A dangerous new trend has emerged among TikTok users: Gym-goers are taking pre-workout powders without water, also referred to as “dry scooping.”
Some people claim that dry scooping can help your body absorb the compounds faster, producing a better workout, but these claims are not rooted in science.
Plus, this practice comes with several potential risks, some of which may be serious.
This article explains the risks of the TikTok dry scooping trend and reviews how to safely use pre-workout powders and supplements.
Pre-workout powders are dietary supplements formulated to enhance your workout by providing some potential benefits.
These include boosting energy and focus, increasing workout capacity, promoting blood flow to working muscles, and preventing fatigue.
Some of the most common pre-workout ingredients include (1):
- Caffeine: boosts energy and focus while decreasing fatigue
- Creatine: can enhance high intensity exercise performance and improve training adaptations
- Beta-alanine: acts as a pH buffer for lactic acid and may increase high intensity exercise capacity
- L-theanine: often used to buffer the jittery effects of caffeine consumption and promote focus
- L-arginine: a precursor to nitric oxide, a stimulator of blood flow and vascularity throughout the body
- Citrulline malate: readily converted to L-arginine in the body and a known stimulator of nitric oxide
- Branched chain amino acids: specific amino acids often added to promote muscle protein synthesis and prevent muscle breakdown, though data on their effectiveness is mixed
While pre-workout powders were popularized in bodybuilding culture, athletes in other sports use them as well.
Most brands suggest mixing the pre-workout powder with water and consuming it around 30 minutes before working out.
Pre-workout powders are dietary supplements formulated to boost energy, prevent fatigue, increase work capacity, and increase blood flow to working muscles.
Most pre-workout powders are designed to be mixed with water. Taking them dry carries some potentially serious health risks.
What’s more, pre-workout powders are generally intended for people over the age of 18 due to high levels of caffeine — which can be dangerous if taken in excessive doses. In addition, pre-workout powders may contain potentially harmful substances.
That makes the dry scooping trend on TikTok even more dangerous, as minors are partaking in this challenge.
Here are the major risks of dry scooping pre-workout powders and why experts are strictly against it.
When attempting to consume a pre-workout powder without water, you’re at an increased risk of inhaling the powder.
After putting a scoop of pre-workout powder in your mouth, you may be unable to swallow it due to its chalky texture. That can cause you to gasp for air, sucking the powder into your lungs and nasal passages.
That’s known as aspiration. In serious cases, it can lead to inflammation or an infection in the lungs (2).
Side effects on the heart
Many pre-workout powders contain large doses of caffeine, sometimes exceeding 300 mg per serving. That’s equivalent to the amount of caffeine found in three 8-ounce (237 mL) cups of coffee.
While the majority of adults may be able to handle this amount of caffeine when the powder is mixed with water and gradually consumed, dry scooping introduces a whopping dose of caffeine into your body all at once.
That may be too much for many people to handle, especially those under the age of 18.
Such a large dose of caffeine can lead to uncontrollable heart palpitations and an acute increase in blood pressure (3).
There has been at least one documented case of a social media influencer experiencing a heart attack from dry scooping a pre-workout powder (4).
May cause digestive issues
Another reported side effect of dry scooping is digestive issues (5).
The large amounts of undiluted substances entering your stomach all at once with minimal liquid can lead to symptoms including (6):
For most folks, simply mixing the supplement with water can prevent these issues.
Dry scooping is a dangerous practice that comes with potential health risks, including heart palpitations, lung irritation or infection from accidental inhalation, and digestive issues. By adhering to label instructions, these can mostly be avoided.
While pre-workout supplements, including powders, are not for everyone, they may have their place in certain training programs for intermediate to advanced trainees.
Most beginners will not greatly benefit from taking pre-workout supplements. Instead, they should focus mainly on getting adequate nutrition pre- and post-exercise, learning exercise techniques, and gradually getting stronger.
In particular, for those under the age of 18, taking pre-workout powders is strongly discouraged due to potentially serious health risks.
In addition, certain ingredients found in pre-workout powders may be banned by the National Collegiate Athletic Association, or NCAA (7).
These products often contain a variety of ingredients — which are typically not listed out individually but as a proprietary blend. So, it’s important for student-athletes to keep this in mind.
For adults who wish to responsibly take pre-workout powders, here are some safety tips for using them.
Adhere to instructions on the package
One of the most important aspects of safely taking any pre-workout supplement is to adhere to the instructions as printed on the label.
Most brands advise you to mix pre-workout powders with 8–16 ounces (237–473 mL) of water and to consume it within 30 minutes prior to working out.
Some brands recommend dosing guidelines based on your body weight, as that may affect how the supplement is processed in your body.
By following the instructions on the package, you’re much less likely to experience potentially dangerous side effects.
Avoid proprietary blends
Some brands of pre-workout powders include proprietary blends, which are essentially formulations of various supplements listed all together on the label.
The labeling of “proprietary blends” protects the company’s formulation, but it puts users at risk, as you don’t know the quantity of each ingredient in the blend.
It’s best to avoid proprietary blends when you’re looking to choose a high quality supplement. Consider sticking to brands that are fully transparent with the ingredients on their label.
Stick to third-party tested pre-workout powders
Considering that pre-workout powders — like all dietary supplements — are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), it’s important to choose a brand with a good track record that you trust.
Many companies choose to have their products verified by a third party, which ensures they’re free of contaminants or banned substances.
It’s best to use supplements that have been third-party tested for the safety of their ingredients and accuracy of the labeling.
In addition, check out Healthline’s 10 best pre-workout supplements for muscle gain and 6 best pre-workout supplements for women, vetted by our business integrity team and medical experts.
In order to safely use a pre-workout powder, it’s best to adhere to the label instructions, avoid brands that advertise proprietary blends, and choose products that have been third-party tested.
“Dry scooping” is a TikTok trend encouraging people to take pre-workout powders without water.
This practice is very dangerous and may result in some potentially serious health effects, including heart palpitations, lung irritation or infection, and digestive issues.
In addition, pre-workout powders are generally not recommended for those under the age of 18.
For adults who wish to use pre-workout supplements safely, it’s recommended to adhere to the label instructions, avoid brands marketing proprietary blends, and choose products that have been third-party tested.
In all cases, dry scooping pre-workout powders is dangerous and strongly discouraged by healthcare professionals.