Experts have raised their concerns over a potentially dangerous ‘dry scooping’ challenge that started trending recently on various popular social media platforms.

Numerous videos posted on TikTok, Instagram and YouTube show gym-goers and teenagers pouring dry pre-workout powder into their mouths rather than mixing it in water to make a drink as recommended by supplement manufacturers.

Why it’s trending

The main reason for this practice appears to be a bigger energy boost. Many proponents of dry scooping suggest that mixing the powder in water dilutes the potency while dry scooping allows your body to digest the active ingredients quicker, which helps you train harder and longer.

However, as with so many online trends, this practice has since morphed into a challenge. Many people, including teenagers and younger children, are posting dry scooping videos on social media simply to see how many servings they can consume. And this, it seems, is where the real danger lies.

Know the dangers

Given the prevalence and popularity of these videos – some were viewed over 8 million times – a team of researchers presented a study during the American Academy of Paediatrics 2021 National Conference and Exhibition on the potential dangers associated with dry scooping.

The study titled “Dry Scooping and Other Dangerous Pre-Workout Consumption Methods: A Quantitative Analysis” reviewed 100 TikTok videos that carried the “#preworkout” hashtag. The study authors analysed elements such as the method of ingestion, number of servings, and combination with other substances.

Danger to children

According to the research, some videos feature people mixing pre-workouts with other substances such as energy drinks, creatine, protein powder, and alcohol.

This practice can lead to an overdose of stimulants commonly used in pre-workout formulations and energy drinks.

Based on the findings, researchers say that the improper use of pre-workout supplements poses risks, particularly to children. Various global media outlets also report that some people were hospitalised after engaging in the challenge – one person reportedly suffered a heart attack after consuming four scoops of a pre-workout.

Potential risks

However, consuming a pre-workout supplement before training generally does not pose any direct risk when consumed according to label recommendations.

It appears the greatest risks stem from the potential for overdosing, or the accidental inhalation of the powder, which can cause respiratory (choking, breathing difficulties, infection or pneumonia) or cardiovascular distress or even death.

The study author concluded: “Physicians should be aware of the pervasiveness of pre-workout, dangerous methods of consumption, and the potential for accidental overconsumption, inhalation, and injury.”

Other potential risks posed by dry scooping include possible damage to your teeth because pre-workout powders may contain citric acid in their flavouring system. Regularly subjecting your teeth to undiluted citric acid could erode enamel over time and lead to cavities and tooth decay.

Safe usage guidelines

Overall, gym-goers looking for a boost before training should continue using their preferred pre-workout product.

When used correctly, pre-workouts generally offer proven performance-enhancing benefits from safe, effective and scientifically validated ingredients like caffeine.

Just stick to label recommendations, which direct how you should consume the supplement, and do not exceed the maximum recommended dosage or serving.

And always consult your doctor or a medical professional before taking any new stimulant-based product to determine if you have any underlying health issues. In this regard, anyone with cardiovascular conditions such as high blood pressure or heart rhythm issues should generally avoid taking supplements that contain stimulants.

It is also important to stay hydrated when incorporating any pre-workout or energy supplement into your regimen for the best results.