BACKGROUND: Ammonia Inhalants (i.e. smelling salts) are a popular ergogenic aid typically used by powerlifting and bodybuilding athletes that have also been used by other populations, including clinical patients. The goal of smelling salts is typically to improve muscle strength, power, and endurance during exercise. Although it has been proposed to help improve acute bouts of muscle strength and power production, and potentially have psychological benefits, it is unclear if it provides any ergogenic effect for muscle endurance (fatigue). The purpose of this study was to examine the effects of an ammonia inhalant on muscular fatigue. METHODS: Nineteen college aged males and females participated in this study (mean±standard deviation, height=176±11cm, weight=76±18kg). Across three trials separated by at least 48 hours, participants inhaled either an ammonia inhalant, placebo (menthol), or no inhalant directly before a fatigue test. For the ammonia inhalant and placebo trials, the substance was placed in an opaque dram with a cotton ball placed over the substance. For the control trial, a cotton ball was placed in the dram with no substance beneath it. For all trials, the dram was held open10cm from the participant’s nose, and they were instructed to inhale through the nose for 3-seconds. Immediately after the 3-secont inhalation, participants completed the fatiguing test. The fatiguing test consisted of 50 maximal isokinetic leg extensions and flexions at an angular velocity of 180°∙s-1. Peak torque (PT) and mean power (MP) were averaged across the first three repetitions (initial) and last three repetitions (final). Repeated measures ANOVAs examined the effects of each condition (ammonia inhalant vs. placebo vs. menthol) on initial vs. final PT and MP. RESULTS: PT and MP decreased from initial to final (p < 0.001), however, there were no differences across conditions (p ≥ 0.167). CONCLUSION: Although it has been proposed that ammonia inhalants may promote acute improvements in muscle strength and power, it does not seem to improve fatigability. Thus, it is possible the acute improvements in performance from ammonia inhalants are more efficient during short-burst activities of high strength and power output rather than longer duration activities. Nevertheless, due to its proposed psychological benefits, future research should examine if ammonia inhalants influence perceived exertion during fatiguing exercise.

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