Nicotine is a compound commonly found in tobacco plants. However, it is tobacco that has more negative attributes— a fact underpinned by a study that Nature published. Here, Bernard Foll lists down several harmful components which aggravate the addictive property of tobacco products. Flavors and non-nicotine compounds are a few examples. Similarly, compounds such as carcinogens, toxicants, and carbon monoxide are present in tobacco smoke. These chemicals can lead to chronic diseases that affect the heart, immune system, and cardiovascular system.
That said, nicotine, if isolated and used in nicotine replacement products, can be an effective and safe smoking cessation aid. Regulated forms of nicotine delivery can also be beneficial for athletes who wish to enhance their performance and exercise training. Bodybuilders in particular require a keen focus on maintaining rigorous workouts. When nicotine is adopted in bodybuilding, the compound can promote better brain function and increased fat loss.
Read on to learn more about the common misconceptions about nicotine in fitness, the positive effects it fosters in bodybuilders, and how to incorporate an adequate and reasonable amount of nicotine in your lifestyle.
Common misconceptions about nicotine in fitness
Nicotine can incur muscle loss
To an extent, nicotine may activate neutrophils (or white blood cells) that can result in increased inflammation of the body. This is especially evident in smokers who live sedentary lifestyles. It’s crucial to consider, though, how exercise training can reverse smoke-induced inflammation and help increase muscle weight. This is because regular exercise, like endurance training, can address immune-regulating and metabolic pathways which are compromised by smoking. Measured intake of nicotine should be bolstered by physical activity to promote better muscle weight.
Nicotine use is enough to manage weight
Though nicotine can combat body weight gain and improve insulin sensitivity, it shouldn’t be the only means of weight control. This is because smokers are less likely to be physically active. The lack of exercise is shown by how the body fat of smokers leans towards an uneven distribution— with most fat concentrated in their abdominal or central area. A Healthcare study even found that the prevalence of obesity among smokers was 42%, while central obesity was recorded at 35.75%. Given those undesired outcomes, the referenced study posits how a healthy diet and exercise routine should still accompany your weight management plans should you integrate nicotine use, too.
Positive effects of nicotine for bodybuilders
Now that we’ve clarified the role of nicotine in fitness, here are the ways in which nicotine can enhance your performance as a bodybuilder:
Better blood flow
Bodybuilding demands muscle strength and great endurance— these are modulated by increased blood flow. In an article on the effect of nicotine enhancements on archery athletes, Bao-Lien Hung noted an increased exercise performance, and even higher archery scores when 2 mg nicotine gum was administered to archers. Interestingly, nicotine activated an increased blood flow to supply adequate oxygen to active muscles. For bodybuilders, good blood circulation doesn’t only help build muscle, it promotes muscle repair, too. Take lifting weights for example, which is a core component of bodybuilding, this activity can lead to muscle tears in certain body parts. Nicotine can boost better blood flow, making it easier to deliver essential nutrients to the muscles that need repairing.
Increased cognitive function
The referenced article on archery athletes also discussed the role of nicotine in improving cognitive function. Nicotine was shown to be beneficial in sharpening attention and facilitating better focus. Bodybuilding, while a seemingly straightforward sport, requires mental alertness. To enhance your performance, for example, it’s best to visualize how you should lift a weight. This is because when you understand how your muscles are going to contract, you can place more stress on a target muscle. Nicotine can provide you with the concentration your workouts need for complete and effective muscle contraction.
Higher number of calories burned
Our post ‘Cardarine Guide’ explained how cardarine promotes weight loss by using fat as an energy source, whereas the body would typically use glucose. Taking cardarine before your bodybuilding workouts can enable you to increase the intensity of your sets. Similarly, nicotine can increase how many calories you burn in a workout. This is due to the release of catecholamines (which are hormones secreted by your adrenal glands) that increase your body’s fat-burning ability. Ultimately, nicotine increases your body’s energy spending. With regulated nicotine use, you can even sustain repetitive bodybuilding reps which require you to endure heavier weights.
Nicotine Dos and Don’ts
To safely adopt nicotine into your bodybuilding routine, we’ve listed a couple of things you need to be mindful of.
Don’t use traditional tobacco cigarettes
Chemicals that are found in tobacco cigarettes and tobacco smoke can damage your physical functioning. Carbon monoxide deprives your heart of the oxygen it requires to pump blood, which disrupts your body’s healing process. Coughing and shortness of breath are also common when there’s less amount of oxygen delivered to your muscles. These health outcomes can hurt a bodybuilder’s endurance, especially as reps gain intensity or if you want to increase your number of workout sessions in a week.
Do try alternative nicotine products
A form of nicotine replacement therapy, nicotine patches provide a steady dose of nicotine and are applied over the skin. These products usually come in varying strengths, such as the NicoDerm CQ patches, and can be worn for up to 24 hours— so it can definitely cover the amount of bodybuilding training you have scheduled for the day. Do remember, though, that you shouldn’t wear two patches at once unless you’ve consulted with a health professional.
Nicotine pouches are small bags that contain nicotine and flavorings. This is evident with On! nicotine pouches and other top brands like ZYN, Rogue, and VELO. These pouches don’t contain tobacco, and all the ingredients that are used are of the highest quality and 100% food grade. Coming in 2mg, 4mg, and 8mg variants, you can pick the best one that closely corresponds to the intensity level of your bodybuilding workouts.
Nicotine gum is an FDA-approved cessation aid that comes in two strengths (2 mg and 4 mg). Unlike regular chewing gum, you have to bite down slowly on nicotine gum until you feel a tingling sensation in your mouth. Tuck the gum behind your lips, and then hold it for about a minute so your body can absorb the nicotine— repeat this process until the tingling subsides. It’s ideal to chew on nicotine gum an hour before your bodybuilding routine, just so the effects last until the end of your training session.
Don’t turn to vaping
While vapes appear less harmful than traditional tobacco products, they contain chemicals like humectants and flavorings that negatively affect a bodybuilder’s performance. For one, Patrice Marques explains vape devices have rechargeable refills, so there’s an increased chance of spilling, swallowing, or breathing lethal doses of chemicals. When ingested— or even inhaled— the mentioned chemicals can cause muscle inflammation, impact airways, and impair cardiovascular function. For bodybuilders who rely on cardiovascular training as a means to increase fat loss or reduce fat gain, e-cigarette use will prove detrimental.