What’s up with that ammonia smell after exercise?

Why does my sweat smell like ammonia after I exercise?
Why does my sweat smell like ammonia after I exercise?

If you have been working out for a while, chances are you have encountered a strange ammonia smell after you exercise. Yep, you smell like a cross between glass cleaner and cat piss. A lovely way to smell why you are at the gym. Today was one of those days when I smelled like Windex towards the end of my workout.

Originally I was told that I was taking too much protein, and that was simply why I smelled like cat piss. At the time, I was taking too much protein, so I just assumed that was true. After more experience with the stench as well as some research, I concluded that wasn’t the problem.

So I don’t bore you with all the scientific reasons why you may stink, I will explain in simple terms. There can be several reasons that your sweat smells like Formula 401 after you work out. The first reason can be very long workouts, especially cardio workouts. Your body breaks down amino acids in your body from protein, and that basically is what causes the smell. Normally, it is excreted in your urine, but if you are dehydrated or simply doing a long workout, it will also be apparent in your sweat. There is really no cure for this, however just be sure you are drinking plenty of water. If you are running marathons or doing long cardio sessions with other people, don’t worry… others that are doing the same will smell, too and probably won’t even notice that you stink.

Another reason can be that you are consuming too little carbs. Again, after depleting your carbohydrate macros, your body then starts burning the protein for fuel, and the amino acids in protein could once again by causing the glass cleaner smell in your sweat. Easy fix is to make sure you are getting adequate carbs with every meal, especially before you work out.

The third reason may be dehydration. If you are not getting enough water, your sweat and urine will be more concentrated with waste, therefore every odor will be magnified. It is somewhat natural for your sweat to smell a little like cat urine, but usually you won’t even notice. However, if you are dehydrated, your urine and sweat will be more concentrated, therefore increasing the smell to a level that can easily be… well smelled. The easy cure is to simply drink more water the day and night before, during and after your workouts.

Those are a few of the main reasons. However, since I eat nearly the same thing every day including plenty of carbs, I don’t run marathons or do long cardio sessions and I drink lots of water daily, including during my workout. So why did I happen to stink today??? There are a couple reasons. For one, I was wearing a tank top that I have smelled myself stink in before. This tank top is somewhat thick, and not porous, so it holds in all the moisture. Unlike the breathable shirts, tank tops and sleeveless shirts that leave you feeling somewhat dry, all the sweat was absorbed into the shirt. So since I mentioned it is normal to smell a little like ammonia when you work out anyway, if it is all trapped completely in the shirt with nowhere to go, you will probably stink a little. The second reason that I probably smelled like a cat taking a leak is the fact that I am just getting over a cold. Your body is ridding toxins, and can also be a little dehydrated even if you are drinking adequate amounts of fluid. My sweat was probably more concentrated with the smell of amino acid breakdown, toxins and sweat that was all trapped inside this shirt that simply wouldn’t let it out. When you are sick or getting over a sickness, you usually sweat more. That is the third reason, that I was simply sweating more, so there was more of the smell.

So next time you smell like a cat that was just cleaned with glass cleaner after a workout, check these reasons and see if one of them matches yours. Most likely, it probably falls into one of the reasons stated. Youu will just have to shower real good and try again next workout with more carbs or being better dehydrated… or wearing a shirt that is more breathable. On rare occasions, the cat piss smell can be a sign of kidney or liver problems, so if you think it may be or if you continue to smell like Windex time and time again when you have followed all of the fixes for it, you may want to check with your doctor just to be safe.

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