Smoking & Weight Lifting: Does it Affect Your Muscle Gains?

Smoking & Strength Training
Smoking. Image credit: nathanielperales.

Does smoking hinder your progress from weight lifting? Do cigarettes influence your muscle gains & endurance negatively? Would you get better results if you quit smoking or can you get away with it?

I was a smoker for 10 years and quit smoking more than 3 years ago. This post will give you my experience before and after I quit. As well as how I finally quit smoking cold turkey after many failed attempts, and how you can too.

My Story
. I smoked the 1st time age 15. Smoked more & more by the time I got 18. Then quit when I got into lifting because I suddenly couldn’t stand the taste anymore. Took up smoking age 21. This time more than before.

I was a weekend smoker: 1 pack/night during weekends, nothing on weekdays. After many failed attempts, I finally quit smoking cold turkey April 2006. I have never smoked since and will never again.

Why I Quit Smoking
. I believe some people can handle cigarettes better than others. But I wasn’t made for it. While strength training & cardio never seemed to suffer, things were different health-wise.

  • Sinus Infections. I had constant colds & sinus infections. Especially after nights out “” during which I smoked 1 pack in 8 hours.
  • Asthma. My lungs began to peep age 23. This turned into asthma 2 years later. I often couldn’t breathe after a night out smoking.

The onset of asthma scared me into quitting smoking. Here’s a quote from the Roman Stoic philosopher Seneca, who suffered from asthma:

I’ve been visited by all the troublesome or dangerous complaints there are, and none of them, in my opinion, is more unpleasant than this one – which is hardly surprising, is it, when you consider that with anything else you’re merely ill, while with this you’re constantly at your last gasp? This is why doctors have nicknamed it “rehearsing death” [..]

– Seneca, Letters from a Stoic, Letter LIV.

How I Quit Smoking. I was never able to quit smoking using willpower. Then I read Allen Carr’s book. He made me understand why each time I quit smoking, I felt as if I was missing on something.

Willpower doesn’t work. You have to understand your smoking behavior and be honest with yourself. Once you do, you’ll quit cold turkey. I didn’t use gums and I didn’t gain weight. And I never smoked again.

  • Understand You’re Addicted. You aren’t controlling smoking anymore. The cigarettes are controlling you. You’re slave to it.
  • Understand Why You Smoke. Usually boredom, stress and relaxation. Smoking doesn’t help any of these at all.
  • Understand You Won’t Miss Anything. Stop smoking and you’ll gain health, freedom, confidence, happiness, self-respect, …

3 Years Later.
My lungs no longer peep, asthma disappeared and I don’t have sinus infections anymore. But when I’m in situations in which I used to smoke, I sometimes have this voice in the back of my head telling me to smoke.

I guess that’s because it takes time to replace the old situations in which you used to smoke by new ones in which you’re now non-smoker. Whatever it is: I don’t feel like I’m missing on anything.

Health Effects of Smoking
. You know smoking is unhealthy. But you also know that next cigarette won’t kill you. You have to experience the health effects of smoking to become aware of what you’re doing to yourself.

That’s why bombarding you with the health effects of smoking is useless: you know them and they won’t make you stop. I’m doing it anyway, just in case.

  • Slows Down Muscle Building. Smoking increases your cortisol levels and interrupts the absorption of proteins, vitamins & minerals.
  • Wrecks Immune System. You’ll be sick more often. This influences your progress since you might miss workouts or not train at full intensity.
  • Reduces Oxygen Availability. Smoking limits absorption & distribution of oxygen. This affects your endurance.
  • Increases Risk of Death. Increases risks of lung cancer and of heart attacks, increases blood pressure, blocks arteries, …
  • And Much More. Smoking ages your body and face, is addictive, ends up controlling you, … For more info, read this.

Why You Smoke.
You probably started because your friends/parents smoked or out of curiosity. But smoking quickly became a bad habit you couldn’t control anymore. And now you probably smoke for these 2 reasons:

  • Boredom. There’s nothing interesting about a cigarette. You don’t need to hold something in your hands. Get busy with constructive things.
  • Relaxation. Nicotine is a stimulant: smoking increases blood pressure. You can’t relax from smoking cigarettes.

Get Allen Carr‘s book The Easy Way to Stop Smoking. You’ll understand your smoking behavior by reading it.

Wrong Ways to Quit Smoking.
One reason why you struggle to quit smoking, is that you were brainwashed into thinking that it’s hard. It’s not. Here are some common but wrong ways to quit smoking:

  • Patches & Gum. The withdrawal period lasts up to 3 weeks. Patches & gums take care of your cravings, but don’t change your thinking.
  • Cutting Down. Going from 1 pack/day to half a pack will increase your cravings for cigarettes. You’ll want to smoke more.
  • Willpower. You won’t succeed at quitting smoking forever as long as you believe you’re missing on something by doing so.

How to Quit Smoking for Good.
Allen Carr‘s book is key. Check Amazon: +500 reviews, 5 stars. Carr’s method has a 90% success rate. But it only works if you read the book from front to cover with full attention.

  • Get Allen Carr’s Material. Read Stop Smoking. Then listen to the audio version for 30mins for 30 days (while driving car or preparing breakfast)
  • Don’t Force It. You don’t have to quit smoking yet. Study Allen Carr‘s material. It will make you understand your smoking behavior and quit.
  • Exercise. You’ll tend to stick better to your diet. It will also help making the decision to stop smoking. Check StrongLifts 5×5.
  • Decide to Stop. Once you’re ready to quit smoking, quit. Cold turkey. No patches, no gums, no cutting down. Just quit.
  • Never Smoke Again. You’re a non-smoker for the rest of your life. Never ever have another cigarette again.

If you don’t quit, you didn’t finish Allen Carr‘s book or didn’t read it attentively. I recommend the audiobook too, so you really get the material drilled down. Be consistent with it for 30 days and you will quit smoking.

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