The Effects of Smoking and Bodybuilding

The amount of bodybuilders, athletes, sports enthusiasts, fitness fanatics (I could keep going on!), out there who smoke is surprisingly high.

I’ve seen many gym patrons having a post-workout cigarette! That’s right, as soon as the workout is done they go and have a cigarette. In fact, they choose to do this over having a protein shake!

This reminds me of funny story I recall. While doing my daily martial arts training, I noticed one of the regulars walk in. He never competed or anything, but he was “good” keyword being “good.” I’d watch him warm up, hit the punch bag, do some kicks, some VERY basic pad work… I.e., he’d work technique, same on the bag, really. But he never went all out. He never did any real cardio sessions with the pads or worked up a sweat.

He’d come and go daily. After about 3 months, while having a joke with a friend, one of them mentioned how we’d never seen him sparr or even do grappling. Eventually I got talking to him. He was quite cocky/arrogant. Claiming he didn’t need to do that. He worked like a beast in the gym and as long as his technique was good, he could knock someone out in one punch. Yep… You heard me right. He claimed it didn’t matter who it was, how good their guard was. His technique was so good, he could floor someone in a punch. Boldly making the comment loud enough for others to hear, he was eventually pulled into sparring with us.

I was the lucky one who got to go first. It was simple kick boxing rules. The two of us exchanged punches. The first thing he did was throw a kick. I blocked it and began jabbing in and out, in and out.

Constantly moving around him, making it hard for him to hit back. After about 30 seconds I thought to myself, “Wow, this guy’s fitness is terrible.” I’d go around him jabbing. Eventually, about a minute in, he threw a TERRIBLE kick that I just pushed to the side, giving him a few kicks back but trying my hardest not to actually hurt him.

After 2 minutes he claimed he had a stitch and so he should stop. We switched sparring partners when he said he couldn’t do it anymore. I asked if he was alright when he reaches into his bag and pulls out a box of cigarettes. I stare at him and he puts it in his mouth, wheezing, gasping for air and now coughing.

You’re joking me, I said? He replies with “What?”, completely oblivious to what I’m asking him. You know why your cardio is shit, don’t you? “Why’s that?” “Because of what you have in your mouth.”

He laughed at me for a bit. “Yeah, ok, man.” I asked him if he wanted to continue sparring. “Nah, it’s alright.” “Well we have BJJ tomorrow, if you want to join that.” He nodded and walked out the door.

Much to my surprise, the next day he arrives in time for BJJ. I’m stretched and warmed up and he’s training with this guy I knew called Steven.

Few minutes later, Steven comes over. “Hey, is it alright if I tag along with you for a training partner?”

“Sure,” I said, “What’s wrong with…” Before I can finish the sentence, I see him bent over, throwing up into a bucket that one of the coaches has brought out. He’s only been doing it for 5 minutes!

At the end of the session, he comes back to us all and says, “I guess the smoking really is that bad.” He goes on for a while, basically saying he’d never realized it until now and he’s going to stop. The conversation continues to go on like this for a bit, until he pulls out a cigarette and smokes it. I stare in disbelief (Nah bro, this will be my last one.) He leaves shortly after saying bye to us all and he’ll see us tomorrow. He never came back, ever. In fact, I saw him at a grocery store about 3 years later. He was still smoking.

The point to this story is that this guy had A LOT of potential. Technique wise, he really was good. He knew all the moves and he could do them in great speed. He’d learned a hell of a lot and he could take a beating. The down side was the smoking had destroyed his fitness that much that after 10/20 seconds he was absolutely useless, and a complete mess! It’s so common, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen this. How many times you’ll go out for a meal and you see someone “I just need to go outside.” They walk out before the starter for a cigarette, after the starter, again after the main meal, then finally once more after the desert. Or you run into them at a bar and see them lighting up every time they go to suck back a cold one.

The point I’m trying to make here is, smoking costs you your life—Pretty literal and in other ways. You are slave to the desire and the urge. It has no benefits whatsoever.

Don’t tell me you are a clever, strong, individual but “Ergh!! It’s been 40 minutes”, so you need to run out side and smoke. That’s an addiction. At the same time, if the health risks don’t scare you and you only want to do bodybuilding, guess what?

Smoking slows down your gains!

Now some of you might argue that you’ve still seen some muscle gain. The question is how much would you have seen without this life style? Noticeable amounts more! You wouldn’t have needed to use the same amount of steroids to get the results, for one thing!

Shortness of breath and low stamina are commonly associated with smoking. Not the signs of a champion or a winner in life, is it? For any of you reading this who do happen to smoke, even just casually, I urge you to stop.

A friend of mine who smoked for 15 years and now quit has given some of his own great advice on how to stop smoking! He’s not touched a cigarette for 10 years now and here’s how he did it!

Find a reason to quit! If it’s to save money, look better or smell better, just find a reason. No matter how trivial the reason may be, any reason that will cause you to quit is a good one.

  1. Stop right now! Don’t set a quit date because too many times I’ve set a quit date and ended up pushing it back to the point where I had smoked another week/month/year and so on. If you wanna quit, no time like the present.
  2. Get rid of all the cigarettes around you! If you have a carton or a couple of packs in your house, get rid of them. It’s too easy to say, “Well, I’ll just smoke this last pack.” Then before you know it, you’ve started smoking again. This may be hard if you live with someone who smokes, in this case they should keep them away from you and be supportive of your needs.
  3. Avoid cues to smoke! If you always smoke at the bar, don’t go there for a while. If you always smoke with a beer or coffee, stay away from those two. I had to give up beer for a while, but sooner or later you’ll be able to have a beer without the need for a nicotine fix.
  4. Work Out! Hey all of us do this already, so we know about the flood of endorphins we get during exercise. Something we definitely want in absence of our favourite stimulant.
  5. Replace smoking with another activity! I chewed gum. Whenever I had a craving, I chewed a piece of REGULAR gum! Those quit smoking gums are nasty! Try to find something that you can do to replace your habit like chewing gum or drinking a glass of water.
  6. Think to yourself, “I will not have a cigarette today” rather than, “I will never have a cigarette ever again.” It’s easier to take things one day at a time than telling yourself that you will never have something ever again. Pretty soon those days add up and they’ll turn into years of smoke free living.

After I quit, I noticed a difference within a couple of days. My taste buds were back and I could actually smell again (which is both good and bad). Within a month, I had gained an additional 15 lbs., which was good because I had been lifting the whole time, so most of the gains were muscle. I felt a lot stronger in the gym and my stamina was good. Smoking has been known to raise cortisol in some people, thereby depriving them of better muscle gains. Plus, the lack of beer in my diet probably helped out as well.

For a while, I was a social misfit, a hermit of sorts, but the pros definitely outweigh the cons. Now, I can have a beer and hang out with people who smoke and not be tempted. There are times when I really want to have a cigarette, but those cravings last no longer than a minute. If you do slip up and smoke, get back on the horse and quit again. It took me numerous times of trial and error to actually quit, so don’t get discouraged. As bodybuilders and athletes, the effects cigarettes on the body can be extremely counterproductive. Indeed, the greatest thing I ever did to further my progress was to quit smoking. I haven’t had a cigarette in a year, not a single one, don’t fall into the trap of thinking that one cigarette won’t kill you. It may not, but the problem is, that one cigarette could turn into a pack every day.

For those of you who don’t smoke, I envy you, don’t ever start!

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