Can I Vape and Work Out?

/ 5 minute read

Can I Vape and Work Out?

Now more than ever before, we are placing increased value on our health and fitness, particularly in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Whichever way you find inspiration, and whatever form your workouts take, we can’t escape the fact that exercise requires a good flow of oxygen moving around the body.

Being able to breathe properly is, rather obviously, an integral part of distributing oxygen, and anything that inhibits this ability will ultimately harm your performance when it comes to physical exercise.

Inhaling anything other than the air to which we are intended will inevitably count against us when it comes to achieving peak performance. Smoking tobacco is now widely understood to have severe negative impacts on our physical abilities. However, the question remains; does the same apply to vaping and working out?

While Public Health England may have famously reported in 2015 that they found e-cigarettes to be 95% less harmful than smoking, debate has raged over the potential risks that the relatively-new phenomenon poses to those of us who enjoy physical exercise. You can check out more about how smoking and vaping impact the body in our guide Finding the Right Alternative, but read on as we explore the impacts of both smoking and vaping on our bodies during exercise.

Vaping and Exercise Vs Smoking and Exercise

Vaping and smoking both inhibit our ability to perform in different ways, but not to the same extremes. In some cases, the impacts are very similar, owing to nicotine being a primary contributor to certain effects in question, which is delivered by both smoking and vaping alike. In other ways, however, the difference is quite stark.

Blood Pressure and Heart Rate

Smoking and vaping can both influence blood pressure and heart rate. While smoking carries additional risk, vaping still delivers nicotine which directly impacts both. When considering that different e-liquid types like nic salts can deliver nicotine levels above those of a typical cigarette, exercise enthusiasts should take care not to overdo things before, during or after a workout.

When we exercise, our blood pressure and heart rate both increase to meet the demand our bodies face during physical exertion. In extreme circumstances such as competitions, endurance events, or just a particularly heavy workout, this increase can be quite considerable.

Nicotine is a stimulant that you can learn more about in our guide Nicotine and Health. Stimulants, as the name suggests, stimulate our bodies, and in the case of nicotine, this means it rapidly increases our heart rate and blood pressure.

When combined with heavy exercise, nicotine could cause our heart rate and blood pressure to reach dangerous extremes – even leading to a heart attack in severe cases.

Both smoking and vaping deliver nicotine to your system, and the more you absorb, the greater the potential increase in your heart rate and blood pressure. In this way, either action will have a detrimental effect on your performance and could compromise your health if regularly combined with intense exercise.

It is worth noting, however, that the additional harmful chemicals inhaled in cigarette smoke also contribute to a sustained increase in heart rate and blood pressure by narrowing arteries and hardening blood vessel walls, causing your heart to beat faster to compensate. These chemicals are not present in e-cigarette vapour, and so while neither option is ideal, vaping poses a lower risk overall.

    Lung Function and Blood Oxygen Levels

    Smoking tobacco has a severe impact on your lungs which in turn can be detrimental to your blood oxygen levels, negatively impacting your ability to work out and recover properly.

    The carbon monoxide inhaled when smoking cigarettes displaces the oxygen in your blood. This combined with vessel restriction and hardening means your red blood cells can’t do their job properly and won’t deliver enough oxygen to your muscles.

    Tar and other chemicals in cigarette smoke coat your lungs, reducing their elasticity and damaging the alveoli (air sacs), preventing your body from absorbing as much oxygen which inhibits your ability to perform.

    By comparison, vaping does not deliver lung-coating tar, nor does it displace oxygen in your blood with carbon monoxide. While it certainly won’t add anything to your workout ability, vaping does far less to inhibit your performance than smoking cigarettes.

    Appetite and Nutrition

    Nicotine is a natural appetite suppressant. This can be a double-edged sword when it comes to working out. Again, as both smoking and vaping deliver nicotine, either option could place barriers between you and your fitness goals. The only dividing line between the two in this case is once again the absence of the additional harmful chemicals in e-cig vapour, as opposed to the thousands found in cigarette smoke, although it is specifically nicotine that impacts appetite most significantly.

