full of stimulants such as sugar and caffeine, these drinks can give your body more fuel so you can power through your sets.
Advocates of dry-scooping say it makes the hit of stimulants more concentrated as absorption into your system isn’t slowed down by adding liquid.
Pre-workout drinks made by legitimate companies are usually safe, but Healthline warns that the sweeteners can do a number on your digestive system and having too much caffeine can lead to anxiety, increased blood pressure, and impaired sleep.
Why is it dangerous?
There are a few reasons it’s not a good habit to get into, with potentially the biggest issue being the concentrated dose of caffeine you’ll be hit with if you dry-scoop.
According to Health, some powders on the market have up to 250mg of caffeine per scoop, which is three times the amount of caffeine found in a coffee. This can send your heart rate and blood pressure haywire, which isn’t good for your ticker. There is even a risk of exacerbating an underlying heart condition that you might not yet know about.
The researchers from the Cohen Children’s Medical Center in New York, meanwhile, say a scoop of powder might pack as much caffeine as five cups of coffee.
Bridget Benelam, nutrition communications manager at the British Nutrition Foundation, said that although the levels of caffeine in these products may vary, there is a risk of over-consuming caffeine, especially if using more than once a day or just consuming the powder.
She told The Independent that although there hasn’t been much research into the benefits of pre-workout powders, there is some evidence that caffeine might improve performance amongst athletes — but it’s not clear how it can benefit the wider population.
Benelam added: “It’s certainly not necessary to take supplements before training and for those who choose to do so it’s important to follow the instructions on pack to prepare them.”
Nutritionist Ayat Sleymann told PopSugar that there is a risk that the excessive caffeine can trigger fast and irregular heartbeats, which could lead to cardiac arrest or even death.
Sleymann said: “There have been reported cases of stroke, heart attacks, hepatitis, and death from not following diluting instructions.”
TikToker and OnlyFans creator Briatney Portillo previously warned of how she suffered a heart attack after trying the trend.
Accidentally breathing in some of the powder can also make you choke, and could also cause a specific type of pneumonia – aspiration pneumonia. A less serious side effect is that it could also stain your pearly whites.
Dietician Sarah Grace Meckelberg told PopSugar that many pre-workout powders contain citric acid, and putting this directly on your teeth can eat away at your enamel.
Powerlifter Gavin Adin said there are two main reasons to always mix your powder with water before a workout.
Adding liquid hydrates you, and by sipping on it you’ll feel more consistent benefits of the powder during your workout.
It’s also just not a massively fun thing to attempt. TikToker Brodie Falgoust called dry scooping “literally the worst experience ever.”
Much like the cinnamon challenge that dominated early YouTube, it can end up being messier than it’s worth.
Although people might want concentrated caffeine hit before a workout, it’s safer to follow manufacturers’ instructions. Err on the side of caution by taking dietary advice from TikTok with a pinch — or scoop — of salt.