What is the new TikTok trend ‘dry-scooping’ and is it dangerous?

One TikTok influencer says she ended up in hospital with a suspected stroke

Ellie Abraham,Joanna Whitehead
Friday 08 October 2021 10:30 BST
Related Video: Tiktokker suffers heart-attack after trying out the popular 'dry scooping' challenge

Medical professionals have been warning gym-goers about a potentially dangerous pre-workout trend involving protein powders known as “dry-scooping”.

Researchers in the US have undertaken research into the practice, after video demonstrations on the social network TikTok amassed more than 8 million views.

One user, Briatney Portillo, claimed to have tried it 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.”

Now, experts are warning that dry-scooping could cause respiratory and cardiovascular distress amongst children.

But what is dry-scooping, why are people doing it and why is it so dangerous?

What is dry-scooping?

Dry-scooping is when a person eats a dry scoop of pre-workout powder without diluting it with water.

Pre-workout powders typically contain performance-enhancing ingredients such as caffeine, amino acids, vitamin Bs, creatine and beta-alanine.

The ingredients are often there in high doses and are intended to be diluted by around 200ml of water before being consumed to boost a person’s performance during a workout.

Why are people doing it?

The trend has been around for a while, with Reddit threads about the topic dating back around five years.

People have begun consuming the workout powder in its concentrated, undiluted powder form supposedly to enhance its effects during exercise.

But, some of the ingredients in the powders can be dangerous to consume in such high quantities, if undiluted.

Why is it dangerous?

Some pre-workout powders can contain as much as 500mg of caffeine - approximately over five cups of coffee worth.

They can also contain high levels of other artificial ingredients including sweetener, dyes and emulsifiers. Experts warn the risks of consuming these ingredients in concentrated doses can increase blood pressure.

Victoria Taylor, Heart Health Dietitian at the British Heart Foundation, told The Independent: “Pre-workout supplements often contain more caffeine per serving than a cup of coffee or energy drink, as well as other stimulants.

“Some people are more sensitive to caffeine and can experience palpitations,” she added.

Some people are more sensitive to caffeine and can experience palpitations

According to the NHS, drinking the equivalent of more than four cups of caffeine-rich drinks can increase blood pressure. In addition, there is also the risk of choking on the powder substance.

Doctor and YouTuber, Bernard Hsu, posts educational videos and in April he posted a video about a patient who dry-scooped for a TikTok video and was hospitalised with a brain injury after taking eight scoops. The patient was rushed to hospital after being found unconscious.

Hsu explained: “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.”

TikTok has approximately 689 million monthly users and dangerous trends can spread quickly.

What have medical professionals said about dry-scooping?

Nelson Chow, a Princeton University student, is set to deliver a new study abstract entitled Dry Scooping and Other Dangerous Pre-Workout Consumption Methods: A Quantitative Analysis, at the American Academy of Paediatrics 2021 National Conference and Exhibition on Saturday.

The researchers warn: "Physicians should be aware of the pervasiveness of pre-workout, dangerous methods of consumption, and the potential for accidental over-consumption, inhalation, and injury."

Bridget Benelam, nutrition communications manager, British Nutrition Foundation, tells The Independent: “Pre-workout powders typically contain caffeine along with other ingredients such as creatine, amino acids and vitamins.

“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.”

She adds that taking such supplements prior to training is unnecessary.

“While there is some research on caffeine and performance in trained athletes, we don’t know what the impact of these powders might be in the general population. It’s certainly not necessary to take supplements before training and for those who choose to do so it’s important to follow the instructions on pack to prepare them.”

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