How Nicotine Can Affect Weightlifting & Muscle Growth

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While nicotine is a stimulant, the negative impact on our fitness may deter you from using this as an “aid”.

Nicotine is one of those drugs so many wish they could put down. That “buzz” you briefly experience can be one of the most addicting things people chase. Since nicotine comes in the form of so many different products, it is impossible to not be around it. From cigarettes, to vapes, to chewing tobacco and the many alternatives that now exist, nicotine is just always around. As bodybuilders and athletes, we take our health and wellness seriously but sometimes we cave and those vices creep in. Nicotine may just be one of them for you.

Since we take our health and fitness seriously, drinking tends to not be an option as a way to calm down. The excess calories and, of course, that terrible hangover, tends to deter us from partaking in this form of enjoyment. Smoking is obviously out of the question for it would simply kill all the goals you’ve worked so hard for. But with so many alternatives around, it can be easy to get our nicotine fix without totally killing all of our gains.

Let’s take a look at nicotine and what it does to our bodies. The affect it has on weightlifting and muscle growth can make or break whether or not we decide to use it. While it is addicting, it is still possible to get off it and find a new vice, potentially something that will work for our gains. But, here, regardless of your decision, there’s no judgement.


What Is Nicotine?

Nicotine is a highly addictive chemical compound found in the tobacco plant. Common misperceptions surround nicotine in terms of what is bad and what is not bad for you. Nicotine is the addictive substance but tobacco is what causes much of the health complications with people. Nicotine is a stimulant that has an effect on both your body and mind.

Through ingesting nicotine, your brain releases dopamine, a neurotransmitter which makes you feel good. It will also jack up your heart rate and increase blood pressure and blood flow and while these sound like what you want out of your stimulant products, there are other ways to get this done (1).

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Negative Effects On Our Fitness

Despite this substance being a stimulant, with many people telling you to mix caffeine in your routine before you start, there are downsides to putting this into your body, especially before a grueling workout (2).

  • Increasing Heart Rate & Blood Pressure

By increasing your heart rate, you do put more strain on your heart to pump blood, and when mixed with a hard workout, this can really add to that strain. With an increase in blood pressure, it can make it difficult for blood to get around your body, thereby offering your body less nutrients (3).

  • Appetite Suppression

Nicotine tends to suppress our appetite, giving us the out when it comes to eating, and eating well at that. For those us looking to put some real strength and size, eating a well-balanced diet is exactly what we need to make that happen. If we suppress our appetite then we are doing ourselves no favors (4).

  • Breathing & Endurance

This may go without saying, but depending on the form you ingest nicotine, it can seriously start to affect your breathing and endurance when it comes to activities. With less desire for cardio, and making cardio harder at that, you take away one element to help you get more shredded than before.

  • Decrease Testosterone

To stick with smoking and ingesting nicotine that way, the chances of this lowering your levels of testosterone have been studied, and while results vary, some say this to be true. Lower testosterone leads to less drive, decreased libido, but worse, less natural muscle building and fat burning potential (5).

But Nicotine’s A Stimulant…

While this is true, there are other stimulants you can take to boost your workouts and provide for that much needed energy. For those who stay away from supplements, or feel something like a pre-workout is unnecessary, you should rethink that strategy to start, but also look to caffeine, whether that be coffee or green tea, to kickstart your workouts. Looking into a great pre-workout can give you energy, pumps, and get the blood flowing without you worrying about any health risks that may come from nicotine.

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Wrap Up

Nicotine is a highly addictive substance and sometimes with our busy lives and hectic schedules we just need a break to unwind. But for those of us who take our bodybuilding and workout goals seriously, this can really hurt us and start to affect everything we want most out of our fitness goals. While nicotine may be a stimulant, it is important to remember that there are other stimulants out there and ways to get our heart rate going and blood pumping to maximize our workouts. Looking to a great pre-workout can help us get there, as well as simply just a cup of coffee, for example. So, while nicotine may seem like the easy option, looking for some alternatives will help pay off in the long run.

Let us know what you think in the comments below. Also, be sure to follow Generation Iron on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. 

*Images courtesy of Transparent Labs and Envato


  1. Benowitz, Neal L. (2010). “Nicotine Addiction”. (source)
  2. Mishra, Aseem; Chaturvedi, Pankaj; Datta, Sourav; Sinukumar, Snita; et al. (2015). “Harmful effects of nicotine”. (source)
  3. Gajewska, M.; Worth, A.; Urani, C.; Briesen, H.; et al. (2014). “The acute effects of daily nicotine intake on heart rate – A toxicokinetic and toxicodynamic modelling study”. (source)
  4. Jessen, A.; Buemann, B.; Toubro, S.; Skovgaard, M.; Astrup, A. (2004). “The appetite-suppressant effect of nicotine is enhanced by caffeine”. (source)
  5. Hruskovicova, H.; Duskova, M.; Simunkova, K., Hill, M.; et al. (2012). “Effects of Smoking Cessation on Hormonal Levels in Men”. (source)
Austin Letorney
Austin Letorney is a writer, actor, and fitness enthusiast. As a former rower, he has shifted his focus to sharing his knowledge of the fitness world and strength sports with others.