In the ever-evolving world of fitness and social media, trends often dictate the actions of many. A shocking incident involving a fitness TikToker, J.A., who was striving for fame and views, and decided to partake in the “dry scooping” trend.
In this social media trend, individuals consume pre-workout supplements directly, bypassing the dilution with water. The idea is to feel the effects more intensely and quickly, a concept that is scientifically unfounded and has proven to be perilously misleading.
J.A., a 25-year-old fitness enthusiast, was found unconscious by his mother after he consumed 8 scoops of a pre-workout supplement in a bid to gain followers. The supplement was laden with caffeine, creatine, and a concoction marketed as a “focused energy blend.”
J.A.’s pursuit of social media fame led him to experience severe health repercussions, including a sudden, intense headache, erratic heartbeats, and skyrocketing blood pressure, eventually culminating in a brain bleed.
The medical team was initially baffled by J.A.’s condition, as he was a seemingly healthy young man with no history of substance abuse or underlying health conditions. His blood pressure was alarmingly high, measuring 330 over 180, nearly 3 times the normal level. The medical team was racing against time, trying to decipher the cause behind his deteriorating condition, focusing on his heart and brain, the two vital organs showing alarming dysfunction.
The revelation came when J.A.’s mother showed the doctors the video he had posted, revealing his excessive consumption of the pre-workout supplement.
A closer look at the supplement’s ingredients unveiled the presence of 200 mg of caffeine per scoop, equivalent to 2 cups of coffee, and beta-phenylethylamine, a chemical related to amphetamines and marketed as a “focused maintainer” for individuals with ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder).
J.A. had ingested a staggering amount of caffeine, equivalent to 17 cups of coffee, and four times the recommended daily limit. Caffeine, a known stimulant, increases adrenaline levels in the blood, causing heightened heart rate and blood pressure. However, the question arose whether caffeine alone could cause blood pressure so high that it could lead to a brain bleed.
The presence of beta-phenylethylamine added another layer to the medical mystery. This chemical, unlike amphetamines, is supposed to be broken down quickly in the brain. However, the excessive amount consumed by J.A. could have overwhelmed his system, causing continuous and aggressive stimulation to his heart and blood vessels.
This, coupled with the excessive caffeine and the physical exertion from his workout, could have led to his blood pressure reaching life-threatening levels, causing his brain to hemorrhage, and resulting in stroke (Figure 1).
J.A.’s story serves as a stark reminder of the potential dangers of following unverified trends and the importance of adhering to recommended dosages, especially with non-essential supplements. The pursuit of social media fame and the allure of quick results can have life-altering consequences, and it is crucial to approach fitness and health with informed caution and respect for one’s body.
J.A.'s case was actually published as a case report in the journal Military Medicine. Herein, the authors cautioned that other life-threatening medical conditions have occurred following excessive pre-workout consumption:
Reported events occurring after use of pre-workout supplements include, among others, ischemic stroke, hemorrhagic stroke, myocardial infarction, hepatitis, and death. Here, we present the case of a healthy 25-year-old active duty male who experienced a bilateral cerebellar hemorrhagic stroke occurring shortly after taking a supplement named Animal Rage XL.
Thankfully, J.A. managed to recover slowly, with his youth and absence of pre-existing diseases played a pivotal role in his rehabilitation. This incident underscores the importance of consulting medical professionals before embarking on any new fitness regimen or supplement intake and highlights the need for increased awareness and regulation in the world of fitness supplements.