    If you are a weightlifter attempting to bulk and gain mass, hitting ever-increasing calorie goals is a must in order to properly support the muscle development intended from resistance training. Consuming nicotine before or after your workout may prevent you from feeling hungry enough to eat those calories, restricting your gains.

    If you are working out to lose weight, nicotine’s appetite suppression could be seen as a potential positive, helping you to control excessive food cravings. In this case vaping becomes a preferable option, as it doesn’t introduce the harmful chemicals found in cigarette smoke at the same time as the nicotine. Just ensure that you are still eating the correct balance of nutrients to fuel your workouts, and ensure you remain healthy and are not just skipping meals in favour of a vape.

    Take note – if you are vaping as part of a journey to become nicotine-free, and are also working towards weight-loss goals, be cautious as you decrease your nicotine intake. The sudden resurgence of appetite could throw your nutrition into chaos and trigger unintended weight gain. When making any changes to your lifestyle, make them gradually and always speak to a healthcare professional before making any drastic decisions.

    Does Vaping Affect Cardio?

    There is an increasing amount of evidence from both real people in forum's like Reddit (which we will explore below) as well as the NHS that suggests the answer is yes - vaping will impact your cardiovascular performance, but not half as much as the risk from smoking.

    When stopping smoking altogether, and to a lesser extent when switching to vaping as an alternative, the natural process of your lungs expunging tar and other nasties can leave you feeling much clearer-chested. We can expect our cardio to improve as a result of this.

    According to the NHS, when switching from smoking to vaping your systollic blood pressure can reduce - this means there is less presure on your arteries as your heart contracts to pump blood around your body. Reducing this pressure means more oxygenated blood can get to your muscles, helping with excercise of all kinds.

    Remeber however, that if you neither smoke, nor vape - do not start. If you want the absolute best from your cardio performance, avoiding breathing anything other than air is the ideal approach.

    So, Should I Vape and Work-Out?

    Ultimately, if you want to be a professional athlete, it’s probably better to ditch nicotine altogether, which includes smoking or vaping. For the rest of us, however, who pursue a steadier workout routine, smoking has far more evidence against it when compared to vaping.

    The issue we face in drawing a solid conclusion on this subject is that evidence for vaping’s impact on exercise, be it good or bad, is slim to none. There are almost no official scientific studies available to draw comment from, whereas smoking has been studied at length – much like the general debate on vape safety, the long-term impacts are still unknown.

    Nonetheless, there is much anecdotal evidence to suggest that some people have indeed seen a benefit from being a vaper and exercising over being a smoker, like these Reddit users' comments:

    “I do intense aerobics classes and have noticed the following: 1) I don't get winded as quickly as I did when I smoked, 2) I don't cough upon breathing hard, 3) I don't have wet tobacco stench leaking from my pores and hair. Win.”

    “I work out every day, I used to smoke every day. Switching to vaping, my run times have decreased, my overall performance is better.”

    “I play racquetball and although vaping beforehand does hinder me a very slight amount, it's not nearly as bad as the amount analogs (non-electronic cigarettes) did.”

    While these accounts are positive in terms of vaping and exercise, it is still not a unanimous belief:

    “As an avid exerciser and frequent vaper, the only thing that I find hindered in my daily routine is the cardio. I do find that my lungs are slightly more agitated on days that I vape as opposed to days when I have not. The more you exercise, the less you begin to notice these effects. You will slow your build up cardio endurance slower if you vape as opposed to if you were not.”

    An important thing to note is that if a person claims that they have noticed a dramatic improvement in their ability to exercise since switching from tobacco to vaping, the majority of that improvement is more likely down to the lack of tar and other nasty chemicals in their system. The moment they stubbed out the last cigarette, their bodies began purging these nasties regardless of whether the person chose to vape; so the benefit cannot be attributed to vaping alone.

    Until more scientific evidence is produced to resolve the debate conclusively, the facts are that: yes, you can vape and work out. No, it will not impact you as much as smoking cigarettes, but it is still more damaging than doing neither.

    If you are an avid exerciser and are considering making the switch from cigarettes, head over to our Switch With EDGE area to find an alternative that works for you, or visit our store to check out the EDGE range.