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People who start vaping often say they suddenly feel less hungry and that they have little or no appetite for food.
But while appetite loss or suppression might be a downer for some, others might welcome it as a potentially useful side effect of vaping.
If vaping really does suppress, or even leave you with no appetite at all, what are the reasons for this?
Why vaping suppresses appetite
Vaping suppresses appetite because nicotine in vapour binds to brain receptors making you feel full. Similarly, vaping restrains your appetite because flavoured vapour stimulates and distracts your taste buds. Meanwhile, the physical actions of vaping reduce hunger by keeping your hands and mouth occupied.
Let’s look at these reasons in more detail:
1. Nicotine in e cigs suppresses appetite
It’s probably no surprise that vaping involves nicotine, but did you know that this is an appetite suppressant?
No matter whether you’re vaping, smoking or using gum or lozenges, any nicotine you consume will suppress your appetite. Research suggests nicotine achieves this by forming connections with α3β4 receptors in the brain which normally signal satiety.
Given nicotine’s appetite suppressing qualities, it’s no wonder that people often eat like crazy when they quit smoking – or vaping. With no more nicotine to stave off hunger pangs, the desire to eat can become unbearable.
2. Vaping flavour relieves food cravings
Just as nicotine suppresses the eating urge, the taste of vaping can also help curb your appetite by satisfying your need for flavour. And this is particularly helpful if you’ve just given up smoking.
In my case, years of smoking had dulled my sense of taste. But whenever tried to quit, my tongue would suddenly start working again. And so I would start snacking on sweets and crisps to keep my newly-sensitised tongue happy.
When I did eventually stop smoking with vaping, it was no doubt the satisfying taste of vapour that replaced my appetite for snacks.
For quitters also hoping to kill hunger pangs with vaping, stronger flavours like real tobacco or coffee are most recommended.
3. Actions of vaping reduce appetite and eating urges
The manual actions of vaping are another reason why electronic cigarettes might help manage appetite and eating urges. And this is probably particularly true for quitters who often find themselves wanting to eat more.
Though the way you hold e cigarettes and tobacco cigarettes differs, both keep your hands busy and away from snacks. In this regard, occupying your hands with a vaping device could help you curb the urge to eat.
There’s evidence that simply holding an object like a fake cigarette can help distract quitters from cravings. So it’s fair to suggest that twiddling a vape device in your hand might also help distract from hunger, too.
How long will vaping suppress your appetite for?
Vaping forum experiences suggest that appetite loss is common in the short-term, though this seems to settle down over time.
But this doesn’t mean that you’ll start feeling hungry suddenly after a few weeks. What’s more likely is that as your vaping begins to level out, its impact on your appetite may lessen somewhat.
Perhaps your body just begins to readjust, or maybe you just become more resilient to nicotine’s effect on your perception of hunger.
I would say that these accounts closely reflect the way vaping affected my appetite, too. For me, it was two or three weeks of not just feeling less interested in food, but also wanting much smaller portions, too.
But when my appetite did come back again, I ended up wanting to eat less in the longer-term, too. After vaping for ten years now, my interest in food is pretty much back to what is was before.
But despite this, I’ve continued to eat very small portions, just like I did when I started vaping. So, you could surmise from this that vaping has reduced my food consumption in the longer term.
Should non-smokers start vaping to reduce appetite?
At the risk of sounding like a dad, I would say non-smokers should not start vaping just to reduce appetite. And official data seems to back this up too.
For all its plus points as a way to stop smoking, vaping is designed as a form of nicotine replacement, and not as a weight-loss aid for non-smokers. And the same goes for other alternatives to vaping, such as IQOS.
Also, given the fact that the appetite-suppressing effects of nicotine might only be short-term, the risk of becoming addicted to vaping could outweigh any dietary benefits. At best, starting vaping to manage appetite as a non-smoker is a gamble. At worst, it could represent a health risk.
Vaping appetite loss is probably no problem for quitters
Most quitters would probably welcome the way vaping blots out the insatiable appetite you get when you can no longer smoke cigarettes.
As someone who enjoys his food, having no urge to eat was actually a downside for me when I quit smoking with vaping. Before I discovered vaping, I’d tried to stop smoking many times. And I used to enjoy the way quitting gave me a newfound love of eating all of a sudden.
But smokers who give up smoking with no vaping or NRT for backup often find themselves with an appetite that is almost impossible to suppress. The sudden loss of nicotine and smoking routines can mean you turn to food to fill the gap.
And this of course can lead to constant snacking, overeating and weight gain.
In this sense, vaping could be the perfect way to limit the irresistible urge to eat that recent ex-smokers find themselves with when not smoking.
How to maximise appetite loss when you vape
If you’re already a ex-smoker who’s now vaping, you may want to get the most out of the benefits of appetite reduction that vaping can offer. On the other hand, you might be worried that your desire for food is still too high after starting vaping. In either case, the following tips should set you in the right direction.
Lift nicotine levels in your vape
The simplest way to do this is to increase the amount of hunger-suppressing nicotine that you’re vaping.
Though this sounds straightforward, vaping nicotine that’s too strong can be harsh, uncomfortable or even dangerous. For this reason, stick to a maximum nicotine strength of 20mg.
It’s also worth choosing e liquids that can be easily absorbed by the body, as this will improve nicotine uptake. In this respect, so-called “nicotine salt” e liquids are the best appetite killers as they allow you to absorb stronger nicotine with a smoother inhale.
Start vaping stronger flavours
As already mentioned, the flavours that you’re vaping can have a huge effect on reducing your appetite. And that’s why choosing the strongest vape flavours possible is a great idea when it comes to squashing the temptation to snack when you quit smoking.
Strong, confident vape flavours like real tobacco, chocolate, menthol and coffee are the perfect taste-distractors. On the other hand, lighter flavours like vanilla or fruits are less effective at reducing food cravings in my opinion.
If you’re still not getting enough flavour from your vape, it might be your device set-up rather than just your e liquid that’s to blame. The good news though is that there are lots of things you can do to maximise vape flavours and beat those snacking blues.
If you’re someone who enjoys eating, suddenly losing interest in food right after starting vaping can might come as a bit of a shock. And this can seem especially surprising if you’ve tried to give up smoking before without vaping and are expecting your appetite to soar.
On the upside, though, vaping can be a useful way for those suffering from post-smoking munchies to curb their desire to eat after quitting smoking.
Newcomers to vaping shouldn’t underestimate the powerful effects of nicotine on managing hunger. Nicotine’s effectiveness in reducing appetite is immediately noticeable and very common among those new to vaping.
Likewise, the role of vape flavour as well as the action of using a well-designed vape pen or pod can help distract from thoughts of eating and keep hunger pangs at bay.
However, as I hope I’ve made clear, taking up vaping to suppress appetite as a non-smoker comes with the risk of becoming addicted to nicotine. The effects of vaping on appetite may also not last forever, and so shouldn’t be relied on as a way to control hunger or food intake.
For these reasons, it’s probably not such good idea to start vaping just to reduce the amount you eat.
Vaping can increase your appetite if nicotine strength and vape flavours are too weak. Vaping delivers less appetite-suppressing nicotine to the bloodstream than cigarettes. Therefore, ex-smokers may feel hungrier when vaping low-strength liquids. When vape flavours are too weak to satisfy, desire for rich flavours increases, and so does appetite.
Vaping without any nicotine all is unlikely to provide any big reductions in appetite. However, stimulation of flavour on tongue receptors even with nicotine-free liquids can help reduce eating urges, as can the manual actions of vaping.