Ammonia salts in strength sports: what are their effects?

Among the different options that are used to increase mood, strength or performance in sports, are ammonia salts. Read on and we’ll tell you more.

Last update: 07 September, 2022

Currently, it has become a trend to use ammonia salts in strength sports. Among them, in weightlifting, be it weightlifting or powerliftingas well as in rugbyAmerican football and even in combined martial arts combat.

Traditionally, ammonia salts they were used to help wake people who had fainted. This was done because they produce a strong impression, triggering reactions in the circulatory system, increasing blood flow and heart rate.

What are ammonia salts and what are they used for?

In general, the concept of ammonia salts to refer to the preparations based on ammonium carbonateswhose formula is (NH4)twoCO3. Although they are different from the mineral ammoniacal salt that is found in its natural state.

The aforementioned preparations can be purchased in commercial establishments and stores on-linein different presentations:

  • Salts (it is the most common form).
  • Blisters that, when broken, release the smell.
  • Liquid that can be dissolved in water or alcohol.
  • Cloths or gauze that are previously impregnated.

whatever the presentation, the most common form of use is to bring the salt to the nose and inhale. This causes an alteration in the nasal mucous membranes and the pulmonary membrane, triggering the inhalation reflex in the sympathetic nervous system, which in turn alters the respiratory pattern, with increased ventilation and a feeling of alertness.

Then the heart rate increases, as does the blood flow from the middle artery to the brain. According to studies on the subject, heart rate can be accelerated between +6 and +11 beats per minute15 seconds after inhaling.

Due to such effects, ammonia salts are often used to induce resuscitation in people who are fainting or faintingor to prevent them from occurring when dizziness occurs.

The increase in heart rate is a rapid effect of salts after inhalation.

Ammonia salts in strength sports

In addition to the uses already mentioned, ammonia salts are currently very common in strength sports. A survey indicates that 49% of professionals who practice powerlifting use this resource.

How are they used?

The way to apply them is quite simple:

  1. Locate the container about 10 centimeters from the nostrils. When it comes to impregnated cloths, you can get a little closer.
  2. Inhale strong and deep.
  3. One time should be enough and no need to repeat.

It is appropriate that the use of ammonia salts in strength sports be limited to competition. Of course, this can also be done during training, but it is not the most advisable.

You have to wait a few seconds to feel its effect. Although it also lasts a short time, so it is best to make the most of that feeling of euphoria that they awaken.

What are its benefits?

Regarding the beneficial effects of the use of ammonia salts in strength sports, it is pointed out that thanks to the increase in blood flow and heart rate, they can indirectly affect performance. In this sense, they are used for an ergogenic purpose, rather for mental or psychological help, activating alertness.

In some long-term competitions or when greater fatigue is felt, it is also they can help the athlete who is tired. For example, in the third round of a mixed martial arts match.

Are ammonia salts useful in strength sports?

In sports performance, there are several factors that can influence. Now, with respect to whether it is useful to use ammonia salts in strength sports, opinions are divided. Let’s see what the studies say.

1RM and maximal strength

When talking about strength training, the term 1RM refers to the greatest amount of weight that can be lifted at one time in an exercise. However, in the studies carried out, no significant improvements have been observed in this regard with salts.

Also, research has not found that this has any effect on power output, maximal force production, or rate of force development during an IMTP (isometric multi-joint test).


With the concept of explosive force, refers to developing a lot of power or speed in short distances or intervals of time. This is common in disciplines such as tennis or soccer.

Regarding this point, studies A positive effect was found for the use of ammonia salts for sports In particular, the researchers looked at the effects of such inhalants on anaerobic performance in football.

The activity consisted of carrying out a series of sprint of maximum effort of 5 seconds, with 40 seconds of recovery. An anaerobic test was done wingate, before and after. in the results an increase in PP (peak power) and MP (maximum power) was found in 90% and 80% of participants, respectively.

The sprint they are not typical of strength sports, so the attributed effect would be more linked to explosiveness.

The results are not considered conclusive, so the researchers recommend further investigation.

Side effects and contraindications

The substance is delicate to use. When ammonia is used in household cleaning, for example, it can be toxic to the nervous system. In this regard, some possible reactions are indicated:

  • Cough.
  • tearing
  • wheezing
  • Difficulty breathing.
  • Pain in the rib cage.
  • Nose and throat irritation.
  • Dizziness and fainting.

Also it is ensured that in low concentrations it is safe and does not cause side effects. Therefore, care must be taken to keep the salts at a distance of 10 centimeters and inhale only once.

Regarding the risks in sports, some studies report that, due to the euphoria of the moment, the use of ammonia salts in sports masks the incipient signs of injury.

The importance of training

Strength and performance are influenced by many factors. Therefore, it is important to emphasize that no substance can replace a systematic and well-directed training routine.

It does not hurt to use some aid, as long as it is not a prohibited substance. And this is not the case of ammonia salts in strength sports, since their use is not contraindicated by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA).

It should not be forgotten that the ergogenic effect of these substances has more to do with mood and alertness than with capacity. Many athletes, it is true, include it in their rituals.

You might be interested…