By: Rachel Gore

Many gym-goers use pre-workout supplements to boost their energy and performance before exercising. Generally speaking, these pre-workout supplements come in a powder form that is supposed to be mixed with water then consumed. While different pre-workout brands have their own recipes, common ingredients include caffeine, nitric oxide and amino acids such as creatine, beta-alanine and taurine.  

Dry scooping is when someone swallows pre-workout supplement powder dry instead of diluting it with water as intended. This potentially dangerous trend exploded in popularity when the so-called “dry scoop challenge” gained traction on TikTok in 2021. The challenge is exactly what it sounds like: eating a scoop of pre-workout powder dry before chasing it down with water. 

Research presented at the 2021 American Academy of Pediatrics National Conference & Exhibition found that of 100 TikTok videos with the tag “pre-workout,” just 8% of them showed pre-workout being used with liquid as intended. While 100 videos is a small sample size, some dry scoop challenge TikToks had over eight million views at the time of the research.  

Some TikTok users see this challenge as harmless fun. Others claim that dry scooping benefits athletic performance by energizing you. Neither of these claims is true. In fact, dry scooping is a dangerous trend that comes with multiple health risks. Here are just a few of those risks: 

Ingesting high levels of caffeine can cause heart problems. 

Pre-workout supplements have a range of 150 to 300 milligrams of caffeine per single serving. For reference, that’s around the same amount of caffeine as 1.5 to 3 cups of coffee. Meanwhile, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) recommends that healthy American adults consume no more than 400 milligrams of caffeine per day. 

Consuming that amount of caffeine at once can lead to toxicity and health problems in the form of heart palpitations, irregular heartbeat, cardiac problems or an increase in blood pressure. In one serious but rare incident, an otherwise healthy 20-year-old influencer was hospitalized when she had a heart attack after attempting the TikTok dry scooping challenge.  

Supplements may contain dangerous ingredients. 

In the United States, pre-workout supplements are poorly regulated. The FDA does not review pre-workout supplements for safety before companies market them. As a result, their products’ exact composition may be unclear and could contain toxic ingredients not listed on the label. Through the act of dry scooping, these unknown ingredients could become more hazardous. 

The powder is a choking hazard. 

Swallowing any powder dry comes with the risk of aspiration, which is when something you swallow enters your airway or lungs. This can lead to coughing, respiratory problems and even choking. In more serious cases, inhalation can lead to aspiration pneumonia. 

Pre-workout doesn’t actually boost athletic performance.  

There is no evidence that dry scooping increases sports performance. In fact, supplements, in general, are usually not necessary for regular gym-goers. For those who want to focus on protein intake specifically, research has indicated that protein has a similar effect on the muscles if you take it before or after your workout. 

The bottom line 

Pre-workout in its powder form is not safe for consumption and does not enhance athletic performance. The tried and tested methods of boosting energy and performance, such as eating well, staying hydrated, getting enough sleep and timing carbohydrate intake around exercise should be more than enough for those looking to maximize performance–without the risks that come with ingesting highly caffeinated powder.