After a long, hard work out, it will be difficult not to notice the changes that happen to your body – increased heart rate, shortness of breath as well as the obvious, a bucket load of sweat!
However, what you may also notice is a strong, pungent ammonia-like smell (don’t worry, its not just you, most people can smell like this after a long run or cycle ride!)
This ammonia-like smell is in fact caused by ammonia (surprise, surprise!), and can be produced after any grueling workout. Ammonia smells like a stinky cat box and is a by-product of protein breakdown. During an intense workout, your body can run out of its normal supply of fuel – usually carbohydrates (‘carbs’). So, rather than needing to stop mid-sprint and cram loads of energy bars in, the body will use the body’s protein as an alternative source of fuel (pretty crafty!). And because protein is ‘burned’, an ammonia smell presents itself afterwards.
Of course, using your body’s protein isn’t a great long term source of muscle fuel because this protein is taken from internal organs and the muscles themselves. Your body tries to conserve its organs and muscles, and will only use protein when it’s absolutely necessary. So usually the smell will only appear when there is a carbohydrate deficit (or if the exercise is just so intense that your body needs extra fuel for the final push). The increase in ammonia in your muscles will be carried away by your blood and transported to your lungs and excreted (mostly in your sweat), hence that lovely, distinct smell!
In order to try and reduce the ammonia produced, one tip is to make sure you eat enough before engaging in intense exercise. Carbohydrate-rich foods (‘carbs’) such as breads, pasta, potatoes are a good source of fuel that muscles can easily use.
Answer By Chloe Westley