This article will identify and examine some of the effects that nicotine could have on muscle growth. People who follow a constant training routine, attend the gym or play sports may also smoke and they wonder if their goals are difficult to achieve. The purpose of this article is to raise awareness of the threats that nicotine could bring to our health, in particular how it could affect muscle growth. Based on a variety of reliable evidence found on the web, this article concludes that nicotine has negative impacts on the human body and mental health.
Why is it important to have muscle
Muscles have a vital role in the human body as these allow us to move, support and protect internal organs, create heat and pump blood to our hearts.1 Medically, muscles are soft tissue that can be divided into three main categories:
- skeletal muscles: the ones that help our body to move;
- cardiac muscles: these permit our heart to beat and pump blood;
- smooth muscles: our organs in the abdominal cavity have these muscles, allowing us to breathe and waste what is not necessary through our intestines.2
Taking care of our muscles is essential to living a healthy lifestyle and avoiding diseases, injuries and disorders.
How does muscle get made
It is widely known that the best way to build muscles is to exercise. Gym and sports are usually very beneficial, especially, for gaining muscle mass it is important to commit to a training routine, including lifting weights. According to Forbes Health (2022), “building muscle takes time and proper training, but it’s something nearly anyone can do. It involves a physiological process called hypertrophy, which stresses the tissue, breaks it down and triggers the body to rebuild bigger and stronger tissue.” Alongside the training routine, to achieve satisfactory muscle growth it is important to eat a reasonable dose of protein in each meal, maintain hydration levels and get a fantastic 7-8 hours of sleep per night.
Smoking and muscle growth
Impacts of nicotine
A well-known fact is that smoking is not conducive to good health. This little cylindrical tobacco stick can cause various diseases all over our body, generating addiction and affecting the brain, the central nervous system, the cardiovascular system, the respiratory system, the muscular system, the gastrointestinal system, teeth and skin. As tobaccofreelife.org (2016) explains, several effects depend on the use of nicotine, for example:
- Central nervous system→ blood flow risk, abnormal sleep disturbance;
- Cardiovascular system→ increased blood clotting, coronary artery disease, arrhythmias, aortic enlargement and dissection;
- Respiratory system→ cancer, shortness of breath;
- Muscular system→ joint pain, tremors, spinal disc degeneration;
- Gastrointestinal system→ nausea, peptic ulcer, diarrhea, heartburn.
Moreover, nicotine can cause premature aging of the skin and teeth: “(...) skin doesn’t receive the support necessary to stay lifted, firm, and radiant (...).Nutrient deprivation due to smoke causes premature aging in the form of dryness, enlarged pores, sagging, wrinkling, hyperpigmentation and uneven texture”.5 Regarding oral health, it is a believed fact that smokers show yellow stained teeth, with possible diseases like gingivitis, gum recession and tooth decay.
Quitting any kind of nicotine product would be extremely beneficial for our mental and body health, help avoid addiction and make us look and feel healthy.
How does nicotine affect muscle growth?
To be more specific, nicotine can affect and damage muscle growth as well.7 According to MuscleBlaze.com (2017)6, “Smoking and vaping is not only bad for lungs but can also damage your muscles as smoking decreases the number of blood vessels that bring nutrients and oxygen to the leg muscles”. Smoking not only affects the leg muscles but all of the muscles as the narrowed blood vessels are not able to get enough oxygen to allow them to work and grow properly. Moreover, MuscleBlaze (2017) continues to explain other important consequences that nicotine brings to the muscular system:
- Testosterone levels are lowered→ cigarettes and nicotine products can alter the cells producing testosterone, and, without them, muscles could turn into fat;
- Myostatin is increased→ it is a “hormone that inhibits muscle growth, reduces the strength of the muscles and prevents the toning of muscles.”
- Insulin resistant→ “Whereas when you become insulin resistant, the muscles refuse to respond to the signal to absorb glucose from the blood and your energy levels decrease due to overload of glucose in the blood.”
For all these reasons, smoking cessation should be taken into consideration if the goal is to achieve satisfactory muscle growth.
Can nicotine help with muscle growth?
One benefit that can be identified when ingesting nicotine is that it improves blood flow.8 Livestrong.com confirms that “good circulation is crucial to building muscle”. It is believed that nicotine increases heart rate; consequently, blood is circulating faster through veins and is brought to the muscles. It should also be noted that nicotine obstructs the quantity of oxygen needed for the muscles to grow accurately.8 In conclusion, it could be said that nicotine has hardly any positive impact on muscle growth.
Does vaping afect muscle growth?
