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Can Athletes Vape?

November 01, 2023

As the popularity of vaping continues to rise, it's natural for athletes to wonder if they can partake in this trend without negatively affecting their performance. After all, many professional athletes have been spotted vaping.

But before we dive into whether athletes can vape, let's first understand how vaping works and the potential impacts on athletic performance.

Understanding Vaping: How Does It Work?

Vaping describes using a hand-held electronic device to inhale a vapour of nicotine and various flavourings, also known as e-juice or vape juice.

While not the same as water vapour, the vapour from these devices is more like a mist filled with tiny particles of the flavourings, nicotine, and other substances within the e-liquid. Some vape devices can be refilled, while others come pre-filled and are disposable.

Unlike smoking, vaping doesn't produce the smell that smoking is known for. Instead, it often smells of the flavours added to the e-juice. Additionally, it doesn't require the burning of any material the way smoking does and instead relies on heating the e-juice to a specific temperature to turn it into the vapour you inhale.

Does Vaping Harm Athletic Performance?

To discover how vaping impacts athletic performance, we must first understand how the nicotine in the vape juice and other ingredients may affect the body.

Keeping the body in its best form is critical to achieving high athletic success and maintaining an active, athletic lifestyle. Athletics naturally require the body to push itself to its limits, so it's best to optimize significant body functions.

Using a vape regularly has the potential to impact several bodily functions.

Vaping has been known to negatively impact one's health, with studies from the U.S. National Institute of Health showing that vaping can increase the risk of heart disease. Additionally, vaping can harm athletic performance by affecting other aspects of cardiovascular health (like blood pressure and heart rate, according to the American Heart Association) and lung function.

However, some studies also show how vaping may affect athletes less significantly than smoking does. In fact, one study found that switching to a vape from traditional cigarettes improved vascular stiffness within one month compared to those who continued smoking.

Unlike traditional cigarettes, vapes also don't produce tar, which can damage the cilia (hair-like structures that move mucus, germs, and foreign particles so they can be coughed up or sneezed out of the body, preventing infection).

One way that vapes don’t significantly impact athletes' health is by adding extra calories. Vape devices only have about 2-4 calories per cartridge, so packing on unnecessary calories while following an athlete training regimen won't be a concern.

What Effects Does Vaping Have on Athletic Performance?

Now that we know about the potential harm that vaping can cause to athletes, let's take a closer look at how vaping may impact athletic performance in various ways, from cardiovascular health, lung health, stamina, energy and mood.

Cardiovascular and Lung Health

As mentioned, vaping has been linked to potential adverse effects on cardiovascular health, which can ultimately impact athletic performance. The nicotine in vape juice can increase heart rate and blood pressure, adding strain on the heart during physical activity. 

One notable difference, however, between using a vape and smoking a cigarette is that vaping increases arterial stiffness to a lesser extent than cigarettes, according to a study by the American Heart Association. Nicotine-free e-cigarettes resulted in a smaller increase in arterial stiffness. 

One option for athletes would be to consider substituting vape devices that contain nicotine with nicotine-free vapes instead to remove the adverse effects on the body caused by nicotine – but that doesn’t necessarily mean there will be no adverse effects at all.

A 2018 study from the University of Rochester found that even nicotine-free e-liquid isn’t entirely risk-free, as some flavourings can still trigger inflammation. What does this mean for your cardiovascular and lung health? 

According to Harvard, the body's inflammatory response may impact the airways or lungs themselves and lead to a scarring effect on tiny air sacs in the lungs, called alveoli, ultimately reducing the level of oxygen exchange in the body. And if this inflammation becomes chronic, it can cause irreversible lung scarring.

Stamina

If you already smoke cigarettes, your stamina is likely negatively affected because cigarettes limit oxygen and decrease lung function. Quitting smoking is one of the best ways to improve blood oxygen levels. 

While there’s not as much research available about how vaping specifically impacts stamina, similar effects as smoking are likely for people who vape. Vaping can cause chest pain and tightness as well as coughing, which isn’t helpful when you’re trying to maintain stamina as an athlete.

In one study of soldiers in the U.S. Army, soldiers who vape had a two-mile run that was 27 seconds slower than that of soldiers who never vaped or smoked, suggesting they may not have the stamina to maintain the same speed as non-users.

Other anecdotal evidence has shown that athletes notice they can’t last as long while performing athletic feats if they vape, largely due to not being able to breathe as fully as someone who doesn’t vape.

Mood and Energy

Data from the American Heart Association shows that long-term use of vaping is linked to anxiety and depression, which both negatively impact mood and energy. It’s important for athletes to be aware of these potential effects on their energy and mood if they use vapes.

Final Thoughts

While vaping may seem like a healthier alternative to traditional cigarettes for athletes, the potential effects of nicotine and other chemicals on one's body shouldn’t be ignored. Vaping still has the potential to negatively impact athletic performance and overall health, especially in relation to cardiovascular and lung health. 

However, not everyone will notice the same impacts on their health. Scientific research shows that there can be notable benefits and improvements in certain areas for those who stop smoking traditional cigarettes and switch to vaping instead.

If you’ve recently switched from cigarette smoking to using vape devices instead, shop our vape collection at WAKA today!




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