7 Best Smelling Salts for Athletes

smelling salts for power liftingYou’ve heard of smelling salts before. For centuries they’ve been used almost exclusively to revive people who have lost consciousness.

It just so happens that the same properties that make smelling salts so great at reviving people, also serves to deliver a heck of an energy boost. In the past 20 years or so smelling salts have expanded into NCAA and pro football, hockey, powerlifting, and more. Odds are you’ve seen some high profile players like Tom Brady and Peyton Manning using them and you didn’t even know it.

How Do They Work?

Although the delivery system may vary (ampules, liquid, or wipes), all ammonia inhalants work the same: A combination of chemicals mix and release small amounts of ammonia gas. The ammonia irritates the blood vessels through the nasal passages causing them to open up creating a rush of oxygen to the brain; meaning instant clarity and concentration with no need for any type of chemical supplement.

Are Smelling Salts Legal?

do athletes use smelling saltsSmelling salts are perfectly legal and are perfectly safe. There are two situations where smelling salts are no longer used in sporting competition:
First, boxing has outlawed them for obvious reasons. If you’re coming back from near unconsciousness multiple times because of any stimulant you’re damaging your body beyond repair.

Second, most contact sports have stopped using salts in situations where players have been knocked unconscious. Your body’s physical reaction to the smell of the salts is to jerk away from the source which you can imagine could be bad in situations where there may be neck injuries involved.

Other than those two situations, smelling salts are used quite frequently in between plays, during marathons, and before weight lifting sessions by both amateurs and professionals alike. In fact, professional and amateur athletes use smelling salts alongside preworkout supplements to create an even longer energy duration.

Here are the 7 best smelling salts available for purchase.

1. Dynarex Ammonia Capsules

ammonia inhalantsDelivery Form: Ampules

Dynarex is a top supplier in medical supplies across the world providing just about everything you could possibly purchase in the medical industry. Dynarex’s capsules are marketed as a treatment for fainting or lightheadedness; but as many top athletes know, double as one of the best replacements for caffeine out there.

Buy from:Amazon.com

2. First Aid Only Smelling Salts

first aid only ammonia smelling saltsDelivery Form: Ampules

First Aid Only is definitely the cheapest option. The lowest price is achieved with no compromise in quality. After trying all of these options, First Aid Only is what I buy over and over again. They are also the only brand to provide a “bulk buy” option.

Buy from:Amazon.com

3. Pac-Kit Smelling Salts

pac kit 9 salts inhalentsDelivery Form: Ampules

Pac-Kit is the third of the major medical brands that sell smelling salts. With over 100 years of experience in the business they tend to sell their product at a price a little bit higher than others. The advantage is that instead of buying a single package of 100 single-use ampules, you get 10 packages of 10 single-use ampules. Definitely easier to fit in your gym bag.

Buy from:Amazon.com

4. Nose Tork

nose torkDelivery Form: Liquid

Nose Tork does just what its name implies. It is by far the strongest of any of the smelling salts available. The downside is the delivery form. It comes in a bottle as a liquid so I’ve found that it can spill if you don’t tighten the lid enough. Also, I feel like the bottle tends to run out of potency fairly quickly. Not quite as convenient as the ampules.

5. Humco Smelling Salts

smelling saltsDelivery Form: Liquid

Humco’s smelling salts is engineered for clearing lightly clogged sinuses and alleviating bronchitis so it’s no surprise that it comes in a bit weak on the potency scale. If you find that Nose Tork or ampule salts are more than you need then Humco is the salt for you.

Buy from:Amazon.com

6. Go Time

go time smelling saltsDelivery Form: Ampules

Go Time is very similar to the other ampule salts produced by the big three medical companies. The difference is a slightly lower level of ammonia coupled with an infusion of essential oils in flavors like peppermint or eucalyptus. Again, just like Humco, if you’re not necessarily looking for a jolt, this may be a product for you. I bought it a couple times and keep it around for when I get migraines (The peppermint along with the salts actually helps a lot for me), but I don’t use it for when I lift.

Buy from:CrushSmellGo.com

7. Ammonia Inhalant Wipes

ammonia inhalant wipesDelivery Form: Wipes

Now this one is interesting. The only complaint I’ve ever heard of concerning smelling salts ampules has been fear of the glass ampule inside cutting your finger when you break it. I’ve never had that happen, but these wipes solve that problem by putting the same chemicals into wipes in single-use pouches. A bit more expensive, but worth it if you’re concerned about your finger tips.

Buy from:Amazon.com

Smelling salts are like a slap in the face – only awesome. Preferably for a 1 rep max, or short burst of energy tunnel vision. They are not the same thing as pre-workout supplements. Which smelling salts do you prefer? Let us know in the comments below!

About Jeff Kingston

Recovering running addict married to a personal trainer. Working past multiple knee & shoulder injuries. Connect with him on Twitter or Google+.


  1. squats and science says:

    You guys should also check out INHALE Smelling Salts. We made them because as you can see by this list, there are only a couple products made for athletes and they’re not that great. Our packaging is superior to Nose Tork and the ampules are aren’t as convenient or cost effective as multi-use bottles.

  2. Frank Baker says:

    I used to buy Mackenzie smelling salts for regular headaches for about £4 I see now they are selling for £70 WHY ?’

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