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How to Get More Vascular in 4 (Mostly) Easy Steps

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How to Get More Vascular in 4 (Mostly) Easy Steps

If you want to know how to get more vascular arms, legs, abs, and everything else, regardless of your genetics, then you want to read this article.

What would you rather have—a Rolex watch or more vascular arms, legs, and abs?

If you chose the latter, I like you, and you’ve come to the right place.

Because while I can’t help you get a shiny new Yachmaster (this guy can, though), I’m going to show you exactly what you need to become the proud owner of some new skin-popping veins.

And yes, you can get more vascular even if you’re genetically the “smoother” type, like me.

Case in point—here’s a shot of me after 2 years of following crappy weightlifting and diet programs:

Before pic

Not a vein in sight, despite being at least relatively lean.

And here’s me now:

So if you’re worried that you’ll never get to admire the beauty of your vascular system, take heart. By the end of this article, you’ll be on your way.

Let’s get to it.

The 4-Step Solution to Get More Vascular

how to get more vascular naturally

If you’ve sat in on any locker room broscience sessions, you’ve probably heard quite a few opinions on how to get more vascular.

Some people say you have to do a lot of high-rep, “pump” training. Others say a low-carb diet is the key. Others still say it’s all in how much sodium and water you eat and drink.

Well, they’re all wrong.

Eating carbs and salt can temporarily increase vascularity (more on that soon), but all in all, you can look softer than a velvet sponge regardless of how much or little carbohydrate, sodium, or water is in your diet.

What really determines your general vascularity, then?

Well, the first thing you should know is genetics certainly play a role here.

Some people are just naturally more vascular and, after following my advice, will always have more veins on display than others.

We can’t do anything to improve our genetics, of course, but that doesn’t mean we can’t reach a level of vascularity that we’re happy with. We can and, fortunately, and it’s pretty simple.

Genetics aside, your level of vascularity is primarily determined by several things (and in this order):

  1. Your body fat percentage.
  2. How big and dilated your blood vessels are.
  3. How big your muscles are.
  4. How much water you’re holding under your skin.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In short, the leaner you are, the bigger and more dilated your veins are, the more muscle you have, and the less water you’re holding, the more vascular you’ll be.

Let’s look at each of these points in more detail.

How Body Fat Percentage Affects Vascularity

If you don’t have much in the way of vascularity, even when you have a pump, I have good news:

You’re probably just too fat.

And more good news:

That’s easy to fix.

You see, the veins that you’re looking to draw out are known as superficial veins because they’re close to the surface of the body.

For example, the veins highlighted blue in the image below are the superficial veins we see in vascular arms:

how to get more vascular arms

We both have these veins, of course, and the main reason I can see mine but you can’t see yours is simply because you have too much fat between them and the surface of your skin and I don’t.

Here are good visuals for how vascularity correlates to body fat percentage for most guys and gals:

body composition chart men

body composition chart female

As you can see, for us guys, it breaks down like this:

  • 15%+ Body Fat

Very little vascularity anywhere, if any, even with a pump.

  • ~12% Body Fat

Arm vascularity starts to appear, but usually requires a pump. Cephalic vein (see image above) may peek through, too.

  • ~10% Body Fat

Clear arm vascularity with a pump and, depending on your genetics, without a pump as well. Shoulder and leg vascularity can start to show at this level of body fat as well.

  • ~8% Body Fat

Clear arm, shoulder, and leg vascularity with and without a pump. Ab vascularity starts to show around this level of leanness too.

  • Below 8%

Vascularity everywhere becomes more and more pronounced.

Read: How to Calculate Your Body Fat Percentage Easily & Accurately

And again, for another example of vascularity in someone that isn’t naturally all that vascular, here’s a shot of me at about 6% body fat:

how to get more vascular bodybuilding

Now, you generally see less vascularity in women for two reasons:

They have far less muscle and far more fat than most guys.

I rarely ever hear from women that want to increase vascularity, but if that’s you, just know it works the same as with men.

You have your genetic predispositions, body fat levels, blood vessel size, muscularity, and water retention, and if you follow the advice in this article, you can get more vascular, too.

Use this workout and flexible dieting program to lose up to 10 pounds of fat and build muscle in just 30 days…without starving yourself or living in the gym.

