Public service announcement: do not eat pre-workout powders neat.
A 20-year-old who ended up having a heart attack after ‘dry scooping’ has warned others against doing the same. The bizarre fitness trend sees people consuming a scoop of dry pre-workout powder before exercising – rather than diluting it with water – to get it into the bloodstream faster.
The powder is often packed with caffeine to give you a pre-workout boost, as well as other ingredients such as beta alanine, amino acids and creatine. Half a scoop can contain up to 200mg caffeine – which means a full, undiluted scoop could cause problems.
Briatney Portillo, 20, shared a video on TikTok saying she ended up having a heart attack after dry scooping pre-workout powder. She told BuzzFeed that after doing the workout, she started to feel “tingly and itchy” all over her body, and had experienced chest pain.
Later that day she went to work, as an exotic dancer, and started getting really hot and was sweating profusely. Then her chest pain returned – this time more intense. “The pain went to my back and to my left arm and my left arm went slightly limp, so I knew those were symptoms of a heart attack. I called 911 and the ambulance came,” she said.
Doctors determined she’d had a type of heart attack known as NSTEMI – or non-ST segment elevation myocardial infarction – which is typically less damaging to the heart.
With NSTEMI, the supply of blood to the heart may be only partially, rather than completely, blocked. However, it’s still classed as a serious medical emergency and, without treatment, can progress to serious heart damage.
When you have pre-workout powder (even properly, with water), your body is dealing with high volumes of caffeine, which stimulates the nervous system, according to sports nutrition brand Grenade.
“When you consume higher levels of caffeine than what your body is used to, your nervous system is unable to use all of the energy it has been given, which causes those tell-tale jitters and tingles,” explains the company’s website.
“Not everyone will suffer with this side effect and some don’t mind too much but if it’s something you’re uncomfortable with, lower your serving or steer clear altogether.” The company urges users to read the label before buying powders “as some feature dangerous ingredients or incorrect dosages of certain products”.
Portillo said she wanted to share her story to raise awareness, especially as at 20 years old, she never would’ve imagined she’d end up having a heart attack.
“I just want people to be careful with what they’re consuming. Just because you see it online, even if it’s ‘fitness influencers’ doing it, doesn’t mean it’s safe,” she said.
Consultant preventative cardiologist Dr Scott Murray, of Venturi Cardiology in Warrington, urges people to stay safe by consuming such powders as per the manufacturer’s guidance and as part of a balanced nutrition and diet.
“If following correct ingestion techniques, we are not aware of any risk of sudden heart attack,” he told HuffPost UK.