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Can you use Nicotine Pouches While Exercising?

Can you use Nicotine Pouches While Exercising?

Nicotine pouches, also known as smokeless tobacco, are widely appreciated for their convenience. They can be discreetly used virtually anywhere and at any time.

However, the question remains, can you use nicotine pouches while exercising? If you are going for a run, swimming, or hitting the gym, you may wonder if using nicotine pouches during your workout is possible.

In this article, we will clear up whether nicotine pouches can be used while exercising.

Firstly, it is no secret that smoking has a negative effect on exercise. Smoking reduces lung capacity, which in turn affects the ability to perform during exercise. However, the impact of nicotine pouches on exercise and health has been less studied and analyzed. Nicotine pouches are completely smoke-free, meaning they do not affect the lungs in any way. During exercise, several functions play a central role, including lung capacity, blood circulation, and the heart.

The question of whether one can use nicotine pouches while exercising is largely related to the extent to which nicotine pouches impact these functions, either positively or negatively, in order to determine if you should use nicotine pouches during exercise.

Nicotine and exercise

When discussing nicotine pouches and exercise, the main ingredient we’re talking about is nicotine. We all know that smoking is extremely harmful to health, but the truth is that cigarette smoke is the most harmful aspect of smoking, not nicotine itself. Some studies and reports may make it seem like nicotine is the problem in cigarettes because it is presented alongside all other health risks of smoking. However, if we are to look at the effects of nicotine alone, it is important that the studies only examine nicotine use and not smokers. This is because the health risks are linked to smoking, not nicotine itself. Studying the effects of nicotine on the health of a smoker would therefore give misleading results.

With smoking’s well-documented negative health effects, it is unsurprising that smoking has a negative connotation in sports and exercise contexts. But what about smoke-free alternatives?

The interesting thing is that many professional athletes can be seen using nicotine in various forms. A large number of soccer players, for example, especially Swedish (for obvious reasons), can be seen using snus, including Victor Lindelöf, Jamie Vardy, and others.

About Nicotine

Nikotin is a stimulant substance described by Philip Morris as follows:

“Nikotin is a chemical that naturally occurs in tobacco and makes up about five percent of the plant’s weight. It can also be found in much lower levels in other members of the nightshade family, including tomatoes, potatoes, and eggplants. Once it has entered the bloodstream, it modulates the reward system and is distributed to all tissues and organs, including the brain. There it binds to specific receptor molecules, mimicking the effect of a naturally occurring brain chemical, acetylcholine. Nicotine is mainly metabolized by the liver and continuously cleared from the body.”

“The stimulating effect of nicotine comes from the fact that when it binds to receptors, neurotransmitters (messenger chemicals) such as dopamine, acetylcholine, beta-endorphin, norepinephrine, serotonin, and ACTH are released in the body. Some of these signaling substances – such as dopamine, beta-endorphin, and serotonin – regulate pleasure, mood, emotions, and pain relief. For example, dopamine release is what makes one feel joy after using nicotine.”

The National Institute on Drug Abuse describes the effects of nicotine as follows:

“Nicotine is absorbed into the bloodstream and goes to the adrenal glands just above the kidneys. The glands release adrenaline, which increases your blood pressure, breathing, and heart rate. Adrenaline also gives you many good feelings at once.”

Some studies have found that the stimulating properties of nicotine can have a positive impact on performance improvement, as it increases wakefulness, concentration, memory, and sensory information processing speed. This has also led to the use of nicotine in some areas as a medication to improve memory or cognitive function. (Source)

Potential benefits of nicotine for training and sports

In the study “Beneficial Effects of Nicotine” by ME Jarvik in 1991, the following was written:

“Nicotine has, however, been shown to increase reaction time in non-smokers, which is clear evidence of a type of performance improvement. West & Jarvis (1986) provided significant performance improvements in a tapping task for non-smokers with nicotine. Unlike the ambiguous results of human studies of nicotine and performance ability, animal studies provide stronger evidence of facilitating performance, learning, and memory (Elrod et al, 1988; Levin et al, 1990; Flood et al, 1981.).”

“Although it is difficult to prove the null hypothesis, the failure of many researchers to find improvements in cognitive performance suggests that at least nicotine’s ability to produce cognitive improvement is not robust. Nevertheless, the positive results with animals offer hope that appropriate administration of nicotine or a nicotine-like compound can still provide reliable performance improvement in humans.” (Source

In conclusion, while nicotine may have some impact on performance enhancement, more studies are needed to draw definite conclusions.

Generally, it can be said that nicotine likely has marginal effects on performance in sports and exercise, and it should not be considered a performance-enhancing substance. Nicotine products should not be used with the hope of improving health or training effects. Some studies have found that nicotine is performance-enhancing while others have not found any such effects. The World Anti-Doping Agency has stated this:

“So far, only two studies have investigated the effects of nicotine on sports/training performance, with one showing a 17% improvement in endurance, while the other found no effect.” (Source)

Is nicotine equal to doping?

