Question: Last year I began doing intense indoor training intervals. I noticed a very strong ammonia smell moments after the end of the workout. Then I read in your column that this smell is a sign of overtraining and cannibalizing muscles. Yikes! How much time do I need to take off the bike once I notice this smell? — Lex G.
Coach Fred Matheny Replies: An ammonia smell is a warning sign, but it doesn’t mean that your quads are being devoured by your metabolism and you’ll be a basket case tomorrow. There’s no need to take time off if you don’t have other signs of overtraining.
Check your carbohydrate intake to make sure it’s sufficient. Remember, food can fool you. A pizza, forinstance, has a lot of fat from cheese and offers less carbohydrate than many riders think (especially if you order the double pepperoni!).
You may not be getting enough carbs for your workouts. Eat an energy bar an hour beforehand and use a high-carb drink during.
Also, take in a hefty carbohydrate dose right after the workout (within minutes of getting off the bike), perhaps by using a recovery drink. Other effective choices are chocolate milk, a bagel or a bowl of cereal with skim milk and a banana.