Detailed analysis of the effects of smoking on muscle growth

Detailed analysis of the effects of smoking on muscle growth

It is believed by many that smoking can help you lose fat. Is it a myth or there is some reality to this claim. One theory behind this is the fact that smoking is very much capable of killing hunger.

Although, it is also anecdotal, but it can be a genuine argument. It is simple, the less hungry you feel, the less you would eat and less fat you will acquire.

We will see in this article how in spite of curbing your hunger, cigarette can actually make you fat, in the long term. And, the different ways in which it can destroy your muscle growth. Lots of studies have been conducted on the effects of smoking. Some are not so convincing and many are contradicting. Here, we will discuss things that have been confirmed in number of studies.

Effects of smoking on muscle growth

Effects of smoking on muscle growth

Poor blood circulation

The Carbon mono-oxide and nicotine plays a role in destroying the inner layer of the blood vessels. This layer is smooth and is meant for easy flowing of blood through the blood vessels. When this layer is destructed the fat flowing in the blood starts sticking and making layers.

This slowly starts effecting the blood circulation of the body. If you are into body building, then a poor circulation is the last thing you need.

A good blood circulation, allows more amount of oxygen to reach different muscles that you might be working on.

As the level of oxygen falls down, the body goes into an anaerobic state. In this state, your body starts producing lactic acid, which, along with Hydrogen ions, is the real cause of the burn you feel. So, when you smoke, it slows down the blood circulation, which means you’ll get into anaerobic state very easily and that means very low endurance.

When you have poor circulation it prevents proper transport of micro and macro nutrient to various parts of your body.

But, I have heard somewhere that restricting blood flow to muscles can be helpful?

Some people who have half knowledge will tell you that restricted circulation of the blood is good for muscle development. They are basically talking about blood flow restriction (BFR) training, but missing the core concepts. When you smoke you restrict the blood flow to your muscles, but in BFR what we do is restrict the blood flow away from the muscles. They are very different things and can have totally opposite effects.


Cortisol - Frustrated student

Cotrisol is basically a stress hormone. It is released when you are in a stressed state. A study was conducted, on around 3000 people. These 3000 comprised of smoker, never-smoker and ex-smokers in substantially equal number. It was seen that the cortisol level of smokers were considerable higher than the people who didn’t smoke.

Cortisol and bodybuilding?

Cortisol also caused by mental imbalance, but can manifest its effect physically. First of all, increase level of cortisol results in decreased production of testosterone. And, if you have the slightest idea of body and muscle building you will know the importance of testosterone. Cortisol is also known to reduce protein synthesis, which is absolutely must for muscle growth.

Smoking also cause conversion of Testosterone into DHT. It has two negative effects — first of all, it decrease the level of testosterone in your body. Secondly, DHT is mainly responsible for male pattern baldness. Like, every other hormone, DHT in the right amount is good, but a rise in level above the maximum can harm proper functioning of the body.

Insulin resistance

Out of all the ill effects of smoking, making you insulin resistance is the baddest of all. If you are into muscle building, then it can be very disastrous. But, before learning about how insulin resistance messes up your body building goal, we must learn about insulin resistance.

Insulin in simple terms is a hormone that allows absorption of glucose from the blood stream, by your muscle cells. This glucose is used to produce ATP which provides energy to cell.

When you become insulin resistance, the insulin produced in the body can no longer help in facilitating the absorption of glucose. This leads to you cells starving of glucose, in spite of having a large amount in your blood stream.

This can effect muscle building in following ways:

  • Low energy – No matter how much you eat, since your cells aren’t able to absorb glucose you will feel fatigued all the time. And, when you are fatigued you can’t perform well in the gym.
  • Glycogen – Glycogen is the stored form of carbohydrate. Glycogen is stored in skeletal muscles and liver. It provides energy to your muscles during workout. Due to this, after a heavy workout, your muscle glycogen level is usually depleted. Insulin resistance prevents storage of glycogen.
  • Nutrients absorption – Apart from effecting glucose absorption, insulin resistance also hinders nutrients absorption. Nutrients include vitamins, mineral, carbs, protein etc. So, if the protein and nutrients you are having is not getting absorbed properly, how can you expect to build muscles.
  • Fat increase – People with insulin resistance often become fat. As the cells aren’t able to recognise the presence of glucose, your body starts to crave for more and more. When you eat to satisfy that false hunger, all the excess glucose is stored in the body as fat.

Decreased lung capacity

Decreased lung capacity

When you smoke the first organ you damage are your lungs. Lungs are very important not only for daily activities, but also for building muscles.

First of all, an inefficient lung can never provide adequate amount of oxygen to your muscles, which means your body will go into a anaerobic state very quickly.

This will lead to secretion of Lactate in muscles, resulting in low endurance. Better lung capacity also means that you’ll be able to provide more amount of oxygen to your brain, even when you are performing an intense exercise. This will help you to be more focused and to perform exercises in correct form.

Smoking increases myostatin

Myostatin is basically a hormone which inhibits muscle growth, reduces the muscle strength and prevents toning of muscles.

Many athletes preferred myostatin inhibitor for fast muscle development and better performance, but these drugs have been banned. People who are into body building should seriously stay away from smoking as it can cause rise in myostatin.

In a study conducted on the effect of smoking on protein synthesis and level of myostanin, it was seen that those who didn’t smoke synthesised more protein. The level of myostatin was up in the smoker by approx. 33%. That is a lot, especially when we know that it is a muscle growth inhibitor. That is why, people who have been smoking for a long time are prone to Sarcopenia.


The Relationship between Smoking Status and Cortisol Secretion – Ellena Badrick, Clemens Kirschbaum, and Meena Kumari.

Relationship Between Circulating Cortisol and Testosterone: Influence of Physical Exercise – Kaye K. Brownlee, Alex W. Moore, and Anthony C. Hackney

Pathogenesis of Insulin Resistance in Skeletal Muscle – Muhammad A. Abdul-Ghani and Ralph A. DeFronzo

Smoking impairs muscle protein synthesis and increases the expression of myostatin and MAFbx in muscle – Petersen AM, Magkos F, Atherton P, Selby A, Smith K, Rennie MJ, Pedersen BK, Mittendorfer B.

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