Cerebrovascular, cardiovascular and strength responses to acute ammonia inhalation

Abstract

Purpose

Ammonia is used as a stimulant in strength based sports to increase arousal and offset fatigue however little is known about its physiological and performance effects. The purpose of this study was twofold (1) establish the physiological response to acute ammonia inhalation (2) determine whether the timing of the physiological response corresponds with a performance enhancement, if any.

Methods

Fifteen healthy males completed two trials. Trial one investigated the beat-to-beat middle cerebral artery blood flow velocity (MCAv), heart rate (HR) and mean arterial pressure (MAP) response to ammonia inhalation. During trial two, participants performed a maximal single mid-thigh pull (MTP) at various time points following ammonia inhalation in a randomised order: MTPs were conducted immediately, 15, 30 and 60 s following ammonia inhalation. A MTP with no ammonia inhalation served as the control. During this trial maximal MTP force, rate of force development (RFD) and electromyography (EMG) activity were recorded.

Results

MCAvmean increased and peaked on average by 6 cm s−1 (P < 0.001), 9.4 ± 5.5 s following ammonia inhalation. Similarly, HR was increased by 6 ± 11 beats per minute 15 s following ammonia inhalation (P < 0.001). MAP remained unchanged following inhalation (P = 0.51). The use and timing of ammonia inhalation had no effect on maximal force, RFD or EMG (all P > 0.2) compared to control.

Conclusions

MCAv was elevated despite no increase in MAP occurring; this is indicative of a cerebrovascular vasodilation. Despite the marked cerebrovascular and cardiovascular response to ammonia inhalation no ergogenic effect was observed during the MTP, irrespective of the timing of administration.

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Abbreviations

CVCi:

Cerebral vascular conductance index

EMG:

Electromyography

IPF:

International Powerlifting Federation

Map:

Mean arterial pressure

MCAv:

Middle cerebral artery blood flow velocity

MTP:

Mid-thigh pull

MVIC:

Maximum voluntary isometric contraction

nEMG:

Normalised EMG

P ETCo2 :

Partial pressure of end tidal Co2

pRFD:

Peak rate of force development

\( \dot{Q} \) :

Cardiac output

RFD:

Rate of force development

RM:

Repetition maximum

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Acknowledgments

The authors would like to thank the participants for their time and effort.

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Correspondence to Matthew J. Barnes.

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Additional information

Communicated by William J. Kraemer.

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Perry, B.G., Pritchard, H.J. & Barnes, M.J. Cerebrovascular, cardiovascular and strength responses to acute ammonia inhalation. Eur J Appl Physiol 116, 583–592 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00421-015-3313-7

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Keywords

  • Ammonia inhalation
  • Rate of force development
  • Mid-thigh pull
  • Ergogenic aids