How Blood Vessel Size & Vasodilation Affects Vascularity

The size of your blood vessels also play a big role is how vascular you look because the larger they are, the more likely they will be visible.

There are two elements in play here: the size of the vessels when “pumped” and relaxed.

When they’re pumped up, you’re experiencing vasodilation, which is a fancy word that refers to the expansion of your blood vessels.

For example, when you exercise, your heart has to beat faster to deliver oxygen throughout your body, and this increases your arterial (traveling from the heart) blood pressure. Certain supplements have similar effects as well, like theanine and citrulline.

Over time, the repetition of vasodilation can cause blood vessels to remain widened in a resting state, and intense exercise can even cause the growth of new blood vessels.

This is why people that exercises regularly are often more vascular than those that don’t.

While exercise causes the more permanent type of vasodilation that we ultimately want, you can also use carbs and sodium to temporarily increase the size and visibility of your veins.

See for yourself: eat a salty, high-carb meal and chances are that within 30 minutes or so, you’ll have a pump.

How Muscle Size Affects Vascularity

The bigger your muscles are, the more vascular you’re going to be.

As your veins are situated on and around your muscles, bigger muscles push them closer to the surface of the skin, where they can be seen.

This is one of the reasons that people naturally get more vascular the longer they lift weights.

Read: The Best Way to Stimulate Muscle Hypertrophy (Build Muscle)

How Water Retention Affects Vascularity

Just as your body stores fat in between your muscles and the surface of your skin, it also holds water.

And the more water there is in this subcutaneous region, the less vascular you’re going to look.

(This can be particularly frustrating when you’re cutting because it not only keeps you looking soft, but it can obscure fat loss as well.)

Thus, if you want to maximize vascularity, you want to minimize water retention.

The three most reliable ways to do that are…

1. Lower your cortisol levels.

Cortisol is a hormone produced by the adrenals in response to stress and low blood sugar levels.

Almost every cell has receptors for cortisol so its effects are myriad and include influencing blood sugar and fluid retention levels, the metabolism of food, the central nervous system, and more.

Under normal conditions, cortisol doesn’t cause water retention problems. When it’s abnormally high, however, it does.

Check out this article for simple strategies you can use to maintain healthy cortisol levels.

2. Balance your salt and potassium intake.

Sodium is well absorbed by cells and brings water in with it.

Thus, when you eat a large amount of sodium, it can cause cells to temporarily retain water until balance can be restored to cellular fluid levels.

This is also why when you restrict sodium intake, water retention decreases.

Potassium plays a vital role in restoring this cellular fluid balance.

Whereas sodium sucks water into cells, potassium pumps it out, and this is why research shows that restricting potassium intake can increase fluid retention.

Thus, if you want to minimize water retention, you need to keep an eye on your sodium and potassium intakes.

In terms of intake, the Institute of Medicine recommends 1,500 milligrams and an upper limit of 2,300 mg sodium per day, and 4,700 mg of potassium per day.

(A mere teaspoon of salt contains a whopping 2,300 mg of sodium, so it’s no surprise that the average American eats over 3,400 mg per day.)

3. Drink enough water.

If you don’t give your body enough fluids it causes adaptations that increase water retention.

You can prevent this by simply drinking enough water every day.

The Institute of Medicine recommends drinking between 3/4 and 1 gallon of water per day for adult men and women.

If you’re a regular here at Muscle for Life, you probably do quite a bit of exercise, and this increases the amount of water your body needs.

Specifically, you want to replace all water lost through sweating, which can range anywhere from 3/4 to 2 liters per hour depending on how much you sweat due to the intensity and climate.

So, if you start with a baseline water intake of about 3/4 to 1 gallon per day, add 1 to 1.5 liters per hour of exercise, plus a bit more for additional sweating, you’ll be good.

Will Natural Diuretics Reduce Water Retention and Increase Vascularity?

There are many foods and naturally occurring substances that supposedly have diuretic effects, including…

  • Caffeine
  • Alcohol
  • Celery
  • Onion
  • Eggplant
  • Asparagus
  • Hawthorn
  • Parsley
  • Watermelon
  • And more…

Well, like the bogus “fat burning food” pitch, the idea of magically dropping large amount of water weight by making slight changes to our diets and supplement regimens sounds great…but it doesn’t work like that.

For example, caffeine and alcohol are mild diuretics, but so mild that the amount of liquid consumed with them more or less negate the diuretic effects.

