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‘Dry scooping’ pre-workout powder can have life-threatening consequences


TextAlex Peters

An expert explains the dangers of the latest TikTok trend

The myth of the shortcut has always held a captivating allure. From get-rich-quick schemes to slim-thick syrups to workout methods that promise a flat stomach without even getting out of bed, it can be so tempting to try to beat the system, to use a cheat code that allows you to skip all the hard work and go straight to the jackpot. What often ends up happening, however, is that these shortcuts are at best useless and, at worst, dangerous. That’s certainly the case with the latest fitness “hack” going around TikTok: dry scooping. 

Dry Scooping is the name for when you take a scoop of pre-workout powder dry and then chase it with water, instead of diluting it with water and drinking it, as intended. This is supposed to give a more intense energising effect and enhance your workout, helping you exercise longer and harder, and it has become very popular on TikTok.  However, people are now beginning to report adverse effects of the method including one young woman who suffered a heart attack as a direct result of dry scooping. 

TikTok user Briatney Portillo was hospitalised with chest pains, nausea, and fatigue after dry scooping pre-workout powder. The 20-year-old was diagnosed with having had an NSTEMI, a type of heart attack in which the artery of the heart is not completely blocked off. Portillo shared her experience on TikTok, telling Buzzfeed she thought it was important to raise awareness. “Being 20 I would’ve never assumed I’d get a heart attack from pre-workout,” she said. “I just want people to be careful with what they’re consuming. Just because you see it online, even if it’s ‘fitness influencers’ doing it, doesn’t mean it’s safe.”

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Portillo is not the only person to face negative consequences from dry scooping. Another TikTok user @mkaaaybabee was filming her reaction to taking dry powder when she stopped breathing and immediately needed her inhaler. Meanwhile YouTube doctor Bernard Hsu reported a 25-year-old patient who was hospitalised unconscious with a brain injury after consuming eight-scoops of pre-workout powder. “The combination of huge amounts of caffeine and beta phenylethylamine in eight scoops of pre-workout swallowed all at once, with heavy lifting, all together could have increased his blood pressure so high that it caused his brain to start to stroke in the form of a bleed,” Hsu explained. 

The caffeine that this patient had consumed from the eight scoops of powder was the equivalent of chugging 17 cups of coffee. Because pre-workout powders are designed to improve energy and performance, they usually contain high levels of caffeine as well as other energy-enhancing compounds such as B-vitamins, amino acids, creatine, and beta alanine. Intended to be diluted with water, when you consume these ingredients in concentrated doses it can increase blood pressure. Symptoms of caffeine overdose also include nausea, vomiting, heart palpitations, headache, fever, confusion, and seizures.

“Taking a powder dry can lead to quicker absorption because it starts to get absorbed immediately through the membranes in the mouth, oesophagus, etc. This means that the onset of effects of the supplements will happen at a much greater rate than if taken diluted, as directed,” says Rhian Stephenson, nutritionist, founder of Artah, and former CEO of London fitness temple Psycle. She explains that taking the powder dry can cause a quick spike in heart rate and blood pressure resulting in a strain on the heart and heart rhythm disturbances. “This doesn’t even take into effect any other lifestyle factors, like if you already have hypertension or any other medical conditions that may be exacerbated by this.”

While any powder or pill that is high in caffeine can cause adverse effects in certain people, even if taken as directed, Stephenson says because the absorption is faster when taken dry the effect can be much quicker. These powders are also often not studied or FDA-approved so it’s important to err on the side of caution. “There’s an inherent risk if you take anything in opposition to how it’s been designed. The bottom line is that these supplements aren’t meant to be taken dry, so it’s something you should avoid,” she says. Plus, there is also the added risk of choking on the powder when taking it dry, as TikTok user @mkaaaybabee discovered. 

Ultimately, Stephenson says she would “definitely, definitely not” recommend anyone dry-scoop. “Not only is it not worth the risk, but it’s also completely unnecessary – you can have a great workout without them.” Keep yourselves safe out there kids.

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