Ammonia for Lifting – The Only Thing You Should Be Sniffing

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There’s a lot of things you can inhale pre-workout for a nice rush, am I right? All jokes aside, ammonia caps have been used for decades now to get in the zone before a big lift. Using ammonia for lifting might seem unsafe, but I can assure you that the positives outweigh the negatives. Ammonia and powerlifting go hand-in-hand, but it’s not out of the ordinary to see a regular gym-goer using the substance.

Why Do People Sniff Ammonia Caps?

This is the most commonly asked question about ammonia. You probably remember ammonia (NH3) from your high school chemistry class, where you learned it is a potentially deadly gas. Although concentrated ammonia gas is lethal to humans, the same cannot be said about the diluted amounts in sniffing salts. 


Powerlifters, in particular, use ammonia for lifting because it increases alertness and prevents fainting. Ammonia has a distinct, pungent smell that causes an adrenaline-like response. For this reason, athletes will often keep the substance on hand before a big lift or set.

Why Ammonia Is Used For Fainting

In first aid, it’s commonly known that a strong stimulant is used to revive someone from a loss of consciousness. A stimulant is anything that triggers activity in the central nervous system, and smelling ammonia certainly does the trick.


Although you can use ammonia to bring someone back from fainting, it’s more logical to use to prevent fainting in general. Lightheadedness is common after heavy lifting, and if you’re going to continue working heavy, then ammonia might be very beneficial for you. Ammonia caps ensure that you will not be light-headed or faint during an intense workout.

Adrenaline and Alertness

Ammonia does not literally release adrenaline in the body, but it produces a similar effect. Smelling salts actually irritate the mucous membranes of the nose and lungs which causes your breathing rate to increase. This increased breathing rate and increased alertness generally go hand-in-hand, thus producing an adrenaline-like feeling.


Despite the widely accepted notion that ammonia caps increase alertness, there are no conducted studies proving this to be true.  You can see how popular ammonia salts are in pro sports by checking out the video below.

Safety Concerns

If you’re considering using ammonia for lifting, I can assure you there are no major health risks. The main ingredients in most smelling salts are ammonium carbonate and essential oils. Whenever you open the ammonium carbonate, a small amount of ammonia gas is released which acts as a stimulant. Although ammonia gas is toxic in it’s concentrated form, you have nothing to worry about with the amount released from smelling salts.


Ammonia caps are widely accepted as safe, but you should still take several precautions before you decide to start using them. 


  1. Keep the ammonia at least 4 inches away from your nostrils when using. This will prevent accidental irritation of your nostrils and irritation induced flinching. 

  2. Frequent exposure to concentrated ammonia can be toxic and even lethal. Similarly, excessive, prolonged use of ammonia can also cause toxicity. Fortunately, this will hardly be an issue when you use smelling salts.

Where To Buy Ammonia Caps

Plenty of retailers sell ammonia inhalants specifically designed for athletes. You can check with your local gym or supplement store and they might have them in stock. As with most products, you can buy smelling salts on Amazon, and you’ll probably end up spending less money. 


Ammonia is generally inexpensive, but just make sure you’re buying the right product. Look for ammonium carbonate or diluted ammonia as the main ingredient and you will be good to go.

Closing Remarks

Ammonia inhalants have been used in powerlifting for a long time, and they certainly do their job. It works particularly well for lifting heavy weights because it increases alertness and decreases lightheadedness. 


You will notice that not everyone uses smelling salts before their workout, and this is because they’re not completely necessary. The ultimate deciding factor regarding whether you should use ammonia is how you respond to the substance. If you’re a powerlifter who often gets lightheaded after a heavy working set, then ammonia might be very beneficial to you. The same can be said if you desire more alertness prior to getting under the bar. Overall, smelling salts are an effective pre-workout aid, but one that is more commonly used by powerlifters.

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