The story is the same for hawthorn and parsely—two other “natural diuretics” often sold as “slimming.” Research shows that they do indeed possess diuretic properties, but they’re too slight and short-lived to make a significant difference in water retention levels.

The reality is if you suspect you’re holding more water than you should be, fixing it is going to require lifestyle changes and not pills and powders.

Read: What Causes Water Retention and How to Get Rid Of It

The only situation where I would recommend turning to natural diuretics is if you’re very lean and have a competition or photo shoot or some other one-day affair that requires you look as dry and defined as possible.

That’s why many fitness competitors restrict carbohydrate intake leading up to a show, often restrict sodium intake several days before going on stage, and use natural (and artificial) diuretics.

The Bottom Line on How to Get More Vascular

how to get more vascular veins

Don’t waste your time with “weird tricks” and supplements that purport to increase vascularity.

Build muscle, get lean, and take simple actions to reduce water retention, and you’ll get there.

Oh and if you want to temporarily increase vascularity, you can…

  1. Get a pump.
  2. Eat a bunch of carbs and salt.
  3. Take the supplements citrulline and theanine (which you’ll find my pre-workout supplement, by the way.

What’s your take on increasing vascularity? Have anything else to share? Let me know in the comments below!

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  • Chris

    I’ve had vascularity in my arms even when I was a little child… When I started lifting I was actually getting concerned with the veins getting bigger. But after getting more and more into bodybuilding I’ve oddly had a love and hate relationship with being vascular- guys seem to be jealous, they stare at me when I bicep curl (haha), but girls find it rather… freaky. I sought ways to make myself less vascular… no help there really.

    Genetics is definitely a huge factor. Some people like me were just born vascular…

    • Haha yeah, to be less vascular is going backwards on all the good things you do for your body.

  • Gregory

    Hey, Mike. I read from a website called Natty or not that says that ectomorph can only gain 10 pounds of muscle or less if they are not underweight. What’s your opinion on that? how much muscle can an ectomorph roughly gain according to your experience. For example, I am an ectomorph and weight 150 pounds at 5 foot 9 and my bodyfat % is no more than 15. What could be a realistic goal for me?

    • That’s nonsense. You can gain a lot more muscle than that, but it may take longer than others’.

      Check this out:

      http://www.muscleforlife.com/body-types/

      http://www.muscleforlife.com/how-much-muscle-can-you-build-naturally/

      • Gregory

        Thank you very much.

        I definitely have to work on my diet, but I don’t even know how count calories.

    • Chris

      Greg, that guy at nattyornot is extremely pessimistic and is notorious for telling people their limits in the grimmest ways. While people do indeed have limits, that guy is extremely pessimistic… Take that guy’s words with a grain of salt.

      I’m an ectomorph too- I’m 5’10” and have literally 6″ wrists, extremely thin bones- my waist measurement at around 10% bodyfat is 27.5 inches. When I started lifting I was probably around 18-20% bodyfat, 160 lbs, kind of skinny-fat. But now I’m around 12% body fat and weigh 171lbs, and I’ve only been lifting seriously for about 14 months. Don’t limit yourself. It’s going to depend on where you are starting from.

      • Gregory

        I agree with you. What about like about him though is that he has exposed some fake natural bodybuilders.

        Wow!, great job on your gains. I also have 6 inches wrists and I thought it was the smallest in the world so I can take you as a motivation. How big are your arms when flexed? Mine are just 14
        What about your legs?

        By the way, I think my diet is far from optimal, so I gotta focus on increasing my protein intake. Any tip on that?

        • lots of protein sources for ya!

          * Lean meat (chicken, lean beef, fish, and so forth)
          * Low-fat dairy
          * Eggs and egg whites
          * Whole grains like wheat, brown rice, oats, and barley
          * Vegetables like green beans, carrots, broccoli, and cauliflower
          * Legumes like green peas and beans
          * Tubers like white potato, which is incredibly satiating, and sweet potato

          And of course, whey protein supplement.

          • Gregory

            Thank you very much and I appreciate your help. In fact, I learned from you guys that all we need to build muscle as a natural weightlifter are just proper diet, whey protein and creatine.

          • Pretty much!

  • Thanks for stopping by and checking out my article. I hope you enjoyed it!

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  • What can I eat each day to know I’m getting a good source of potassium for vascularity?

