Many of us work hard so that we can play harder. We watch what we eat, exercise our mind, train in the gym, and fire up a well-deserved cigar when we can. For those that exercise regularly, the effect of cigar smoking on fitness is always the elephant in the room.
Today we'll be including some quotes from Cavino Johnson, someone you may already know from Instagram and Facebook. He's a world-class cigar enthusiast, fitness junkie, and whiskey buff.
Please note that we're discussing the effects on physical training, not the overall health impacts. Cigar smoking has health risks associated with it just like any other tobacco product.
The Effects of Nicotine in the Body
Not surprisingly, nicotine produces many effects on the body regardless of how we choose to absorb it. In our context, we absorb it through the mucous membranes in the mouth. Working within different systems, nicotine will:
Increase heart rates
Increase blood sugar
Increase blood pressure
Increase body temperature
Constrict blood vessels
Reduce blood oxygen
Nicotine hits the brain within seconds and its effects are noticed for hours later. Several of these effects work in concert together, such as how nicotine constricts blood vessels thereby reducing oxygen availability and increases the heart rate. The same can be said for blood sugar levels where nicotine simultaneously releases glucose and attenuates insulin.
Photo Credit: @That_Dude_Cavino
"So, we all know that smoking, period, can have some negative effects to our health in general. But when it comes to fitness, cigars do not have as much of a negative impact, as say, cigarettes. Due to the fact that most cigar smokers do not inhale the smoke, there are no immediate negatives in fitness and exercise performance.
For instance, a fitness enthusiast, who enjoys 1-2 cigars every day or every other day, usually would not feel their physical performance affected the next day. Whereas a cigarette smoker will most likely struggle due to lower VO2, or maximal oxygen uptake, because of the inhaled smoke and the many chemicals found in cigarettes." -Cavino Johnson
What Does This Mean for My #Gainz?
Naturally, these aren't the best symptoms to experience when prepping for or executing a workout. Depending on how you train, however, it might not make a difference.
The average time it takes for our livers to metabolize nicotine is approximately two hours, implying that training sessions and smoke sessions separated by several hours (depending on smoking frequency and tolerance) can coexist. AM work outs and PM smoke outs, anyone?
But What About Cardio?
Personally, I've routinely ran anywhere between 12-20 miles a week in the Army while smoking 1-2 cigars per day without a noticeable difference in aerobic conditioning, resting heart rate, blood pressure readings, or anything else at the time of exams. This isn't to say that there aren't long term health concerns with regular cigar smoking, though, as it definitely changes your dental hygiene requirements (at the very least) among other things.
Also, you may not know this but Andrew (our Head Cigar Smoker) runs half marathons and marathons for fun. When he's not crushing times and making the rest of us feel bad about living the slow life, he's enjoying cigars like a modern day Sir Winston Churchill.
What's the Catch?
Cavino included a second thought that I believe is long overdue in cigar circles. Most people take for granted that cigar smoking doesn't carry the same laundry list of health risks as cigarette smoking because we don't inhale cigar smoke. Second hand cigar smoke, however, is still something we should be mindful of.
"However, and yes, there has to be a flipped coin... IF the cigar smoker spends his time in a cigar lounge with poor air circulation, and an abundant amount of people smoking, there is the factor of second hand smoke. This is why, every chance I get, I enjoy my cigars outdoors, depending upon the weather of course.
We also can't forget the possibility that, even though we don't inhale cigar smoke directly, we will take in a little of the smoke residuals in our mouths which will make it into our trachea and esophagus via saliva and nasal passages. But again, even these trace amounts won't deter optimal physical performance." -Cavino Johnson
Conversely, here's an interesting empirical account where a non-smoking individual recorded benchmarks without cigars, with one cigar per week, two cigars per week, and five cigars per week. This athlete recorded a significant decrease in cardiovascular endurance (~37%) and delayed recovery times at the end of this trial. It's unknown if he inhaled or not though, but his increased congestion starting at one cigar per week makes me wonder if that was the case (along with the seriously reduced performance).
Another study found that subjects wearing a nicotine patch experienced 17% +-7% more endurance when cycling at 75% max for approximately one hour.
Lastly, there just isn't enough information out there for cigar smokers like there is for cigarette smokers. There could be variables at play that we just don't understand yet because it hasn't been studied enough.
Tell Us! What are your experiences with cigar smoking and physical fitness?