How Does Smoking Effect Bodybuilding?
By: David Robson
Lungs Vs. Smoker's Lungs.
Of all the destructive habits one might pursue,
cigarette smoking could, quite correctly, be considered one
of the worst. Every bodily organ is deleteriously affected
by the multitude of toxic compounds contained in tobacco
smoke and this has prompted widespread anti-smoking
campaigns and an increasing public intolerance.
The social ramifications of smoking are significant, with
many employers now refusing to employ smokers, considering
them a liability rather than an asset.
Smokers are also increasingly prohibited from engaging in
their life-threatening pursuit, in places of employment and
in public, on the grounds their habit will detrimentally
effect others who are forced to smoke passively. Indeed, the
damage smoking incurs, to both the smoker and those who are
forced to smoke, includes: heart disease, cancer (of the
cervix, pancreas, kidneys, stomach and lung) and digestive
and respiratory problems.
Although the majority of deaths caused from smoking
involve those who smoke directly, many thousands of innocent
people are killed from side-stream smoke inhalation. In
fact, second-hand smoke is ranked in the same harmful
category as asbestos, radon, benzene (American Cancer
Society, 2004). There are over 4000 chemicals and at least
40 known carcinogens (cancer causing substances) in
cigarette smoke, and nicotine, the addictive drug contained
in tobacco, leads to acute increases in heart rate and blood
Smokers are increasingly becoming ostracized, seemingly
with good reason, as five-million individual smokers (BBC
News, 2003) and thousands more passive-smokers (BBC News,
2004) deaths are attributed to smoking on a global scale
per-year. These deaths seem extraordinary, given they are
However, the anti-smoking message seems to have been
ignored, and many are beginning this destructive habit, at
an alarming rate.
Perhaps a greater focus on health from a holistic
point-of-view would be useful in combating the upsurge in
smoking. A multi-pronged attack on this scourge of society,
encompassing health education and the encouragement of
self-responsibility, might be the answer, when so many other
methods have failed. However, even a wide-scale campaign
focusing on all aspects of health and social responsibility
is probably too simplistic.
Bodybuilding As A Quit-Smoking Method?
A mandatory gym program, as absurd as it may sound to
some, might just provide part of the answer for one who is
oblivious to, or lacks the
motivation, to quit
smoking. Through a sustained weight-training regime, one
would begin to take greater pride in their physical
appearance and performance levels.
This might force them to confront the realization that
smoking is detrimental to their health. They will feel
tobaccos negative effects in a more pronounced way, as their
performance suffers and their results are not as forthcoming
as they otherwise should be. Indeed, the average
non-exercising smoker does not have such a bench mark to
which they can compare the before and after effects of
Left: Healthy lung vs smokers lung. You decide.
For example, when demand for oxygen is elevated, such as
during exercise, this increased resistance is more
noticeable. Reduced lung capacity can cause a smaller volume
of oxygen to reach the alveoli, resulting in impaired gas
exchange and less oxygen in the blood. A heavy set of
squat, for example,
will completely frustrate the bodybuilding aspirant who
chooses to smoke. Ultimately a decision will need to be made
and, if this person chooses to continue with training,
smoking cessation will necessarily need to take place.
One has the feeling that smokers are not entirely
conscious of exactly what their habit is doing to them.
Becoming knowledgeable in the areas of human physiology and
health, through extensive study, or simply joining a gym and
taking a vested interest in what many take for granted
(their health), could be a realistic first step.
Bodybuilders, by virtue of their commitment to physical
excellence, typically do not smoke (at least as far as my
observations are, and much anecdotal evidence is,
concerned). Smoking not only reduces ones capacity to
perform the work required to obtain a great physique, it
also directly prevents cellular growth and restricts oxygen
and nutrient uptake (to mention but two limiting factors).
Therefore, as one, more pronouncedly, notices the
restricting effects of tobacco, the desire to quit would
conceivably be stronger. At the very least, a greater
appreciation for ones health will be obtained and a
strengthened mind-set which inevitably would result in a
more logical outlook, and the possible cessation of smoking.
How Tobacco Affects Training Progress
Over the years I have personally trained, and advised, a
large number of smokers, and have found the biggest
determining factor in their decision to quit is the impact
tobacco has on their performance. With bodybuilding, a
reduction in performance means a more tangible result in the
form of an inferior physique. This reduction in performance
is compounded by the fact that tobacco directly destroys all
of the body's cells. This includes muscle cells folks.
Tobacco Has The Following Impact On Performance:
Smoking reduces fitness levels through
irreversible respiratory-system damage:
means that one cannot train as long, and the quality
of training they do engage in is compromised.
Smoking has an immediate effect on respiration,
increasing airway resistance and therefore reducing
the amount of oxygen absorbed into the blood.
Often the determining factor, that allows one to
succeed in bodybuilding, is whether they can
complete that all important final rep, or that extra
Smoking significantly reduces the likelihood of
either of these things. Smoking slows down lung
function and reduces lung growth, leaving the smoker
literally gasping for air when they need it most.
The heart-beat of a smoker is 30% faster, on
average, than that of a non-smoker: This
forces the body of the smoker to expend more energy
(in the form of heart-beats) to keep up with their
non-smoking counterparts. This faster heart-beat is
due to the stimulating effect of nicotine. The
resulting increase in heart-rate, and blood
pressure, paradoxically, decreases the flow of blood
through the blood vessels, and this, in turn,
Those who smoke produce phlegm more than twice as
often as non-smokers: Phlegm builds up in the
airway and prohibits correct respiration
(breathing). This is because smoking causes chronic
swelling of the mucus membranes.
