What Smoking Does to Your Metabolism

What Smoking Does to Your Metabolism

22 Sep 22

Metabolism describes the process that creates and uses energy within the body. How our bodies break down the food we eat and convert it to energy is a function of metabolism. Metabolism also uses nutrients from food to circulate blood, grow cells, and repair cells. Metabolic rate describes how fast these processes occur.

While genetics are mostly responsible for how fast a person's metabolism is, other lifestyle factors such as smoking can greatly influence metabolism as well.

How Smoking Affects Metabolism

Cigarette smoking increases a person's metabolic rate slightly by forcing the heart to beat faster. Regular smoking increases the heart rate both in the short term (up to 20 beats per minute) and throughout the day (the average increase is seven beats per minute).

Increasing the metabolic rate puts added stress on the heart and plays a role in heart disease, the most common cause of smoking-related death.

Boosting Your Metabolism After You Quit Smoking

Shifts in metabolism along with dietary changes can trigger some weight gain after you quit smoking. These changes can trigger some physical and mental health effects that may be challenging to cope with.

However, there are tools you can use to your advantage to cope with quitting smoking and gaining weight while building your metabolic rate back up in ways that benefit your health.

Mindful Eating

Some people revert to eating as a way to manage stress when they quit. However, stress eating and compulsive eating can further metabolic decline.

One study found that mindful eating can help people who struggle with stress eating boost their metabolism. Mindful eating means understanding your body's cues, such as knowing when you're hungry, knowing when you're full, and maintaining awareness while you eat.

A therapist can teach you healthy coping mechanisms to use instead of smoking or eating any time you dealing with hard emotions and combatting stress or even boredom.


Your body can easily mistake thirst for hunger. Make sure you're drinking enough water every day. Staying hydrated can help ensure that you're consuming the calories you need, and not eating when you're actually thirsty. Drinking water throughout the day can also help boost weight loss efforts by increasing metabolic function.

Conveniently, drinking water is an effective strategy for dealing with cigarette cravings.


Exercise is hugely beneficial when you are quitting smoking. It can help minimize weight gain by burning calories and boosting metabolism. Exercise also breaks down fat and releases it into the bloodstream, which works to curb feelings of hunger.

Nicotine use triggers the release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter responsible for feelings of happiness and satisfaction. Exercise also releases this same brain chemical, but in a healthy way that allows you to enjoy the pleasant effects of dopamine without risking your health.

Increasing your level of daily activity provides other important benefits as well. Exercise has been shown to:

  • Help control cholesterol levels and heart disease
  • Help control the effects of diabetes
  • Lower the risk of certain cancers
  • Slow bone loss associated with advancing age

What kind of exercise should you do? Anything you enjoy! Be sure to consult a healthcare provider before committing to a new exercise routine. Some ways to exercise that you might enjoy include:

  • Bicycling: Bicycling is a wonderful way to work your body while enjoying the benefits of being outdoors.
  • Dancing: Whether it's in your living room to a piece of favorite music, or at a club with friends, you don't have to be a good dancer to enjoy this form of exercise.
  • Swimming: Swimming is a low-impact way to exercise your body and feel refreshed.
  • Walking: A good pair of walking shoes is all you need. Walk the neighborhood on sunny days, or, if the weather is bad, walk the circumference of the mall, an indoor track, or even on a treadmill.
  • Yoga: Yoga improves strength and flexibility. It also benefits mood by promoting the release of everyday stress.11 Try taking a beginner's class or following along with a video online.

Remember, every little bit of physical activity counts. Maybe you spend some time gardening or doing yard work. That counts. When you go to the store, maybe you park in the back of the parking lot so you add some extra steps in that day.

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