    • Vasculary shredz

      Bananas are a good source of potassium 😉

    • Here are some options:
      -Beans (2 to 3 grams of potassium per cup)
      -Dark leafy greens (500 to 1,500 milligrams of potassium per cup)
      -Banana (400 to 500 milligrams of potassium for a medium-sized)
      -Potato (~900 milligrams of potassium for medium-sized)
      -Squash (100 to 500 milligrams of potassium for medium-sized)
      -Yogurt (250 to 400 milligrams of potassium per cup)
      -Salmon (~100 milligrams of potassium per ounce)
      -Avocado (~1 gram of potassium per fruit)
      -Mushrooms (300 to 400 milligrams of potassium per cup)

    • Bananas I knew. But I cannot eat them all the time. I’ll stick with the dark leafy greens and mix it up with some others on the list once in awhile. Thank you!

  • Steve Rolls
  • Tee

    I’m female, and genetically, I’ve always had some sort of vascularity going on. However, I notice that the leaner I get (sitting at around 19% currently), the more pronounced certain veins definitely have become.

    The shoulder and bicep veins don’t bother me so much as the veins in my lower torso which tend to make me very self-conscious particularly when wearing a swimsuit. Maybe I’m an outlier…who knows?

  • Gene

    And all this time I though my grandma had varicose veins. I should have realized she had this vascularity thing NAILED!

  • J-Satt

    What do you think of Nitrous Oxide supplements for increasing vascularity?

    • Temporarily it can. It won’t increase your vascularity overall though.

  • Andrew McGillian

    Mike,
    I am eating about 3500 cals a day, using soy sauce and another sauce to cook my chicken. Coming in around 6,000-7,000 mg of sodium per day. Is that unhealthy you think? Also, is a potassium supplement a good idea for when I start cutting? About 185 pounds in the middle of my second bulk at about 12% BF.
    Thanks,
    Andrew

  • Taylor Kuzik

    I am have veins around the front of my deltoids and reaching my chest. It’s certainly visible on my calves and lower abs but only in the right lighting because of my translucent skin tone *sighs*.
    Pulse does help with the superficial veins part you see around your biceps but those tend to disappear after a while because the pump doesn’t last very long. I still love it. I recently started Athlean Inferno Max Size where it centers around the classic weight lifting such as compound movements like the deadlift.
    You also become temporarily more vascular when you work in warm temperatures because the veins come up to release heat and vanish when it’s cold outside.
    I know nutrition, amount of water you hold onto, etc are factors that determine your level of vascularity but in regards to sodium, which the daily recommendation is 2,500mg, but almost every food item you find in the grocery store has sodium as a preservative except the fresh produce aisle. Dipping sauces’ sodium level depends on what kind you get. On the Boarder salsa has around 140mg which isn’t too bad. Once you reach canned foods or frozen dinners that’s when the sodium levels go up save for frozen fruits or veggies, they have only 20mg. Even your homemade meals has some level of sodium in it. You can’t avoid sodium all together though you can control your intake.

    • Yup that’s right. You can’t avoid all of it, but you can definitely control your sodium intake.

      • Taylor Kuzik

        Ironic as it sounds but sodium is an electrolyte in the body. You need some sodium for muscle function. If you don’t have the proper amount of sodium, do you get muscle cramps or something?
        When I do grocery shopping, I look for sauces or salad dressings that have lower amounts of sodium. I recently bought a bottle of salad dressing by Panera Bread and has only 50mg of sodium, which is really low compared to the majority of salad dressings that have over 300mg of sodium.
        Thing is if your BF% is below 10% and don’t have the shredded look in your muscles it’s because you’re holding on to a lot of water.
        As stated in this article, drink more water, cut back on your sodium and eat potassium rich foods, you’ll shed excess water weight. Another thing is people think they’re giving it their all in the gym and don’t see more defined muscles, they think it’s fat when in reality it’s water retention.

        • Good points 🙂

          Yep, sodium is one of the most important electrolytes in our bodies. Low levels could cause cramping, weakness, spasms, etc. For more on sodium’s role, check this out: https://www.muscleforlife.com/how-much-sodium-per-day/

          • Taylor Kuzik

            One way to tell if it’s water retention is grab a part of skin around the waist, pull it as far as you can then let go. If it ripples, it’s water because body fat doesn’t bounce as easily.

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