T Nation

Post Smoking Asthma


Thats right sports fans. I quit smoking (since last november) and now I have asthma. And since my cardio is pretty much gone, I'm having a really hard time on the mats. I can go about 5x5 minute rounds sparring but I feel like I'm gonna die. Once a few weeks ago, I tapped because I ran out of gas and couldnt handle d00d's weight on me. I dont know what to do. I know I need to up my cardio, but I dont wanna lose strength.

2800 cals/day on a cut @ 265lbs on a 30/50/20 ratio
130g pro
340g carb
80g fats

I need to burn some fat, up my engergy systems, but I wanna keep my strength.

any advice is appreciated.


gradually work up your volume of training, forget about asthma, i used to have as an adolescent, as soon i stopped worrying about it and just getting better at my sport. Just think you are out of shape and that as the better you get at your sport you will get a better gas tank.



I am sorry to hear that QUITING smoking caused seems to have brought on the asthma. Weird as it may seem there appears to be some evidence that smoking blunts immune response in the lungs enough to suppress asthma symptoms in some individuals. So the same thing that can be a trigger to an asthma attack, increases risks of other diseases, and increases risk of lung infection, can also suppress symptoms.

I have a few questions if you don't mind.

1.) How old are you?
2.) How much did you smoke, and for how long? (so packs per day for how many years)
3.) Did you have asthma as a child?
4.) Who diagnosed the asthma, how, and what, if anything, was prescribed as treatment?
5.) You say your cardio is pretty much gone, did this happen prior to or after you quit smoking?
6.)Did you lose "cardio" while keeping up the same training, or did you de-train/de-condition and are getting back into it?
7.) What is your resting heart rate?
8.) What are the strength levels are you trying to maintain? (If you say you are trying to hold on to an Elite total I would want to bow out on giving program advice.)

The following assumes the asthma diagnosis was accurate and that other possible causes/triggers other than quitting smoking have been ruled out. If that is not the case please see a doctor ASAP. There are a number of nasty, but treatable illnesses that can appear to be asthma. Additionally having an asthmatic emergency can be life threatening so making sure you have appropriate (determined by you and your doctor) measures available in crisis is really important. It would suck to be able to defend a D'Arce choke in your sleep only to get taken out by some pollen. Speaking of pollen, getting an allergy panel to isolate/rule out triggers might be wise.

Generally asthmatics have more difficulty expelling air than breathing in. I know I have seen, and used myself, forceful exhales when grappling to try to get more air on the inhalation. It is something I saw Rickson Gracie doing in a tape, literally a VHS tape, years ago and it seemed to work for me, so I kept it. Basically a couple of quick forceful exhales followed by an inhale whenever you get a chance.

Breathing in general, and respiratory pattern in specific, is important. Did your doctor/respiratory therapist give you any specific exercises to do? Are you doing any breathing exercises as part of your BJJ training?

Thoracic and rib mobility is pretty damn important for normal function. If you are not using a foam roller there are bunch of reasons to start and we can just tag thoracic and rib mobilization onto the list.

Past that, for the general "lose fat, increase cardio, maintain strength" what are you doing now training wise and what are your numbers?

The above are general suggestions. Managing asthma is outside of my lane. I am not a pulmonologist and I sure as hell am not YOUR pulmonologist. So, caveat emptor and all of that.


Robert A


  1. 33
  2. about a pack a day for 16 years
  3. yes
  4. a doctor, an oral steroid and a rescue inhaler
  5. after I quit
  6. kept the same training, just couldnt keep up like I used to
  7. 60bpm as of a few weeks ago
  8. Mil press = 160#x1, Bench = 225x1, skwat 315x1, dead 375x1. Low numbers, I know, but I fought my ass of to get here.

Currently on flovent 2x daily, and albuterol as a rescue when needed. The doc is sending me to a specialist in a few weeks. It just sucks that my lungs burn out before my body does.


BJJ is my cardio
15 min warm up
15 minute technique/drilling
30 minutes of sparring


Thank you for the answers.

Ok, so we may be dealing with a bit of nature/time catching up as well. If you are not already doing so 33 is old enough that paying attention to general health and mobility as well as gym time and mat time will pay dividends. There have been a few threads on this here. I am thinking of FightinIrish's 5/3/1 thread and KMCNYC's fantastic mobility thread. I am going to emphasize that you get aquainted with your new life partner, the foam roller.

Damn, you are way tougher than me. I took a drag off a Marlboro Red in college and said nothing I can't hurt back gets to hurt me that fucking bad. Nicotine has been in your system in fairly high doses since mid puberty to now.

Ok, so maybe this is a re-occurence of asthma symptoms now that you are not suppressing them by smoking. Quitting smoking is still worth it.

Ok. Please keep the rescue inhaler handy. It is called "rescue" for a reason. If you have not done so tell your BJJ teacher about your asthma and make him/her aware of what to do if you have a serious attack. Don't be too proud to do so. It is just part of the game.

Keep up with your Doc and with the specialist. I hope that works out with you.

I am going to give some suggestions in three areas.

First, general health/every day stuff. If you are not already start some breathing exercises. Learn to breath with the diaphragm. Basically, you want everything south of the sternum to expand on inhalation, not just your belly. So sides/obliques and the lower/floating ribs in the back. Usually laying in a fetal position makes this easier to feel/facilitate at first. If you are not doing something like this already I can dig up something. If you are already doing some kind of Yoga/Zen breathing work keep at it. Breathing patterns seem to have a great deal of effect on general health and joint/spine stability so they are worth training.

Second, cool-guy gym stuff. Your heart-rate is low enough that you can probably just jump into anaerobic conditioning. Just please be careful, keep your rescue at hand, and clear it with your Doc. I guess Prowler pushes are the rage now, but I have no first hand knowledge of these. I do like and can vouch for kettlebell swings/cleans/snatches, squat thrusts, and sledgehammer work on a tire. Other people can probably give you better specific advice here. Cardio is my weakness and I do not have a medical excuse other than severe chronic LOFT(Lack Of Fucking Talent). Barbell complexes are supposed to be good and not have a bad effect on strength, but I never really gave them enough of a shot to recommend them over the above.

Third, on the mat stuff. While you are working on bringing your wind up you are being forced into a position of having to get maximum returns on your energy. This is not a bad thing. It is why martial arts/BJJ is worth learning. So, while sparring try to make the other guy work twice as hard to get half as much. Make him push into structure or nothing. Make his diaphragm carry your weight. I am sure you know all of this but you will be getting object lessons in its importance everytime you step on the mat.

I don't know what your style of grappling is, but even if you are a high energy/pressure guy take a month or two to work on flowing and letting efficient mechanics do the work. The time to do this is when you are fresh, then "prove" the technique to yourself when you are exhausted. If you foster good technique it will always be there for you. You will never fight alone because Issac Newton, Archimedes, and the rest of the God's of Physics will be willing to help pull a train on anyone you face. To this end I suggest purchasing copies of Saulo Ribeio's Jiu Jitsu University(Book) and Roy Harris's Jiu-Jitsu Over 40(DVD). Both do admirable jobs of showing survival positions/strategies and ways to manage opponents who possess multiple physical advantages.

Hope this is of some use.


Robert A