Why Your Clothes Smell Like Ammonia

Written by Publish Pac. 002

Ever go for a run and notice your clothes wreaks of an unbearable stench? You can rest assured it’s not just you and there is a science behind it.

I began noticing after long runs, my clothes left behind the scent of ammonia. After being annoyed and embarrassed by the aroma, I decided to do a little research on why this was happening.

The Science:

Ammonia: The chemical component is NH3 which means, it’s one nitrogen atom bound to three hydrogen atoms. Ammonia exists in our urine and sweat and the only macronutrient in our body that contains nitrogen is amino acids.

Amino Acids are the building blocks for protein. It’s an energy source that our body uses every day. Nitrogen exists in amino acids. During exercise, our bodies will get rid of excess nitrogen. The nitrogen is processed and then converted to Urea which is released through urine. However, when there is an overwhelming amount of nitrogen in your body, it will be released through the sweat glands, hence the ammonia smell we’re accustomed to.

Protein: Your body will only use protein when there are not enough fats or carbohydrates present. Muscles use glucose and fat as a preferred source of energy. So if your body has a high amount of protein, the amino acids will come from your food instead of your body.

So how can we resolve this problem?

Experts agree that having an adequate amount of carbohydrates in your body will avoid the smell of ammonia. Jeremy Likness is a Certified Fitness Trainer and a Specialist in Performance Nutrition. In an article for bodybuilding.com he stated, “The smell is common, for example, amongst marathon runners, who are engaging in continuous cardiovascular exercise for hours at a time.” Likness suggested the consumption of sports drinks or other carb sources to prevent amino acids from being burned for energy.

Carb Sources

Apples, bread, nuts, are acceptable forms of fuel prior to your workout. Also, ingesting an adequate amount of water will help diminish the smell of ammonia. Experts also say, due to the toxic nature of ammonia, it’s important not to stay in your workout clothes for extended periods.


  • Consume carbohydrates to use as a preferred source of energy
  • Avoid foods high in protein prior to long runs.
  • Drink adequate amounts of water.
  • Change clothes immediately after workouts.

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