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No, you absolutely shouldn’t be dry scooping pre-workout powder, doctors confirm

A photo of pre-workout powder on a wooden bench
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Doctors have issued a stark warning to parents and gym-goers about the TikTok dry scooping trend, after researchers in the U.S. undertook research into the practice. Videos demonstrating how to dry scoop have amassed more than 8 million views on TikTok, but the results can be dangerous, if not deadly.

Dry scooping involves taking power supplements neat, rather than diluted in water, as recommended by the manufacturers. Researchers speaking at a health conference in the U.S. have flagged the growing trend as dangerous, amid concerns that teenagers influenced by social media will try dry scooping. 

Pre-workout powders typically contain ingredients designed to give the body a boost before a workout to help increase stamina. Typically, a pre-workout supplement will contain amino acids, vitamins, and ingredients like caffeine, creatine, and beta-alanine. Researchers at the Cohen Children's Medical Center in New York found that a scoop of pre-workout powder can contain as much caffeine as five cups of coffee. Taking large amounts of caffeine has been shown to have an effect on the heart, and may cause palpitations and extra or missed beats.

The dry-scooping trend isn’t anything new; Reddit threads discussing the benefits of inhaling dry powder date back five years. However, the trend has seen a resurgence in recent months, partly due to TikTok. The study researchers analyzed 100 videos posted on TikTok with the hashtag “pre-workout,” and only eight of them showed the powder being used in its intended way. 

Can dry scooping cause a heart attack? 

One TikTok user, Briatney Portillo, recently made headlines after she claimed to have tried dry scooping and suffered a heart attack as a result. The 20-year-old said: “I never thought something like this would ever happen to me. Especially because I’m so young.”

Nutrition scientist Bridget Benelam, from the British Nutrition Foundation, told BBC News: "There doesn't appear to be much research on the benefits of these products, although there is some evidence that caffeine may improve sports performance in some cases. These studies are typically done in athletes, and so it's not clear how relevant this is for the wider population.

"The levels of caffeine in these products vary from the equivalent of about one to over three cups of filter coffee, if made up according to the manufacturer's instructions.

"So, there is a risk of over-consuming caffeine, especially if using more than once a day, or just consuming the powder, where you may consume more than the recommended amount."

As well as the effects on the heart, researchers have found that accidentally inhaling powder can cause choking, infections, or pneumonia. 

Doctor and YouTuber Bernard Hsu posted a video about a patient who was reportedly hospitalized with a brain injury after dry scooping eight scoops of pre-workout. In his video, Hsu explains, “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 [the patient’s] blood pressure so high that it caused his brain to start to stroke in the form of a bleed.”

With all of this in mind, we would certainly advise against dry scooping. If you do want to use protein powder shakes as part of your fitness goals, we've rounded up the best protein shakers here.  

Alternatively, why not take a look at the best exercises to do if you sit down all day. And while we’re at it, we’ve also got workout advice on how to ditch belly fat, the best resistance band workouts you can do from just about anywhere, and the best Tabata workouts to try.

Jane McGuire

Jane McGuire is Tom's Guide's Fitness editor, which means she looks after everything fitness related - from running gear to yoga mats. An avid runner, Jane has tested and reviewed fitness products for the past four years, so knows what to look for when finding a good running watch or a pair of shorts with pockets big enough for your smartphone. When she's not pounding the pavements, you'll find Jane striding round the Surrey Hills, taking far too many photos of her puppy.