Mountain Bike Reviews Forum banner
1 - 4 of 4 Posts

·
Registered
Joined
·
16 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
To spice up my training, I've starting doing some roadie group rides. These last 4.5-6 hrs, though a bunch of time is spent waiting for stragglers or fixing flats. The structure is something like this: 1hr easy riding as a pack, race up hill (20-30 minutes), hard paceline w/ sprint finish, repeat. With about an hour to go, the pace eases up again.

After suffering through one of these events and heading to the kitchen to rehydrate, I've noticed a distinct ammonia smell. After poking around a bit, I decided it wasn't coming from the kitchen, but was somehow internal.

Is this common? Is this bad? (like there's no point in overexerting this much) Is this really bad? (like it'll shorten my lifespan) Will it go away if I do more of these rides?

Originally, I didn't think much of it. But I noticed in the Hammer catalog that ammonia buildup is something that happens to ultra runners (and they of course sell products to counter it). I think the explanation is that the ammonia comes from the body "cannibalizing" muscles for energy. Hmm.

I believe I'm hydrating well enough, but it's possible my energy consumption is low. The problem is that the effort is so hard on the first race up the hill that my stomach quits working. Last time, I ate a Powerbar after a while, but it just sat in my gut and made it feel worse. I do drink Cytomax, but that doesn't seem to bring in enough calories. The other guys eat Powerbars, apples, whatever, and seem to be digesting them.

Any advice and/or references on this problem would be appreciated.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
25 Posts
I get this problem to when doing a long hard haul and going extra hard.

below is what I found to help you

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

The chemical make-up of ammonia is NH3. This means that there is one Nitrogen atom bound to three Hydrogen atoms. Ammonia can be a weak acid or a weak base, depending on what type of chemical it is suspended in. Ammonia has a strong, pungent odor that is easily recognizable in cleaning products, cat urine, and, for some people, sweat!

The key to ammonia in urine and sweat is the nitrogen. The only macronutrient in your body that contains nitrogen is amino acids, the building blocks of protein. In fact, many bodybuilders are always seeking a "positive nitrogen balance" meaning that less nitrogen leaves their body than enters their body. Since nitrogen is in every amino acid, and amino acids are the building blocks of muscle, someone in positive nitrogen balance is more than likely gaining muscle mass.

Your body uses amino acids for energy every day. There is no way to avoid this. Your body constantly goes into catabolic (tissue breakdown) and anabolic (tissue building) phases. When you accumulate mass (lean or fat), your anabolic phases exceed your catabolic phases, but you still experience both phases. When your body uses an amino acid for energy, it must convert the amino acid to a useable form of energy.

It does this by stripping the nitrogen atom off of the molecule. The skeleton molecule that is left behind is then further converted into glucose and used as fuel. In order to get rid of the excess nitrogen, your body typically processes the nitrogen in your kidneys and forms urea, CO(NH2)2 - basically, a carbon dioxide molecule bound to nitrogen and hydrogen. Urea is then excreted in the urine. If your kidneys cannot handle the load of nitrogen, then the nitrogen will be excreted as ammonia in your sweat.

One other factor to consider is water intake. The methods used for getting rid of excess ammonia, such as urine and sweat, all require water as a transport mechanism. If you are not getting adequate fluid, then the solution (ammonia + water) will not be diluted. Therefore, water plays a definite role. If you are not drinking enough fluids to have at least one or two clear urinations every day, you should drink more.

Based on this explanation, it is clear that your sweat will smell like ammonia only if an excessive amount of amino acids are being used for energy, or you are not receiving adequate water. This helps us find a solution to the problem.

The key to avoiding that ammonia smell is to ingest sufficient carbohydrates. If you eat an ample amount of carbohydrate with every meal, then you should have plenty to fuel your exercise activity. Even people who work out on an empty stomach should have some glucose in their bloodstream upon rising - unless they subscribe to the myth that cutting out carbohydrates before bed helps you lose fat. If you find that the ammonia smell persists (even when you consume carbohydrate with every meal), try having a low glycemic carbohydrate before you workout.

A little oatmeal, a small apple, or even a piece of sprouted grain bread can provide the fuel that your body needs. Remember, your body requires fuel to burn fat! So don't think that providing some carbs before cardio is going to eliminate the fat burning process. In fact, most of my clients who consume a light meal before working out report that their energy levels go through the roof, and they have an incredible workout. If adding 80 calories in the form of a slice of sprouted grain bread kicks your energy levels into high gear and helps you burn 100 more calories during exercise (while sparing your muscles from being used as fuel), there is no reason to worry about dropping fat!
 

·
almost there!
Joined
·
341 Posts
I've had the same issue...

It hasn't happened to me lately and I'm not sure why but you're right about what's happening, it's your body cannibalizing your muscles for energy. One type of food you should consider taking with you on your long rides is a peanut butter and jam sandwich on a raisin bagel - as well as your favourite energy drink. I would think this sandwich would be easier to digest than a power bar because it isn't as dense, as well bagels are a high glycemic food which means it gives you quick/immediate energy.

In general if you're riding for more than 2 hours you should eat during your ride because I find that after 2 hours hard effort your body will have used up it's natural reserve of energy and you will start to slow down - especially if you don't eat or use an energy drink.

During races it's a good idea to eat every half an hour if possible, and that only has to be a power gel, just something extra to keep your energy levels up.

That's my 2 cents and I'm sure this should help.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
16 Posts
Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Thanks. I wouldn't have found that article on my own.

I'm relieved that there's really nothing bad about the ammonia. It's just a sign that my body is scavenging for energy. Next time (tomorrow) I'll plan my refueling more carefully.

Funny how this has never happened to me in bike races (some over 4 hrs) or running marathons. And these ammonia sessions don't seem to cause any extra muscle soreness...I'm just really tired.
 
1 - 4 of 4 Posts
Top