Looking vascular is a big goal for us guys who lift and that’s why we turn to supplements that enhance vascularity.
It can make you demotivated when you train hard, eat right, but our vascularity isn’t showing.
I’m going to give you 28 supplements that can boost your vascularity and help you get an insane pump as well as the secret on how to stay vascular all day.
Table of contents
- What are Vascularity Supplements and how do they work?
- Nitric oxide production
- Pros and cons of the best vascularity supplements
- What modulates vascularity
- Herbs and other compounds that induce vasodilation
- What the ultimate vascularity supplement should contain
- DIY vascularity stack
- 20 best pump & vascularity supplements on the market today
- Who Should Take Vascularity Supplements?
- When Should Vascularity Supplements Be Taken?
- 12 to get more vascular and stay more vascular all day
- What Gives You the Best Pump in the Gym?
- How to increase your vascularity with the testosterone diet
What are Vascularity Supplements and how do they work?
Vascularity supplements contain specific compounds to induce vasodilation and enhance blood flow for better muscle pumps. It’s most commonly used as a pre-workout to enhance the pump, but it can also be used during everyday life to reduce blood pressure or look more pumped by default.
Guys on steroids most of the time look leaner and more vascular. Using vascularity supplements can help you with that look without having to use steroids. It will not be as potent as steroids, but it still works.
Being more vascular can make you look more “mean”, and athletic and grab more eyeballs.
Pump supplements (AKA a nitric oxide booster) work primarily by increasing nitric oxide. Other vasodilators include carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide and hydrogen sulfide (H2S).
Nitric oxide production
Nitric oxide can be produced in 2 main ways in the body.
The first pathway is from the amino acid precursor namely arginine via the nitric oxide synthase (NOS) pathway.
NOS exists in three isoforms: endothelial (eNOS), neural (nNOS), and inducible (iNOS). Vascularity is primarily dependent on NO produced by eNOS.
NO, once created, stimulates the receptor with guanylate cyclase activity (sGC). This leads to an increase in the cyclic guanosine monophosphate (cGMP) concentration, and consequently to vasodilation. PDE5 inhibitors like Viagra inhibit the breakdown of cGMP.
The second pathway is NO creation from nitrites. Nitrite-rich foods are beets and green leafy vegetables, but I’ll address that in a bit.
Pros and cons of the best vascularity supplements
Vascularity supplements pros
#1 Promote Nitric Oxide (NO) Production
#2 Improve Vasodilation
This can help reduce high blood pressure and increase vascularity.
#3 Promotes Muscle Growth
NO increases oxygen- and nutrient delivery to various organs, such as the muscle.
#4 Reduce Blood Pressure
#5 Decrease markers of muscle damage, thus reducing muscle soreness
#6 Improve Heart Health
#7 Enhances glucose uptake into the muscle
#8 Promotes neurotransmitter release
These include acetylcholine, catecholamines and neuroactive amino acids. Acetylcholine will help with focus and catecholamines (noradrenaline and adrenaline) will help with focus, energy and motivation.
#7 Can increase testosterone
NO increases the release of luteinizing hormone release hormone (LHRH) in the hypothalamus, which will increase the release of LH, which will stimulate steroidogenesis. NO exerts a biphasic effect on testosterone secretion, which is stimulatory at low and inhibitory at high concentrations; the stimulatory effect of NO is mediated by cGMP, the classic second messenger for NO action (R).
#8 Increase energy levels
#9 Speed up recovery time
#10 Help with muscle contraction
#11 Improve muscle strength
#12 Help with better performance
Vascularity supplements cons (possible side effects)
- Hypotension (lower blood pressure too much).
- Feeling overstimulated (most pump supplements also contain caffeine and other stims).
- Migraine (too much vasodilation can cause migraine).
- An increase in inflammation (NO is a free radical).
- Inhibition of mitochondrial function and oxygen consumption when NO is increased in excess. This can lead to a drop in ATP and exercise performance (R).
- Can increase carcinogenic (cancer-promoting) N-nitroso compounds (NOC’s), which are created from nitrites (R).
What modulates vascularity
Things that induce vasodilation
- Testosterone & DHT (R, R, R, R).
- Angiotensin 1-7 (R). The ACE2 enzyme converts angiotensin II (a vasoconstrictor peptide) to angiotensin 1-7 (which dilates).
- Insulin (R).
- Histamine (R).
