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Dry Scooping Danger: Pre-Workout Beverages and Heart Attacks

6 min read
dry scooping heart attack
Heather Black post Reviewer Heather Black post Reviewer
Verified by Heather Black
Personal Trainer, Precision Nutrition Coach, and Health & Wellness Director of a chain of fitness centers

The fitness industry is a massive, lucrative business where trends are constantly being set and revamped, from having the right leggings or the most fashionable sports bra to the newest fitness craze. Special foods and supplements are certainly not novel to this scene either, and in recent decades, energizing pre-workout beverages marketed to enhance the workout have become quite popular and trendy. 

Though influential, this practice may not be as innocuous as marketed, especially when considering the trendy TikTok videos plastered across social media portraying young, generally male, people dry-scooping their pre-workout mix to the potential detriment of those unknowing individuals and to the collective horror and bewilderment of the rest of society. 

Table of Contents

What is pre-workout?

Pre-workout is a supplement, usually multi-ingredient, consumed before a workout. They are generally advertised to boost energy, improve performance and stamina during workouts, and delay fatigue.

Pre-workout beverages generally contain variations of the same or similar compounds, like caffeine, creatine, BCAAs, and nitric oxide agents. Pre-workouts last from 2 to 6 hours on average.

What is pre-workout dry scooping?

It is, unfortunately, exactly as it sounds: eating the dry pre-workout powder and following it with a few sips of water instead of mixing them. The logic behind this is to get a quick supplement dose and a rapid rise in the desired effects. 

Commenting on the dry scooping method to the Inverse magazine, Jose Antonio, a professor in the Biology department at Nova Southeastern University, mentions that besides being potentially dangerous, dry scooping makes no sense. And we couldn’t agree more as tens of healthcare professionals out there. Famous Youtube doctor Bernard Hsu, a clinical adjunct professor, even illustrated the dangers of dry scooping pre-workout, telling the story of his patient hospitalized with a brain injury after eight scoops of pre-workout.

Like many questionable viral social media trends that garner the alarm of news outlets and the medical community alike, dry scooping is also very unwise and potentially dangerous. Because pre-workout is a powder, ingesting it in its dry form is extremely difficult to do without choking and potentially aspirating it into the lungs (which can cause inflammation, lung or bronchiolar obstruction, or pneumonia). 

It may also cause irritation and inflammation of the throat and nasal passages.

  • Does pre-workout dry scooping work? Yes. 
  • Is it worth it? No, since you’re putting your health at risk and saving only 20 to 30 minutes when making the pre-workout drink.

Cardiac risks of pre-workout dry scooping

According to the National Capital Poison Center, some of those who have tried dry scooping have experienced heart problems along with other side effects. Symptoms include rapid heart rate and chest pain.

There have also been reports of young, otherwise healthy individuals with no known cardiac risk factors suffering cardiac events such as heart attack (myocardial infarction) and stroke following the consumption of a dry pre-workout mix. 

How come?

Pre-workouts often contain elevated levels of caffeine that equal three or more cups of coffee. 

Such an amount of coffee by itself is linked to higher rates of heart attacks

Caffeine in pre workout
Caffeine in pre-workout supplements vs. in coffee

Now, imagine having the same amount of caffeine in a relatively brief period. Dry scooping delivers this undiluted mix almost instantaneously, and approximately 90% of the caffeine in particular. It is 99% absorbed fully in the stomach within 45 minutes post-ingestion, bringing up the potential for heart attacks and other cardiac issues. 

You are supposed to dilute pre-workout with a liquid as it slows absorption and eliminates the risks.

Caffeine is a strong stimulant, and it can increase blood pressure in the kidneys and the coronary arteries, causing them to constrict. These arteries innervate and provide oxygen to the heart muscle. An extreme amount of caffeine ingestion can cause stress to the heart, leading to stroke, heart attack, or sudden cardiac arrest. 

Other adverse effects

Dry scooping in itself involves a high risk of choking and inhalation. Pre-workout dry scooping combines those risks with the initial potential side effects of pre-workouts.

The Food and Drug Administration doesn’t regulate dietary supplements, including pre-workouts, meaning they can include harmful unlisted ingredients.

Coming back to the pre-workouts risks. Apart from rapid skin flushing due to beta-alanine and the B vitamin niacin, there can be other harmful consequences from high concentrations of caffeine:

  • Sweating
  • Palpitations
  • Tremors
  • Anxiety
  • GI upset, such as cramping and diarrhea
  • Headache
  • Seizure
  • Respiratory failure

Moreover, if the consumer is a child or adolescent, these practices of consuming pre-workout and energy drinks, in general, may be detrimental, as children can be more sensitive to caffeine. There is little research nor any recommendations regarding this demographic and caffeine consumption.

The dangerous effects of pre-workout can be compounded if consumed with other ergogenic aids containing caffeine, drugs, or alcohol. Additionally, if you are consuming these products followed by exercise, they may potentiate cardiac risks by putting more stress on the heart.

Research shows that 200-300 mg of caffeine ingestion just before exercise results in diminished coronary blood supply. This may be as dangerous as increased blood flow to a rapidly beating heart that is required to pump blood to active skeletal muscle tissue, and a deficiency of this may produce a hypoxic environment for the heart.

Want to drink pre-workout safely? Try these tips

  • Ensure your supplement is third-party tested. Supplements are often not well regulated or tested, and they may not contain the exact ingredients in the precise quantities they advertise. Some contain hormones, other stimulants, or even banned drugs. 

Look for organizations like NSF International, Consumer Lab, and U.S. Pharmacopeia (USP)

  • Follow the recommendations for use, and don’t deviate in serving size or by reducing the quantity of water used for dilution. 

Avoid following questionable trends and stuffing your mouth with any type of powder, especially pre-workout mix.

  • Do not consume pre-workout if you have pre-existing heart or kidney disease or are pregnant or breastfeeding. Also, these products are not meant for children or adolescents; avoid use in those demographics.

At this point, if you are unsure that pre-workouts suit you, try substituting it with a pre-workout snack like whole fruits, smoothies, nuts or nut butter, yogurt, oatmeal, etc. Also, you should pay attention to balancing your workout routine and meal plan as these are usually enough to keep you energized and ready for exercising. Try using muscle-building apps to get customized workouts and nutrition tips that work in sync to help you achieve your fitness goals.

Final thoughts

  • Avoid pre-workout dry scooping as it is linked to further heart problems, including heart attack, along with other side effects.
  • Before adding pre-workout to your training routine, consult a physician to see if you have any pre-existing health problems.
  • Purchase only reputable brands of pre-workout.
  • Pay attention to the content of caffeine and other plant extracts with stimulant properties. 
  • Follow the instructions on the packaging.
Disclaimer This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!

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