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February 11, 2022 9 min read

Dry scooping is the practice of taking a scoop of powdered pre-workout supplement mix and attempting to swallow it dry, rather than adding it to liquid. While dry scooping offers some plausible benefits, it may also have dangerous health effects because of the ingredients found in many pre-workout supplements, including high levels of caffeine. In this article, we'll take a look at some of the pros and cons of dry scooping.

athletic sportsman with opened mouth holding jar and measuring spoon with pre workout powder

Does Dry Scooping Pre-Workout Have Any Benefits? 

One of the reasons people dry scoop is to absorb pre-workout energy powder faster. So dry scooping does work for that purpose. As you might have seen in a Tiktok video, consuming the powder dry does get it into your system quicker, which can help you feel the effects more rapidly. However, this type of fast absorption is not necessarily a good thing. Not only can rapid absorption of the ingredients found in pre-workout powder be dangerous, but many pe-workout supplements don’t actually have all the benefits they claim they have. 

When it comes to pre-workout energy powder, which often contains creatine or caffeine, there is some proven boost to anaerobic energy. This means it gives you more energy for short, high-intensity bursts of training, so a dry scoop before such an activity might have a minor effect on your performance. But when it comes to increasing your upper and lower body power over the long term, you won’t see much benefit from dry scooping.

In addition, many pre-workout powders are unregulated and can even contain banned substances, such as anabolic steroids and harmful stimulants or hormones (such as 1,3-dimethylamylamine, or DMAA, which can lead to heart attacks). We’ll get deeper into that later in this article.

As for protein powder, research has found that protein intake has a similar effect both before and after workout. So there’s no need to dry scoop before you work out. A protein shake or other supplement will work just as well, and you can either take it before or after your regular workout.

Can Dry Scooping be Dangerous? 

Dry scooping may trigger health problems ranging from trouble breathing to a heart attack, even if you are a 20-year-old. Some people who consume a dry scoop of pre-workout mix may accidentally inhale some of the powder, which isn’t intended to be swallowed dry. As they attempt to catch their breath, they may cough out powder everywhere, which is something you might have seen on social media. If the powder makes its way to the lungs, the consumer may even develop inflammation or an infection. Other people who dry scoop may experience heart palpitations or other heart-related symptoms because of the high caffeine content of pre-workout powder.

One scoop of a typical pre-workout powdered supplement mix may contain the caffeine equivalent of three cups of coffee. If you mix the powder with water, you drink it gradually, which limits the amount of caffeine that they consume all at once. But if you ingest an entire serving of powder in one mouthful, that is the caffeine equivalent of multiple cups of coffee at once, which can make your heart pump at an accelerated rate. So dry scooping could have a dangerous effect on your heart, because high levels of caffeine might cause heart palpitations, an irregular heartbeat or another cardiac problem. 

Symptoms Caused by Dry Scooping 

The two main concerns with dry scooping include breathing difficulties and heart-related problems. Consuming dry powder by itself can lead to choking or inhalation, which can cause aspiration pneumonia. This condition occurs when a person inhales powder into the lungs, which is why labels say to dilute the supplements in a liquid before consumption. 

Pre-workout powders are also dangerous because of the amount of caffeine they contain. When your body ingests this much caffeine rapidly, it can lead to increases in blood pressure, increases in heart rate, dangerous changes in heart rhythm, heart attack, stroke, and even death. In addition to having difficulty with breathing, other possible symptoms might include heart palpitations, an accelerated heartbeat, an irregular heartbeat, or even a heart attack.

Ingredients in Pre-Workout Powders 

Many multi-ingredient pre-workouts might seem to be quite safe. However, some pre-workout supplements contain a wide range of different ingredients that can potentially be harmful if you consume too many of them. Many pre-workout powders contain several common ingredients that can greatly affect the amount of time for which you’ll feel their effects. One of those ingredients is branched-chain amino acids.

Branched-chain Amino Acids (BCAAs) 

Some pre-workout formulas include branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs), which have been shown to decrease muscle soreness and help increase muscle growth and energy levels when taken as a pre-workout. Be aware that BCAAs are naturally found in dietary sources of protein, so you may already be consuming some of these during your daily routine.

Branch chain amino acid supplements can fuel your performance when taken before exercise.  This effect is in addition to their anabolism, and metabolism appears to occur directly in the muscle. It seems that the ideal time to take branched-chain amino acids is during your workouts, not necessarily before.

However, BCAAs still play an important role in the effectiveness of your pre-workout supplement. They are clinically formulated to reduce recovery time and aid in muscle protein synthesis. They increase your protein production while minimizing the amount of protein breakdown when combined with other amino acids like leucine, isoleucine and valine.

For this reason, BCAAs help you build muscles more quickly. With this type of muscle recovery, you can train for longer periods and more regularly. Because essential amino acids include those that the body cannot produce on its own, BCAAs are an important ingredient to have in your pre-workout supplement. 

Other Ingredients

Two other top active ingredients in pre-workouts are caffeine and niacin. Some research has shown that the acute effects of caffeine start to be felt fully after about an hour and these effects can last up to ten hours, depending on your individual tolerance level. Niacin can lead to serious reactions like low blood pressure and liver damage.