- Carbon monoxide
- Substance P
What inhibits vasodilation
- Aldosterone and angiotensin II. Low sodium intake will increase aldosterone.
- Endotoxin, which is absorbed from the gut.
- Serotonin, which is absorbed from the gut.
- Allergy shots (histamine antagonists)
Herbs and other compounds that increase NO and induce vasodilation
Here are 28 natural compounds that help to body produce more nitric oxide. They are also the ones most commonly found in pump products.
#1 Vitamin C + garlic combo.
As you can see in the graphs below, garlic increased NO by about 230%. The combination of the garlic ingredients with vitamin C increased NO production by about 300% (R).
A secret is to add 15-20g collagen to your pre-workout. The (500mg) garlic and (50mg) vitamin C will stimulate vasodilation and blood flow, which will drive more collagen to the joints. Exercise will allow the joints to suck up the collagen. This allows you to strengthen your joints faster than anything else.
#2 B vitamins
B-vitamins are used in the cycles that create NO. As you can see from the graph below, the BH4 cycle drives NO production. Also, the folate cycle is connected to the BH4 cycle.
To optimize the BH4 cycle, you need to optimize the folate cycle. The vitamins involved are vitamin B2, B3, B5, B6, folate and B12 (R).
Nitroglycerin is metabolized to yield NO. Even very small amounts can give you a massive surge in NO.
The use of nitroglycerin in the treatment of angina pectoris began not long after its original synthesis in 1847. Now, more and more people use it for erectile dysfunction as well as getting better pumps.
#5 Agmatine sulfate
Agmatine promotes vasodilation via the activation of the imidazoline receptors (R).
Carnosine is a powerful intracellular anti-oxidant. One of the blood flow-promoting mechanisms of carnosine is via cyclic GMP production. These effects are not obtained from its precursors L-histidine and beta-alanine (R).
However, oral beta-alanine is better at increasing carnosine levels than carnosine itself. New research is showing that the combination of carnosine and anserine at 30mg/kg each is also good at increasing carnosine since anserine inhibits carnosine breakdown.
Artichoke extract has been shown to increase eNOS, which promotes NO production (R).
#8 Panax ginseng
Panax ginseng can stimulate eNOS activity by binding to the androgen receptor (R).
Cocoa has been shown to increase NO bioavailability, mainly by having strong anti-oxidant effects (R). Reactive oxygen species will reduce eNOS activity (reduce NO production) and turn NO into a powerful reactive nitrogen species itself (peroxynitrite).
Cocoa prevents this, thus increasing eNOS and sparing NO.
Epicatechin (found in cocoa), stimulates eNOS, protects NO and reduces endothelin-1 (which causes vasoconstriction) concentrations (R, R). However, in combination with resistance exercise, it doesn’t boost vasodilation more than exercise alone (R).
#10 Coffee bean extract
Caffeine is a xanthine, that, in blood vessels, increases intracellular calcium. This stimulates the production of NO through the expression of the eNOS enzyme. (R)
Green coffee bean extract contains many anti-oxidants that make the blood vessels more reactive to NO. This allows for proper vasodilation (R).
#11 Schisandra Chinensis
Gomisin J is a lignan contained in Schisandra chinensis. It works similarly to coffee in that it stimulates eNOS with intracellular calcium. This increases NO and vasorelaxation (R).
Skullcap aka Scutellaria baicalensis increases eNOS and NO. That’s also how it’s good for erectile dysfunction (R).
#13 Succinic acid
Succinic acid is a naturally occurring compound that helps with vasodilation.
It’s been used by Russian athletes for a long time and it’s found in the product called Cytoflavin.
The mechanism is partially by succinic acid being to the GPR91 receptors. This stimulates the NO-cGMP pathway, creates vasodilator cyclooxygenase (COX) product(s) and opens potassium channels (R).
Citrulline is able to increase NO better than arginine since arginine is transported to the liver and broken down. Thus the bioavailability isn’t that good. Supplementing citrulline is better at increasing arginine in the body than arginine itself.
Combining L-citrulline (2 grams of l-citrulline per day) with glutathione (200 mg/day) is able to increase NO even better than citrulline alone.
In the graph below, you can see that NO goes higher and stays elevated for longer with the citrulline glutathione combo. Also, the combo prevents the drop in NO after exercise (graph on the right).
