Vascularity is one of the best visual markers to confirm you’re in the top five percent fittest people on earth. Veins bulging out from under your tank top and lower abdominal veins are rare; if you have them, you’re on a whole other level.
But how do you look more vascular? This is a question both bodybuilders and gym enthusiasts ask because they want to achieve low body fat percentages to look their absolute best. In this article, we give you strategies for how to get more vascular, including ways to lower body fat, increase muscle mass, and supplements designed to increase vascularity.
What Is Vascularity?
Vascularity is when you have prominent, highly-visible superficial veins while working out or exerting energy. This is the result of low levels of subcutaneous fat next to your skin, allowing the veins to pop along with maximum muscle definition. It’s a sign to you and others that you have extremely low levels of body fat, so much so that there is little to no fat between your skin and your veins.
Now, veiny arms or abs aren’t the definitive markers of fitness; they are simply a piece of the entire fitness puzzle. You can get them from being really healthy, or you can get them from being really unhealthy. You can also be one of those people who have vascular genetics, to which we say... lucky you.
Vascularity can happen for dozens of reasons, including:
- Heightened blood pressure (during workouts or not)
- Increased stress levels (during workouts or not)
- Genetics (men, primarily)
- Age (older people have enlarged veins and thinner skin*)
- Low body fat (might begin at 12 percent and can get more prominent the lower you go)
Of course, you want to have vascularity for the right reasons, so here are seven ways to achieve this aesthetic goal.
*Note: These are typically varicose veins and are due to faulty valves in the veins, causing blood to pool. It is a semi-serious issue; you should seek medical attention or improve lifestyle to eradicate varicose veins. Also, be on the lookout for vascular tumors, which can come from blood pressure problems.
7 Ways to Boost Vascularity
1 - Get Super Lean
Your body fat percentage is the most crucial factor in this whole vascularity equation. At really low levels of fat percentage, you can even achieve leg vascularity.
So how low does your body fat percentage need to be in order to begin to see bulging veins? For men, you need to be in the single digits (nine percent or lower) to start experiencing vascular veins. For women, you need to be between 13 percent and 17 percent to start seeing veins.
Odds are, you need to engage in some fat loss to reach a low body fat percentage. This means entering a calorie deficit, increasing lean muscle mass (next tip), and eating in such a way that you get all of your necessary nutrients without going over your deficit. (And for the ladies, managing your protein/fat intake for optimal hormone production is vital as well.)
It’s a slow ride, but eventually, you can get to a low body fat percentage, making it much easier to have vascularity.
2 - Build Muscle Mass
Muscle growth is the second-best way to hit a vascular look. For one, a muscle cell burns more calories than a fat cell, ramping up your metabolism and helping you with your calorie deficit. For two, muscle growth means increased blood flow.
Muscle mass improves your entire body composition, meaning a lower fat percentage in your body. On top of that, exercising in various capacities -- resistance training, cardio, etc. -- has been found to improve vasodilation and nitric oxide production.
This is made even more prevalent with the third way to improve vascularity.
3 - Use Blood Flow Restriction Bands
Blood flow restriction bands are bands that you put on your upper arms or upper legs to reduce blood flow to the muscles. This alters the blood volume in the muscle; when you release the bands, the blood pools into the muscle, causing increased vasodilation and metabolite buildup, which leads to heightened blood vessel visibility and content.
To add to this, BFR training helps you optimize hypertrophy (muscle growth). This means a better body composition, which means you’re even closer to seeing veins on your abs and extremities.
4 - Include Cardio for Capillary Density
Do you want to look vascular? Then you need short periods of increased blood pressure. How can you best achieve this? With cardio.
Cardiovascular exercise works double-time, improving capillary density (the number of capillaries found in your body) and aiding with that caloric deficit you’re in. Any cardio will do: cycling, running, brisk walking, swimming, hiking... the sky’s the limit.
5 - Diet Right
How you eat is a huge determinant of how lean and vascular you can be. The biggest food factor is your sodium consumption, a.k.a. your salt intake. By reducing the amount of salt you eat, you lower water retention in your body. In other words, you cut out the salt, you look drier, which means you won’t look puffy, but rather lean, toned, and vascular.
Thermogenics -- coffee, tea, cinnamon, grapefruit, almonds, jalapenos, apples, beans, spinach -- are foods that ramp up your metabolism, leading to more fat burned, more muscle growth, and small amounts of sweat, which is helpful water loss.
Make sure your amino acid intake is up. These are the building blocks of muscle, so ensure your protein consumption is at least 30-35 percent of your total caloric intake.
Also Read: Best BCAAs For Men To Reach Beast Mode
Lastly, you want to eat plenty of nitrates. These increase nitric oxide in the blood, making the blood vessels widen. This is what’s known as the “pump” you see during resistance training. Beetroot juice is full of nitrates and has been found to “‘de-stiffen’ blood vessels under resting conditions.” Celery, lettuce, radishes, spinach, dairy, beef, poultry, and fish are other solid sources of nitrates.
6 - Take the Right Supplements
There are plenty of vascularity supplements for you to choose from. They help you open up your blood vessels to pump more blood through your system. And some supplements are designated specifically to help you achieve a maximal muscle pump and increased vascularity.
- L-citrulline is a wonderful vascularity supplement. It’s one of the best nitric oxide boosters, safely enlarging your veins.
- L-arginine is a vasodilator, allowing your veins to open up more and increase blood flow.
- Creatine monohydrate makes your body take in more fluid, putting more fluid in your bloodstream. This leads to heightened vascularity and a larger pump during workouts.
- Natural pre-workout supplements are awesome at increasing blood pressure in anticipation of an intense workout. And seeing as many of them enhance nitric oxide production in the body, it’s a no-brainer vascularity booster.
- Conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) is a fatty acid that prevents tumor development and reduces tumor growth. It does this by inhibiting vascular growth critical to the tumor’s survival and growth. So this is something to take if you have varicose veins and want to remove the possibility of tumors in your veins. (It reduces vascularity, but it improves body composition, making you leaner and closer to achieving those enhanced lower ab veins and arm veins. So, in sum, it’s a net win.)
- A nitric oxide booster is incredible for enhancing your nitric oxide levels. Like we said in the diet section, nitric oxide is what widens your blood vessels to look “pumped.” A nitric oxide supplement is ideal for enhancing nitric oxide production in your body if you can’t get enough from your normal diet.
7 - Boost Body Temperature
We mentioned thermogenic foods above in the diet section, but you can sweat it out in other ways. Sauna sessions or steam rooms are terrific for raising your body temp. This decreases water retention and burns calories, all while opening up the blood vessels and improving vascularity in real-time. You can also take a hot-cold contrast shower, getting the benefits of both hot and cold temperatures.
Now you know exactly how to increase vascularity in the arms and abs. Use as many of these tips to create that vascular look you desire.
Don’t forget the beet juice!