10 TikTok Health Trends to Avoid

tiktok health trendd

TikTok health trends spread fast and reach a broad audience, but as we’ve mentioned in our newsletters, the vast majority of them are not evidence-based. This leads to widespread misinformation that can be harmful and at times, outright dangerous. Read on to learn about 10 TikTok food & nutrition trends that we recommend steering clear of, plus what to do instead!

1. Dry scooping

dry scooping tiktok trend

“Dry-scooping”, or consuming pre-workout without water, is an alarming TikTok health trend that started in summer 2021. Since then its popularity has continued to surge, with research recently presented at the American Academy of Pediatrics National Conference & Exhibition finding that only 8 out of 100 Tik Tok videos tagged “pre-workout” show supplements being taken as intended. Consuming pre-workout powder without diluting it in water increases choking risk and heightens the risk of a caffeine overdose, which can cause vomiting, anxiety, GI upset, and heart palpitations.

Dry-scooping aside, we don’t recommend pre-workout supplements in general due to the poor regulation of these products, the often excessive amounts of caffeine they contain, and their potential to cause GI upset. Like all supplements, pre-workout powders are not regulated by the FDA, leaving it up to third-party testing programs like NSF for Sport and Informed Choice for Sport to verify their purity and safety. Unfortunately, pre-workout powders are often not third-party tested, putting student-athletes who use these products at a higher risk for testing positive for a banned substance. 

For more on supplement safety, check out Kelly’s recent video. And with all that in mind, when it comes to fueling for a workout, instead of pre-workout supplements try a carb-rich snack before training along with a cup of coffee or shot of espresso if you find that it gives you an extra boost. Remember, energy itself comes from food, and energy levels are maximized by having a well-balanced diet that includes adequate fluids!

2. What I Eat In A Day videos

what i eat in a day videos harmful

#WhatIEatInADay videos have been around for a while, but with the rise of TikTok they’re now more popular than ever. While some people find these videos to be a helpful source of meal inspiration, there are several reasons they can be problematic. For one, they tend to trigger comparison and even “copycat” behaviors. Whether consciously or unconsciously, these videos can make you question your own food choices and lead you to believe that you should eat more like the influencers you follow online. This can interfere with your ability to eat intuitively and tune into your body’s unique needs. We all have different nutrient and energy needs, and portions should differ greatly from person to person and even from day to day. 

It’s also important to keep in mind that you’re never going to get the full picture from a #WhatIEatInADay video. Like most things on social media, these videos are often a glamorized and curated portrayal of reality. For all you know, the poster is leaving some details out or is working through a difficult relationship with food. 

If you find these videos triggering, it may be time to clean up your social feed by doing some unfollowing – and for content centered around the WHY instead of the WHAT, check out fellow dietitian Rachael Hartley’s “Why I Ate Wednesday” blog content. 

For alternative sources of meal inspo, Workweek Lunch, a non-diet meal prep blog, as well as the recipes on the KJN blog are both great options. But note that even when you’re looking at a single meal or snack, it’s important to avoid falling into the comparison trap! While we love posting recipes on the blog and sharing meal ideas on Instagram, these food photos should never be taken as a suggested serving size. Our intent is simply to provide you with satisfying and nourishing ideas. 

3. “Internal shower” drink 

chia seed internal shower trend

TikTokers are telling us to take an “internal shower” by drinking copious amounts of chia seeds soaked in lemon water. This TikTok health trend is promoted as a way to detox or cleanse your body, similar to claims made by ads and sponsored videos that are going around for a fiber supplement called Colon Broom. 

While consuming dietary fiber on a regular basis has a wide variety of health benefits, taking it in extreme ways with the goal of “detoxing” is problematic on many levels. For one, our bodies have their own detoxification systems in place – your liver and kidneys are filtering out toxins and metabolic waste 24/7. Additionally, your body needs to adjust to increased fiber intake over time, and taking too much too fast or without enough water can be harmful to digestive health. At 5 grams of fiber per tablespoon, drinking a glassful of chia seeds delivers a huge amount of fiber which will likely have some unpleasant side effects if your body isn’t accustomed to taking in that much fiber at once. 

Last but not least there are plenty of more enjoyable ways to get your fiber in! Aim to get fiber from whole foods you enjoy in moderate amounts throughout the day. Rather than forcing yourself to choke down gelatinized chia, incorporate chia seeds into your smoothie or oatmeal, or skip the chia and meet your daily fiber needs with your favorite fruits, veggies, whole grains, nuts, and legumes. And if you think you may need supplemental fiber to help manage a digestive condition or for any other reason, it’s always best to speak with your doctor or dietitian first to determine the appropriate type and amount for you. 

