Nicotine - Explanation of benefits and downsides
Don't use cigarettes as a source of nicotine! Chewing gum seems to be the best option!
Benefits of Nicotine:
- Increased metabolism, resting energy expenditure and fat mobilization
- Enhanced Muscle Growth
- Increased Nitrous Oxide Production
- Increased Glucose Uptake
- Increased the efficiency of working memory
- Appetite Suppression
Downside - ability to cause a dump of triglycerides, which can exacerbate the development of diabetes (eliminated by avoiding ingesting it with carbohydrates and following a proper diet)
What is nicotine?
Nicotine is a naturally-occurring substance produced by a family of plants called nightshades. This family includes tomatoes, potatoes, bell peppers, hot peppers, and the tobacco plant, with which it’s most commonly associated. Nicotine is a small natural molecule, like caffeine. On its own, nicotine is nowhere near as evil as you’ve been told.
Is Nicotine Dangerous?
We consider nicotine as dangerous because the effects we believe it has on smokers. What we don’t take into consideration, however, is that smokers ingest nicotine every day in high levels. For years, a typical smoker will take in 60-80 mg on a daily basis. This dosage is dangerous.
Research has shown that nicotine by itself isn’t necessarily carcinogenic. This doesn’t mean there aren’t any downsides to it, but in order to understand nicotine’s role in the hierarchy, you need to understand what a carcinogen actually is.
Carcinogens are substances that trigger the growth of cancer. When a carcinogen enters your body, it will disrupt cells and make them cancerous. Carcinogens are the genesis of cancer.
This, however, isn’t the case with nicotine. It hasn’t been shown to be potently carcinogenic by itself. Problems occur when you already have cancer because nicotine will stimulate that growth pathway.
If you’re young and healthy, there’s very little risk of nicotine having any harmful effects with regard to cancer, but there are some other negatives. It has been shown to age arteries and veins but that’s only when taken in very high dosages over a long period of time.
We see this advanced aging of the circulatory system most frequently in smokers, who often experience a hardening of the arteries. The dosages of smokers, however, get up into the 60 mg per day range on a daily basis, and this can happen for decades.
With smokers, nicotine adds yet another effect. Everything else contained in cigarettes - all the chemicals that are entering your lungs - will create cancer, and then with all the nicotine smokers constantly take in, they’re essentially telling cancer to grow faster. This is why lung cancer is usually the first form to develop in smokers because the nicotine is having an effect in the lungs very early and very quickly.
Why It’s Safe
There are volumes of research available showing that it takes a long time, with very high dosages, for nicotine to case anything negative to happen, whether we’re talking about arterial hardening or cancer. There are simply too many other factors to claim that nicotine is the actual genesis of the damage.
The real cause of cancer is not caring about general health. People are sick, they’re malnourished, they’re vitamin deficient, and nicotine makes all of this worse because it’s an extra stressor on the body.
When you’re healthy, however, small dosages of nicotine can actually be beneficial for you because they can instigate tissue repair and help mobilize body fat - and there's no evidence that small doses, even taken over long periods of time, can have any negative side effects at all.
One Major Downside
The major downside with most people is nicotine’s ability to cause a dump of triglycerides, which in the presence of glucose can actually exacerbate the development of diabetes.
This is specifically dangerous when you’re on a high carbohydrates diet.
The idea is to avoid mixing nicotine with carb ingestion because it can interfere with the absorption of glucose into your muscle cells. This is why people get sick, and research has shown that smokers can develop diabetes without even being overweight.
Metabolism and Fat Mobilisation
If you’re using a proper diet (i.e. the diet that I recommend - The Universal Diet), nicotine will accelerate fat loss. When used correctly, nicotine is a natural and safe way to speed up the effects of any fat loss protocol.
Body fat loss requires fat cells to release stored fat. Most of the energy deprivation diets, (expend more energy than you absorb, either through food restriction, exercise or both) can eventually force fat cells to release fat. As the body becomes stressed from energy restriction, it releases cortisol and catecholamines (adrenaline and noradrenaline) which force fat cells to release fatty acids for energy.
Stress hormones work to release body fat by activating an enzyme in fat cells - hormone-sensitive lipase (HSL). HSL’s role is to release free fatty acids from fat cells to use as energy. Because HSL requires activation by these hormones, HSL is labeled as hormone-sensitive.
Nicotine also stimulates the release of epinephrine, which makes nicotine a potent fat-loss agent. The problem with relying solely on this strategy - increasing stress hormones and decreasing energy availability - is that metabolism slows to compensate for this energy deficit, and we develop lots of metabolic sicknesses.
Although nicotine can have profound effects on catecholamine release, fat cells contain specialized receptors to which nicotine binds. What’s surprising about this is that these receptors are not the normal pathway utilized by catecholamines.
Instead, there exists a separate pathway we can activate that makes fat cells release fat, which is independent of HSL activity.
