Smoking and bodybuilding: the effect of nicotine on the exercise process

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Smoking tobacco is one of the most harmful habits possible. And the fact that cigarettes are harmful to health is an indisputable fact. Even if you are the most athletic person in the world, the nicotine and “chemistry” of conventional or electronic cigarettes will definitely affect your body. But in this article, we do not want to start with the old loop that talks about the global consequences of smoking. Today’s focus will be on understanding a specific topic: how this addiction affects muscle growth and recovery processes.

Aside from nicotine addiction, the main danger cigarettes pose to athletes comes from the effect of high levels of carbon monoxide in the blood and tar buildup in the lungs. They have a purely negative impact on the efficiency of the training process and consequently on your ability to gain muscle mass.

The concentration of carbon monoxide in the blood.

When you smoke, carbon monoxide enters the lungs along with tobacco smoke. Carbon monoxide (CO) is carbon monoxide, an extremely toxic, even toxic compound. It has no color or smell. From the lungs it enters the bloodstream and binds to hemoglobin molecules. Hemoglobin is a protein that carries oxygen to the body’s tissues. This means that as a result of smoking, not only oxygen but also carbon monoxide enters your muscles.

Carbon monoxide itself does not cause critical muscle damage, but it is known to displace (replace) oxygen molecules.

Therefore, the smoker causes a lack of oxygen in the muscles, which hinders their normal function. When muscle tissue is deprived of oxygen for a long time, the ability to absorb other nutrients is reduced. Proteins, which are the building blocks of muscle, are no exception.

It is clear that the lower the ability of the muscles to absorb nutrients, the slower the recovery and the poorer muscle growth.

The conclusion is that an increase in the concentration of carbon monoxide in the blood due to smoking, but indirectly, negatively affects the recruitment of muscle mass.

Tar in a smoker’s lungs

When smoking, tar in addition to carbon monoxide also enters the lungs. And with regular smoking, they are deposited there. Up to 70% of the total tar produced when a cigarette is burned remains in the smoker’s lungs.

What threatens you with resin buildup? First of all, a reduction in the volume of the lungs, so it is even more difficult to supply oxygen to the body. For the training athlete, this leads to increased fatigue or decreased endurance.

In addition, resins that accumulate in the airways lead to the formation of mucus (mucus), which makes it difficult to breathe and causes coughing.

Conclusion: Finally, the deposition of resin in the lungs leads to a decrease in the practitioner’s general resistance.

About nicotine addiction

You may know that nicotine is an alkaloid that stimulates specific parts of the parasympathetic nervous system. You may have even heard that in small doses this drug stimulates the function of the central nervous system, and in large doses it depresses it.

The journey from the lungs to the brain for nicotine from cigarette smoke takes only seconds. And this period is enough for the smoker to increase the level of dopamine, this results in a feeling of relief and pleasure. This is why nicotine addiction is considered so dangerous. The rate of formation is directly related to the width of the habituation distribution.

Nicotine addiction has the same consequences for the body of a bodybuilder as for an ordinary person.

Other consequences of smoking for an athlete

Several studies suggest that smoking can curb one’s own testosterone production and increase the concentration of cortisol, the stress hormone. Testosterone (male sex hormone) is an important anabolic and androgen in our body. The consequence of their fall will not only be a reduction in sexual activity, but also a decrease in muscle growth. And that is the very purpose of bodybuilding.

In addition, smoking tobacco is associated with digestive problems, which also does not bode well for the athlete. The logical chain is as follows: smoking impairs appetite and digestion, due to insufficient or poor absorption of nutrients, reduces anabolism (ie slows down muscle mass gain). And here you can not help with useful products on the menu.

What else?

First of all, regular smoking adversely affects the function of the thyroid gland; often causes a reduction in the synthesis and level of thyroid hormones: thyroxine (t4), triiodothyronine (t3).

Second, cigarettes pose a direct threat to the health of the cardiovascular system. And diseases of the heart and blood vessels are a contraindication to bodybuilding. In this case, strength training is already dangerous for human life.

On the other hand, we want to draw your attention to a common misconception among athletes: some bodybuilders believe that smoking helps burn subcutaneous fat, presumably nicotine is needed to maintain a low level of fat subcutaneously.

Yes, in small amounts this drug can have a stimulating effect on the central nervous system, possibly even accelerating metabolic processes (metabolism). But only in minimal doses, which can not be compared with the amount of nicotine and impurities that enter the body after smoking a pack of cigarettes. In other words, all the potential benefits of smoking are more than offset by the proven disadvantages.

In terms of the relationship between benefits and side effects, tobacco loses to any available pharmacological fat burner. If you want to lose weight so strongly, then it is better to ask for clenbuterol, sibutramine or liothyronine than to start an addiction everywhere.


Smoking has been scientifically proven to have a negative effect on an athlete’s general endurance, muscle growth and recovery, and strength potential. Even in a mild form, nicotine addiction directly and negatively affects the effectiveness of the exercise process. If you want to stay productive in the gym and, more importantly, maintain good health, never take a cigarette between your teeth.