Briatney Portillo, 20, said she had a heart attack after trying a TikTok trend called “dry scooping,” which is reminiscent of the 2013 cinnamon challenge. Dry scooping involves eating a scoop of dry, caffeinated pre-workout formula without first diluting it in water.
In April, Portillo posted videos on her TikTok about her dry-scooping experience, including some from the hospital. She described what happened to her when she tried the trend and warned people against trying it.
“After I took the pre-workout, I started to feel tingly and itchy all over my body, which wasn’t a good feeling, but I googled it and it said that was a normal side effect. So I began to do my workout,” Portillo told BuzzFeed. “I started to feel a heavy feeling in my chest and slight pain, but it wasn’t too bad. I thought it was maybe anxiety or a bad panic attack, so I decided to just ignore it and push through my workout.”
In a TikTok, Portillo says it wasn’t until she got to work when she realized that something really wasn’t right. “I got chest pains again and it went to my back, and my left side started hurting, and my left side went limp,” she said. “And that’s when I knew it was a heart attack and not anxiety.” The type of supplement Portillo used contains 320 milligrams of coffee, the equivalent of about three cups, according to Insider.
So what exactly does dry scooping involve and where did the trend come from? Dry scooping involves eating a dry scoop of pre-workout powder, which is a supplement that blends amino acids, B vitamins, large doses of caffeine, creatine, and beta alanine. Most of these performance-enhancing supplements are intended to be mixed with 6-8 ounces of water before consumption to dilute the ingredients.
The trend isn’t exactly new, it’s just recently made its way to TikTok where millions more people have been exposed to it. In recent years, people have started dry scooping to get a more concentrated burst of energy before a workout, according to Health.com. There are multiple Reddit forums on the topic from months ago, and some dating back several years.
But there are some serious risks involved with dry scooping. "Aside from protein, pre-workout also typically contains a massive amount of caffeine (in some cases up to 500 mg!), as well as artificial dyes, sweeteners, and emulsifiers," Nicole Harkin, MD, a cardiologist based in San Francisco, told BuzzFeed. "Taking such a large amount at once could certainly be detrimental to the body, by increasing the heart rate and blood pressure acutely." There is also a risk of choking on the powder, which is what happened to one TikTok user, who tried it and immediately needed her inhaler after she stopped breathing, BuzzFeed reported.
"Those who may be at higher risk for issues with these substances, like people with heart conditions, high blood pressure, and arrhythmias, should absolutely check in with their doctor before using them," Dr. Harkin said.
Kathryn Boling, MD, a primary care physician at Baltimore's Mercy Medical Center, explained to Health.com that dry scooping can also cause dehydration, and there’s even a risk of pneumonia if you breathe in the powder by accident.
So if you're thinking of trying dry scooping? Maybe don't.