TikTok Users Are Dry Scooping Pre-Workout, But Experts Have Concerns
If you're on #FitnessTok (aka the health and wellness hub of TikTok), then you've likely come across a wide range of tips, tricks, and trends from fitness creators on the app. While there's no denying the platform can provide valuable information and even fun new workouts to try — looking at you, "Cupid Shuffle" plank — some advice is better left behind on your For You page.
Case in point: Tiktokers are dry scooping pre-workout (aka swallowing a scoopful of pre-workout powder and quickly chasing it with water) for extra energy before working out. While the trend has gone viral, it's actually pretty dangerous, according to fitness experts.
Ahead, learn more about the purpose of pre-workout supplements, the risks of dry scooping pre-workout, and how to safely get an energy boost before you hit the gym.
What is pre-workout?
Pre-workout is a fitness supplement, typically in gummy or powder formula form, which is intended to provide an energy boost before a workout. Formulas vary from brand to brand, but the most common ingredients added for workout benefits are caffeine and amino acids, such as creatine and beta-alanine, explains Stevie Lyn Smith, R.D.N., C.S.S.D., C.D.N., a registered sports dietician.
Does pre-workout work?
Research has uncovered some potential benefits of taking pre-workout. Pre-workout supplements may help promote increased energy, muscular endurance, and anaerobic capacity, according to a 2018 study published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. (Related: Your Guide to Pre- and Post-Workout Supplements)
The caffeine found in pre-workout can help increase focus, provide energy, and improve overall performance, explains Robert Parisien, M.D., an orthopedic sports medicine surgeon at Mount Sinai Health System. "Beta-alanine is intended to lower fatigue and enhance recovery during high-intensity workouts, and creatine may provide more energy for muscle contraction." (Related: The 10 Best Vitamins and Nutrients That Help Boost Muscle Growth)
What is dry scooping?
Typically, pre-workout comes in a powder formula that's supposed to be diluted in several ounces of water to create an energy drink. The purpose of diluting pre-workout is to help pace your body's absorption of the powder, according to the Cleveland Clinic. Users should take it about 30 minutes before exercising to reap the benefits, explains Smith.
That said, some TikTokers opt for an alternative and admittedly more risky method. Dry scooping pre-workout involves ingesting a scoop of the chalky powder and quickly drinking water to make it easier to swallow. Why? Some people believe it helps the powder absorb more quickly into their system and, in turn, offers even greater improvements to their workout performance, explains Dr. Parisien.
Does dry scooping pre-workout work?
It's true that dry scooping pre-workout may increase energy by essentially flooding your system with caffeine with one swallow, according to the Cleveland Clinic, but experts caution against it for so many reasons (more on these risks below).
If you do decide to use a pre-workout, make sure to take it as directed on the packaging 30 to 60 minutes before a workout. "Use it with caution, [especially] if working out later in the day, as it could interfere with sleep," says Smith. For reference, one serving of pre-workout typically contains anywhere between 150 to 300 mg of caffeine per serving, compared to less than 100 mg in a single cup of coffee.
While there are ways to safely take pre-workout, it may not even be necessary before a workout. "Most people do not require a pre-workout supplement and will benefit from eating enough to support their lifestyle, including foods that contain carbohydrates before and protein after exercise," says Smith. Dr. Parisien agrees. "The carbohydrates will supply the energy needed to carry out a workout, while the protein contains important amino acids, which your body utilizes to repair and build muscle," he says. (Related: What to Eat When You're Exhausted and Need to Wake Up Fast)
Is dry scooping safe?
FTR, while pre-workout alone isn't a red flag, experts debate its safety because supplements aren't strictly regulated by the Food and Drug Administration. That said, when it comes to the efficacy and safety of dry scooping, the answer is a lot clearer. No.
The risks of dry scooping pre-workout include choking, trouble breathing, and aspiration, i.e. when a substance, such as food or a liquid, enters a person's lungs, says Smith. (While aspiration can occur with other substances, it's harder to avoid inadvertently inhaling a powder.) "Aspiration occurs when something, in this case, pre-workout powder, enters the airway. This can lead to aspiration pneumonia, which can have severe complications if not treated in a timely manner," she explains.
In more severe cases, deciding to dry scoop pre-workout can even cause a heart attack, says Dr. Parisien. "Excessive absorption of caffeine may cause an abnormally elevated heart rate, which may result in irregular heart rhythms," he explains. In at least one case, a TikToker admitted to landing in the hospital due to a heart attack after trying the dry scooping trend.
Consider this trend a hard pass, as the risks outweigh the potential benefits. Even TikTok appears to have acknowledged the potential dangers of dry scooping pre-workout since the trend went viral last year. Now, when you search for "dry scooping" on the app, you're directed to a page that outlines how to make informed decisions before trying online challenges.
If you still want to add pre-workout to your fitness routine, check with a doctor first, and avoid dry scooping the powder.