The fitness world loves a trend. From high-intensity workouts conducted in dimly lit gyms that look more like a techno club than they do a fitness centre, to cold showers and meditation, our penchant for health and wellness extends to all facets of the human experience. But as is only human, we want to feel a sense of belonging, and so we navigate towards those “trends” that boast a mass following, the kind that develop cult-like loyalty and ensure good things are only ever spoken. But if there’s one thing we’ve noticed in recent times, it’s that trends come and go as quickly as a TikTok dance craze and when it comes to those that emerge on the platform itself, rarely are they backed by science. Case in point: dry scooping.
If you haven’t heard of dry scooping, you’d likely be familiar with the videos of people doing it. Essentially, it involves people dumping dry pre-workout or protein powder into their mouth. Given that most powders are packed with caffeine and other stimulants, plus some vitamins and nutrients, the effect is pretty immediate. They’re designed to supercharge your system and provide energy for a workout but crucially, they are meant to be added to water and consumed about a half-hour before heading to the gym or out for a workout. Diluting the powder is essential, not just for the taste and consistency, but because it helps pace your body’s absorption of the powder.
It’s problematic then that dry scooping is a trend that’s taken off. By filling the scoop and ingesting it without even a swig of water to wash it down, the powder is absorbed faster, ultimately flooding your system with caffeine. Blood pressure and heart rate can skyrocket as the body reacts to the stimulant and in some instances, this jolt of caffeine is equivalent to three or more cups of coffee in an instant. For 20-year-old Briatney Portillo, the viral health hack landed her in hospital after suffering a heart attack. Another video of dry scooping posted by TikTok-er @mkaaaybabee which was viewed over 2.1 million times, saw her stop breathing after inhaling the powder accidentally.
It might sound obvious that something like dry scooping is a trend most would do well to avoid, but such is the power of TikTok that dry scooping became so prevalent online, that it was announced in the shortlist for Macquarie Dictionary’s Word of the Year 2021. Thankfully, Australian PT and Myprotein ambassador, Tom Bailey, is here to dispel fact from fiction. Here, Bailey shares his thoughts on the trend and the risks involved, as well as why protein powders should always be mixed with water or milk.
What is dry scooping?
Dry scooping is taking a scoop of sports supplement powder (usually pre-workout) and placing it directly into the mouth. Placing things directly under the tongue is called sublingual administration and is common practice with some medications to help them absorb faster.
Are there any nutritional benefits from dry scooping?
People claim doing this with pre-workout results in quicker absorption because it skips having to pass through the digestive tract to absorb.
There are two main problems with this: firstly, the trend of dry scooping is taking a scoop of powder straight into the mouth and then swiftly chasing it with a mouthful of liquid and swallowing, defeating the purpose of having something absorb under your tongue.
Secondly, caffeine takes approximately 45 minutes to metabolise and have its ergogenic effects. In reality, even if you did let the whole scoop dissolve under your tongue, you might get a 15-minute head-start on absorption, but the benefit doesn’t outweigh the risks.
What are the risks involved with dry scooping?
Who remembers the cinnamon challenge? This trend took social media by storm, with many viral videos emerging of people choking violently after putting a dry teaspoon of cinnamon straight into their mouth. Whilst pre-workout is more soluble than cinnamon, I would recommend saving your throat, lungs and dignity by simply mixing it with some water.
Caffeine is also a diuretic, meaning it encourages your body to shed water. Take coffee for example, having something like a cappuccino has a net hydrating effect as you are having a decent amount of fluid. A double shot of espresso on the contrary has very little liquid and could cause you to shed more water than you ingest, which can lead to dehydration.
A double shot of espresso is 160mg of caffeine, and some pre-workouts are 300-400mg, so it’s important to hydrate when having a higher dose of caffeine. Nothing will kill your training performance more than being dehydrated, irrespective of how high you’re flying on caffeine.
Why is it more beneficial to mix protein powders with water/milk?
Other supplements like protein powder should also be mixed with something like water or milk. If you were to try and dry scoop protein, good luck – a scoop of protein weighs in at 30-40g, roughly triple the weight of a pre-workout scoop.
Instead, if you’re having a fast absorbing protein like whey, then opt to mix it with water to keep the quick absorption. Mixing it with milk can slow the absorption of whey protein due to the fat and casein protein content of milk. If you do want to slow the absorption (e.g. before going to bed for a slower release of protein overnight), feel free to mix it with milk.
What’s the takeaway message we can learn from dry scooping?
Be careful with what you see on TikTok. What looks fun and exciting is often good for clout and video views, but often at the detriment of health. Unless it’s viral TikTok food recipe ideas, do as many of those as you like!
My practical advice is to get organised and pack a shaker or buy a small bottle of water to mix your powdered supplements into.