Does Smoking Speed Up Your Metabolism?

Cigarette in man's mouth
A cigarette in a man's mouth. (Image: David De Lossy/Photodisc/Getty Images)

Four out of five smokers who quit gain weight, according to “Smoke Free,” a publication funded by the American Cancer Society. Although the health benefits of quitting smoking far outnumber the risk of weight gain, the fear of adding inches to your waistline may dim your motivation to give up your smoking habit. Proper nutrition and exercise can lower your chances of gaining weight if you quit smoking. Although smoking speeds your metabolism, other factors affect your weight.

Weight Gain

On average, a person who quits smoking can gain anywhere between 4 to 10 lbs. Since the average smoker weighs about 4 to 10 lbs. less than a non smoker with similar diet and exercise, giving up smoking brings the person to a normal non-smoking weight. Most weight gain happens in the first six months after you quick smoking. When your metabolism adjusts to your smoke-free habit, your weight may return to normal without any additional effort on your part.

Metabolism

Smoking increases your heart rate, keeping your metabolism revved. The metabolism of a smoker compares to the metabolism of a person with a 100-degree F fever. The heart rate of smokers is elevated and, therefore, the metabolism remains high at all times, almost as if you have a fever of 100 degrees F. It is the nicotine in cigarettes that leads to a higher metabolic rate, something that increases the amount of calories that a smoker burns in carrying out the normal functioning of the body.

Hunger

Smoking also suppresses hunger since the nicotine in a cigarette causes the liver to release glycogen. This is something that raises the blood sugar to some extent indicating to the brain that food is not required for additional energy at the moment. Nicotine raises the level of dopamine in the system. This chemical, associated with pleasure, is also released when you consume comfort foods like candy, chocolates or high sugar foods. When you give up smoking, you tend to reach out to these foods to compensate for the drop in feel-good dopamine.

Exercise

To avoid putting on weight or minimizing the effect of a reduced metabolism when you quit smoking, add exercise to your lifestyle. Exercise can increase your metabolism. Including some weight training in the program can help boost metabolism even more. If you put on weight after you give up smoking, avoid crash diets as these can further reduce your metabolism.

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