Scientists Warn Against Potentially Deadly “Dry Scooping” TikTok Challenge

Pre-workout supplements often contain high amounts of caffeine. Image: mynewturtle/Shutterstock.com

A social media trend has got scientists worried after research revealed that millions of young people may have seen videos of the new craze on TikTok and other social media channels. Known as “dry scooping”, the challenge involves eating spoonfuls of undiluted pre-workout supplements. This can cause serious respiratory or cardiovascular complications – possibly even leading to death.

Pre-workout powders generally contain high amounts of caffeine, plus amino acids and various other compounds that are supposed to give exercisers a boost. Designed to be diluted in liquid, these products can be highly dangerous when ingested neat.

Little research has been conducted into the safety or efficacy of pre-workout powders, and many contain ingredients that are not suitable for children, which is why their sale is typically restricted to adults. However, a new study set to be presented at the American Academy of Pediatrics 2021 National Conference and Exhibition this weekend reveals that these products are becoming increasingly popular among teenagers.

Even worse, youngsters have begun filming themselves dry scooping and uploading the resulting videos to social media as a means of gaining popularity. To investigate the extent of this new craze, the study authors searched TikTok using the hashtag “preworkout”, and analyzed the content of 100 videos that appeared in the results.

Of these videos, 31 featured dry scooping, and had amassed more than 8 million cumulative likes. A further 11 videos depicted users improperly mixing or ingesting supplements, while seven involved diluting pre-workout powders in inappropriate liquids such as alcohol or energy drinks. In total, only eight of the 100 videos depicted the correct use of supplements.

“'Dry scooping,' one particularly risky method of consumption, entails putting undiluted powder into one’s mouth followed by sips of liquid,” write the study authors. “The highly concentrated powder can lead to choking, accidental inhalation, overconsumption, injury, and death.”

Given the popularity of TikTok among kids, the researchers warn that the prevalence of dry scooping videos “may mislead millions of impressionable minors into improper use of pre-workout, which could lead to respiratory or cardiovascular distress and/or death.”

Earlier this year, 20-year-old social media influencer Briatney Portillo posted a video on TikTok in which she appeared in a hospital gown with a clown filter over her face. The brief video goes on to explain that she had suffered a heart attack after dry scooping before a workout, having previously come across the challenge trending on TikTok.

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Speaking to Buzzfeed, Portillo revealed that her entire body soon “started to feel tingly and itchy.” She later experienced chest pains and numbness in her left arm, at which point she called for an ambulance. Though she was fortunate to recover with no lasting damage, the episode provides a stark warning as to the dangers of dry scooping.

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