Some research suggests that nicotine may negatively affect muscle growth.However, there is other evidence that indicates it could help with athletic performance.

Muscle growth, which health experts call hypertrophy, refers to muscle fibers growing in response to damage. Placing repeated, increasing stress on muscles through exercise or other means causes small tears in the fibers. The body repairs this damage by fusing muscle fibers, increasing their mass.

Various hormones influence this process of muscle growth, including testosterone and human growth hormone. Consuming certain substances can influence these hormones and other processes that lead to muscle growth.

Nicotine is a compound in tobacco products that can cause addiction and be harmful to the body. However, there is mixed evidence on how the substance could influence muscle growth.

In this article, we will discuss whether nicotine affects muscle growth and athletic performance and how to quit using nicotine products.

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Nicotine can affect muscle growth, primarily by interfering with how cells make proteins necessary for muscle repair. However, a 2017 review suggests that more research is necessary to understand its effects on physical performance and muscular growth fully.

An older study from 2007 involving 16 people found that smoking interrupts processes of muscle growth. Specifically, the researchers found that smoking reduced the production of proteins for muscle repair and suppressed genes that maintain muscle.

Nicotine in tobacco smoke may also worsen the breakdown of muscles. A 2020 review suggests that cigarette smoke causes inflammation and problems with the body getting oxygen to muscles, causing muscle problems. However, this study suggests that stopping smoking can reverse the harmful effects of smoking on muscles.

The evidence is inconclusive on whether nicotine increases or decreases athletic performance.

Nicotine can reduce testosterone production, which is important for muscle growth and performance. It can also increase cortisol levels, which break down muscle tissues, impairing growth, recovery, and performance.

A 2017 systematic review found that 16 of 28 studies suggest that nicotine increased heart rate compared with a placebo, which can improve athletic performance. Other studies indicate that nicotine can increase blood pressure and flow.

These processes suggest that nicotine could increase performance as blood moves around the body faster. However, the study found that performance only increased in a small number of studies.

Another 2020 review suggests that nicotine increases motor skills. However, a 2017 review found that only two of 10 studies showed the substance could improve muscle performance. The review stated that research in this area has major limitations and that more work is necessary to understand how nicotine affects athletic performance.

Health experts may refer to nicotine as a stimulant. People use various other supplements and stimulants for muscle growth and performance.

For example, caffeine is a stimulant present in coffee and some sports supplements. It can increase heart rate and other biological processes that can improve athletic performance. A 2020 review of 11 other reviews found that caffeine improved exercise performance. The studies suggest that the effect is larger for aerobic than for muscle-building exercises.

Consistent resistance training can lead to muscle growth. There are several types of training that can enhance muscle growth, such as upper-lower body supersets and drop sets.

Health experts recommend the following strategies to help increase muscle mass:

  • getting a personal trainer
  • trying free weights
  • including leg exercises
  • doing fewer repetitions with heavier weights
  • getting enough rest between exercises and workouts to recover
  • steadily increasing exercise intensity over time
  • consuming sufficient protein for muscle growth

Some people may also benefit from taking creatine, which is a compound in the body and food. There is consistent evidence that creatine can help improve exercise performance and muscle growth. It is also safe to use in the short and long term.

Read on to learn more about building muscle with exercise.

Nicotine can be highly addictive and cause withdrawal symptoms when someone tries to stop taking it.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has a range of resources to help people quit smoking. For example, it provides telephone, text, and smartphone app support for individuals to quit. The organization also provides information on medications for smoking cessation and tips that include:

  • adjusting medications
  • finding distractions from smoking
  • avoiding environments and triggers of smoking, such as bars
  • finding safer substitutes for smoking, such as toothpicks and cinnamon sticks
  • telling people about quitting smoking for extra support
  • fighting and reasoning with the urge to smoke

Read on to learn more about quitting smoking.

Nicotine is a highly addictive substance that could harm muscle growth. For example, the substance could reduce protein levels and influence hormones relevant to muscle growth. However, nicotine also has biological effects that might improve athletic performance, such as increased heart rate.

Other stimulants can increase athletic performance without the harmful effects of nicotine. For example, creatine and caffeine increase athletic performance and are safe in modest doses. Quitting smoking can be difficult for some, but there are resources and support available for people wishing to do so.