Pre-workout powder is basically souped-up protein powder with added caffeine. It’ll give you a jolt of energy before you exercise. But some people aren’t using it appropriately. TikTok users are highlighting the trend of “dry scooping” pre-workout powder, or eating it dry without mixing it with water, which is a bad idea. Doctors are already a bit wary when it comes to the safety of pre-workout powders when ingested according to the directions, and they’re especially suspect of eating it dry.
“Protein products can be dangerous to heart health for many reasons. First, we often don’t know what they are truly made of—no dietary supplements are regulated by the FDA to make sure they are safe. Additionally, there is no requirement to label the contents of the protein powder,” says Megan Kamath, MD, cardiologist and assistant clinical director of medicine at UCLA Health. “Reading and following the consumption instructions is important when using a product that has instructions for dilution. Doing something differently may cause harm to one’s health.”
“Most powders contain caffeine, some as much as 200 milligrams of caffeine in each scoop,” says Dr. Goldberg. “High levels of caffeine can cause arrhythmia, jitters, GI upset, and may raise blood pressure. If you add this to the caffeine intake that someone is taking in their regular diet from coffee or chocolate, that makes the daily caffeine load even higher.” For comparison, a small cup of coffee contains about 65 milligrams of caffeine.
Consuming too much protein powder can also cause artery damage, which can lead to a heart attack or cause the failure of other organs, adds Dr. Kamath. “Most people can get the protein that they need, the recommended daily allowance, by simply making healthy food choices and following a balanced diet,” she says. “That is why it is important to speak with your healthcare providers before embarking on new dietary and lifestyle changes.”
In general, when eating for energy, dry scooping pre-workout powder is a practice that’s best to avoid. If you’re looking for energy to get you through a workout, a banana is a much better option, says Kelly Jones, MS, RD. “A medium banana is nutrient-rich, providing 24 grams of carbohydrates—14 of which are sugar and three of which are fiber,” says Jones. “The fiber in bananas, along with the gram of protein, keeps the rest of the carbohydrate from being absorbed too rapidly, but there isn’t so much that the food will sit in your stomach.”
Here’s how to eat for optimal energy, according to a dietitian:
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