The many ills and health implications of smoking are well understood and spoken about. Despite that, smoking as a habit continues to exist, with certain practices magnifying its negative impact on health. One such practice is the habit of having a smoke immediately before or after a workout, or worse, during a workout break.
Yes, as shocking as it may sound, many indulge in this post-workout smoke ritual as if it is part of their warm-up or post workout routine before hitting the gym. This affects the body in a number of ways – from hampering performance and fitness goals, to adding undue stress on the cardiovascular system.
Smoking and workout: How it affects the body
Smoking and exercise do not go together, period. It hampers lung function, reduces oxygen supply, strains the cardiovascular system, affects recovery, and increases the risk of injury because of its effect on musculoskeletal health. It undermines the fitness goals.
“Smoking tightens blood vessels, decreasing blood supply to muscles and slowing recovery,” adds Abhishek J, exercise and sports science professional from Udupi, Karnataka. “The danger of heart and lung issues increases when smoking and exercising together. It is advised to quit smoking completely for better fitness and health outcomes and adopt a healthy lifestyle.”
Smoking triggers a lot of changes in the body – both short-term and long-term adverse outcomes, explains Dr Suhas HS, consultant pulmonologist, Manipal Hospitals, Bengaluru.
Short-term outcomes: Smoking results in an increase in heart rate, constriction of the breathing tubes, resulting in more mucous production and progressive increase in blood pressure.
Long-term outcomes: It may reduce lung capacity and increase anxiety. It also leads to progressive reduction in muscle mass, weight loss, and reduces endurance for physical activities.
How pre-workout smoking affects muscles?
Smoking can harm the health of the muscles. It lessens the supply of nutrients, oxygen, and blood to the muscles, which may have an impact on their ability to grow and recover.
“Smoking reduces workout performance and over time can cause muscle loss,” adds Abhishek. “Quitting smoking is a smart move if you want to keep your muscles strong.”
Dr Suhas explains that smoking damages the muscles both directly and indirectly. “It causes inflammation along with the reduction in blood supply to the muscles resulting in progressive reduction in muscle mass and weight loss,” he adds.
How smoking affects workout performance
Smoking releases a lot of chemicals into the body including nicotine and carbon monoxide. Nicotine causes blood vessels to constrict thus limiting the flow of blood to the heart, muscles, and other organs making the physical exertion harder.
“Carbon monoxide displaces the oxygen in red blood cells thus depriving the body of oxygen,” says Dr Suhas. “The reduction in oxygen leads to a decline in physical stamina, complicating the ability to excel in sports and even making simple tasks such as climbing stairs more challenging,”
In addition, smoking also increases the resting heart rate which results in the heart working more to deliver oxygen. Sometimes heart rate may excessively rise during exercise.
The following are commonly observed among smokers who exercise:
- They benefit less from physical training.
- Lesser muscular strength and flexibility.
- Suffer from shortness of breath (almost three times as often as nonsmokers).
- They are twice as likely to suffer injury compared to nonsmokers.
- Require more time to heal after an injury.
- Disturbed sleep patterns.
“When one stops smoking, hearing and vision will improve, and the risk of a heart attack drops within 24 hours and continues to decrease for years to come,” says Dr Suhas. “The possibility of encountering specific forms of cancer might also decrease. Simultaneously, the circulatory system improves and increases the delivery of oxygen to the body which results in lesser fatigue. So quitting smoking is worth the effort.”
- Smoking and working out is not a healthy combo. It has short-term and long-term health implications. It damages the muscles both directly and indirectly.
- Smoking before or after workout can progressively lead to reduction in muscle mass, weight loss, and endurance for physical activities.
- Quitting smoking and following a healthy lifestyle is a smart move if you want to keep your muscles strong.