Toxicity of Caffeine

Caffeine can be harmful when taken in excess. When you drink coffee or tea, it is almost impossible to reach a fatal dose due to the volume of liquid you would need to consume. However, dry scooping powders like pre-workouts that contain high doses of caffeine makes it far easier to overdose. So, these products can pose a greater risk than caffeinated drinks. If you consume other caffeinated beverages (such as a cup of coffee) in addition to your pre-workout supplements, you may be at risk of a caffeine overdose.

One 2019 study looked at  consumption habits and the negative effects of pre-workouts. Most people surveyed said they took one serving with each use, but 14% took two or more servings. 18% percent said they took pre-workouts more than once a day. In the same study, 54% of people who consumed pre-workout supplements reported side effects such as nausea, heart abnormalities, and certain types of skin reactions.

Many pre-workouts contain up to 400 mg of caffeine per serving. To reach a 3 gram dose of caffeine with a pre-workout like this, you would only have to consume seven servings of pre-workout. While this serving size sounds like a lot, it’s easily possible to take this much in a day in addition to regular caffeine intake. That’s why you need to moderate your intake by not dry scooping.

Lastly, if your pre-workout contains caffeine or other stimulants, pay attention to the time of day that you take it because it can affect your ability to fall asleep. To increase your stamina and endurance, you can try our  ILLUMINO Nootropic pemium cognitive enhancer, which is formulated to give you maximum mental energy without burning you out. You can choose from strawberry basil or caramelized pineapple as your flavors. Using a supplement like this can work well in combination with a nutritious diet.

Toxicity of Niacin 

At high doses, niacin can cause serious reactions like low blood pressure and liver damage that can result in liver failure or even multiple organ failure. Research suggests liver damage happens at niacin doses of  around 3 grams per day. Taking a much lower dose of about 30 mg per day can lead to the development of a harmless but uncomfortable condition called niacin flush. This is a condition in which your skin gets red and itchy and feels warm. It normally goes away within about an hour.

Some of the top pre-workout supplements contain 25 mg of niacin on average and they may contain about 4 mg per serving. Thus, some people might even experience niacin flush after taking just one serving of pre-workout. To know how much niacin you are actually consuming, always check the amount per serving listed on the label of the product, and be sure to take only the recommended serving amount. 

Other Risk Factors

In addition to the risks of dry scooping, scientists have not studied the long-term safety of taking pre-workout supplements, so it is unclear whether or not these supplements have harmful long-term effects. Other ingredients such as beta-alanine may even cause different side effects or may increase those side effects, so it is really hard to generalize about the safety of all pre-workout supplements.

Since pre-workouts are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the United States, some supplements may even contain banned or harmful ingredients. Supplement manufacturers in the United States don’t have to test ingredients for safety before adding them to their products. Unless an ingredient is specifically banned, any company can add it to any dietary supplement with very little oversight. 

Banned substances pose a major safety issue. If you compete in a sport that requires testing for performance-enhancing drugs, taking some pre-workout products may even get you disqualified. Some athletes have even tested positive for banned substances after ingesting trace amounts when they took certain supplements. 

Another analysis of a range of supplement brands found several banned substances in various amounts and combinations in many of the supplements. Among the substances detected in this analysis were prohibited stimulants such as deterenol phenpromethamine, octodrine, and  beta-methylethylamine. 

There is very little data about the effects of combining multiple stimulants in varying amounts. Although certain substances might be banned, American supplement companies are not legally required to publish test results for these substances, and it is up to the consumer to ensure that a pre-workout supplement has been third-party tested. 

All of these substances can potentially have some serious unknown health consequences and they can also cause short term hurdles as coaches and athletes try to prove that a positive drug test was unintentional and caused by tainted supplements. If you are a competitive athlete, you will need to select a pre-workout product that has been thoroughly tested by a third party. 

Workout meal with low fat cottage cheese and hazelnuts served with linseed and apples in a bowl

Solid Food Alternatives

Regardless of whether or not you choose to use a pre-workout supplement, fueling your body for exercise is an incredibly important factor and it can make a very big difference in how you feel and perform. The International Society of Sports Nutrition (ISSN) has found that consuming carbs and protein before and after exercise can improve both strength and body composition. Plan ahead for your workout and try to eat a balanced meal containing healthy ingredients such as carbs, protein, and fat at least two hours before the time. 

What About Pre-Workout Powder Taken the Right Way? 

Just because a Tiktok trend like dry scooping can be dangerous doesn’t mean you have to avoid all kinds of pre-workout powder forever. If you do use these products, just be sure to dilute them properly. Always consult with a doctor, healthcare professional, dietician, personal trainer, nutritionist, or physician before using any kind of pre-workout supplement to make sure that it does not contain any hidden or banned ingredients. This is one of the best ways for you to avoid any possible medical conditions.

Your nutrition and exercise plans should always involve a lot more than just the latest Tiktok trends (especially when it comes to supplements). Generally, with seven to eight hours of sleep per night, a few rest days built into your exercise routine, and a balanced diet, you’ll be well on your way to optimizing your fitness level. 

The basics of staying fit work well, so there’s no need to go to any kinds of extremes. If you would like to take a certain type of supplement to enhance your performance, be sure to consume it in the recommended way. A good place to start with a pre-workout supplement is with our  VIS Premium Pre-Workout

Always read the label on the product to find out the amount of each ingredient in each serving size. If you generally work out later in the afternoon or evening, or if you have any kind of caffeine sensitivity, choose pre-workouts without caffeine or energy drinks for your hydration. These types of supplements rely on other stimulants. You can also find non-stimulant pre-workout products that will get your blood circulating well and increase your energy levels.