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Fact checked by Andrew Lenau, ISSA CPT & Sports NutritionistFACT CHECKED
There has been a recent trend with social media influencers doing what is known as “dry scooping” their pre-workout before they hit the gym. Supposedly, this will make the pre-workout hit your body harder and faster, producing an intense energy boost.
At the same time, many concerned viewers have made claims that this TikTok trend is dangerous and can cause various health issues. Obviously something can't be good for you and bad for you at the same time; that would be crazy! So which one is it? This article is going to answer that question by looking at all the following factors:
Within our context, the term 'dry scooping" refers to the practice of taking a scoop of pre-workout and putting it directly into your mouth. This is obviously not the intended way of taking a pre-workout supplement which is to mix it with 8-12oz of water in a glass and drinking it.
It’s a relatively new trend that was first seen on various social media apps with Tiktok users being a major catalyst. From there, it started to be picked up by your average gym goers and is now a relatively common practice by gym goers. The primary reason for taking pre-workout supplements by dry scooping pre-workout powder is that it's claimed to "hit" you faster and stronger.
As the term "pre-workout" merely refers to a type of supplement rather than a specific compound (i.e., creatine or protein), we want to quickly go over some of the most common pre-workout ingredients.
Caffeine is one of the most common ingredients due to its ability to boost energy, increase mood, and mitigate fatigue. Further, caffeine is one of the most scientifically backed supplements that has been proven to improve performance. That said, there are a few other stimulants commonly used such as yohimbe to elicit similar effects. Due to the fact these compounds can increase heart rate, these are generally the ingredients that cause the biggest concern. That said, your workouts could definitely improve with caffeine in it.
While beta-alanine doesn't provide energy, it's also a very effective ingredient. Other than making you itch, It works by increasing the amount of a compound known as carnosine which can decrease the "burn" in a muscle and increase work output.
Nitric boosters will increase the amount of nitric oxide in the blood. This will dilate your blood vessels which allow for increased blood flow. As a result, your muscles get more oxygen-delivering fresh blood which increases your workload. This is one of the more common ingredients, especially for those who prefer a non-stim pre-workout.
Muscle buffers are a type of compound that help maintain a healthy pH balance in the muscles. Above we spoke about beta-alanine, which is the most popular, but there are other muscle buffers such as sodium bicarbonate.
Before we speak about any possible increased risk from dry scooping pre-workout powder, we want to see if there are any potential benefits. As mentioned above, most trainees will prefer dry scooping pre-workout powders because they think it allows the product to work faster. People often claim that it will boost their energy faster and stronger which creates a noticeable improvement in the gym.This holds merit as caffeine absorbed through the mouth has been shown to enter the bloodstream faster. Further, most folks will testify this to be true so we will take their word for it as we have never done it personally.
Another benefit is that it’s easier to just dump a full scoop of pre-workout in your mouth rather than getting a glass and mixing it with water. When looking at how much time you could save, it’s likely not that much. However, if you’re in a hurry to get out the door early in the morning, it can definitely save some time.
As you probably searched for this article, there's a good chance you heard there are various supposed health risks to dry scooping. Before we make a verdict on if this dry scooping trend is really that bad, let's just look at the major risks that are said to be associated with taking pre-workout powder dry. A few of the elevated health risks you could experience (per articles) are:
It's tough to say how serious these could be as any of them could turn into a life-threatening issue if severe enough. Still, these are events that could happen.
So, is pre-workout bad for you when you dry scoop? The vast majority of articles you look at for dry scooping pre-workout powder will lead you to believe it's horrible for your health. If you eat some dry pre-workout in one scoop, you're likely going to have a heart attack so have 911 on speed dial. As you probably have guessed, many of these seem to be sensationalized.
For example, one of the top stories found when searching for cases of adverse reactions caused by pre-workout is from a 20-year-old girl. Oddly enough, they blame the heart attack on the “high dose” of caffeine content at 320mg, but they immediately say that 400mg is generally safe for most people (we'll talk more about this below). In fact, this is the only cause of a heart attack from dry scooping we could find.
To be clear, we are not doctors. We are just using common sense and rational thinking as we review numerous articles with flamboyant titles such as "How dry scooping can land you in the hospital". That said, we identified two major risk concerns associated with dry scooping.
