Top 4 Effects of Smoking on Bodybuilding

Do you know smoking can short-change your muscle gains? Learn the top 4 effects of smoking on bodybuilders and quit it for good!

Smoking is addictive. Ask anyone who has tried to quit. If you have been smoking in the past, there is a great possibility that you will continue with your habit, even with your bodybuilding program. You are not to be blamed in entirety because smoking is addictive but by continuing with this habit you are compromising on your muscle gains.  Did you know that even disciplined diet, exercise and supplement schedule will not give you the desired result in bodybuilding? In your defense, you might cite the instances of other bodybuilders at the gym, who are doing the same, but two wrongs do not make one right. Smoking is injurious to your health and for your bodybuilding goals too.  

Learn the top 4 ways in which smoking affects muscle growth and  go smoke-free. Your lungs will thank you and your muscles are going to swell with happiness. 


The chemical called nicotine makes cigarettes quite addictive. In fact, research studies have found that nicotine is more addictive than cocaine.  Nicotine in a smoke gives you that temporary high and you light up another smoke to get that high once again. The health issues related to smoking come from the toxic effects of tobacco come from other chemicals and these are particularly harmful to muscle seekers. 


A smoker is not able to push himself to the max during the workouts. The heart beat of a smoker is 30 percent faster than that of a non-smoker. As a result, the hearts of smokers have to work harder to ensure adequate circulation during the workouts. The increased heart rate also raises your blood pressure. As the blood flow diminishes due to narrowed blood vessels, the working muscles do not get enough oxygen-rich blood when they need the most during gruelling workouts, which means you will get into anaerobic state (a state where your body starts producing lactic acid, the reason behind the burning sensation felt in the muscles) very easily and that means very low endurance.

Also, the carbon monoxide inhaled from cigarettes binds to the blood's haemoglobin, which hinders the transport of oxygen throughout the body. Tar in cigarettes collects in your airways and it hinders lungs? natural cleansing mechanism. When your lungs do not perform at the optimum level, your muscles become oxygen starved, which affects your physical performance and reduces your endurance. This makes it hard to push through those last few important reps.

When your endurance goes down, you are not able to push yourself through the last reps and in a set. As a result, you build less muscle than a non-smoker. 


Your testosterone level is directly linked to your muscle building. Muscle cells have receptors for testosterone called androgen receptors. When testosterone binds to the receptors, muscle fibers are maintained. Without testosterone, maintenance stops and muscle is degraded.

The downside of smoking is that it may damage cells that produce testosterone within your body. As your testosterone level lower, the muscles begin to turn to fat, particularly in zones that you don't want to, such as chest and stomach. According to a review published in 2012, Current Diabetes Review, low testosterone increases fat deposits, specifically in the belly. In the absence of testosterone, the hormone estrogen takes over. Estrogen puts fat where you least want it: on your chest and around your belly.


Smoking increases your level of cortisol, a stress hormone, which decreases your production of testosterone. Cortisol also reduces protein synthesis, a necessary requirement for muscle growth. In smokers, there is an increased level of myostatin, a hormone that inhibits muscle growth, reduces the muscle strength and prevents toning of muscles.


Smoking makes you insulin resistant, which has a disastrous effect on your muscle-building goals. Insulin is a protein cum hormone which is released after you eat carb-rich foods and serves as a signal for the muscle cells to absorb glucose idling in the blood stream. The glucose is released after you eat meals, and it is used to produce ATP energy cells for the body. Now, when you become resistant to insulin, your muscle cells refuse to respond to the cue to absorb glucose from the blood and you become energy deprived despite an overload of glucose in the blood.

Insulin resistance makes you tired and you are not able to perform to your optimum level. Insulin resistance hampers your glycogen storage. Glycogen is longer chain version of glucose and it is your body's energy storage mechanism. Less glycogen means that your workout intensity will be lower than normal. Insulin resistance also affects your nutrient absorption and encourages fat deposit, particularly belly, a complete 'no-no' for the muscle builder.


Quitting is difficult. Smoking is a physical and psychological habit. The nicotine provides a temporary and a momentary high. While many people quit cold-turkey, the method does not work for others.

Recognise the fact that quitting is an addiction and you need help to get over it. When you are trying to quit smoking you are not trying to wean away from the psychological and physical high provided by the cigarette, you are unconsciously moving out from the circle of friends and co-workers with whom you enjoy your smoke, which is not going to be easy.

Quitting in itself is stressful. Therefore, your chances of success diminish if you choose a stressful period for doing it.

  • Therapies like acupuncture and laser are also worth investigating.
  • Find a friend with whom you can share your quitting resolution. It becomes easier if you have a partner who is also trying to quit.
  • Managing cravings holds the key to a successful quitting program. Find ways to divert your attention when the craving strikes.
  • Nicotine Replacement Therapy works for many people. It's worth trying.

And, if you don?t succeed, try once again because quitting is difficult. Your lungs and health are going to thank you and your muscle gain is going to benefit with this effort. Worth another try, isn't it?