Long Workouts and Ammonia Breath Help?

Discussion in 'Sports and Fitness' started by thestrangequark, Apr 22, 2012.

  1. thestrangequark

    thestrangequark Admiral Admiral

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    Lately I've found that when I do long bike rides (anything from 1 to 4 hours and up to about 60 miles), I often start to smell ammonia in my nose and on my breath. I have type 1 diabetes and the smell comes on if my blood sugar drops, and is often one of my first warnings that my sugar is crashing. I did a little googling, but couldn't find much info specific to diabetics. I thought I'd ask some of our resident fitness pros for their input. (I also intend to ask my doctor when I see him next month, but I figure the more information, the better.)

    I did find some people online, mostly runners, who'd had the same thing happen to them. A lot of people said that it's caused by the body breaking down proteins for energy after it has run out of glycogen. This makes sense as the smell coincides with my sugar crashing. However, it raises the question -- why isn't my body burning fat? I'm 12 pounds overweight... so it's not like I'm short on supply.

    Is there a way to optimize my exercise (maybe by changing intensity?) without cutting duration, to prevent my body from burning protein and to help it burn fat instead? Or, is there something different I could do with my diet? Bearing in mind that as a type 1 diabetic I limit my carb intake to between 50-75 grams per day, and that complex carbs are difficult for my body to handle (I get most carbs from fruit, veggies, and beans).

    Anyone have any ideas?
     
  2. RoJoHen

    RoJoHen Awesome Admiral

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    Depending on what you have in your system and what your heart rate is while exercising, your body will burn off different things. If you're not working out hard enough (low heart rate), all you're going to burn is the oxygen you're breathing in. If you work out too hard (high heart rate) for too long, you could start burning muscle away. For burning fat, you usually want to stay somewhere between 65-75% of your max heart rate. One of the more often recommended training routines for fat-burning is to alternate between the "fat burning zone" and a higher intensity. An example would be to do a light jog for 5 minutes (65-75% of your max heart rate) and then a fast run for 1 minute (at around 75-90%) of your max heart rate and alternate between the two. In your case, you could do the same with the bike.

    Also, I don't know if you do any weight training, but muscles burn calories just by existing. I know a lot of girls worry about "bulking up," so they shy away from too many weights, but as long as you're not doing crazy heavy squats and stuffing your face, you're not going to turn into a bodybuilder.
     
  3. thestrangequark

    thestrangequark Admiral Admiral

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    Yay! I was beginning to thing this was too obscure a question to get a response. It sounds like my problem is that I'm going too hard, too long. I do alternate intensity, because I tend to pedal at the tempo of the music I'm listening to, and my workout playlists contain a lot of songs with different bpms, but I think I might be doing too many fast songs and not enough slow or moderate ones. On the mornings I do a one hour ride (this is either on a bike or stationary cycle, depending on my mood and the weather), I don't have the ammonia problem, it usually happens around the hour and a half mark of a 2 or 3 hour ride.

    If this muscle burning happens again, is there anything specific I should eat to remedy it? (again bearing in mind that complex carbs, grains, rice, etc, are pretty much out) Should I eat more straight protein like an egg or some meat? Or should I eat some carbs; a piece of fruit, beans, etc?

    As for weights, I'm not worried about bulking as I like the look of a fit, muscular physique and that is what I'm aiming for. I am, however, naturally extremely muscular (I gain muscle lifting a pencil, seriously), so most of my strength training is yoga and calisthenics, though I do sometimes use 5 lb free weights with many reps, to stay toned.
     
  4. RoJoHen

    RoJoHen Awesome Admiral

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    You usually want to consume protein within 90 minutes of working out, but the earlier the better. Your muscles are craving it, and if you wait too long, they won't heal properly, and you may find that your workout was for nothing. Complex carbs are generally bad for you anyway, especially if fat loss is the goal. I don't know a lot about diabetes, but some simple carbs immediately after (or even during) your workout are a good way to help get your sugar levels back where they need to be. Something like a salad with chicken on it would be a good choice for a post-workout meal, and you can never go wrong with eggs.
     
  5. thestrangequark

    thestrangequark Admiral Admiral

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    Thanks so much for all the advice, I'm going to give it a go. I also checked in with my doc today, and he said it sounds like you're spot on with what's happening and how to deal with it. It's just all so annoyingly complicated sometimes.
     
  6. RoJoHen

    RoJoHen Awesome Admiral

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    Huzzah! Now I just need to follow my own advice. Cardio is the devil!
     
  7. thestrangequark

    thestrangequark Admiral Admiral

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    You're nuts! I love cardio, it's so meditative! You just throw on the music and go, and soon you're in a rhythm and the rest of the world disappears. The problem for me is I actually got so into it that I risk overdoing it. An hour for me is standard, and I do that every morning, and some evenings too. On weekends, especially if I'm on my stationary cycle at home rather than out biking, I can get so into it that I'll go for 3 or 4 hours which I know can be detrimental. I'm a bit of a cardio addict, actually!
     
  8. RoJoHen

    RoJoHen Awesome Admiral

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    I would much rather lift heavy things. I find cardio so boring. Five minutes into a jog or a bike ride, and all I can think is, "Am I done yet?"
     
  9. Timby

    Timby I Am That Fool Administrator

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    Well, the Quad Cities don't exactly have much in the way of awesome bike trails. :p
     
  10. RAMA

    RAMA Admiral Admiral

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    I never heard of the ammonia problem, but the explanation makes sense.

    Technically you don't burn fat for the first 20 minutes of cardio, so your longer workouts should be burning fat better. I have heard of avid runners or people trying to lose fat having problems doing so...there are two main issues with this, and I've posted links on them here with suggestions:

    http://running.about.com/od/faqsaboutweightloss/f/Can-I-Burn-Fat-By-Running.htm

    http://running.about.com/od/runningandweightloss/f/weightgain.htm

    ,
     
  11. RoJoHen

    RoJoHen Awesome Admiral

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    Yeah, the bike trail on the Illinois side of the Mississippi is pretty gross. Trailer parks and sewage treatment plants don't make the best scenery.

    I've heard better things about the Iowa-side bike paths, but I've never actually biked on them.