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'Dry scooping' challenge turns pre-workout powder into a dangerous TikTok trend

ITASCA, Ill. — From Tide PODS to planking, the internet has certainly seen its fair share of “challenges” over the past decade or so. Now, a new study is ringing the alarm bell about a troubling new online trend involving powdered pre-workout beverages. Researchers say the “dry-scooping” challenge, which has amassed over eight million views on TikTok alone, is potentially deadly.

Powdered pre-workout beverages containing tons of caffeine and other additives are intended to be mixed with water and then consumed. This dry-scooping phenomenon challenges online users to place a scoop of undiluted powder into their mouth followed by just a few sips of water. Considering that many pre-workout substances may be unsafe for adolescents, even when people prepare them properly, the idea that millions of teens are viewing this challenge is especially troubling to the researchers.

“It can be difficult for physicians to identify novel trends that may pose health hazards among youth. Take for instance the current pervasiveness of pre-workout and the dangerous methods of its consumption,” says abstract author Nelson Chow, a Princeton University student and Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics Research intern at Cohen Children’s Medical Center, in a media release. “Sometimes investigating unorthodox platforms like TikTok can yield valuable results.”

Many are not mixing these powders with water

Study authors say anyone who participates in this challenge is putting themselves at serious risk of overconsumption or accidental inhalation of pre-workout powder. Even worse, some of these challenge videos show users mixing the pre-workouts with additional energy drinks or even alcohol.

Researchers selected 100 TikTok videos under the hashtag “#preworkout,” and analyzed each according to number of likes, shares, method of ingestion, number of servings, and any combinations with other substances. Most of the videos involved males (64%), while females (30%) and ambiguous/both (6%) made up the rest. Only eight percent of included videos actually portrayed the right way to prepare a pre-workout beverage and the most common added substances were alcohol, energy drinks, creatine, and protein powder.

Researchers presented their findings at the 2021 American Academy of Pediatrics National Conference & Exhibition.

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