After exercising vigorously one can sometimes smell ammonia and it feels like it's coming from within the nose actually. There is no indication that others can smell it when I do (i.e. seems to be internal rather than external). I know I'm not the only one experiencing this, but I was wondering what the physiological processes are that are responsible for that?

Also: is this merely a perceived smell or is there actually ammonia in/on my body after the exercise.

  • $\begingroup$ it might be the odour of the sweat. But I don't think that is the smell of ammonia. $\endgroup$
    May 29, 2013 at 14:44
  • $\begingroup$ Do you eat a lot of protein to promote muscle growth? $\endgroup$
    – ndevln
    May 29, 2013 at 16:35
  • $\begingroup$ @NeoDevlin: well, I eat "a lot" of protein, yes, but not in particular for muscle growth. AFAIK the body cannot metabolize as much protein as for example body builders usually take in. $\endgroup$ May 29, 2013 at 17:06

1 Answer 1


There are two explanations which come to mind answering your question:

I asked if you eat a lot of protein, because the amount of protein which some body builders consume leads to renal failure. And one sign of renal failure is the smell of ammonia. It's a quite common problem. But I don't think this applies to you. Your protein intake shouldn't exceed 2g per kg of body weight per day, some body builder eat up 4g per kg.

Ammonia is normally linked to your protein metabolism, which is higher during and after sport. The smell of Ammonia can occur when your carbohydrate reservoir is depleted and the body is mainly using protein as fuel. This effect also occurs when fasting or in patients with diabetes.

Try to keep your blood sugar level raised during exercise by eating something, like a banana, powerbars (also known as high energy bar) or directly dextrose. Or eat more long-chain carbohydrates. And this always depending the form of sport you are practicing. Just like the pasta party prior to marathons.

  • $\begingroup$ Wow, renal failure sounds severe. But I have this only after exhausting exercises, not every type of exercise either. Yeah, I think I don't get over the 2 g/kg limit, though. Will try the advice about carbs. $\endgroup$ May 29, 2013 at 18:14

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