Dear Asking For a Friend,
I am trying to get back into fitness, and I have heard of this trend called dry scooping. The idea of eating dry powder doesn’t really appeal to me, I usually just have a cup of coffee before my workouts, but maybe protein powder is better? Can you provide some suggestions on what to eat before and after a workout?
Signed, Getting in Shape
Dear Getting in Shape,
It turns out dry scooping has about as much basis in science as the Tide Pod challenge.
The dry scooping trend, which has been circulating on social media, involves self-proclaimed fitness gurus ingesting protein powder without first diluting it in water or another liquid. Those who have done it claim that it amps up energy levels and leads to a more productive workout. But not only do health professionals refute these claims, they also suggest that dry scooping is dangerous and comes with its own set of health risks. One woman who ate protein powder before a workout may have had a heart attack, an experience she documented on TikTok.
Dry scooping is part of a series of dangerous online dares: people have ingested allergy medication, colourful laundry detergent packets, and spoonfuls of ground cinnamon, all in the pursuit of online attention. These viral trends have caused everything from hallucinations, dizziness, nausea and vomiting to increased blood pressure, heart disturbances and, yes, even death.
According to Adrienne Ngai, a registered dietitian, nutritionist, healthy eating and weight loss coach in Vancouver, dry scooping can be problematic for some people because powder is more potent when it’s undiluted. It has a higher concentration of ingredients, which cause cause an upset stomach and other gastrointestinal symptoms. Similarly, some protein powders contain caffeine, and large amounts of it can cause headaches, irritability, irregular heartbeats, insomnia and dependency over time. Dry scooping can also be a “choking hazard and may be a large concern for those with respiratory issues such as asthma,” warns Ngai. This is not surprising given that dry powder can enter the lungs and obstruct the airways.
Instead of ingesting dry protein powder, you can safely increase your energy levels and get more out of your workout by eating the right foods before and after exercise. The connection between nutrition and athletic performance has been well established, with researchers suggesting that a proper diet can enhance your results. You don’t have to be a pro athlete to reap the benefits of proper nutrition – you just need to know what to eat when.
Before exercise, Ngai suggests eating one to four hours before a workout to ensure that the food is properly digested. If you’re into a more intense routine, choose carbohydrate-rich foods with some protein. A slice of bread and some peanut butter or a banana and some nuts or seeds are good choices, according to Ngai. And if you’re short on time and are eating an hour or two before your workout, you can choose lower fibre and low-fat foods. This will help you feel energized while you exercise, as fiber-rich foods are digested more slowly and may cause bloating and gas. You might not need to eat a snack if you’re doing light exercise, such as walking, a quick jog around the block or a bike ride in your neighbourhood.
Ngai also recommends eating within 30 minutes after a workout – foods such as bread, milk, bananas, apples and oranges can help to replenish your glycogen stores so your body can begin the recovery process and muscle repair. In addition to staying hydrated before and after your workout, Ngai suggests consuming enough protein throughout the day instead of just directly after your workout. “Aim for 15 to 25 grams of protein with each snack or meal and have it included it within a few hours of exercise,” she says.
The bottom line is that when it comes to getting in shape, quick fixes don’t lead to long-lasting results. Proper sleep, nutrition and an exercise program that is approved by a health professional can help you safely restart a fitness routine and a healthy new lifestyle.
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