Why do I smell like ammonia after I exercise?

When you exercise, your body uses different energy sources including carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. Which energy source your body uses depends on a variety of factors including exercise intensity and the availability of these sources when exercising. Under certain circumstances, such as a low carbohydrate supply or low fat stores, the body will burn more protein as a fuel source. One of the byproducts of using protein as a fuel source is ammonia. When protein is the primary source of fuel, this ammonia will accumulate and can be secreted in sweat. This can lead to the smell of ammonia when exercising. To ensure you are not using protein as your primary energy source, eat a good balance of carbohydrates, protein, and fats. This will help to ensure carbohydrates and fat are the primary sources of fuel when exercising and allows protein to do what it does best - build tissue, like muscle. 

A high-protein, low-carbohydrate diet is usually what leads to the ammonia smell. When on this type of diet, your body is quickly forced to turn to proteins for the energy. Amino acids are broken down into various components, parts of which are converted into glucose. Other elements that come out of the process are waste products, and if the body can't handle everything being sent its way, the leftovers are excreted out through the skin. Too much ammonia, and the body produces a stinky sweat. An overload of ammonia can cause muscle fatigue and other neurological issues.

Tweak your diet and drink more water. Water will dilute the ammonia, as well as make it easier to excrete. If an ammonia aroma is emanating from the mouth, is unrelated to sweating and exercise or is accompanied by other severe symptoms, consult a doctor as soon as possible.


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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.