What Do Smelling Salts Do for Working Out?

When it comes to pushing your physical limits during workouts, athletes and fitness enthusiasts are always on the lookout for ways to enhance their performance. One such method that has gained popularity in recent years is the use of smelling salts. These pungent compounds have been used for centuries as a means to revive and energize individuals. In this blog post, we will explore what exactly smelling salts are, how they work, and whether they can truly benefit your workout routine.

Understanding Smelling Salts

Smelling salts typically consist of ammonia-based compounds such as ammonium carbonate or ammonium chloride which release a sharp odor when opened. Historically, these substances were primarily used to revive someone from fainting or unconsciousness due to their powerful stimulating effects on the respiratory system.

The Mechanism of Action

Once inhaled, smelling salts irritate the nasal passages and trigger an involuntary reflex known as the “lacrimal reflex.” This reflex induces rapid deep inhalation through the mouth by activating specific nerves responsible for breathing control. As a result, there is an immediate surge in oxygen intake that leads to increased alertness and temporary heightened focus.

Benefits for Working Out

Although traditionally associated with reviving consciousness rather than exercise enhancement, many athletes have started using smelling salts before intense workouts or competitions due to their potential benefits:

Increased Focus and Mental Alertness

The strong scent of ammonia released by smelling salts stimulates brain activity by increasing blood flow and oxygen delivery. As a result, users often experience improved concentration levels while feeling more mentally prepared to take on challenging workouts.

Aroused Nervous System Response

Inhalation of ammonia triggers a potent sympathetic nervous system response within seconds. This response leads to an increased heart rate, elevated blood pressure, and heightened adrenaline release. Consequently, athletes may experience a temporary boost in energy levels and improved physical performance.

Enhanced Mind-Muscle Connection

By stimulating the nervous system and increasing mental alertness, smelling salts can help improve the mind-muscle connection during workouts. Users often report feeling more connected to their muscles, allowing them to execute exercises with better form and technique.

Considerations and Precautions

Potential Risks

While smelling salts offer some potential benefits for workouts, it is crucial to use them cautiously due to certain risks. The high ammonia content can be irritating or even harmful when overused or misused. Prolonged exposure can cause respiratory issues like coughing, sneezing, or shortness of breath. Individuals with asthma or other respiratory conditions should exercise extra caution before using smelling salts.

Moderation is Key

To minimize any potential risks associated with smelling salts usage during workouts, moderation is essential. It’s best to limit intake by avoiding prolonged inhalation or excessive sniffing since the aim is a brief stimulation rather than extended exposure.


In conclusion, smelling salts have gained popularity among athletes as a means of enhancing workout performance through increased focus and stimulated arousal of the nervous system. While they may provide temporary benefits for those seeking an extra edge in their training routines, it is important to approach their usage responsibly while considering individual health conditions and potential risks involved. As always in fitness endeavors, consulting with professionals such as trainers or medical experts remains essential before incorporating any new substances into your routine.