If you’re present on any social media platform, you’ve likely heard about the latest fad: dry scooping pre-workout. Rather than mixing it with water like the supplement is intended, fitness fanatics are knocking it back water-less.
While it may not seem like the worst thing you can do, dry-scooping may come with some unrecognized health risks, and it’s putting health professionals on alert.
So, if you’ve contemplated dry scooping your pre-workout, we’re giving you everything you need to know about it so you can make an informed decision before you do it (or don’t do it).
What Is Dry-Scooping A Pre-Workout?
If you’ve seen the latest trend on TikTok, people all over the globe are knocking back pre-workouts as they aren’t intended to be consumed—dry.
Dry scooping refers to consuming a pre-workout powder and swallowing it dry instead of mixing it with water or another liquid. Aside from the fact that having chalk-mouth from pre-workout sounds pretty unappealing, why do it?
For anyone getting behind this bizarre trend, they’re under the impression that dry scooping your pre-workout can enhance the effects and give you a bigger energy boost and better performance than it would mixing it with water.
Essentially, less dilution = a better workout.
With dry scooping, you can amp up the benefits that a pre-workout has to offer. But what’s the merit behind this potentially dangerous trend…
The Basics Of A Pre-Workout
Pre-workout supplements have grown to become some of the most widely consumed fitness supplements on the market. Stats show that 30% of adolescents and young adults consume energy drinks, second only to multivitamins regarding the type of supplement used 1.
But pre-workouts have also gained popularity among aerobic and anaerobic athletes because of their potential ergogenic effects; they’ve attracted a great deal of attention among many competitive and recreational athletes as a legal ergogenic aid.
Generally speaking, pre-workout supplements are a special category of dietary supplements designed to be consumed before exercise. They contain a blend of ingredients purported to enhance exercise performance 2.
Research finds that ingestion of pre-workout can lead to acute ergogenic benefits and augment training adaptations when consumed regularly in conjunction with an appropriate training program 3.
These supplements often contain a proprietary blend or matrix formula, so manufacturers don’t give away their secrets. However, proprietary formulas can be dodgy at the best of times and don’t reflect accurate amounts of the ingredients. Typically, you’ll find a mix of:
- Amino acids
- Nitric oxide agents (L-arginine, L-citrulline)
Of these ingredients, caffeine is by far the most popular and widely used performance supplement. It’s been proven an effective ergogenic aid for endurance exercise by delaying fatigue and increasing time to exhaustion 3.
Its ability to do so reflects its ability to alter exercise metabolism by enhancing fat oxidation, preserving muscle glycogen. Although some research suggests that caffeine can augment strength and power performance by improving muscle contraction efficiency and/or enhancing glycolytic regulatory enzyme kinetics, the evidence to support this claim is limited 1.
However, caffeine is often combined with other ingredients in pre-workout formulas to produce a synergistic effect, thereby increasing the ergogenic potential and increasing the likelihood of a performance response.
The combination of these ingredients may help to improve training volume and augmenting growth hormone and insulin response to the training session 4.
Health Risks Of Dry-Scooping Pre-Workout
Although pre-workout supplements can boost athletic performance, taking them sans water may not be the wisest idea. The recent phenomena freakishly resembles the cinnamon challenge from several years ago, which landed Poison Control in an overwhelming situation.
Aside from leaving you with a major pasty mouth, swallowing large amounts of powder without liquid can drastically increase the risk of choking or aspiration (when something accidentally enters your airway).
If the powder goes down the wrong tube, it can lead to aspiration pneumonia and difficulty breathing. That’s why manufacturers advise mixing the powder with water.
But that’s not it.
The ingredients in pre-workout supplements aren’t dangerous for healthy individuals when taken as directed, meaning they’re consumed in the dose recommended on the label.
But when you’re knocking back a concentrated scoop (or two) of these ingredients, you never know what you’re going to get. Not everyone reacts the same to pre-workouts, and taking them in an ultra-concentrated dose can result in some unwelcome side effects.
Caffeine is especially concerning, as acute high doses can lead to:
- Heart palpitations
- Digestive issues
But the thing is that a lot of the people participating in this trend are young. While the effects of high-dose caffeine in young people isn’t well-studied, research does suggest that caffeine consumption in young adults can lead to stress, anxiety, and depression.
And somehow, manufacturers get away with mega-dosing caffeine. When you’re consuming 300mg+ in a single serving, which is sometimes further bolstered by ingredients like taurine, you’re intensifying the effects of caffeine and causing a potentially dangerous situation.
The Bigger Concern: What’s Actually In Your Pre-Workout?
Aside from downing your pre dry, there’s another problem with most pre-workouts: what’s in them—well, according to the label.
Ingredients in pre-workout supplements are often displayed as a “proprietary blend,” with specific amounts not disclosed. Although United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulations require that all ingredients in a proprietary blend be listed in descending order of predominance by weight, labeling them this way makes it difficult to determine how much of what is in your pre-workout 3.
For example, the first ingredient listed on the blend may comprise more than 50% of the formula, while other ingredients have quantities far below the efficacy threshold. So, you think you’re getting one thing when you’re really getting something else.
However, because these products are nutritional supplements, they aren’t regulated by the FDA, and they’re not always rigorously tested before they’re put on the market. Just because a product is available in-store or online doesn’t mean it’s necessarily safe.
But these risks apply to all fitness supplements across the board—they’re not just applicable to pre-workouts. And when you don’t follow manufacturer directions, you’re further increasing that risk.
Plus, people tend to overdo it on the pre-workout powders because they’re under the impression that they’ll get more energy and a better workout by doubling the dose. Three times the amount = three times the performance benefits… but that’s not always true.
Long story short, if you want to maximize your performance in the gym with boundless energy, pass on the quick fixes and opt for the tried-and-true route.
While pre-workout supplements definitely earn a place in a good performance stack, if you’re not taking a reputable one like Pre Lab Pro® with moderate dose caffeine and a smart stack of natural ingredients, opt for the “food is fuel” route and take a hard pass on the dry-scooping.
- AM Gonzalez, AL Walsh, NA Ratamess, J Kang, JR Hoffman. Effect of a pre-workout energy supplement on acute multi-joint resistance exercise.J Sports Sci Med. 2011;10(2):261-266.
- M Cameron, CL Camic, S Doberstein, JL Erickson, AR Jagim. The acute effects of a multi-ingredient pre-workout supplement on resting energy expenditure and exercise performance in recreationally active females.J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2018;15:1.
- PS Harty, HA Zabriskie, JL Erickson, PE Molling, CM Kerksick, AR Jagim. Multi-ingredient pre-workout supplements, safety implications, and performance outcomes: a brief review.J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2018;15(1):41.
- JR Hoffman, NA Ratamess, R Ross, M Shanklin, J Kang, AD Effect of a pre-exercise energy supplement on the acute hormonal response to resistance exercise. J Strength Cond Res. 2008 May;22(3):874-82.