Tobacco significantly reduces oxygen availability
to the muscles during exercise:
monoxide in tobacco smoke has a higher affinity to
haemoglobin (an oxygen carrying molecule in the
blood) than does oxygen. Smoking, therefore,
encourages the replacement of oxygen with carbon
monoxide and, resultantly, causes oxygen depletion
and a corresponding reduction in performance.
Carbon monoxide has a two-fold negative effect,
in that it reduces the amount of oxygen absorbed
into the blood from the lungs, and the amount that
is absorbed into the muscles from the blood. Oxygen
is important for the functioning of all energy
systems in the body, so any mechanism which
interferes with oxygen transport and uptake
interferes with energy production, and therefore,
The tar in cigarette smoke adds to airways
resistance. This tar coats the lungs,
reducing the elasticity of the air sacs and
resulting in the absorption of less oxygen into the
Tar also affects the cleansing mechanism of the
lungs, allowing pollutants to remain in the
bronchial tubes and lungs.
and coughing, and damage to the cilia (the hair-like
projections which "sweep" pollutants out of the
airways) are the result.
Decrease in maximal oxygen intake...
Although exercising can increase maximal oxygen
uptake by up to 20%, smoking can reduce this effect
by up to 10%.
Just What Are You Inhaling?
The effect smoking has on performance can be attributed
to the synergistic effect of over 4000 chemicals and 40
known carcinogens. The following are just some of these.
First, Some Of The Cancer Causing Agents:
Benzo (a) pyrene
Now, The Metals::
Oh yes, and these; just some of the 4000:
Smoking-related illnesses cause about
440,000 deaths each year in the U.S.
Guns prevent an estimated 2.5 million
crimes a year, or 6,849 per day.
You Are Hurting Yourself & Others:
Smoking is an addiction. Tobacco smoke contains
nicotine, a drug that is addictive and can make it
very hard, but not impossible, to quit.
More than 400,000 deaths in the U.S. each year
are from smoking-related illnesses. Smoking greatly
increases your risk for lung cancer and many other
Among infants to 18 months of age, secondhand
smoke is associated with as many as 300,000 cases of
bronchitis and pneumonia each year.
If both parents smoke, a teenager is more than
twice as likely to smoke than a young person whose
parents are both nonsmokers. In households where
only one parent smokes, young people are also more
likely to start smoking.
women who smoke are more likely to deliver babies
whose weights are too low for the babies' good
health. If all women quit smoking during pregnancy,
about 4,000 new babies would not die each year.
Quitting smoking makes a difference right
away-you can taste and smell food better. Your
breath smells better. Your cough goes away. This
happens for men and women of all ages, even those
who are older. It happens for healthy people as well
as those who already have a disease or condition
caused by smoking.
Quitting smoking cuts the risk of lung cancer,
many other cancers, heart disease, stroke, other
lung diseases, and other respiratory illnesses.
Ex-smokers have better health than current
smokers. Ex-smokers have fewer days of illness,
fewer health complaints, and less bronchitis and
pneumonia than current smokers.
Quitting smoking saves money. A pack-a-day
smoker, who pays $2 per pack, can expect to save
more than $700 per year. It appears that the price
of cigarettes will continue to rise in coming years,
as will the financial rewards of quitting.
Getting Ready To Quit:
Set a date for quitting. If possible, have a
friend quit smoking with you.
Notice when and why you smoke. Try to find the
things in your daily life that you often do while
smoking (such as drinking your morning cup of coffee
or driving a car).
Change your smoking routines: Keep your
cigarettes in a different place. Smoke with your
other hand. Don't do anything else when smoking.
Think about how you feel when you smoke.
Smoke only in certain places, such as outdoors.
When you want a cigarette, wait a few minutes.
Try to think of something to do instead of smoking;
you might chew gum or drink a glass of water.
Buy one pack of cigarettes at a time. Switch to a
brand of cigarettes you don't like.
The Day You Quit:
Get rid of all your cigarettes. Put away your
Change your morning routine. When you eat
breakfast, don't sit in the same place at the
kitchen table. Stay busy.
When you get the urge to smoke, do something else
Carry other things to put in your mouth, such as
gum, hard candy, or a toothpick.
Reward yourself at the end of the day for not
smoking. See a movie or go out and enjoy your
Don't worry if you are sleepier or more
short-tempered than usual; these feelings will pass.
Try to exercise-take walks or ride a bike.
Consider the positive things about quitting, such
as how much you like yourself as a non-smoker,
health benefits for you and your family, and the
example you set for others around you. A positive
attitude will help you through the tough times.
When you feel tense, try to keep busy, think
about ways to solve the problem, tell yourself that
smoking won't make it any better, and go do
Eat regular meals. Feeling hungry is sometimes
mistaken for the desire to smoke.
Start a money jar with the money you save by not
Let others know that you have quit smoking-most
people will support you. Many of your smoking
friends may want to know how you quit. It's good to
talk to others about your quitting.
If you slip and smoke, don't be discouraged. Many
former smokers tried to stop several times before
they finally succeeded. Quit again.
For more information about quitting, call 1-800-4-CANCER,
the National Cancer Institute's toll-free Cancer Information
Service, or 1-800-ACS-2345, the American Cancer Society's
Cancer Response System, or look in your local phone
directory for smoking cessation resources that may be
available in your area.
Smoking is clearly a destructive habit, which kills
millions of people annually. Despite this fact, however, an
increasing number of people are becoming addicted. This
moves one to ask the question: why would one purposefully,
and voluntarily, subject themselves to such a poisonous
The addictiveness of tobacco is such, that quitting is
immensely hard and any excuse is often used to justify the
continued poisoning of oneself, and others. A greater focus
on physical fitness and appearance might compel one to quit
smoking for good.
The discipline and bodily appreciation, developed through
a sustained bodybuilding program, will likely encourage a
greater awareness of ones fallibility, and promote a
healthier lifestyle overall.
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