Despite the many well-known positive benefits of quitting smoking, potential weight gain may be a concern to those contemplating kicking the habit. Smoking increases your metabolism, and when you stop smoking your metabolism reverts back to normal. Temporary weight gain may occur as you adjust to burning calories at a slower rate than you grew accustomed to as a smoker. Lifestyle adjustments can help prevent or slow weight gain when you quit smoking.
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Nicotine in cigarettes revs up metabolism in smokers. Nicotine in the blood is metabolized and excreted from the body quickly so it doesn't take long for the effects of nicotine deficiency to become evident. The approximate half-life of nicotine in the blood is two hours. It can linger for up to eight hours after the last cigarette since smoking has an accumulative effect and represents a multiple dosing situation, explains the American Heart Association.
Each cigarette you smoke immediately causes your body to use calories faster. As your metabolic rate slows when you quit smoking it may become quite sluggish for a few weeks or months as it adjusts to normal levels. During this period you may actually burn calories at a slower than average rate, explains SmokeFree.gov, a website published by the University of Southern Florida.
Weight gain is not inevitable when you quit smoking. Putting on pounds is most common in the first six months after quitting. Approximately 50 percent of smoker gain less 10 lb. when they quit while about 10 percent put on as much as 30 lb. As a general rule heavier smokers are apt to put on more weight than lighter smokers once they call it quits. Feeling hungrier and possibly craving more high-sugar, high-fat snacks can contribute to weight gain on top of a slower metabolism. Weight loss may occur as people get used to being smoke-free.
Getting regular exercise and eating a nutritious diet that includes fruits, vegetables and whole grains may help stave off excess weight as you adjust to burning fewer calories each day. Physical activity can also help diminish withdrawal symptoms associated with quitting smoking, points out the Weight Control Information Network, a website published by the National Institutes of Health. You may even notice you are breathing a little easier during exercise. Aim for at least 30 minutes of aerobic activities like brisk walking or jogging most days of the week.