One of the latest trends on the social media platform TikTok has unearthed an existing fitness practice called “dry scooping” that’s making health experts cringe as it gains more popularity among gym sharks.
To “dry scoop” is to take a shot of pre-workout powder designed to boost energy and athletic performance without first diluting it in a liquid such as milk or water. The trend is similar to the cinnamon challenge in which people try to swallow a spoonful of the spice without coughing it out — it’s landed several people in the hospital.
TikTok users say dry scooping is convenient because it’s faster than sipping on a supposedly awful-tasting drink before hitting the weights and it brings on that “pump” factor more quickly. Many also say they feel like they look cool doing it.
But the technique is dangerous in several ways, experts say. It caused one 20-year-old to have a heart attack and many others to stop breathing altogether as they struggled to get the dry powder down their throats and sinuses. The trend can also aggravate heart conditions that some may not even know they have.
Pre-workout powders are not regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, so people don’t really know what they’re taking. Not to mention consuming the powder in its dry form can permanently damage your teeth.
“You have to use some common sense,” Dr. Saumil Oza, chief of cardiology at St. Vincent’s Hospital in Florida, told News4Jax. “Many things that you think are kind of crazy sounding actually are crazy sounding for a reason because they could be hazardous to your health.”
Don’t just do “what somebody on TikTok tells you to do,” Oza added.
Pre-workout powders usually contain amino acids, B vitamins, creatine used to increase muscle mass and boost strength, artificial sweeteners and a whole lot of caffeine.
Most brands have anywhere between 150 mg to 300 mg of caffeine in them — that’s about three times the amount in a cup of coffee, according to Dr. Joy Gelbman, a cardiologist at Weill Cornell Medicine and New York-Presbyterian.
“That big jolt of caffeine can ramp up the heart rate and the blood pressure, essentially putting a strain on the heart that can lead to the release of this cardiac enzyme called troponin” which is associated with heart attacks, Gelbman told Women’s Health magazine. “If you take a big shot of caffeine like that, in addition to any other caffeine you’re drinking in your normal daily habits, it can spike the blood pressure or the heart rate or lead to heart rhythm disturbances, which can be pretty dangerous to an otherwise young, healthy person.”
For 20-year-old Briatney Portillo, dry scooping landed her in the hospital after she began to feel chest, back and arm pains similar to those felt during heart attacks.
“After I took the pre-workout, I started to feel tingly and itchy all over my body, which wasn’t a good feeling, but I Googled it and it said that was a normal side effect, so I began to do my workout,” Portillo told Buzzfeed. “I started to feel a heavy feeling in my chest and slight pain, but it wasn’t too bad. I thought it was maybe anxiety or a bad panic attack, so I decided to just ignore it and push through my workout.”
Putting this out there so y’all don’t do what I did because I’m the type of person to try anything and everything I see here w/o questioning it ##fypシ
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But at work, Portillo told the outlet she started to sweat and her chest pain returned, so she called 911. Fortunately, she was OK and didn’t suffer major damage to her heart.
“Being 20, I would’ve never assumed I’d get a heart attack from pre-workout,” Portillo told Buzzfeed. “Just because you see it online, even if it’s ‘fitness influencers’ doing it, doesn’t mean it’s safe. Being young doesn’t mean we’re invincible.”
Dry scooping is also a choking hazard, registered dietician Sarah Grace Meckelberg told PopSugar, because people can accidentally inhale it in a way that makes the powder enter their lungs and sinuses, which can cause an infection.
“You’ve probably seen it happen: someone puts the scoop in their mouth, only to breathe in and have a ton of powder come out everywhere,” Meckelberg said.
And “many pre-workouts have citric acid in them. Putting this harsh acid directly on your teeth can chew away at your enamel in a way that permanently damages them,” she added.
Because pre-workout powders aren’t regulated by the FDA, the supplements “can be laced with banned substances like stimulants, steroids and other toxic ingredients. Many of these substances can increase risk for heart attacks, liver disease and other serious medical complications,” Dr. Jason Nagata, an assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of California, San Francisco, told Vice.
Aside from the serious health consequences of dry scooping and the unknowns surrounding pre-workout powders in general, Nagata said young people don’t need that extra energy boost, adding that those who do use them are more likely to use steroids and develop eating disorders later in life.
“Not everyone will react the same to pre-workout products when they’re properly mixed with fluids, so imagine taking concentrated forms of the supplement,” spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Yasi Ansari told Self. “How do you know if the concentrated blend of ingredients you’re consuming at once isn’t going to negatively affect you?”