Nitrosigine (Inositol-stabilized arginine silicate; a modified version of arginine) at 1.5g increases vasodilation by 31%, compared to a decrease of 2% during the placebo trial (R).
I like nitrosigine because it can be used at lower doses than citrulline (6g).
Histidine is the precursor amino acid to histamine. Histamine promotes the release of NO by binding to the H1 and H3 receptors (R).
Holarrhena antidysenterica (Kutaja) is an H3 agonist that will promote histamine release (R).
Combining 2g histidine with 500mg Kutaja will give you a good boost in histamine and vascularity.
#17 High nitrite foods
Beetroot or spinach extract.
Beets and spinach contain high concentrations of nitrate, which can be converted into NO after consumption.
The dark side of nitrites
Too much nitrites in the body can increase N-nitroso compounds (ATNC; namely nitrosamides and nitrosamines), which are cancer producing. Boosting NO too high can also increase nitrites due to the interconversion.
In this study, they gave men just 70mL of beetroot juice (BRJ) containing 400mg of nitrate.
This caused a significant increase of urinary apparent total N-nitroso Compounds (ATNC); from 5 to 47 nmol/mmol on day 1 to 104 nmol/mmol on day 7.
Vitamin C supplementation inhibited ATNC increase after one dose (16 compared to 72 nmol/mmol), but not after seven daily doses.
This is the first study that shows that beetroot juice supplementation leads to an increase in the formation of potentially carcinogenic nitroso compounds (R).
Betaine has three key physiologic functions: It 1) acts as a substrate for glutathione synthesis and 2) is a methyl donor and 3) is an organic osmolyte (R).
Betaine also promotes vasodilation by stimulating potassium channels (R).
A good dose is between 3-6g.
S7 AKA SPECTRA7 is a proprietary blend of 7 herbs that’s been shown by 1 study to increase NO between 170-230%. The way it works is by lowering oxidative stress (R). This has a NO sparing effect.
Is it better than vitamin C, cocoa, tart cherry or other anti-oxidants? Maybe, maybe not, since that hasn’t been studied.
Glycerol is a very sweet non-toxic, naturally occurring compound in the body. Glycerol has been well-established as a “hyperhydrating agent”.
Glycerol is absorbed into the bloodstream, and since it ‘sucks in’ water, it also increases the volume of blood in the veins, leading to a more vascular appearance.
The most common form of glycerol is glycerol monostearate, which contains only 25% glycerol. HydroMax Glycerol contains 65% glycerol allowing you to take less.
200mg quercetin in healthy men, similar to epicatechin in cocoa, increases NO and lowers endothelin-1, which is a vasoconstrictor (R).
Capsaicin, by activation of transient receptor potential vanilloid 1 (TRPV1) receptors (heat sensors), stimulates eNOS and NO production (R).
#23 Norvaline in pre-workouts
Navoline is an arginase inhibitor, thus increasing arginine availability and NO production (R).
#24 Dan Shen
ElevATP is a combination of Ancient Peat (a mineral mix similar to Shilajit) and apple peel extract. It’s been shown to significantly increase ATP and ATP has been shown to induce vasodilation.
Supplementing ATP (200-400mg) by itself can also induce vasodilation.
#26 Pomegranate extract
1000 mg of pomegranate extract was able to significantly increase blood vessel diameter in exercing individuals (R).
VasoDrive-AP (casein peptides) acts as an ACE inhibitor which prevents angiotensin II acumulation (R). It’s also a great anti-oxidant and protects against inflammation.
#28 PDE5 inhibitors
Nitric oxide exerts some of its actions by increasing cGMP. PDE breaks cGMP down, thus inhibiting PDE will extend the effects of NO.
A lot of bodybuilders such Viagra or Cialis pre-workout to get crazy pumps.
Natural PDE5 inhibitors (R):
- Horny goat weed (as being the most effective)
- Ginkgo biloba
- Thai black ginger
- Tongkat Ali
What the ultimate vascularity supplement should contain
- An precursor to eNOS (e.g. citrulline or nitrosigine)
- A small amount of the direct precursor (100mg) to NO (nitrites, e.g. beetroot)
- Anti-oxidants that will protect NO from oxidation (e.g. cocoa extract, vit C, glutathione, tart cherry extract, etc.)
- eNOS stimulator (e.g. artichoke extract)
- PDE5 inhibitor (e.g. horny goat weed)
- A hydration ingredient (e.g. glycerol, taurine, sodium, betaine, creatine, etc.)