Another common belief is that vaping is healthier than normal cigarettes. Women Fitness Magazine.com (2018) shows how vaping is a very effective method to reduce fat when on a diet as it acts like an appetite suppressant.9 However, muscles need fat to work and grow. Every meal should contain an adequate dosage of protein alongside carbs, healthy fat and glucose for the muscles to get shape and tone. Vaping might be a healthier alternative if complete smoking cessation is difficult, but this could anyway affect muscle growth indirectly by suppressing the appetite and consequently not providing enough energy to work out and lifting weights.
How to maximise muscle growth
Training, gym and sports are the correct ways to maximise muscle growth, together with a healthy and balanced diet. Possibly, with no vaping, smoking, and other substances that alter and affect the heart rate, blood pressure and mental perceptions. Everyoneactive.com gives some tips to maximise muscle growth:
- Never skip breakfast (the healthier, the better)→ it is the first meal of the day, and the body needs a boost of energy as long as it wakes up;
- Never crave for food→ our body is set up to eat at least every three hours, and there is no point to let it starve if we follow only the breakfast, lunch and dinner routine, we would overcompensate the energy we need throughout the day, ending up eating junk food and no other healthy options. We should feed our body every three hours with healthy snacks like fruit and vegetables to recharge the batteries and not overeat during regular meals;
- Protein for each meal→ protein is what makes up our muscles, what helps them grow and shape. These can be found in red meat, poultry, fish, eggs, legumes and dairy;
- Fruit and vegetables in each meal→ as these contain vitamins, antioxidants, minerals and fibers;
- Integrate carbs;
- Integrate healthy fats;
- Lots of water;
- Lift weight.
In conclusion, it can be said that quitting smoking is important to achieve better results in muscle growth.
This article has identified and evaluated some of the effects that nicotine has on the human body, especially on the muscular system. The most common questions that have been explored within this article are, the importance of muscles, how muscles are developed, the impacts of nicotine on the human body, the impact of nicotine on muscle growth, the impact of vaping on muscle growth and how to maximise muscle growth. Using a variety of reliable sources found on the web, this article concludes that smoking cessation is important for the muscles to grow, and maintain good tone. It is worth remembering that nicotine hinders muscle growth by not providing enough oxygen through the narrowed blood vessels; it increases myostatin, blood pressure and heart rate. In conclusion, it can be said that quitting smoking is important to achieve better results in muscle growth.
- What are the 5 main functions of the muscular system? [Internet]. MedicineNet. [cited 2022 Oct 15]. Available from: https://www.medicinenet.com/what_are_the_5_functions_of_the_muscular_system/article.htm
- Muscle: types of muscles, functions & common conditions [Internet]. Cleveland Clinic. [cited 2022 Oct 15]. Available from: https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/body/21887-muscle
- 6 expert tips for building muscle [Internet]. Forbes Health. 2021 [cited 2022 Oct 15]. Available from: https://www.forbes.com/health/body/how-to-build-muscle/
- Side effects of nicotine on your health [Internet]. Tobacco-Free Life. [cited 2022 Oct 15]. Available from: https://tobaccofreelife.org/why-quit-smoking/smoking-effects/nicotine-effects/
- The impact of smoking and vaping on skin, hair, and teeth | the aedition [Internet]. Aedit.com | Aesthetic Edit. [cited 2022 Oct 15]. Available from: https://aedit.com/aedition/impact-of-cigarette-smoking-vaping-on-skin-hair-teeth-health
- Muscleblaze [Internet]. Muscleblaze. [cited 2022 Oct 15]. Available from: https://www.muscleblaze.com
- Petersen AMW, Magkos F, Atherton P, Selby A, Smith K, Rennie MJ, et al. Smoking impairs muscle protein synthesis and increases the expression of myostatin and MAFbx in muscle. American Journal of Physiology-Endocrinology and Metabolism [Internet]. 2007 Sep [cited 2022 Oct 15];293(3):E843–8. Available from: https://journals.physiology.org/doi/full/10.1152/ajpendo.00301.2007
- Nicotine & weightlifting [Internet]. LIVESTRONG.COM. [cited 2022 Oct 15]. Available from: https://www.livestrong.com/article/365815-nicotine-weightlifting/
- Women Fitness magazine.com, 2018. How vaping affects muscle growth [online]. Available at: https://womenfitnessmag.com/how-vaping-affects-muscle-growth/
- How to gain muscle mass - 8 top tips [Internet]. Everyone Active. 2022 [cited 2022 Oct 15]. Available from: https://www.everyoneactive.com/content-hub/gym/muscle-mass/