4. Fire cider

fire cider health drink

As we continue to live through a pandemic, the idea of an elixir that will keep us from getting sick is tempting to believe. Fire cider, a concoction made from apple cider vinegar, veggies, and spices that dates back to the 80’s, made a comeback on TikTok last fall and promises to do exactly that. However, there’s no evidence to suggest that any of the ingredients will prevent you from getting sick, and the drink may cause digestive upset and acid reflux. So skip the fire cider and instead focus on things that actually support immunity, such as consuming a well-balanced and varied diet, providing your body with adequate energy and nutrients, finding stress-management strategies that work for you, getting plenty of sleep, and masking up! (see our holiday gift guide for athletes for our fave masks)

5. Lettuce water

lettuce water tiktok

Another TikTok trend that’s lacking in scientific evidence, videos that promote “lettuce water” as a sleep aid have been circulating. Unlike many similar TikTok health trends, this unusual beverage choice can’t hurt – though lettuce steeped in hot water won’t taste great, and it likely won’t help, either. If you want a warm beverage to help you wind down at the end of the day, consider chamomile tea instead, which has more evidence and tastes better. A few other things you can focus on for improved sleep include creating a bedtime routine, staying away from electronics before bed, and avoiding caffeine late in the day.

6. Lemon coffee

lemon coffee weight loss trend

This trendy beverage combination claims to help with weight loss. As a general rule of thumb, if you see a headline that singles out one specific food or drink as the key to achieving weight loss goals, it’s time to get skeptical. Like many other TikTok health trends with purported benefits, such as lettuce water for enhanced sleep and chlorophyll water for cancer prevention, the lemon coffee “challenge” has no basis in science and honestly doesn’t sound very enjoyable.

7. Alkaline water

alkaline water trend

Proponents of alkaline water claim that its higher pH counteracts acidity in the body, leading to a variety of beneficial effects including improved digestion, decreased bone deterioration, and reduced cancer risk. However, the reality is that your blood pH is already tightly regulated through normal body functions. With even a slight increase in acidity, your lungs and kidneys will kick into gear to restore normal pH. 

Plus there is the irony of celebs like Gwyneth Paltrow claiming the best morning beverage is alkaline water with the juice of a lemon, which results in the water no longer being alkaline. And the fact that the person who popularized the diet was actually sent to jail

Bottom line: alkaline water does not play a role in reducing acidity in the body, and evidence does not support any of its purported health benefits. So rather than stressing about the pH of your water, stay hydrated by drinking whichever type of water (or other beverage) you like best! 

8. TikTok gut health trends

tiktok gut health trends

The term “gut health” gets thrown around constantly on social media, but what’s actually credible? When it comes to TikTok health trends such as drinking bone broth, aloe vera, ginger juice, or olive oil that promise gut-healing properties, skip them. Similar to the concept of superfoods we covered last month, when people point to a single food as the key to better health it’s time to get skeptical.

In addition to adding in “gut healing” foods, many TikTokers are also recommending cutting out certain foods to reduce bloating and improve gut health. However, restricting foods can actually damage gut health because a healthy microbiome comes from eating a diverse diet. Some TikTok videos also fail to acknowledge that it’s normal to have some degree of bloating after a meal and are more focused on the idea of having a flat stomach than actual gut health.

If you have a digestive disorder and/or concerns about severe bloating or potential food intolerances, it’s important to work with a dietitian to determine whether an evidence-based elimination and reintroduction protocol is appropriate for you rather than blindly eliminating foods. Be aware that some programs, like the “Beachbody Gut Protocol”, are not evidence-based and utilize coaches with no nutrition or medical background. It’s also important to note that although they are widely promoted, food sensitivity tests are not supported by the scientific literature and lead to unnecessarily restrictive diets. 

9. “Healthy Coke”

healthy coke tiktok trend

“Healthy Coke” is a trendy TikTok beverage that combines La Croix with balsamic vinegar. This is positioned as a healthier alternative to drinking actual Coke. However, its acidic ingredients may cause acid reflux, and chances are it’s not going to replace your cravings for the real thing, which can lead to a guilt-deprivation cycle. When you consume “healthified” versions of foods, you’re much less likely to feel satisfied. By removing “good” and bad” labels from foods and giving yourself permission to honor your cravings, you can instead focus on learning what foods you actually like and what foods make you feel good. 

10. Sleepy chicken

sleepy chicken

Just when we thought TikTok health trends couldn’t get any weirder, “sleepy chicken” became a thing. This bizarre trend involves marinating and cooking chicken in NyQuil. Whether people are making this as a joke or actually eating it is unclear (hoping for the first?), but this obviously isn’t a safe way to take cold medicine.

Making Sense of Viral Nutrition Trends

With food and nutrition trends in general, a couple of questions to ask yourself include: (1) Does this person have medical and/or nutrition credentials? and (2) Is there any evidence to back up their claims, or are they just giving a personal testimonial? More often than not the answers to these questions are no when it comes to social media trends!

We know navigating the wide variety of TikTok health trends and nutrition claims out there can feel confusing. At Kelly Jones Nutrition, we offer individualized evidenced-based education in our coaching programs and we would love to support you in reaching your fitness and nutrition-related goals. To learn more, click here. We also share our take on current nutrition and fitness trends in our monthly newsletter, which you can subscribe to here!

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