Have you ever looked around the gym and noticed the prominent veins of some of the regular gym-goers? Have you ever wondered why you don't have the same vascular aesthetic?
While this is largely down to genetics - some people are simply more naturally vascular than others - there are fortunately ways you can enhance your short-term vascularity.
Through making some adjustments to your training, nutrition, and supplement regimen, you can amplify your veiny, pumped-up aesthetic and improve your athletic performance.
Many of the supplements and strategies we will discuss in this article centre around nitric oxide, a small gaseous molecule that is responsible for increasing blood flow, thus resulting in improved exercise performance, muscle pump, and enhanced vascularity.
Keeping reading to find out everything you need to know about how to enhance pump and vascularity, the best supplements for doing so, and some natural ways to boost nitric oxide production!
Nitric Oxide: A Key to Boosting Athletic Performance
Before we delve in, it's key to establish the relationship between nitric oxide (NO) and athletic performance.
It wasn't all that long ago that scientists discovered the connection between NO and blood flow, and in more recent times, discovered the benefits of this for athletes specifically.
NO is produced in the body in 3 ways:
1) It is secreted by the cells in the inner lining of your blood vessels
2) It is converted by oral bacteria upon the consumption of foods containing nitrates
3) It is created by bacteria on our skin when we are exposed to sunlight
In the context of sport and exercise, NO's primary role is to regulate the delivery of oxygen to the muscles by relaxing and opening the blood vessels (vasodilation), thus improving blood flow.
Improved blood flow not only means lowered blood pressure and a decreased demand on your heart and muscles, but also increased ability to support muscle contraction and transport by-products of exercise such as lactic acid.
Given that NO improves blood flow, oxygen delivery, muscle velocity, and much more, this would translate to some pretty impressive performance enhancements in athletic populations.
In fact, many studies have shown that the consumption of beetroot (a food containing a high nitrate content) before exercise can offer performance improvements via two means1:
1) It reduces the oxygen cost of exercise, thus improving muscle efficiency and endurance performance
2) It enhances muscle contractile function, meaning improved muscle power and sprint exercise performance
This also results in a lower perceived effort, easier breathing during exercise, reduced post-exercise muscle soreness, and faster recovery.
Some of the best ways to increase your production of NO include taking a supplement, making some simple lifestyle changes, and increasing your intake of food rich in dietary nitrates - let's explore this a bit further!
Dietary Nitrates for Pump and Vascularity
Dietary nitrates are found in high concentrations in food such as:
- Leafy greens
- And most notably, beetroot
There has been much research showing that diets rich in inorganic nitrates may have positive health effects, particularly on heart health and blood pressure.
Upon consumption of nitrate-rich foods, the enzymes located in our saliva convert the nitrates to nitrite, then nitrite further converts to nitric oxide in the stomach.
Nitric oxide and other nitrogen oxides then help induce a number of physiological functions such as vasodilation, blood flow regulation, increasing glucose uptake, and increasing muscle contraction.
Not only do these physiological effects improve health, they also help enhance exercise performance by proving ergogenic effects thought to give athletes and gym goers a strong competitive advantage.
In addition to the benefits of increased blood flow, the secondary effects of this are also benefits in themselves. One of the effects of increased blood flow during training is experiencing the sought-after "muscle pump".
Muscle pump occurs due to the vasodilation effects of nitric oxide, causing excess blood to fill the working muscles, making them feel fuller and tighter. This not only has physiological performance advantages, but also mental performance advantages, making the muscle-pumped individual feel more confident and euphoric.
This is why you often find beetroot products such as powders, juices, and shots being sold and marketed to athletic populations.
Many of the studies that have been conducted on the performance enhancing effects of dietary nitrates have mostly used beetroot as the source because of its very high content of nitrates.
Beetroot is one of the best supplements for vascularity and pump, alongside some other notable supplements that help increase the production of nitric oxide. Let's explore this further!
Best Supplements for Vascularity and Pump
You may know beetroot as the deep purple/red root vegetable that has a delicious yet earthy flavor. Popular in soups and salads, beetroot is often a colorful component of healthy recipes. However, there is a lot more to beetroot than meets the eye!
Beetroot already has an exceptional nutrition profile due to the unique combination of vitamins and minerals. However, the nitrate content is what really gives this vegetable the ultimate edge when it comes to boosting nitric oxide production, thus enhancing athletic performance.
Beetroot also contains bioactive compounds called betalains, as well as potent antioxidants, which also contribute to several health benefits.
You can often find beetroot in the form of concentrated shots, powders, juices, and sometimes within pre-workout blends.
To get the performance-enhancing benefits of beetroot (5.0-8.5 mmol of nitric oxide), you'd have to consume 200g of beets (around 3 whole beets), which is a fairly large portion to consume in one go!
This is why you'd often find it concentrated into shots and powders, making it much easier and more convenient to consume, especially if it's before training.
L-citrulline is one of the three amino acids involved in the urea cycle, alongside L-arginine and L-ornithine. Supplementing with L-citrulline increases plasma levels of arginine and ornithine, thus improving nitric oxide metabolism.2
This is often why you'll see L-citrulline or L-arginine being recommended in sport and exercise contexts due to the effects on nitric oxide production and vascular health.