DIY vascularity stack
The key ingredients for better vascularity are:
- 6g Citrulline
- Beetroot powder containing 100mg nitrates
- Tart cherry extract (it will also help with recovery)
- 50-100mg niacin
- 2g Histidine
- 800mg Horny Goat Weed
- 500mg Aged garlic + 50mg vitamin C
20 best pump & vascularity supplements on the market today
I’ve reviewed over 30 of the “best nitric oxide supplements”, and here are the best supplements that made the cut. A lot of them are also pre-workout supplements that contain nootropics for better focus, and cognitive function. A few had proprietary blends, which I didn’t include because most ingredients are underdosed in that case.
This is the best product IMO.
Strong points (active ingredients)
- 8g Citrulline
- 3g Betaine
- 3g HydroMax
- 2g beetroot extract
- 1.5g Nitrosigine
- 1.25g Agmatine Sulfate
- 1g Pomegranate extract
- 254mg VasoDrive-AP
Hydraulic by Axe & Sledge
- 25mg niacin
- 120mg elemental magnesium
- 5g Citrulline
- 3g HydroMax
- 2.4g Beta-alanine
- 2g Taurine
- 1g agmatine sulfate
- 1g Nitrosigine
- 10g Citrulline
- 3.2g beta-alanine
- 3g creatine monohydrate
- 2g creatine nitrate
- 2.5g Betaine
KAGED MUSCLE Preworkout
- 6.5g Citrulline
- 200mg Quercetin
- 100mg Capsicum extract
- 2g Betaine
- 30mg niacin
- 1.6g beta-alanine
Rich Piana 5% Nutrition FAF
- 30mg Niacin
- 5g Citrulline
- 2g Taurine
- 2g GlycerSize (65% glycerol)
- 500mg beetroot
- 100mg Dan shen
- 50mg S7
- 6g Citrulline Malate
- 3.2g Beta-alanine
- 3g Creatine monohydrate
- 2g Betaine
- 200mg Caffeine
- 6g Citrulline
- 2.5g Betaine
- 2g GlycerSize (>65% glycerol)
- 1g Beetroot extract
- 1g Agmatine sulfate
- 1.5g Creatine monohydrate
- 1000mg beet extract
- 400mg VASO6
- 150mg S7
- 300mg L-norvaline
- Arginine complex
Stim-Free by Transparent Labs
- 6g Citrulline Malate
- 4g Beta-alanine
- 2.5g Betaine
- 150mg ElevATP (ATP promotes vasodilation)
- 60mg Norvaline
- 1.3g Taurine
4 Gauge Pre-Workout
- 150mg caffeine + 200mg theanine
- 6g Citrulline
- 300mg beetroot extract
- 1g creatine monohydrate
- 100mg Rodiola Rosea
Pump Surge Jacked Factory
- 5g Citrulline
- 2.5g Betaine
- 2g taurine
High Volume by PEScience
- 4g Citrulline + 2g Arginine nitrite
- 2g Agmatine sulfate
- 3.75g performance mix with taurine and HydroMax
Who Should Take Vascularity Supplements?
Vascularity supplements aren’t just for looking more jacked or getting a better pump.
It can also help with exercise performance, with increasing the testosterone and IGF-1 response to exercise as well as help with recovery.
When Should Vascularity Supplements Be Taken?
The ideal time to take most vascularity-inducing supplements is 30-60min before training.
But keeping testosterone high at all times will help you to stay vascular even when you don’t lift.
Here is a video of the top 10 things that you can do to increase your testosterone naturally.
Would you like the most comprehensive (free) ebook on testosterone optimization?
12 tips to get more vascular and stay more vascular all day
#1 Lowering your body fat percentage will help you get more vascular.
Shoot for 15% body fat or lower. The leaner you get, the more vascular you’ll be.
#2 Building more lean muscle will enhance vascularity.
Building muscle also increases vascular synthesis. More muscle requires more blood flow. Men who have lifted for decades usually have a hard and veiny look.
#3 Adding high-nitrate foods to your diet can help increase vascularity.
Nitrites are converted to NO, so having some nitrite-rich foods in your diet may make you more vascular.
#4 Including cardio in your workout routine can help you become more vascular.
Cardiovascular training promotes vascularity. Too much cardio on the other hand will make it hard to build muscle and can lower your testosterone.
