Can you smoke and still build muscles?

Matchstick lighting a cigarette
Can you smoke and still build muscles? Picture: Bernhard Classen / Alamy/Alamy

[dropcap]B[/dropcap]uilding muscles isn’t just about working out and downing protein shakes. There are many other factors that have a direct effect on how your body develops. Some of these factors are down to lifestyle choices and/or bad habits, like alcohol and cigarettes for example. Let’s see how smoking affects your routine and can you smoke and still build muscles.

At my skinniest, I was stopping the scales at a mere 59kg [about 130lb] – a shocking weight for a man in his early 30s. It wasn’t fast metabolism that was preventing me from putting on weight. No. I was skinny because of my lifestyle. That lifestyle involved long hours at work, combined with a “diet” of lots of coffee, energy drinks and 20 or more cigarettes a day.

[pull_quote_center]Building muscles and eating properly was never my priority and it showed.[/pull_quote_center]

My choice of breakfast was a strong coffee with a couple of cigarettes. It never bothered me because I rarely felt hungry and when I did, I’d have a chocolate bar instead of a meal.

I was feeling tired and out of breath most of the time despite the caffeine from the energy drinks and coffee I was hooked on. All that makes sense and part of it is to do with my smoking.

Smoking is a bad habit and it causes all sorts of damage to our health. It damages our lungs and is widely associated with cancer. The cigarette smoke also affects our physical performance and the growth of our muscles. Here’s why:


Inhaling the smoke from cigarettes (or tobacco) can seriously harm your respiratory system. It pumps carbon monoxide in your system which deprives your muscles of the oxygen they need. The less oxygen your muscles get, the less efficient they become. Lower oxygen absorption means faster fatigue and reduced training performance.


According to a study, conducted by the American Journal of Physiology, Endocrinology and Metabolism, smoking disturbs the body’s muscle building and repair process. In other words – smoking makes it harder for you to attain maximum gains from your workouts.


Research suggests that smoking can increase your heart rate by as much as 30%. In muscle building terms, that relates to your body burning more (unnecessary) energy when working out instead of using it to facilitate muscle growth.


We all know about the importance of testosterone for muscle building. Studies suggest that smoking reduces the amount of testosterone. Bad news if you are working out hard to gain muscles.

So can you smoke and still build muscles?

There is no evidence to suggest that your muscles will stop growing all together just because you smoke. The above points, however, demonstrate that smoking cigarettes impacts on some of the factors that contribute to muscle growth. As a result of that, smoking reduces your changes of maximum gains.

[quote_box_center]If you are a skinny guy who is trying to maximise muscle growth, you should seriously think about the limitations smoking imposes on the growth and development of your muscles.[/quote_box_center]

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