If the bodybuilding bug has bitten you hard, you probably like the vascular, “veiny” look. While how big your veins are and how much they “pop out” is largely due to genetics, you can still learn how to increase vascularity. Whether it’s for a bodybuilding show, your next Instagram selfie, or even just because you think it looks cool, here are a few tips on becoming more vascular.
Don’t Keep those Veins Covered in Body fat
Vascularity is the look of veins protruding off your muscles. The more prominent your veins are, the more vascular you’ll be. However, your veins will never a stand a chance of looking prominent if they’re covered in a thick layer of body fat. So if you want to know how to increase vascularity, your first step is going to get lean.
You can shed pounds by getting your diet on point, but you’ll also want to do plenty of cardio (see the next section for more reasons why). Regardless, the more cut you are, the more you’ll be able to see those veins. To maximize the vascular look, men usually need to get down into the single digit body fat percentage range and women need to get to 20% or under.
Don’t Skip Cardio
If vascularity is your goal, then cardio needs to be a big part of your plan. Reason being is that cardio (either long, slow, volume-based aerobic work or shorter, intense interval training) is a prime way to lower body fat. But all other things being equal, having better cardio can actually result in a marked improvement in vascularity.
According to studies in Circulation Research and Comprehensive Physiology, the consistent addition of aerobic cardio work to your program can not only improve capillary density, but even promote the creation of new capillaries. What this means is that when you do sufficient cardio, the blood vessels you already have increase in size (which makes them bigger and more visible). It also triggers your body into forming new vessels.
Get a Better Pump with the Right Supplements
It’s becoming more and more well-known that certain supplements promote better blood flow. The better your blood flow, the more increased your vascularity can be. There are a number of supplements that always come up in this discussion including citrulline, different nitrates, and even creatine.
However, the proverbial 800lbs gorilla in this space is nitric oxide (NO). NO is a known vasodilator, which means when you take it, your blood vessels expand in size, letting more blood pump through them more easily. Taking an NO supplement or a pre-workout containing nitric oxide prior to training can lead to a better pump and a more vascular look. It also has a number of other benefits which includes better endurance, increased recovery and faster fat burning.
Reduce Your Water Retention
When your body retains water, a good deal of it resides directly under the skin. The more water that’s there, the less you’re able to see your veins. The reason competitive bodybuilders have such significant vascularity on stage is because they they’re actually in a state of severe dehydration and are retaining as little water as possible.
While you can’t replicate that “on-stage look” in everyday life, you can minimize how much water your body holds in general. Limiting your sodium intake is a good way to get started. Also, carbohydrates can act like little “sponges” in that they hold water. Going on a low/no carb diet can cause you to release water out of your system, thus increasing your “everyday” vascularity.
While you may not have been born with overly prominent-looking veins, you can take steps to enhance what you have. Between lowering body fat, increasing capillary density, taking an NO supplement, and limiting water retention, you greatly augment that “pumped up” look.