This power of rapid fat release from adipose tissue can be observed in human studies that show a massive rise in glycerin - the "glue" that keeps triglycerides together in fat cells - and free fatty acids in the bloodstream after using nicotine. It’s more than likely that this surge of fat came from the breakdown of tri- and diglycerides within adipose tissue.
Increased Metabolism and Resting Energy Expenditure
Nicotine is also a stimulant. By activating the sympathetic nervous system, both directly and by causing a release of catecholamines as mentioned above, nicotine can increase resting energy expenditure.
The sympathetic nervous system is not the only path by which nicotine can increase resting energy expenditure. Nicotine can also increase thermogenesis, making the body more inefficient. This is how mammals regulate body temperature to stay warm, through the oxidation of fatty acids.
We basically make the body into a heater, spending energy that we ingest and release from fat cells in the form of heat.
Of additional relevance is the fact that the body’s resting energy output decreases with any type of calorie deprivation, or energy deficit. Calorie deprivation downregulates uncoupling protein 1 (UCP1). Nicotine re-stimulates it so you can keep burning fat, even if your diet has you dropping calories, or going for long periods without food.
Smokers get and stay thin essentially because of nicotine’s ability to increase metabolism. Smoking limits how much fat your body can store.
When they stop smoking, however, this process stops and they start to store huge amounts of body fat easily.
Nicotine and Muscle Growth
Nicotine might be potentially a muscle building agent. Every cell in the body has a pathway called the target of rapamycin (TOR). TOR is basically a regulatory chain for growth. If it’s stimulated, cells will tend to bring in nutrients, they’ll grow.
This is the ideal situation for muscle cells, and it’s the reason insulin and glucose help them grow - they’re direct stimulators of the TOR pathway. Leucine is a regulator of the TOR pathway as well.
The problem with glucose and leucine, however, is that they can both cause releases of insulin - not an ideal situation when you’re trying to lose body fat. In contrast, the astonishing thing about nicotine is that it’s one of the few natural, non-nutritive substances that directly stimulates this TOR pathway of growth.
This has two beneficial effects. First, if you’re trying to get rid of as much body fat as possible, nicotine is helping to preserve your muscle tissue. If you’re getting a growth signal, your body won’t destroy this tissue.
Nicotine’s Effect on TOR
If you want to increase growth in any cell in your body, you have to activate the TOR pathway. If it’s turned off, it’s very hard for your body to grow. Rapamycin is an anti-cancer drug that turns off the TOR pathway, essentially negating any profits you get from resistance training.
When the TOR pathway shuts off, you can’t grow. This is obviously beneficial for cancer patients because it means no cells can grow. Cancer cells are typically highly dominant, and they grow rapidly, but rapamycin has the capability of shutting that growth down.
When you’re in available energy deprivation, or you’re trying to lose body fat, the TOR pathway can be turned off easily. Nicotine is useful when you’re trying to recomposition your body by losing fat and gaining muscle at the same time. It allows this to happen much more effectively.
Nitrous Oxide Production
Nicotine does two additional things: It can increase nitrous oxide (NO) production during training, and it activates the AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) pathway. Free-radical accumulation during training tends to ignite muscular growth, but if this stays elevated for too long, it’s detrimental.
Nicotine also has a great advantage for glucose uptake, which can be particularly useful with cyclic ketogenic diets. AMPK activation can enhance glucose uptake in skeletal muscle tissue and can also possibly increase mitochondrial biogenesis. It relates to the maximum size a muscle fiber can obtain through training.
Finally, recent animal studies have shown that nicotine may stimulate a pathway that downregulates myostatin - the protein that prevents muscles from getting big.
Logical thinking and the ability to make reasonable connections across large amounts of information depends on what’s called working memory.
Both animal and human studies demonstrate that nicotine, through novel receptors in neuronal tissue, can increase the efficiency of working memory.
The unfortunate downside of most fat burners is a potential increase in appetite because of the increased energy demands placed on the body by an accelerated metabolism. This is amplified by the fact that most common fat loss diets cause massive hunger pangs and making sticking with a diet difficult. The rebound effect after dieting is also worse because of the increased hunger.
Nicotine is a powerful appetite suppressant, probably more so than any other naturally occurring substance.
The effective and safe dosage for all the benefits is around 4-6mg/day.
Stacking Nicotine With Caffeine
Stacking these two supplements will help with fat release and burning because caffeine helps stimulate beta-adrenergic receptors to get fat moving. Couple this with the independent receptors that nicotine hits, and you’ve got two complementary supplements that can give your fat mobilization efforts a very nice boost.
Your goals for nicotine usage must necessarily be short-term in nature, as opposed to thinking you’ll be taking this for the purposes of lifelong maintenance. Although the research says nicotine use in the small doses is perfectly safe and highly effective for fairly long periods of time, it's not certain if it's absolutely safe with very long-term usage.
The idea is to cycle your nicotine intake on and off.