Heart disease, cancer, emphysema, bronchitis, erectile dysfunction, strokes, increase in heart rate leading to damage, constricted blood flow, collapsed blood vessels, impaired peripheral circulation, and a list of other ailments far beyond the remit of this article.
There are hundreds of reasons not to smoke. Let’s have a closer look at some of them in relation to weightlifting.
When you light a cigarette, you aren’t just burning leaves wrapped in paper. In 1994 five major American tobacco companies were forced to submit a list of additives used in the creation of cigarettes. 599 different additives were counted, and burning a typical cigarette produces over 4000 chemical compounds. 43 known carcinogens – cancer causing compounds – are found in cigarette smoke. No sane person would expose themselves to this amount of dangerous chemicals in a working environment, so why do so many of pay for the privilege to inhale them?
The answer is one of the more well known substances in cigarettes, nicotine. Nicotine has been associated with elevations of mood, increased metabolic rate, suppression of appetite and mental acuity, but ultimately it is a deeply addictive substance which acts as both a stimulant and a sedative under different conditions. It’s even used as an insecticide, and if you were given the nicotine in a pack of cigarettes in one dose it could kill some people outright.
Documented effects of the substance include increases in the secretion of anti-inflammatory, excitatory and catabolic hormones from the adrenal glands (epinephrine, norepinephrine, cortisol and other hydroxycorticosteroids); elevations in gluconeogenesis (which reduces muscle mass increase and wastes the energy);fluid retention and blood circulation issues resulting in numbness of the extremities and impotence. The stimulating qualities of nicotine can also interfere with good sleeping patterns, a necessary component of a bodybuilder’s lifestyle.
Even aside from the nicotine, in a cigarette you’ll find carbon monoxide, ammonia (a coolant in refrigeration and air conditioning systems), formaldehyde (used as a disinfectant and in taxidermy), acrolein (a toxic liquid with cancerous vapours), methydl chloride, methanol and arsenic amongst the hundreds of rogue substances in cigarettes.
Female weightlifters are just as prone to the dangers of smoking. Low birth weight, disability and even stillbirths are associated with smoking during pregnancy. Osteoporosis is known to be a larger problem in female smokers than male smokers. Smoking will also raise estrogen levels in male smokers, which can lead to gynecomastia (bitch tits).
The bottom line? Don’t smoke. You go the gym and achieve things that most people would never dream of through hard work and determination. Bodybuilding is about strength of character and intense displays of self-discipline. Quitting smoking should be a part of that, and failing to do so undermines everything. Regular workouts are about being the best you can be, and the best version of you doesn’t smoke.