You have probably heard about smelling salts also known as ammonia before, either from seeing someone at your gym use it before a heavy lift or from powerlifters on competition day. We put together some answer to our most frequently asked questions on the topic for you below.
What are smelling salts and how do they work?
Ammonia itself is an inorganic compound made up of nitrogen and hydrogen that has a rather strong smell. Ammonia smelling salts (like the one we sell) on the other hand are a combination of Ammonium Carbonate diluted with water and/or ethanol.
Ammonia reacts with heat and moisture in the air to create a vapour, this vapour when held up to the nose irritates the nasal passages causing a burning feeling. The irritation caused by the fumes triggers a breathing response called inhalation reflex which causes the lungs to breathe deeper, increases oxygen flow to brain and body and elevates the users heart rate.
This reaction can lead to increased mental alertness and arousal levels for a short period of time which is why they are used often before a heavy lift during powerlifting competitions.
What are the benefits of ammonia smelling salts?
Historically Ammonia was used as a first-aid tool to revive people that fainted. The reflex mentioned above can have some benefits for sports, especially strength sports which is why there is a long standing tradition of lifters using “ammonia and back slaps” to get all riled up for that last deadlift to break a record of get on the podium. While the effects only last a short amount of time the adrenaline rush you get from sniffing ammonia can help improve focus and alertness and increase performance.
This does not mean that they will give you any superpowers, but it can help to get that last bit of energy out and help you lift those kilos.
How much should you be using and how?
The question of how much is a bit subjective but we generally recommend not giving it more than a few whiffs at a time and to not use it every day or even for every training session.
If you have never tried ammonia before proceed with caution and try it out before comp day as it the pungent smell and burning feeling can really throw you off and distract you rather than increase focus.
Here’s the 101:
- Shake the bottle and open the lid
- Hold the open bottle a few inches away from your face and slowly move your hand closer until you get a good whiff of ammonia (you’ll know when it happens)
- Add optional backslaps from a strong friend to really get things going (disclaimer: at comp this has to happen out of the sight of the audience!)
- Close the bottle tightly (don’t throw it of you can)
- March up to that barbell
- Send it.
Smelling salts is sniffed once before a heavy set and the duration of the ‘’effect’’ is usually 60 seconds or less. Please do not place your nose too close to the bottle, an inch usually is enough to be inhaled.
We recommend using smelling salts with some caution if you have never tried them before. The pungent smell and burning feeling in the nose can have more of a distracting effect than an improvement in performance. Overuse can cause headaches and nausea.
Are smelling salts bad for you?:
Ammonia smelling salts are considered safe for most adults however if you abuse them side effects can occur. The side effects from sniffing ammonia can cause watery eyes, nosebleeds and headaches or even nausea. People with asthma, bronchitis emphysema or eye conditions should proceed with caution or maybe stay away completely, better to be safe than sorry.
Smelling salts are a great tool that can help with your performance to get the edge. And whilst everyone will have differing feelings about smelling salts, we recommend to try and find out for yourself.
Are smelling salts legal in Australia?
Yes, ammonia smelling salts are completely legal for purchase and use within Australia.
Are smelling salts a drug?
No they're not a drug, but they are considered as stimulant like coffee or pre-workout. As with everything you do not want to abuse it.
Do smelling salts kill brain cells?
Assuming you are using as directed there will be no long term damage or killing of braincells. If you have any side effects we recommend ceasing use and speaking to a medical professional.
Do smelling salts clear sinuses?
Some claim this, and the stinging in the nose can have a shortterm effect, however, there is not enough evidence for this claim. For this reason we do not market or recommend them to clear your sinuses (there are also probably better options)
Do smelling salts expire?
Over time the smelling salts will become weaker but they don't have an expiration date. But can usually be revived with a few drops of rubbing alcohol. Typically the drier the weather the weaker the smelling salts will be.
Are smelling salts dangerous?
Smelling salts are generally safe, however they should be used as directed and if you have health concerns like asthma proceed with caution and speak to your GP before using them. Don’t overdo it, it’s a tool not a crutch.
If you have any questions you can always reach out to us!