The first claim is that dry scooping could cause the inhalation of pre-workout powder. This is due to the powder being dry particles which can be easily inhaled. This theory arises from the fact that the workout powder is supposed to be consumed with water to dilute it as well as make it drinkable. When you eat the powder dry, the particles can “fly” around in your mouth.
While we guess this could be possible, it seems to be confusing the trend of dry scooping pre-workout and "the cinnamon challenge". In the cinnamon challenge, a person will attempt to swallow a spoonful of cinnamon. This often leaves the participant coughing up a huge cloud of cinnamon which is sometimes followed by a coughing fit.
However, notice we emphasized the word "swallow” when talking about the cinnamon challenge. This is vastly different when people dry scoop pre-workout as they will also add some water in their mouth before they swallow. Sometimes, a person will actually get a mouthful of water first and then dump it in their pre-workout. In other words, they're not swallowing dry pre-workout. In reality, they're putting a scoop in their mouth and then adding water. They then use their mouth to mix it real quick before they swallow or wash it down.
That said, we are aware that some people will swallow their pre workout completely dry. If you are doing this, then we would advise you to stop. Put some water in your mouth and swish it around before you try to swallow it.
While this is definitely not the intended way to consume pre workout, it's hard to justify the flamboyant words and sensationalism in headlines.
Pre-workout powders are notorious for having large amounts of caffeine content to provide energy. Depending on what pre-workout supplements you look at, the caffeine found in one dry scoop can be anywhere from 150mg to 400mg. The ones who claim dry scoopers are risking their lives point to this high concentration of caffeine as being the main culprit for health risks in pre-workout powders.
One point they make that is true is that the body's absorption rate for caffeine is significantly higher when absorbed through the mouth when compared to being swallowed (spoken about above). This is actually one of the reasons the caffeine gum has become so popular in the athletic world, especially endurance.
However, is consuming this much actually dangerous? Unless you are very sensitive to caffeine, these doses of caffeine shouldn't create any negative health risks of concern. In fact, death from caffeine overdose is extremely rare. For example, one review found only 26 cases of caffeine overdose, from which just 14 people died. Further, these people who died consumed over 10g of caffeine, with one individual eating 51g!¹ Keep in mind that even the highest pre-workout only has 400mg per serving, which is 1/25th of a lethal dose.
While we don't want to encourage people to be careless, it's hard to say that a small dose taken by people all the time is going to kill another person because they dry scooped it.
While pre-workout powders are generally 100% safe, there are some things you can look out for to ensure your safety during exercise. The supplement company has gotten a bit crazy over the years, with some asshole companies pulling dangerous stunts with their pre-workout supplements:
All this said, pre-workout is definitely one of the most effective dietary supplements that have been shown to improve exercise performance. While it makes sense to dry scoop as it's more convenient, we still recommend just taking it as directed. It can sometimes feel as if people follow the dry scooping trend more for show rather than actually trying to improve exercise performance.
If you do like working out right after work, we'd suggest either pre-mixing some in a water bottle before or use a portable funnel. This allows you to easily take a small amount of pre-workout powder with you and then lets you easily mix it at the gym.
As far as water, most supplements recommend 8-12oz. If you'd rather just mix with a little water and get it down with one swallow, that would likely be fine. That said, we like to use more water as these products usually taste good. Mixing your pre workout with a big glass of water is a great way to hydrate before the gym.
All this said dry scooping is a silly viral trend that seems to have been blown way out of proportion. While we think most of the stuff on these social media sites is stupid, and some definitely dangerous, we just don't see the level of danger in dry scooping that many outlets speak of. While you definitely could hurt yourself with pre-workout powders, you would have to deliberately try and take way more than instructed. However, this can be done by dry scoping or mixing with water.
The point being is that while we don't dry scoop pre-workout powder, nor do we recommend it, we don't think it's necessarily "dangerous" as long as you follow two guidelines:
That said, if you're looking for more energy to boost your workout performance, pre-workouts can definitely help. It's a great addition to your fitness routine as long as you're not stupid about it. Take it as directed, and you're not going to have any issues. Train hard and train smart. And please don't wind up in the hospital; you're not allowed to squat there.
Searching for more information on proper pre-workout dosing? Check out our articles on when to take pre workout and how often to take pre workout to ensure you're using it safely and getting its best benefits.
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