Bodybuilding and Smoking: does it affect muscle growth?

January 8, 2024 |

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If you’re reading this, you probably think there couldn’t be any connection between bodybuilding and smoking, right?

Bodybuilders must be the healthiest people on earth.

In reality, bodybuilders consume various unhealthy compounds. There have been some bodybuilders who smoke weed and cigarettes, and constant smoking and abuse can damage your lungs and lead to other health issues in a longer term.

In this short article, we will delve into why some of these behemoths chose to smoke and if weed can somehow enhance their performance? After all, smoking weed makes you hungry, and having more hunger will come in handy when trying to consume 5000 calories daily.

Do Bodybuilders Smoke?

Various athletes throughout history have smoked, and it will come as no surprise that there have been some phenomenal bodybuilders who smoked as well.

Smoking tobacco has no positive impact on training or bodybuilding and would probably be very bad for the athlete. A study back in 1980 found that smoking can be detrimental to lipid levels, and since bodybuilders are known for already having horrible lipids, the combination isn’t great.

man smoking

Various bodybuilders have smoked in their careers, such as Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Markus Ruhl is another great former bodybuilder who smoked quite a few cigarettes per day. Without any real evidence of this boosting their career, it was purely done as a stress reliever and as a habit.

Smoking tobacco has no benefit to bodybuilding.

Does Smoking Affect Bodybuilding?

Smoking cigarettes can damage your lungs and make it difficult to breathe, which can impact your ability to work out and get the most out of your training.

In addition, smoking can also lead to other health problems such as heart disease and cancer, both of which can impact your bodybuilding goals.

Bodybuilding relies heavily on the health of the body, and smoking is one of the biggest threats to that inner wellbeing.

Not only does smoking weaken our lungs and make us more susceptible to respiratory illnesses, but it also reduces our physical endurance, making it harder for us to both perform in the gym and recover afterwards.

Many bodybuilders take this into account when planning their training routine, choosing to steer clear of cigarettes in order to maintain a healthy and strong physique.

Furthermore, studies have shown that smokers tend to have a lower muscle mass than nonsmokers, putting them at an increased risk of developing chronic diseases like osteoporosis. Therefore, while many bodybuilders may choose to use cigarettes as a source of self-medication or stress relief, they must recognize that by doing so they are jeopardizing their hard-earned muscles.

In the end, maintaining a healthy lifestyle by staying away from cigarettes is arguably just as important for bodybuilders as it is for everyone else.

Can You Smoke and Still Build Muscle?

The greatest concern most young guys and bodybuilders will have about smoking is if it will be bad for muscle growth. It is not unheard of for bodybuilders to spend upwards of $3,000 per month on performance-enhancing drugs alone, so to have that negated by a pack of 20 would be a great tragedy.

Yes, you can still build muscle while smoking. That being said, smoking will still lower the amount of muscle you can build.

A 2007 study found that smoking increases Myostatin and downregulates muscle protein synthesis. Both of these will limit the amount of muscle you can build dramatically.

Does Smoking Increase Testosterone?

As most know, bodybuilders will dabble in using performance-enhancing drugs, including testosterone and other anabolic and androgenic steroids. These hormones can massively increase the amount of muscle a human can gain.

While testosterone is linked to increased rates of muscle-building capabilities, a study in 2006 has found that smokers have higher testosterone and higher free testosterone.

This would make one assume that bodybuilders would want to smoke, but they consume way more testosterone via anabolic steroid use already.

Does smoking affect your workout results?

Yes, smoking affects your workout results. Cigarette smoking has been shown to decrease the workload that a person can achieve during exercise and to reduce the amount of oxygen that is taken up by the body’s muscles.

Additionally, smokers tend to have a higher resting heart rate than nonsmokers.

This means that their hearts have to work harder than nonsmokers’ hearts to pump the same amount of blood throughout their bodies.

This increased workload can be especially harmful to smokers’ hearts over time and can lead to heart disease.

Does Smoking Make You Gain Weight?

The CDC reported that in 2018 about 43% of Americans were obese, and the figures were rising still. This is alarming as obesity has been linked to cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, and death.

