The short answer to that question is a straight no.
Anyone who is seriously dedicated to the sport will tell you – smoking is bad for bodybuilding. And not just bodybuilding, pretty much any strength-related sport also is affected adversely by smoking habits.
But what exactly is it with smoking that interferes with muscle growth and bodybuilding in general?
Let’s look at the different ways in which smoking inhibits muscular growth and therefore is bad for any serious bodybuilding in the long run.
Indirect Effects of Smoking
We are aware of the direct effects of smoking – it engages the lungs, filling the alveoli with tar. Tar is the chemical substance that’s produced when tobacco burns.
Repeatedly smoking cigarettes causes significant amounts of tar to collect in the lungs which decreases their capacity to diffuse oxygen.
Remember our lungs are built to inhale air, but some people use them to inhale smoke. That sounds unhealthy right off the bat, no degrees required.
We have to consider that these are actually long-term effects of smoking. The regular problems that most people associate with smoking are actually not the ones that affect bodybuilding. Instead, smoking indirectly affects the bodybuilding process. Let us discuss in a bit more detail:
Thickening Of The Blood
Smoking is responsible for introducing nicotine and carbon monoxide to the blood.
While the two substances have their fair share of adverse effects on overall health, we won’t be going into them here. Right now we are mainly concerned with what the introduction of extra materials does to the bloodstream.
It leads to denser, thicker blood. This causes the lumen of various blood vessels in the body to narrow down. This means that it will now take much more energy for the heart to successfully circulate the blood throughout the body. Accordingly, the heart adjusts and pumps blood with more energy. This results in a higher than normal resting blood pressure and pulse rate.
Ultimately, smokers end up exercising less because their heart is already tired and working hard. This leads to reduced workout sessions.
An Overloaded Heart
We already discussed how smoking results in thicker blood. That ultimately leads to a heart that has to work harder than normal just to exist. Like most things in the body, our heart rate is not something constant. It keeps changing depending on the type of work we are doing.
Resting heart rate is defined as the number of heartbeats per minute without any physical activity, in a resting position. The number comes out to be 60 – 100 bpm.
A higher resting heart rate means that your heart has to do more work to simply exist. But remember that there is an upper limit to how much work the heart can do. This means that less of that heart capacity is available for extra physical work such as bodybuilding.
This is a major way in which smoking inhibits muscle growth. One simply feels too tired to get going.
Smoking affects our respiratory system. Think of lungs as balloons that inflate and deflate, a voluntary process that is regulated by a muscular sheet known as the diaphragm on which the lungs rest. As the diaphragm moves down, lungs expand, increasing the volume inside them. This creates a low-pressure area inside the lungs and the air moves in.
The air that enters the lungs ends up in small, round-shaped sacs known as alveoli. The alveoli are arranged in groups known as alveolar sacs. Alveoli are supposed to diffuse oxygen into the bloodstream with the help of hemoglobin.
A smoker’s lungs however are bombarded with various chemicals and substances present in the smoke. The main culprits are nicotine, carbon monoxide and hydrogen cyanide.
Decreased Testosterone Levels
There is a reason why young males tend to build muscles the fastest, beating every other demographic including adult women and older males. The reason is higher than average testosterone levels.
As a hormone, testosterone helps in the repair of muscle microdamage which is an essential step in muscular hypertrophy, the process through which our muscles grow in size.
Studies suggest smoking may influence the levels of total and free testosterone through changes in the levels of SHBG. Bodybuilding demands high testosterone levels. Should your body run low on this quintessential hormone, developing muscles and their proper growth can become a distant dream.
The situation can be significantly more dire for females. The male body actively produces relatively larger quantities of testosterone. But it is totally not so in the case of females. Their bodies already produce extremely limited amounts already.
Smoking on top of that will only lead to severely limited amounts. For reference, women’s testosterone levels fall in the range of 9 – 55 ng per dL, in total contrast, for males, the value falls between 300 – 1000 ng per dL.
Should You Be Smoking?
If you’re at all serious about your bodybuilding journey, drop smoking completely. Not doing so will immediately result in one or more of the following:
- Low muscle gain
- Feeling of tiredness
- Inability to stick to a fixed workout routine
Above are some direct ways in which smoking can manifest its ill effects in the sport of bodybuilding.
The two simply do not go well together. The answer to the titular question is no; bodybuilders do not smoke. Should you be smoking? Not if you consider yourself to be one.
Smoking can be an addictive affair. Many have lost their health, futures, careers, and even lives for it. One should take their addictions very seriously.
A sportsman’s life is defined by discipline and routine, not enslavement to addictive habits. If you can’t quit smoking, it won’t be an unsafe assumption that gaining muscle would be pretty much impossible for you.
The numerous ways that we discussed all ultimately amount to a very unhealthy body and a depreciated mind.
A successful bodybuilder would not touch smoking with a ten foot pole.