Dry scooping or directly consuming pre-workout drink powders without adding liquid is becoming an increasingly concerning dietary fad in adolescents. Dry scooping has been associated with extremely negative health outcomes including risk of inhalation, cardiac abnormalities, and digestive issues.

A new study published in the journal Eating Behaviors, has found that over 1 in 5 adolescent boys and young adult men have engaged in dry scooping, a novel dietary phenomenon described as ingesting pre-workout powders without a liquid (i.e. the entire scoop in one shot without mixing with water as intended).

“Dry scooping can have serious health effects, including issues with inhalation, cardiac abnormalities, and digestive issues,” says lead author Kyle T. Ganson, PhD, MSW, assistant professor at the University of Toronto’s Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work, “To-date however, there have been no epidemiological studies investigating the occurrence of dry scooping among young people, leaving a significant information unknown.”

Analysing data from over 2,700 Canadian adolescents and young adults from the Canadian Study of Adolescent Health Behaviors, the researchers found that 17% of participants reported dry scooping at least one time in the previous year, and an average of 50 times over that time period.

The researchers also found that participants who engaged in weight training and spent greater time on social media were more likely to report dry scooping.

“Our data shows that novel dietary phenomena that become popularised on social media and within gym culture can lead to a greater likelihood of engagement,” Ganson continued. “We need to be thinking of these risk factors as potential areas of prevention and intervention.”

The study also showed that participants who displayed clinically significant symptoms of muscle dysmorphia, a mental health condition characterised as the pathological pursuit of muscularity, were also more likely to report dry scooping. This finding underscores the potentially harmful behaviour one may engage in to achieve one’s body ideal.

“We need health care and mental health care providers to be knowledgeable of these unique dietary practices aimed at increasing performance and musculature,” says Ganson.

The researchers called for more investigation on this topic, as well as prevention and intervention efforts, such as educating young people on the potential harms and lack of evidence of dry scooping.