Everyone knows that trying to stop smoking usually results in weight gain, but the evidence for weight gain while smoking is not complete. Some studies suggest that it may cause weight gain via behavioral changes, and other studies suggest the complete opposite. 

Does Vaping Affect Muscle Growth?

Vaping has become increasingly popular, with 41 million E-Cigarette users worldwide in 2018, and of course, the number continues to rise.

While healthier than smoking, there are still various compounds within the vaping liquids that can be detrimental to health.

Vaping liquids contain nicotine, which is strongly linked to fat loss by reducing appetite.

Since the only way to create new muscle tissue is to be in a caloric surplus, you need to be eating a lot. Thus, nicotine could lower your capabilities of muscle growth. It doesn’t seem to lower muscle protein synthesis if you can still get all your calories needed while smoking.

Does Weed Affect Muscle Growth?

Marijuana is another popular compound in the population, and there are actual images of Arnold Schwarzenegger smoking a few joints.

Since one of the greatest bodybuilders ever did it, there would be no issue with others doing it, right?

In reality, weed can have contradicting effects on muscle growth. Smoking weed increases hunger, making getting a lot of calories in easier.

Smoking weed has also been linked to lower cognitive function and neurological activity, making training harder. Studies about this topic are rare and depend on person to person and how they experience the compound.

Does Smoking affect Muscle Strength?

Strength plays a vital role in bodybuilding and muscle growth in general.

As the purpose of training is to provide a novel stimulus to the muscle, forcing the muscle to adapt to heavier weights is the simplest way of muscle growth. There are other methods, such as volume management, but the simplest is just heavier weights.

Various studies show smoking has a direct link to a reduction in strength.

The strength reduction seems dose-dependent, meaning that the individuals who smoke more lose more strength than those who smoke less.

Can I Smoke and Workout?

We live incredibly stressful lives jam-packed with meetings, work, training, and more. It is not uncommon for people to start stacking events and hobbies together, such as smoking before training.

Yes, you can smoke and go work out.

Unless you suffer from a cardiovascular problem worsened by smoking, you should be fine. It would be safer to wait until your lungs feel ready before training if you suffer after smoking.

Can Nicotine Affect Muscle Growth?

Nicotine is the addictive compound found in cigarettes, making it hard to quit. Classified as a stimulant drug, it increases the messaging between the body and the brain. It can also cause a release of dopamine in the brain, which is why it is so addictive.

Ask any bodybuilder; nicotine is probably not in their supplement stack.

While some claim it may help with fat loss, studies have shown that nicotine downregulates protein synthesis and lowers power output compared to a placebo. If your goal is sole muscle growth, it may be best to make a few sacrifices and go about that goal with an all-out effort.

Does Nicotine Help with Fat Loss?

As beforementioned, nicotine is the addictive part of cigarettes since it causes the release of dopamine in the brain – which makes you feel good. You can also find it in vapes and chewable gum form.

Nicotine can help quite a lot with weight loss.

However, not by a mechanism we are used to, but rather by being a behavioral alternative to eating. It is also normal for people who have just quit smoking to pick up substantial weight as they begin snacking to keep their hands busy.

Why are Smokers Fitter?

This may come as a surprise, and it did to me. Apparently, various people have found that the smokers in their lives are fitter than some of their other peers.

Smoking has been a tool for some high endurance athletes, as smoking can increase serum hemoglobin and increase total lung capacity. Higher hemoglobin counts mean that there are physically more red blood cells to carry oxygen from the lungs to other body parts.

Final Thoughts – Bodybuilding and Smoking

No doubt, smoking harms the bodybuilding process.

  • Nicotine impedes muscle growth and recovery
  • Smokers are more likely to suffer injuries

If you’re a smoker, quitting will help your bodybuilding progress. If you’re not a smoker, don’t start. Bodybuilders shouldn’t smoke. It’s that simple.

So we’ve talked about how smoking can harm your bodybuilding progress, but what if you’re already a smoker?

The good news is that quitting smoking will help your bodybuilding efforts in the long run – it may take some time before your muscles recover from all of the damage caused by cigarettes, but eventually you should see the benefits as time goes on.

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