We all know that smoking is harmful to our cardiovascular health, therefore lots of people have switched to ‘vaping’ in the hope of stimulating a similar sensation but whilst also mitigating the negative health effects associated with smoking real cigarettes.
For years we’ve known that smoking kills people and seriously damages health. Vaping, however is still relatively new and there are lots of divided opinions on the subject.
Athletes probably should stay away from both just in case. But for the average runner/gym goer, should they be concerned that their vaping habit might affect their performance?
Vaping vs Smoking
We’ve all stood in front of a smoky campfire and learned first hand how damaging it can be to breathe in. Cigarettes are the same way. Combustion causes harmful byproducts that go into the lungs. Fully-functioning lungs are required for peak athletic performance, and inhaling smoke of any kind will cause tar build-up over time.
Vaping uses a mix of chemicals that, when heated, turn into water vapor that carries flavor and drugs like nicotine and THC into the lungs. No tar or other combustion byproducts are produced.
Thus, on the surface, vaping seems safer than smoking for an athlete.
Most of the negative effects of smoking aren’t related to the core chemicals people are smoking for but from the byproducts of burning instead. Coughing like you’re in front of a campfire is no way to go out before competition. Chronic smoking can take a huge toll on the lungs. And without a good lung capacity and the ability to utilize high levels of oxygen, there’s no way to get enough energy to compete.
But what about the drugs themselves? Do nicotine and THC have a negative effect on athletic performance?
Nicotine alone may actually have a performance-enhancing effect according to Medscape. Nicotine consumption via vaping, patches, e liquid and other non-smoking forms causes the following effects:
- Increased heart rate
- Increased blood flow
- Increased blood pressure
- Increased fat burning
- Improved memory
- Improved reaction time
- Improved fine-motor abilities
- Improved pain tolerance
All sounds great, but there are some downsides. First, nicotine is addictive. By some reports, it’s as addictive as cocaine or heroin. Also, when athletes who are heavy users of nicotine abstain these benefits can drop quickly as the body adjusts. Depending on the sport, some of these benefits may turn out to be detriments (e.g. increased blood flow in hot environments causing overheating).
Still, it seems that the major downsides from consuming nicotine come mostly from smoking it. Nicotine also isn’t a banned substance, though it does have similar effects to some of these. Thus, some athletes are turning to non-smoking methods of nicotine consumption to get a boost in performance, including vaping.
THC and CBD
THC and CBD are the two main compounds sought when consuming cannabis products. Research on these compounds for positive effects is quite limited due to the long ban on studying cannabis for its benefits. Now that it is becoming more legalized in the U.S., more science should start coming out. However, we do have anecdotal reports of its use in the running community.
Running while high is a trend in some running communities. Users report benefits like:
- Reduced anxiety
- Increased well-being
- Better sleep
- Faster recovery time
- More impulsiveness
- More risk-taking
- Greater awareness of the environment
However, the exact effects need to be studied to get a full picture. There are also negatives. The relaxation may be detrimental in some forms of athletic competition. Cannabis consumption also increases the heart rate. And consumption over time can lead to the classic stoner symptoms of impaired memory, high levels of fatigue, slow reactions, and so forth.
But, again, we don’t know how exercise may help to stave off these, nor what doses of cannabis are required before these negative symptoms show up. This is important because vaping delivers a much higher dose of THC and CBD than traditional smoking. Until we can get more research data, all we have are the reports of those who consume cannabis while running.
By all accounts, vaping these substances seems safer than smoking by current science. However, the jury is out on whether vaping these substances provide a positive boost greater than training without them. Perhaps one day we’ll see pot pills taken prior to marathons, or nicotine pills prior to sprints. But more science is needed. In the meantime, athletes will continue to search for an edge they can’t get anywhere else.
Michael is a marketing and creative content specialist at GotVape.com with primary focus on customer satisfaction. Technology and fitness combined healthy lifestyle obsession are his main talking points