Smelling like ammonia after a good cardio workout? - 3 Fat Chicks on a Diet Weight Loss Community


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Old 09-26-2006, 04:41 PM   #1  
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Default Smelling like ammonia after a good cardio workout?

Does this sound familiar to anyone? It's crazy, but I remember it from when I lost the 20+ lbs on the last go around, and I'll take it as a sign that I'm really getting into my groove right now.

But what is it and does anyone else experience it? It's not the need to take a shower smell; very distinct from that and smells like someone opened an ammonia bottle somewhere in the room I'm in.
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Old 09-26-2006, 04:44 PM   #2  
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I remember a couple of other people asking about this too....let me go do some reseach.

OK...are you low carbing? You aren't running marathons, but if you're doing cardio first thing in the morning on an empty stomach, you don't have much stored up sugar or carbs.


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After a hard workout, some runners frequently notice a strong odor that resembles ammonia fumes. It smells exactly like a cleaning solvent but not quite as pungent. For some reason, that smell is most distinctive after a very, long hard run or a race when runners are milling around together.



Could this smell be dangerous? Or is it a warning sign of some underlying problem?



First, this ammonia smell is—in fact—ammonia. Your body produces ammonia everytime you run hard. Whether you smell it or not is a different story, but your body produces it on every long, hard run.



The reason this happens is ammonia is a by-product of protein metabolism. When you run hard and long, your body burns protein and carbohydrates for fuel. When the carbs are burned off (or there isn't adequate carbohydrates), the distinctive ammonia smell presents itself.



The fact that ammonia is produced on every run doesn’t mean the smell is noticeable afterward. Usually the smell is only present when there is the carb deficit. This increase the ammonia levels in your muscles and the ammonia is then picked up by your blood and carried to your respiratory system. When this occurs, you can usually smell it. In addition, some of the ammonia will show up in your sweat which makes the odor even more noticeable.



The smell usually isn’t anything to worry about. But if it persists, you probably aren’t taking in enough carbohydrates. If you emphasize carbohydrates before, during and after running and the ammonia smell is still around, you should get checked out by a physician.



This isn’t dangerous at all. But it is a not-so-subtle warning from your body that it needs more carbs (rather than more protein) to burn on long and hard training runs.



The solution is easy: Eat more carbohydrates to fuel your muscles. Especially if you’re running longer than an hour or two your muscles crave carbohydrates which burn easier than protein. You can also do this by taking in in carbohydrates while running.



Simply drink a cold sportsdrink (which has carbohydrates) every 15-20 minutes while running. If your carbohydrate intake is adequate to fuel your running, the ammonia smell should disappear. Your body will still be producing ammonia, but you probably won’t be able to smell it.
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Old 09-26-2006, 04:46 PM   #3  
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Does someone else say you smell like ammonia? I know when I cry (ok I'm emotional), I get an ammonia smell in my nose. It is really weird but I don't know why it happens.
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Old 09-26-2006, 04:59 PM   #4  
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aerobic crying? wow, that's really getting emotional
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Old 09-26-2006, 05:07 PM   #5  
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No I don't cry when I exercise! But since it is a smell that my nose is sensing if I have been crying, I figure maybe there are other incidents where it can produce the smell?
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Old 09-26-2006, 05:09 PM   #6  
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So that is what "burning" muscle smells like? Ammonia?

How much cardio are you doing Fran? It sounds like you are going too hard for too long if you are breaking down your muscles for energy.

Does Mel or anyone else have some good guidelines as to how much cardio is too much for bodybuilding purposes? I recently added six days a week of cardio (LifeCycle, 40-55 min., HR 140-150 bpm) in an attempt to get my weightloss back on track, but I definitely DO NOT want to sacrifice any muscle. I am not expecting to gain any muscle until I hit my goal weight, but I don't want to lose any either.

