The question of how smoking and quitting affects metabolism is an important one for many of us. There are plenty of smokers out there who view changes in their metabolism as one of the reasons they are reluctant to quit. And there are others who started smoking because of how it can affect the metabolism and body weight.
Our metabolism is a complicated process that fuels us as well as allowing us to grow and maintain our bodies. This process is affected in a variety of ways by smoking and many smokers anticipate weight gain or increased appetite as a result of quitting smoking. So, let’s take a look at how smoking affects the metabolism as well as what changes to expect after quitting.
The metabolism is a complicated set of processes that describes how the body sustains itself. It covers everything from the way we break down food and use it to fuel ourselves to the way our bodies grow and maintain themselves.
When we’re talking about how smoking affects metabolism we’re focusing on the way our bodies break down food and absorb it as well as our hunger or craving for food. A faster metabolism (or higher metabolic rate) will increase the amount of energy our bodies burn through. This has the effect of reducing weight gain.
Smoking inhibits our ability to carry oxygen through our bloodstream, forcing the heart to beat faster to supply oxygen to the body. This increased heart rate also increases the metabolic rate, meaning our metabolism is working faster.
Forcing the heart to beat faster like this can lead to heart disease which is just one of the many health risks associated with smoking. A heavy smoker will be putting more pressure on their heart than someone who weighs fifty percent more than average.
Quitting smoking will cause the heart rate to slow down which also slows the metabolism. Because of this reduced metabolic rate, someone who has just quit smoking may process food slower which can lead to a slight weight gain.
Nicotine in cigarettes also has an impact on our levels of hunger. When it’s absorbed into the body, nicotine causes the release of various chemicals in the brain, including dopamine, suppressing the natural desire for food.
This effect varies from person to person. Some people may not notice any difference in hunger after taking up or quitting smoking, but for others it can be more difficult to ignore.
After quitting smoking, the brain is deprived of the nicotine that it is craving and can start to reward eating instead. Research shows that the pleasure response from eating can increase noticeably after quitting smoking and this can lead to weight gain for some.
After Quitting Smoking
One concern that’s frequently raised when discussing smoking and metabolism is that quitting smoking will lead to weight gain. Another worry is that gaining weight will counter the health benefits of giving up smoking.
These are important questions and it’s easy to see why they might make it more difficult for some of us to quit the dangers of smoking. It’s important to remember that while there are health risks associated with increased weight, these risks are very small compared to the dangers that come with smoking.
The average smoker weighs slightly less than the average non-smoker. And while quitting can lead to weight gain, the average person who’s quit for good still weighs less than the average person who’s never smoked. So, the weight gained after quitting isn’t much on average and people who’ve quit smoking face a low level of risk from weight related health problems.
This risk is based on the average effect that quitting has on metabolism and weight gain, the risks can be higher in some people and lower in others. But in general the level of health risk associated with smoking is far higher than the level of health risk that comes from any post-quitting weight gain.
The health benefits of quitting smoking are one of the biggest motivators to quitting. If you are concerned about metabolism changes and weight gain as a result of quitting then it can be beneficial to develop a more healthy lifestyle at the same time as giving up smoking.
Many people feel more energised after quitting smoking, so this can be a great time to take up new activities. They don’t have to be big changes as even short periods of exercise have been shown to improve mood and help burn calories.
There are a variety of reasons to take up more exercise when quitting smoking. Exercise helps increase the metabolic rate as well as breaking down fat in the body, both of which can promote weight loss or counter weight gain. Exercise also helps lower cholesterol levels, reducing the risk of heart disease. Be sure to check with your doctor before starting a new exercise regime that may overtax your body.
You could take up a sport, go swimming, running or sign up for dance classes. Remember that even gentle, regular exercise can make a big difference to how you feel as well as your weight.
Smoking increases the heart rate and the metabolism and the nicotine found in cigarette smoke also suppresses appetite. It’s also true that some people use food as a substitute to keep they’re hands and mouths occupied after they quit smoking.
These factors can lead to smokers gaining weight after quitting. However, on average the amount of weight gained is not enough to be a serious health risk, especially not compared to the dangers of smoking. Nicotine replacement systems, like e-liquids or patches, can counter this effect, making it easier to quit without the changes to metabolism. Another way to counter the effect of nicotine on the metabolism is by turning the extra energy from quitting smoking toward adding to our exercise regimes.