“Cigarette smoking: an underused tool in high-performance endurance training”. This interesting review paper from the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ) points to scientific evidence that supports cigarette smoking as beneficial for high-performance endurance athletes.
At the same time the tongue-in-cheek review paper examplifies why we should read medical journals with a fair bit of common sense and skepticism.
Factors Related to Endurance Performance
Cigarette smoking has an impact on three factors related to endurance performance: serum hemoglobin, lung volume and weight loss.
Cigarette smoking has been shown to increase serum hemoglobin, increase total lung capacity and stimulate weight loss, factors that all contribute to enhanced performance in endurance sports. Despite this scientific evidence, the prevalence of smoking in elite athletes is actually many times lower than in the general population. The reasons for this are unclear; however, there has been little to no effort made on the part of national governing bodies to encourage smoking among athletes.
The author also gives recommendations for programs to help get the most out of this newfound benefit:
One important aspect of the benefits of smoking is they appear to be dose-dependent and may not develop until many years after initiation of treatment. With this in mind, smoking should be commenced at as young an age as is reasonably possible. Children who have not yet developed a pincer grasp might require modified cigarette holders, safety lighters or both.
For the full article, find:
Kenneth A. Myers: Cigarette smoking: an underused tool in high-performance endurance training, CMAJ December 14, 2010 182:E867-E869;
Also have a look at our previous post on a similar theme: Evidence Based Medicine