Nicotine - a man’s friend or foe?
Having trouble in the bedroom? Experiencing brain fog? Not seeing the results you want in the gym?
Although research has shown nicotine doesn’t harm testosterone levels, there is growing evidence that nicotine can negatively impacts your mental, physical, and sexual performance.
Nicotine and stress
When nicotine is introduced into the body, regardless of the method (smoking cigarettes, vaping, or chewing, to name a few), it stimulates the release of epinephrine - also called adrenaline. Epinephrine is both a hormone and a neurotransmitter. Its major action is its role in responding to stress.
Nicotine creates a stress response in the body that causes a number of changes internally, including increased blood pressure, breathing, and heart rate. Nicotine also causes you to feel more breathless due to the narrowing of the swelling and narrowing of the lung's airways.
In the short-term, nicotine may feel good by stimulating the production of your “feel good” chemical in the brain called dopamine - which creates feelings of pleasure and relaxation. However, because of the way nicotine works in the body, those feel-good chemicals don’t last long, resulting in withdrawal symptoms and increased cravings. Nicotine reduces withdrawal symptoms but doesn’t reduce anxiety or stress. In fact, it’s internally creating stress inside the body, even though the outside feels a sense of release.
Nicotine’s Role in Performance
Some studies show short-term delivery of nicotine may improve cognitive performance. However, long-term usage of nicotine has been shown to damage the ventromedial prefrontal cortex, the decision-making center known to be involved in forward-thinking, mood regulation, and impulse control.
Those that consume nicotine via smoking and/or vaping actually experience cognitive decline and decreased working memory. In recent studies, researchers have uncovered an association between vaping and mental fog and regardless of age - are most likely to report struggling with mental function.
Nicotine use amongst athletes is high and increasing, especially in team sports. If your goal is to increase your bench press or run a faster 5K, nicotine is a poor pre-workout tool and performance enhancer. Of ten published studies, where 16 separate performance measures were reported, the majority demonstrated nicotine to have no effect on performance, but if it does, then it is equally likely to be beneficial or detrimental. (1) In fact smoking has been linked to an increase in myostatin, a hormone that inhibits muscle growth, reduces the strength of the muscles, and prevents the toning of muscles.
Though there is extensive research that proves smoking doesn’t harm testosterone levels, it does affect erections by accelerating vascular damage. Nicotine impairs blood flow to the penis and other organs. Growing evidence shows that both smoking and vaping decrease penile girth and size (2) as well as lower ejaculate volume, and men who smoke and/or vape are more likely to experience fertility issues regardless of high serum testosterone levels. Either directly or indirectly, smoking does affect sexual and overall general health.
Research has shown that health problems, including sexual health issues, are directly related to how much, and how often nicotine is used
In other words, taking steps to reduce can create a positive shift in physical and hormonal health. If you smoke or vape and want to improve your health and performance, download the Pivot app, now could be the perfect time to chat with a coach for support.
- Sports Med. 2017; 47(12): 2497–2506. Nicotine: Sporting Friend or Foe? A Review of Athlete Use, Performance Consequences and Other Considerations: Published online 2017 Aug 8. doi: 10.1007/s40279-017-0764-5, PMCID: PMC5684328, PMID: 28791650
- HUBERMAN LABS: NICOTINE USES AND QUITTING)
Talia Rappatone, B.S., NBC-HWC, TTS