Supplementing with L-citrulline has been shown to reduce blood pressure and increase blood flow, thus improve power output, reduce fatigue, and improve endurance for both aerobic and anaerobic exercise.2
Upon supplementation of L-citrulline, it is converted into L-arginine in the kidneys. So, why should we be supplementing with L-citrulline instead of L-arginine?
Some research has suggested that taking citrulline will result in higher and more consistent levels of arginine levels than taking standalone arginine. L-citrulline is better absorbed, making it a better source of arginine than arginine itself, alongside minimal side effects.2
What about citrulline malate?
Citrulline malate is citrulline bound to malate, which is an organic salt of malic acid. This is the more researched form of citrulline, with some studies suggesting additional performance benefits from the malate. However, there is limited research to say that it is a better option over L-citrulline.
Glutathione is an amino acid comprising the three amino acids: glutamine, glycine, and cysteine. Glutathione is a master antioxidant used by every cell and tissue in the body, vital for many processes.
The role of this antioxidant is wide and varied, from reducing oxidative stress to helping fight some diseases.
Though, glutathione supplementation has also been shown to slow the breakdown of nitric oxide, thus proving useful for augmenting nitric oxide boosters such as L-citrulline and arginine.3
In addition to giving a helping hand with boosting nitric oxide levels, glutathione also protects muscle tissues during exercise, supports immune system defences, and boosts performance by delaying fatigue.
Sounds like the perfect partner to L-citrulline, right?
Pre Lab Pro: Best Pre-Workout for Pump and Vascularity
The above supplements are considered powerhouses in amongst the thousands of different pre-workout and vascularity supplements on the market.
However, the best pre-workout supplement would ideally combine these ingredients to provide the most potent nitric oxide punch.
Introducing Pre Lab Pro, the next-gen pre-workout formula.
Pre Lab Pro combines the following workout-boosting ingredients:
- Red Beetroot Powder (RedNite) - the world's first research-backed beetroot powder standardized for nitrates
- Setria Performance Blend containing Glutathione and L-Citrulline for a sustained nitric oxide boost
- Natural Caffeine sourced from coffea robusta seeds to boost attention, focus, and energy, as well as complementing the other formula ingredients
- Suntheanine L-Theanine, helping to reduce caffeine jitters and keep you calm and clear-headed throughout your workout
- Ajipure L-Tyrosine, boosting focus under stress and maintaining the production of key neurotransmitters that play a role in athletic performance, focus, mood, and fatigue
- Key vitamins and minerals such as vitamin D, iron, and potassium
- Himalayan Pink Salt, supplying and replenishing all of your electrolyte needs
Combining all these ingredients into one formula allows for a highly efficient pre-workout stack, helping to maximize performance, supercharge your workout, and increased blood flow, making this the best supplement for vascularity.
Pre Lab Pro works best when consumed 30-60 minutes prior to training, giving you the boost you need to perform at your peak potential while getting a head start on recovery.
While these supplements and Pre Lab Pro are effective nitric oxide boosters, there are also some additional ways in which you can naturally boost your vascularity and blood flow!
6 Natural Ways to Boost Vascularity and Blood Flow
1) Lower Body Fat Percentage
The less body fat you have, the leaner and more vascular you will be.
For most men this means getting your body fat percentage to around 14-15%, and even lower for women. Women who are at a very low body fat percentage may notice vascularity and some muscle separation, though this is not always a healthy body fat percentage to maintain.
2) Increase Lean Muscle Mass
As your muscles grow, your veins will naturally become more pronounced as they push closer to the surface of your skin.
3) Increase Consumption of High Nitrate Foods
As mentioned, increasing your consumption of nitrate-rich foods will not only provide a range of health benefits, but will also naturally increase your blood flow in the long-term.
Consuming foods such as beetroot, spinach, celery, watermelon, and meat can help your blood vessels widen and relax via increasing nitric oxide levels.
4) Incorporate Cardio Into Workout Plan
Cardio raises your body temperature, increases blood flow and muscle pump, and helps keep your heart healthy - a no brainer when it comes to boosting vascularity!
5) Drink Enough Water
When you are hydrated, your body finds it much easier to circulate blood. Avoiding dehydration is not only vital for health and performance, but if you want to achieve a healthy, vascular aesthetic, water should be your number 1 priority!
6) Take a Supplement to Boost Nitric Oxide Production
Supplements such as beetroot, L-citrulline, and glutathione are all proven to help boost pump and vascularity. Pre Lab Pro is the best pre-workout formula which focuses on boosting nitric oxide levels to enhance performance and recovery, and is by far the best supplement for vascularity!
When it comes to boosting athletic performance and recovery, nitric oxide should not be overlooked!
Nitric oxide is the key to becoming more vascular and increasing your muscle pump in the gym.
While our body naturally produces this substance, taking supplements and making nutrition and lifestyle adjustments can help boost the production of nitric oxide in the short- and long-term.
Beetroot, L-citrulline, and Glutathione are three of the key ingredients in Pre Lab Pro, the most effective pre-workout supplement for pump and vascularity currently on the market.
- Jones, A. M., Thompson, C., Wylie, L. J., & Vanhatalo, A. (2018). Dietary nitrate and physical performance. Annual review of nutrition, 38, 303-328.
- Patel. K. Citrulline. Examine.com. 2021
- Patel. K. Glutathione. Examine.com. 2020