Vascularity is the state of having highly visible, prominent and often extensively ramified, superficial veins.
For us men, being vascular just looks good. It’s just one of those things that make a man look more ‘manly’. Vascularity just seems to be more obvious when you’re on steroids, however, my readers and I are looking for ways to do things naturally. So be rest assured that there are quite a few ways to do so.
Factors that’s involved in vascularity:
- Nitric oxide (foods and supplements)
- Oxidative stress
A state of vascularity can be induced by temporary vasodilation. But temporary can lead to permanent. Veins can adjust and adapt to a condition and stay that way. If a temporary condition is enforced permanently, the state becomes permanent.
1) Testosterone & DHT
Both these androgenic hormones relax your arteries by an endothelium-independent mechanism involving potassium efflux. Meaning, it opens potassium channels, which leads to vasodilation. (1, 2) Testosterone also increases eNOS (endothelium nitric oxide synthesis), which permanently increases vascularity.
Just make sure you have optimal testosterone & DHT.
You burn a certain amount of energy each day, just by being alive. The more calories you are able to burn, the faster your metabolic rate is and the warmer your body temperatures will be. When your body temperature is high, your veins will show more prominently, as it’s your bodies way of trying to cool off.
Here are a few things that will further increase the energy you burn, while you do absolutely nothing.
a) Protein increases the thermogenic effect the most between the three macro-nutrients and complex natural foods more so than refined foods.
b) Caffeinated coffee induces a thermogenic effect which lasts up to three hours, even to an experienced coffee drinker.
c) Capsaicin, the substance found in hot foods, such as chillies, induce a greater thermogenic effect, but not for as long as coffee.
d) Forskolin, is a herb used as a fat burner and testosterone and dopamine booster. It increases your energy expenditure and increases lipolysis which will help you burn fat.
e) A long sleeve T-shirt can induce just enough heat to bring the veins closer to the skin, without causing you to sweat.
f) Uncouplers, increases your energy expenditure, by cause proton leak. Hydrogen is no longer used to produce energy in the electron transport chain, but is rather “wasted”, to increase energy expenditure. This works by increasing oxidative phosphorilation and increase the calories that you burn. A few good uncouplers are, methylene blue, aspirin, ephedrine (ECA stack), caffeine. More on uncoupling here.
The idea is to increase your body’s core temperature, in order to send more veins closer to the skin to make them more prominent. These substances mentioned above will not send you into a state of over-heating, as the idea is not to be sweating all the time.
Remember, temporary can lead to permanent if the condition is induced most of the time.
Exercise automatically increases your core temperature, boosts your testosterone and NO (nitric oxide). Weightlifters tend to have more prominent veins than non-lifters, as their bodies have adapted, because their muscles need more blood flow.
Metabolites (AMP, adenosine, H+, K+ and , released during exercise, results in vasodilation.
Acute submaximal exercise increases the formation of nitric oxide. NO increased more than double just from a 30 min chill endurance exercise session at 60% of maximal capacity. (3)
The body adapts to weightlifting by causing the veins to grow in size, which is permanent. But when weight lifting is stopped (for many weeks), the veins decrease back to normal size again.
4) Foods high in nitric oxide
Some foods are high in nitrates. But by chewing them, the nitrates mix with your saliva and is then converted to nitrites and can then be used for nitric oxide (NO) synthesis in the gut. The NO will cause your veins to dilate. In the vascular system NO modulates blood flow and vascular tone.
Keep in mind, that vasodilation doesn’t occur in all your veins. Your body senses a need and dilates some and constricts others. If you are in a cool condition, no matter how much NO you have, your body won’t send veins closer to the skin, because you don’t need to cool off.
This should be combined with the strategies mentioned above.
Let’s get into it.
Foods that are very high in nitrates: (4)
Foods that are high in nitrates: (5)
Celeriac, Chinese cabbage, endive, fennel, kohlrabi, leek and parsley
Foods that are medium in nitrate: (6)
Cabbage, dill, turnip, savoy and cabbage
Foods that are low in nitrate: (7)
Broccoli, carrot, cauliflower, cucumber, pumpkin, and chicory
Foods that are very low in nitrate: (8)
Artichoke, asparagus, broad bean, eggplant, garlic, onion, green bean, mushroom, pea, pepper, potato, summer squash, sweet potato, tomato, and watermelon.