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Old 09-26-2006, 10:44 PM   #7  
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I've wrestled with the cardio thing as well. I do both weights and cardio at least 5 days a week and try to do 6 (I'm fully committed to 5 days but sometimes have trouble with that 6th day). I've researched and can't find either side convincing enough to change it. I do weights UBWO one night and LBWO the next night and then 40-60 minutes of cardio (last night I did 50, tonight was 40 because the stupid gym was so HOT). I have no idea if this is right or not but it seems to be the only way I can do it unless I split the cardio and weights into morning/night and I don't think I have enough time in my day to do that.
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Old 09-27-2006, 02:52 AM   #8  
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Wow, thanks everyone. I was feeling really draggy today after eating for b'fast a bowl of total and a banana. (def not low carb) I had done 30 minutes on the treadmill upon waking b4 b'fast. Then I did another at lunch but was feeling so draggy that I decided to eat lunch before my noon workout. I had a pb sandwich on whole wheat, red grapes and water! I'm drinking a ton of water, my thirst has really increased with all the working out, and I'm passing it normally too. So I don't think it's low carb, but perhaps it could be too much cardio - or, for me, too much too soon. It's an hour a day this week bc I'm just trying to get in some extra sessions to make up for last week when I was traveling. I am getting a really good sweat when I work out this week, which I took to mean my body was getting more efficient. BUT, maybe I need to lay off a little bit. It's creepy to think I"m burning protein, but I am doing my ubwo and lbwo per the BFL plan, so hopefully I am still building and not burning muscle. Maybe it is just burning the protein I am eating. Hmmm.... Maybe I'll take a break here and go back to just 30 minutes a day, and do it in the middle of the day instead of first thing so I have better carbs.

Funny story, dd awoke with nightmares tonite and took an hour to go back to sleep. So I was STARVING when she woke me up at 1 am, and just had a bowl of cheerios to try to calm my stomach back to sleep. So, just funny that I could be carb deficit!

By the way, what happened to burning FAT when you are low on carbs instead of protein? That's supposed to be the goal of an early morning workout, right?
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Old 09-27-2006, 07:01 AM   #9  
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My understanding is that the body burns fat for fuel when it doesn't have carbs to burn but that comes from a low carb diet, not just from working out when waking up.

IMHO, I think you need much more protein and much less carbs in your diet. Cereal and bread are the worst offenders and while some fruits are great to have in your food plan, bananas and grapes are two of the worst of the fruits.
I would suggest keeping your cardio high but definitely lower the carbs, especially the simple carbs like cereal and bread and up the complex carbs (grains and veggies).

I have a protein shake an hour before working out and about a half hour to an hour after. Upping your protein and lowering the carbs would allow you to definitely keep your cardio in high gear.

Just a thought.
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Old 09-27-2006, 10:53 AM   #10  
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OK, I found this quick link to some documented research:

http://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/ammonia.htm


http://www.jbc.org/cgi/reprint/99/3/...uric%20acid%22

Last edited by sportmom; 09-27-2006 at 11:04 AM.
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Old 09-27-2006, 01:55 PM   #11  
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Very interesting articles Fran. I've never noticed ammonia odor on myself, but I have on my DH. He does long intense cardio several days a week, is dripping wet when he finishes, and does at times have an ammonia odor.
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Old 10-04-2006, 10:10 AM   #12  
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http://www.hussmanfitness.org/html/TLRagingMetab.html

John Hussman mentions the ammonia thing in this article under the heading "Post Workout Nutrition"

Just thought it might help
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Old 10-04-2006, 11:02 AM   #13  
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Thanks Fru!!

I'm still confused about is this bad or is this good. It sounds like if I smell ammonia, I have really triggered something in my body, right? It's ok as long as I metabolize amino acids, glucose, just not my muscles, right? That protein smoothie after cardio might be a good thing I guess, but I thought a protein smoothie was more important after a wl workout.

I am SO confused.
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Old 10-04-2006, 01:31 PM   #14  
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hrbabe View Post
Thanks Fru!!

I'm still confused about is this bad or is this good. It sounds like if I smell ammonia, I have really triggered something in my body, right? It's ok as long as I metabolize amino acids, glucose, just not my muscles, right? That protein smoothie after cardio might be a good thing I guess, but I thought a protein smoothie was more important after a wl workout.

I am SO confused.
I would say bad, because you are not metabolizing fat, and may be breaking down your muscles. Maybe you need to cut down the intensity level of your cardio?
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Old 10-04-2006, 01:50 PM   #15  
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Thanks Robert. Oh my goodness, I feel I am living a lie here. Most of you would laugh at my cardio!! It is 30 minutes (sometimes I will double it, but not usually) on a treadmill at a speed of 3.5 (fast walk) on inclines varying between 0 and 4. That's all - that's it. I'm not running, but I do break a good sweat. And I have noticed that I break a sweat more quickly now, and sweat more, which I think is a sign my cardio is improving from what I've read.

So I would hate to take down my cardio, in fact, I'm hoping to take the incline higher to 6 before too long.

Could the problem be diet instead? Should I eat more frequently? Some have suggested more carbs, but I wasn't doing low carb either. Thus, the confusion.
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