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The Weirdest Thing About Running (So Far) October 1, 2009

Posted by Richard Lowe in Thoughts & Musings.
Tags: , , ,

As a first-time marathoner, I’ve been having previously unknown side-effects to all this running. Along with the new aches and pains and the insatiable hunger, I’ve noticed that after longer runs, there’s an ammonia smell coming from my sweat. Sounds crazy, right? Well apparently, it’s not!

I started noticing the smell last week after my LA Roadrunners 7 mile run, but I passed it off as nothing. This week, however, I still noticed it. I decided to investigate.

Turns out it’s a pretty common side-effect, especially after more intense workouts. According to this Runner’s World article:

Ammonia comes from the breakdown of amino acids (the building blocks of proteins) within the body. It is made up of nitrogen and hydrogen. The hydrogen atoms are converted to glucose and used as fuel. The nitrogen is a waste product that needs to be excreted by the body, and is processed in the kidneys to form urea that is excreted in urine. If there is too much nitrogen for your kidneys to deal with, it will be excreted as ammonia in your sweat.

Talk about weird science! Who would’ve thought that the lack of carbs would cause ammonia-smelling sweat?

When I think about it, I really am not eating enough carbs. I eat about 40% protein and 60% carbs, though the ratio should be more like 25% protein and 75% carbs. I’ll have to watch that. Even though my pre-run meal of an apple with honey is good for instant training energy, it’s not sustainable throughout the day, or even the week. Though the article says that drinking more water may help, I believe I’m properly hydrated with over a gallon of water a day. So more carbs it is!

Check out this Runner’s World Ask The Running Doc article for more.

Ammonia: a nitrogen atom surrounded by three hydrogen atoms. And it’s in my sweat!


1. Chelsee Lowe - October 4, 2009

HOney… I don’t want you to smell like ammonia…

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