Taking This Supplement Without Water Caused a 20-Year-Old to Have a Heart Attack

Protein powder
Experts call out “very significant concerns” about this trending TikTok challenge.

When figures on social media promote a dare that involves your body, it’s wise to consider if there’s any chance it could affect your health . . . even if the challenge seems harmless. Unfortunately, a young woman learned this the hard way after she tried what some TikTok users are calling “dry scooping” before her workout. Now that she’s survived a heart attack caused by the experiment, she’s speaking out about her mistake—and nutrition experts are joining in to share their warnings.

The New York Post recently reported that 20-year-old Briatney Portillo was getting ready to exercise in April when a male friend offered her a scoop of Redcon1’s Total War “pre-workout” energy powder. Portillo said she had recently observed a TikTok trend where users were “dry scooping” this type of powder. Instead of mixing the powder with water or another liquid as the manufacturers of these powders intend, consumers gulp down a scoop of the powder undiluted. 

After she tried dry scooping for herself, Portillo said the effects were immediate—and not in a good way. “Right away, I felt like I was suffocating,” Portillo said. “I couldn’t breathe.”

She added that she experienced a whole host of negative sensations: burning gums, coughing, dry throat, sweating, and itching throughout her body. “My chest felt very tight and heavy,” she said. “The whole left side of my body hurt so bad.”

A team of emergency medical technicians transported Portillo to a nearby hospital, where a medical team performed an electrocardiogram and blood tests. They also admitted her overnight, determining that Portillo had experienced a non-ST myocardial elevation—a type of heart attack that typically does less damage to the heart than full cardiac arrest.

Dr. Kelly Johnson-Arbor is a co-medical director at the National Capital Poison Center. In reference to this type of pre-workout powder, she told SELF: “These workout supplements are not considered foods or drugs. They’re considered dietary supplements, and that industry is highly unregulated in the United States . . . [Pre-workout powders] are not entirely benign.”

For her part, Portillo says she learned an important lesson about her health. “Do not do what you see other people doing on TikTok thinking it will make you cool,” Portillo advised. “It’s not worth risking your health or your life.”


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