Although garlic might be very low in nitrates, it does great things for your NO.
Allicin (diallyl disulfide-oxide) is an active ingredient released from garlic as a systemic vasodilator via hydrogen sulfide pathways.
This one study found that ingesting just 2g of raw garlic resulted in a 224% increase in nitric oxide in normal human males 2-4 hour post-ingestion. However ingesting over 25g a day can be toxic for the body. But I’m pretty sure no one would want to eat that much of garlic in one day.
One should consume garlic on a daily basis just for all it’s health benefits.
Did you also know that garlic is also a natural de-wormer?
b) Hot food (Capcaicin)
Capcaicin work by activating transient receptor potential vanilloid 1 (TRPV1) receptors, which then cause a calcium influx which leads to the production of eNOS (endothelial nitric oxide synthese) which then leads to vasodilation. (9) Capcaicin is also one of the most powerful natural ingredients to blood pressure, due to increasing eNOS.
Salt attracts water. So by eating a salty meal will result in more water in your veins, which can also make your veins pop out a bit more.
Carbs cause a slight retention of salt and also attracts water, aiding in a vein popping look.
Dietary protein (meats and such) may result in a higher concentration of the amino acids tyrosine and arginine in regions of the brain or blood vessel wall, triggering a vasodilatory response. (10) Tyrosine is a precursor to dopamine and dopamine to noradrenaline. Noradrenaline increases heart rate and blood pressure, triggering the release of glucose from energy stores, thereby increasing blood flow to skeletal muscle, reducing blood flow to the gastrointestinal system. Which is exactly what you want for a good workout.
Dietary potassium lowers blood pressure by relaxing vascular smooth muscle, reducing peripheral vascular resistance and causing vasodilation.
Magnesium increases vasodilation through calcium sensitive potassium channels. (11)
The vasodilation is due to a Ca(2+)-induced increase in the synthesis of NO in endothelial cells. (12)
5) Lower Oxidative stress
Reactive oxygen species (ROS) cause oxidative stress. Oxidative stress is a bad thing and a good thing both at the same time. Without it, your body can’t adapt or grow muscles. But too much of it reaps havoc in the body, lowers testosterone and all kinds of negative things.
So what we need to do is to keep oxidative stress in check, and only get it from exercise in order to adapt.
- Pomegranate juice/extract (protects NO from oxidation while enhancing its biological activity) (16)
- Apigenin which is highest in dried parsley (enhances the NO bio-availability via reduction of oxidative stress) (17)
- Quercetin (Major simulator of NO production. Good sources are onions and apples. Quercetin in onions has the best bio-availability) (20)
- Grape seed extract (GSE) (21) Start with 2+ gram doses with black pepper extract.
- Olive leaf extract (Oleuropein) (22)
- Turmeric extract (curcumin) (23)
- Beetroot extract (24)
- Agmatine sulfate (25)
- Arginine + Citrulline
- Forskolin (26)
- Caffeine (27)
- Alcohol (28)
- Electrolytes (calcium, magnesium, sodium, potassium)
The problem with these polyphenols are that the bio-availability is very poor. A few strategies to enhance it’s bio-availability is by eating a well balanced meal containing glucose (from a good carbohydrate source) and adding black pepper to your foods.
So what is the most important thing for vascularity?
- high androgens
- your genes
- exercise (high intensity weight training)
- high protein diet
- nitrates, antioxidants, polyphenols and other nutrients
- warm conditions, high metabolic rate
Here is a recipe for a nitric oxide boosting shake with foods:
- 100g spinach (nitrates)
- 1 large beets (more nitrates)
- 2 stalks celery (more nitrates)
- 1 bunch parsley (apigenin + nitrates)
- 1cm ginger root (reduces oxidative stress + ergogenic aid)
- 1 apple (Quercitin)
- Juice of 1 lime
- Juice of ½ lemon