A quick browse of the internet will show you that the topic of smoking in bodybuilding is a hotly debated one. While those against it lambast their fellow trainers for using cigarettes that will hamper their performance and put their good performance in the gym to waste, those who insist on smoking anyway seem adamant that the negative effects of smoking on bodybuilding have been blown out of proportion and that it won't in fact impede their progress in any way.
Well I'm here to tell you that the latter is completely untrue, and that smoking will indeed hamper your performance and your progress big time in the gym. It's not easy for smokers to hear, but it is unfortunately the simple truth and any arguments you hear for smoking are the result of smokers lying to themselves. As a smoker it might be easier to go on ignoring the science, but at the end of the day it would be far more constructive to at least be aware of the problems caused by smoking so that you can minimize them.
Thus, following are a list of just some of the negative impacts that smoking can have on your performance in the gym, and on your recovery and gains. Whether or not you choose to carry on smoking is up to you, but certainly don't try to ignore these problems as a way to justify the activity to yourself, and be aware that if you're struggling to see improvements in the gym then it's probably not helped by your intake of nicotine.
Increase in Heart Rate
Smoking increases your heart rate which might seem like it makes it a stimulant, but in fact can place too much strain on your heart when you're exercising and put you at risk of heart problems. On average in fact, the heart rate of smokers is 30% higher than that of non-smokers.
Increases Blood Pressure
At the same time smoking increases blood pressure, which makes it more difficult for the blood to get around your body. This means that your muscles will be supplied with fewer nutrients and minerals during and after the workout thereby preventing them from getting amino acids or oxygen. This makes cigarettes essentially the opposite of using NO2 supplements.
Changes in Blood Composition
Not only does your blood become thicker and more difficult to pump, but it also changes in composition. This is because it contains carbon monoxide as well as oxygen, and that means that there is less oxygen in the blood at any one time. A smoker's blood is 15% carbon monoxide in some cases and that means problems for growth, repair and the absorption of nutrients in the muscle.
Of course what most people think of as the most pressing concerns for smokers are those involving their breathing. Essentially for smokers breathing is made far more difficult by the collection of tar in the lungs which cause the biocides to narrow. This then means that you simply can't get as much oxygen around your body as quickly, and you'll end up coughing and spluttering when you exert yourself. This will most notably affect your cardiovascular exercises like running or swimming and you'll find that continuing these for long periods of time is impossible. That then will mean less fat burning and you'll be unable to get a toned and ripped physique. At the same time though it will also mean that you have less endurance on resistance movements and that you are less able to build muscle mass as a result.
Nicotine itself can also damage bone as these too will be restricted in the amount of oxygen and nutrients they receive. That then causes your bones to become more brittle and particularly in the spine where hairline fractures can become more common. This then means that in the gym you are considerably more likely to cause yourself injury and particularly when performing squats and other exercises that require heavy loads. If you smoke then quite simply you will no longer be tough enough to carry the same loads.
Smoking degrades your skin, eyes, organs and teeth. This in turn means you will look older and less healthy. The idea of bodybuilding is not only to build muscle mass, but also for that muscle mass to look clean, vibrant and healthy. Thus if you want to win competitions you should definitely avoid cigarettes.
While studies vary in their results, some researchers claim that smoking can also significantly decrease your levels of testosterone leaving you with less of the male anabolic hormone. That in turn means less drive and determination, less assertiveness, lower libido, but most relevantly less natural muscle building and fat burning.
Of course these are just the reasons that are relevant to bodybuilding. There are many other reasons to quit which are social, money-related and certainly health related. If you continue to smoke you will find yourself more likely to suffer from a range of life threatening diseases, will be setting a bad example for your children, will limit your success in dating, will stain your fingers and teeth and will spend a small fortune. And of course the money you spend on cigarettes could have been money spent on supplements...
Nicotine as a Stimulant
However despite the very negative effects of smoking on bodybuilding, there are some bodybuilders suggest that nicotine itself may have its uses. This is because nicotine has stimulant properties and can speed up the metabolism leading to more fat burning – which is partly why smokers often gain weight when they give up.
As such you will find some bodybuilders supplementing with nicotine when they are 'cutting'. This is a big mistake however as the nicotine can have oxidative effects on the cells and is considered a neurotoxin. Further, nicotine is highly addictive which means that supplementing with nicotine gym or patches can leave you craving cigarettes. Far safer is to cut naturally or to use a supplement such as guarana which is a much safer stimulant.