When you think about smelling salts, you likely think of the reviving agent used to wake people up who have been knocked unconscious. You would be correct as “smelling salts” have been used for such purposes for many years. Recently, you may have seen, while surfing the internet or scrolling through your Instagram feed, a powerlifter sniffing something, letting out a giant yell, and then pulling an incredible deadlift off.
So why has a commonly used fainting remedy made its way into your favorite gym? Let’s take a look.
What are smelling salts?
Our first step to answering this question is to take a look at what smelling salts are. The active ingredient contained in smelling salts is ammonia carbonate. Simply put, when you sniff smelling salts, you are inhaling a small amount of ammonia gas. Have you ever used Windex to clean your windows? Then you have gotten a whiff of ammonia gas. The main difference is the ammonia in smelling salts is more concentrated than in Windex – 15% vs 5%.
When you sniff smelling salts, the difference is quite noticeable. Your eyes water, your head is thrown back, and your face flushes. You immediately feel awake and extremely hyped up. What causes this reaction? According to the National Institute of Health, ammonia gas “irritates the membranes of the nose and lungs, and thereby triggers an inhalation reflex that alters the pattern of breathing, resulting in improved respiratory flow rates and possibly alertness.” This entire reaction lasts less than one minute.
How do smelling salts help in the gym?
The involuntary reaction noted previously that comes after taking that whiff of smelling salts causes your breathing rate to increase significantly. Your heart rate increases at the same time. As your heart rate increases, your sympathetic nervous system takes over. The sympathetic nervous system is what your body uses during stressful events. It’s also called your fight or flight response.
Turning on your sympathetic nervous system right before a powerlifting session can result in potentially increasing the amount you can lift. When you sniff smelling salts prior to your lift, you are essentially prepping your body for action. Not only is the increase seen physically, it also occurs mentally. If you think you are going to reach Hulk-like levels of lift after sniffing smelling salts, then psychologically speaking, you will reach Hulk-like levels of lift.
Are smelling salts safe?
Ammonia gas is toxic in large amounts. The small amount produced by smelling salts is so minuscule no adverse effects have been reported. However, since smelling salts irritate your nostrils and lungs, it’s a good idea not to use them every time you lift or workout.
If you are looking for an added push in your next workout, the benefits of smelling salts can easily fit the bill. Whether you are just beginning your fitness journey or you are a seasoned pro, check out the House of Gains’ line of smelling salts to help you unlock your hidden power!