The interesting thing is that The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) has nicotine in its monitoring program.

WADA stated the following:

“In 2011, a study reported that of 2185 urine samples from professional athletes (spanning 43 different sports) active consumption (not passive environmental exposure) of nicotine and/or tobacco-related alkaloids were discovered in 15% immediately before and during sports performance. The same year, WADA added nicotine to its monitoring program. Overall, this highlights the extensive and alarming use of nicotine in professional sports.”

Further, WADA developed the following reasoning:

The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) stated that the inclusion of nicotine in the monitoring program meant that it met three criteria as a potential performance enhancer, posing a health risk to athletes, and changing the spirit of sports. Although evidence for the latter two criteria is abundant, the first criterion lacks evidence or research. Only two studies have investigated the effects of nicotine on sports/training performance, with one showing a 17% improvement in endurance and the other finding no effect. Evidence from similar acting drugs such as bupropion and methylphenidate, however, suggests that any performance enhancements only occur at warmer environmental temperatures, when their central stimulant effects become more apparent. These substances also increase body temperature and heart rate to near safety limits. Many competitive sporting events, especially endurance events, take place during the summer or in warm climates. Nicotine is known to decrease skin blood flow. Combined with exercise, this raises serious concerns about the safety of using nicotine during training/sport in a warm environment, where increased blood flow to the skin and sweating are the primary ways of heat loss, potentially making an athlete more susceptible to heat illness.

In conclusion, nicotine is not considered a performance-enhancing drug and therefore is not classified as such by WADA, but it is on their monitoring list to be investigated and closely monitored. If nicotine, such as snus or nicotine pouches, had a significant performance-enhancing effect, it would not be allowed by WADA. (Source)

WADA and snus

Due to nicotine pouches being a relatively new product on the market, WADA has not conducted any specific studies on nicotine pouches. However, studies have been conducted on snus. As snus is similar to nicotine pouches in many ways, it can therefore be assumed that the conclusions should reasonably be somewhat similar. This is because nicotine is the main ingredient in tobacco snus, like nicotine pouches.

In the report “Effects of snus administration on sports performance”, conducted by Pr. C. Chiamulera, Dr. E. Tam, and Dr. M. Baraldo (University of Verona, Italy), the following was written.

“Performance-enhancing substances are banned in competition by the World Anti-Doping Agency, except for nicotine. The psychoactive substance nicotine is widely reported to increase alertness, improve coordination, and enhance cognitive performance. In healthy individuals, nicotine increases heart rate and blood pressure. Nicotine concentrations in plasma improve anaerobic energy production and suggest a nicotine-induced sympathetic stimulation of the heart.”

In their conclusion, they wrote:

“The results of this project research showed that the performance increase (+13.1% TTE) due to snus use could be associated with the nicotine effects in maintaining the allostatic state. In summary, our study showed that athletes who are dependent on nicotine would use snus to maintain their nicotine levels to “feel normal” in order to enhance athletic performance.”

In other words, nicotine (snus and reasonably also nicotine pouches) to some extent may be performance-enhancing, but only for regular users.

Nicotine pouches while exercising – mixed conclusions

In other words, based on the aforementioned studies, some studies have found a correlation between nicotine and performance improvement, but often only to a moderate extent. Other studies have not found any correlation. Therefore, we cannot say that nicotine pouches should be used as a performance-enhancing agent.

However, our question is focused on whether one can use nicotine pouches while exercising, regardless of their negative performance effect or not. And for this question, the answer is yes. You can use nicotine pouches while exercising. Regular users of nicotine pouches may need nicotine pouches while they exercise too, as WADA puts it, “feel normal.” And if you feel the need to use nicotine pouches during exercise, there is nothing stopping you from using them during your workout.

However, do not expect a performance-enhancing effect. But if you see it as a way to feel in top form, nicotine pouches can give you more energy and make you more positively inclined towards exercising, which may have to do with the feeling of general well-being that one gets from nicotine. Furthermore, many users may experience a “stimulating effect” from nicotine pouches and therefore have it as a routine before exercise to get into the right “feeling” before the workout. However, individuals who are not used to nicotine use may experience negative effects such as dizziness and nausea, which one wants to avoid before exercise.

In other words, the same applies to the overconsumption of nicotine. With that said, if you are a novice user of nicotine pouches and experience these effects, it may be better to abstain from using nicotine pouches during exercise or alternatively choose a nicotine pouch with a lower nicotine content.

The conclusion is that there are limited studies in this area but as WADA is closely monitoring nicotine, we can hopefully expect more studies in the future. Until then, it cannot be said with certainty if nicotine has a performance-enhancing effect.

What we can say, however, is that nicotine pouches and snus are relatively common among many professional athletes who train a lot and often. Whether their success can be attributed to nicotine is debated and likely has a marginal, if any, effect on their success. Instead, it may be a way for athletes to relax as nicotine has a relaxing effect that provides a feeling of well-being, something that may be needed after a hard workout.



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