Most of my cardio is from daily walks, jumping trampoline and doing sprints.
#5 Drinking enough water daily will help increase vascularity.
Being dehydrated can reduce vascularity due to reduced blood volume. However, drinking too much water without enough salt can also make you look flat. I stay hydrated by drinking 2L of milk daily.
#6 Try Blood Flow Restriction Training
Blood flow restriction training accumulates a lot more blood into the muscle compared to regular weight training. BFR training also stimulates the growth of new blood vessels, much more than regular training, so it might speed up how quickly you become vascular.
#7 Remove body hair
This helps surprisingly much, even if you’re not excessively hairy. However, the hassle to shave frequently is too much. On the other hand, waxing hurts too much. Perhaps if you want to do it once for the summer for example, then it might be worth it.
#8 Increase your testosterone
Testosterone promotes the release of NO and promotes vasorelaxation. Having high testosterone can help you stay vascular all day.
#9 Get lots of sunlight
Sunlight promotes the release of NO, testosterone and dopamine and it also improves vascular health. I aim to get 20-30min full upper body sunlight around 9-11am and another 20-40min of sunlight around 2-4pm.
#10 Consume more calcium
A high-calcium diet improves vasorelaxation (R). I have on average 2L of milk on a daily basis.
#11 Keep inflammation low to get rid of water retention
Low-grade inflammation is a sure way to look poofy and less vascular. Low-grade inflammation is commonly caused by sleep loss, sleep apnea, eating too much ultra-refined and processed foods, overexercising, eating foods that cause allergies (nightshade, lectins, A1 milk, etc.), stress, etc.
Often times we want vascularity so bad that we train like maniacs each session. This can lead to lower levels of testosterone and high cortisol and inflammation. This will make up look flat and poofy. Deload by taking a week off or drop the volume by 30-50%.
What Gives You the Best Pump in the Gym?
- Supersets – Add same-muscle-group exercises to the end of your training session a couple of times a month.
- Dropsets – After getting to failure with a weight, drop 10-20% of the weight and do another set to failure. Repeat 2-4 times. Use this method sparingly else you might burn out.
- Squeeze the contraction – add a pause and squeeze when your muscles contract to increase the blood flow and get an extra “oomph” from each rep.
- Slow the eccentric movement
- Short rest – Resting 30-60 seconds is going to give you crazy pumps.
- High rep exercises – Doing sets with reps between 10-20 will do the trick.
- Blood flow restriction training
How can I increase my vascularity fast?
Getting ropes for veins takes time. However, in less than 2 years of lifting, I was already pretty vascular. But I was also lean.
Do Nitric Oxide Supplements Increase Vascularity?
Yes, nitric oxide supplements may increase vascularity. The best effects will be obtained when you have a good amount of muscle, with below 15% bodyfat.
What’s the difference between Citrulline Malate vs L-Citrulline
Both are equally effective at promoting NO release and vascularity, but citrulline malate is better for enhancing exercise performance.
L-Citrulline is a regular amino acid. Citrulline malate has a malic acid molecule acid attached to it. The malic acid can be used in the mitochondria to produce ATP (R). ATP is quickly consumed during exercise. That’s why creatine is so good because it helps recycle ATP quickly.
Citrulline vs arginine
Citrulline is better than arginine at promoting vasodilation and blood flow (R). This is because citrulline is better at increasing circulating arginine than arginine itself.
What Vitamins Help With Vascularity?
Niacin can help with vascularity. It does so by improving vascular health and it’s directly involved in NO synthesis.
Too large doses can make you flush, so start small, around 50mg and work up.
However, all the vitamins are required to create NO as discussed above.
Does Citrulline Increase Vascularity?
Yes, citrulline increases vascularity by boosting your nitric oxide levels and enhancing your blood flow.
Does L-Arginine Make You Vascular?
Yes, L-arginine may make you vascular. However, it’s not as good as L-citrulline because it’s not very bioavailable. After taking it orally, L-arginine is first metabolized by the liver (broken down) before entering circulation, rendering it less bioavailable and less effective than other NO boosting compounds.
How to increase your vascularity with the testosterone diet
We ultimately want to look permanently pumped. Jacked and tan!
But most of the time we look flat if we’re not pumped.
This can be due to eating a nutrient-poor diet. In the next article, I’m going to share with you the best diet to optimize vascularity.