The Side Effects Of Smoking And Drinking On Bodybuilders

Alcohol use and smoking- as a well-established part of human culture - is something that has become almost as acceptable as eating and breathing.

Smoking and drinking have various effects on the body, causing individuals to want to quit, due to the detrimental effects of these two habits on exercise and overall well being.

Unfortunately, numerous metabolic problems arise when a long time smoker or drinker decides to quit the habit.

In regular male drinkers, lowering the alcohol intake caused a decrease in HDL-cholesterol and systolic blood pressure, whereas decreasing cigarette smoking in men who smoked on a regular basis was associated with significant increases in insulin, glucose, triglycerides, waist and Body Mass Index(BMI).

In regular women smokers, HDL-cholesterol, waist circumference and BMI increased upon quitting. From this research, it is obvious that it is much better off to not start smoking at all, due to the fact that the metabolic advantages offered upon quitting may lead to various psychological and hormonal issues when one has to adjust to the metabolic disadvantages that arise upon cessation of smoking or drinking after prolonged periods of regular use.

Effects Of Nicotine

Diet can influence the ability of nicotine to modulate body weight regulation and demonstrate that chronic nicotine exposure results in adaptive changes in central and peripheral molecules which regulate feeding behavior and energy metabolism.
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This applies to bodybuilders looking to put on or hold onto muscle mass.

Nicotine is known to decrease body weight in human smokers, whereas nicotine withdrawal or smoking cessation can increase body weight.

Nicotine withdrawal is accompanied by increased expression of the orexigenic peptides neuropeptide Y and Agouti-related protein in the hypothalamus, and decreased expression of the metabolic protein uncoupling protein-3 in brown adipose tissue.

Neuropeptide Y

Neuropeptide Y (NPY) is the most abundant neuropeptide in the brain, and is known to be an extremely potent stimulator of feeding behavior. Feeding behavior in rodents is blocked by injection of antibodies or antisense RNAs against NPY. More importantly, leptin appears to act, at least in part, by inhibiting NPY synthesis and release in the hypothalamus.

Agouti-Related Protein

Agouti-Related Protein (AGRP) is an integral component in the metabolic processes that regulate feeding behavior and body weight. Present in the hypothalamus, AGRP levels are elevated in obese males (Katsuki et al, 2001).

Phoenix Pharmaceuticals, Inc., in collaboration with UC San Francisco and UC Berkeley, has not only identified and synthesized several AGRP fragments that are as potent inhibitors of MC3-R and MC4-R as the parent molecule, but also the intact protein, AGRP Form C (Jimenez et al, 1999).

Bodybuilders & Muscle Mass

From this, it can be concluded that for a bodybuilder looking to hold onto muscle mass, or get lean, there is some difficulty getting involved with smoking in the first place.

For extreme cases, a smoking cessation clinic might be the only way to go. A study was performed in France to assess the effectiveness at 1 year of a hospital clinic providing individual management of persons seeking to stop smoking and the factors predictive of failure.

This prospective descriptive study included smokers seeking assistance at this hospital clinic over a 1-year period.

This analysis excludes persons with schizophrenia and those who came only to a first consultation.

Treatment methods were those recommended by the 1998 consensus conference:
  1. Nicotine substitutes or slow-release bupropion, depending on the level of nicotine dependence.
  2. Cognitive-behavioral therapy appropriate for smoking in all cases, and the prescription before cessation of a selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitor (SSRI) for patients with anxiety or depressive disorders.
The study confirmed the usefulness of specialized medical support over a one-year period and highlighted the difficulties of smoking cessation for women, who appear to need a new not yet invented approach.

The other standard factors predictive of failure were not observed, possibly because of either the broad prescription of SSRIs in cases of anxiety - or depression-related comorbidity or the statistical limitations associated with the population size.

Obviously, there would be much more positive progress from a bodybuilder who didn't drink or smoke, but from the research seen, it is evident that with prolonged use, the effects on bodybuilding results due to changes in metabolism, appetite, and hormonal values upon cessation, might make it even more difficult to quit the habit.


The following suggestions were offered to help smokers looking to quit the habit.
  1. Pick a date to stop, if you can't stop today. Choose one, 2-to-4 weeks from now, so you can get ready to quit. If possible, choose a time when things in your life will change, like when you're about to start a break from school. Or just pick a time when you don't expect any extra stress at school, work or home. Of course life is very unpredictable so you just can't wait for there to be NO stress in your life. Wouldn't that be easy? 
  2. Make a list of the reasons why you want to quit. Keep that list available so you can look at it when you have a nicotine craving. Make a list of what you like about smoking also.
  3. Keep a record of where, when and why you smoke. You may want to make notes for a week or so to know ahead of time when and why you will crave a cigarette. Plan what you'll do instead of smoking (see list above for ideas). You may also want to plan what you'll say to people who pressure you to smoke.
  4. Throw or give away all of your tobacco. Clean out your room if you have smoked there. Throw or give away your ashtrays and lighters, just get them out of your house and or room.
  5. Tell your friends that you're quitting. Ask them not to pressure you about smoking. Find other things to do with them besides smoking. If you have to avoid being around people who smoke, do that for a while. But do let friends know why you are avoiding them. You're doing this for YOU, not them.
  6. When your stop date arrives, STOP. Plan little rewards for yourself for each tobacco-free day, week or month. Buy yourself a new top, get some new chewing gum, ask a friend to see a movie. Take a friend to get your favorite dessert or decaf... whatever.

In Conclusion, addiction begins in one's own mind. Food, alcohol, cigarettes and various drugs all leave a mental imprint on one's brain, and it is up to the individual to control his or her habits in a positive way in order to achieve whatever goals they set for themselves.

The life of a bodybuilder is one where extreme control must be exercised on one's desires, if adequate progress is to be made.

As bodybuilders, we have to be very careful what we choose to put into our own bodies, and with that comes first being careful with what we choose to place into our minds.
Aside from the obvious conditions that arise from smoking and drinking (bad breath, cancer, lowered testosterone, increased caloric intake from alcohol and accompanying poor eating habits when drunk), this article attempted to delve into the more elusive, underlying problems that a regular smoker or drinker would face, while smoking, and upon choosing to quit the habit.
Stay Sober, Live More!!!


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