Having big muscles is worthless without vascularity.
Ask any bodybuilder, competitive or otherwise – vascularity is a pretty damn important thing to be concerned with to show off the hard work you’ve gained from countless hours of training. If you don’t know what vascularity is (you definitely should) – it’s when your veins bulge out to the point where your skin looks so thin that maximum muscle definition shows through. Of course, this is paramount for bodybuilders and anyone to be shredded. So how do you increase your vascularity to get that veiny and shredded look you seek? Take a look below and get enlightened.
Body Fat for Vascularity
This one doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out. Keep your body fat in check if you want to see those veins pop. Low body fat levels are the most critical factor for showing more vascularity. The leaner you are, the more your veins will show. That’s why you can see bodybuilders’ veins like crazy when they’re on stage–it’s when they’re the leanest and hovers around 5-7% body fat.
Of course, you don’t need to be quite that low if you want your veins to pop. Once you cut down to 15% body fat, you’ll start noticing more veins in your arms. But if you want to be veiny, get your body fat percentage below ten percent, and you’ll be golden. Single-digit numbers aren’t easy to obtain, but they’re the gateway to vascularity.
Cardio for Vascularity
Although low body fats are essential for being veiny, other aspects play a crucial role. For example, cardiovascular exercise will help pump blood into your muscles and reduce water retention in the body, which in turn means more vascularity (1). Water build-up outside the muscle will make it harder to see the muscles underneath, so ensure you maintain a good cardio routine.
Moderate cardio for 20-30 minutes on a cardio machine 2-3 days a week or longer walks for 30 minutes to an hour daily will suffice, but if you want to really make sure you increase your vascularity, do higher-intensity interval training (HIIT) workouts for 15-30 minutes a couple of times a week. Due to the intensity of these exercises, your cardio output will be higher, meaning your cardiovascular system will have to pump more blood through your veins, increasing vascularity.
Weight training is a must for vascularity. When you lift weights, you’ll increase your blood flow to your muscles, known as the “pump” in bodybuilding. This is when your muscles are noticeably larger, and you can see every vein in your body. Plus, lifting weights will lower your body fat and build muscle. And to our first point, the lower your body fat, the more your veins pop.
Another way to gain vascularity is to keep the right diet plan. For example, if you want to look more shredded, you better lower your sodium intake. Why? Well, if you don’t, you run the risk of water retention, which we already explained was pretty damn crucial for looking shredded. But, of course, that’s because the more sodium you intake and have floating in your body, the more water you’ll retain. So avoid foods high in sodium, such as pizza, wings, fries, and burgers (so pretty much all processed foods). Instead, choose healthy whole foods, like fruits, potatoes, rice, avocados, and chicken.
This one might surprise you. Your body temperature has a lot to do with vascularity as well. The colder your body is, the more your blood flow travels inwards to keep your organs warm. But, on the flip side, the higher your body temperature, the more the blood flows outwards to the skin and muscles, causing you to have a more vascular and shredded appearance (2). So when summertime hits and you’re working hard in the gym, expect to turn heads when your veins and muscles bulge. But, of course, you can also hop in a hot bath or sauna.
Of course, another practical approach would be to consume hot beverages and foods, such as tea, coffee, and soup. And you can also increase your body temperature by putting on layers of clothing and doing a HIIT cardio session; think UFC fighters before weigh-ins.
Now I know what you’re going to say, creatine causes water retention, and you wouldn’t be wrong. Water retention can make it harder for your muscles to be visible. But in this case, the water retention happens within the muscle cells (known as intracellular water retention) rather than outside them. That makes a difference when it comes to getting those bulging veins.
That said, creatine won’t necessarily increase your vascularity, but it won’t prevent it either. And in fact, multiple studies support its effectiveness in helping to build lean muscle mass when combined with strength training (3). And the more muscle you have, the lower your body fat and the veinier you’ll be.
With all this talk of water retention, why the hell would we suggest you drink water? Well, here’s the secret: dehydration is a significant cause of water retention in the body. This might sound counterintuitive – but you’re made up of about seventy percent water, and if you don’t ingest water, then your body will get it from somewhere. When it does, it’ll fill your skin with water. So drink half an ounce of water per pound of your body weight each day, and your vascularity will be improved for it.
Also, you’ll want to avoid activities and foods that can cause dehydration. So avoid overly sweating without getting enough fluids in your body. And foods high in sodium (processed foods), sugary drinks, caffeine, alcohol, soy, and too much protein can all lead to dehydration. Also, certain medications and vomiting or diarrhea can cause dehydration too.
Let’s face it; it’s the unavoidable truth, the one fact that always manages to rear its ugly head. Genetics plays a significant role in your ability to become vascular. It’s not impossible, but it helps if you naturally have an affinity for becoming more shredded (4). Don’t fret if you’re not genetically gifted like Arnold Schwarzenegger. You can do plenty via diet, exercise, and following other tips in this article to increase your vascularity.
- Nystoriak, M. A., & Bhatnagar, A. (2018). Cardiovascular Effects and Benefits of Exercise. Frontiers in cardiovascular medicine, 5, 135. https://doi.org/10.3389/fcvm.2018.00135
- Heinonen, I., Brothers, R. M., Kemppainen, J., Knuuti, J., Kalliokoski, K. K., & Crandall, C. G. (2011). Local heating, but not indirect whole body heating, increases human skeletal muscle blood flow. Journal of applied physiology (Bethesda, Md. : 1985), 111(3), 818–824. https://doi.org/10.1152/japplphysiol.00269.2011
- Chilibeck, P. D., Kaviani, M., Candow, D. G., & Zello, G. A. (2017). Effect of creatine supplementation during resistance training on lean tissue mass and muscular strength in older adults: a meta-analysis. Open access journal of sports medicine, 8, 213–226. https://doi.org/10.2147/OAJSM.S123529
- Verbrugge, S., Schönfelder, M., Becker, L., Yaghoob Nezhad, F., Hrabě de Angelis, M., & Wackerhage, H. (2018). Genes Whose Gain or Loss-Of-Function Increases Skeletal Muscle Mass in Mice: A Systematic Literature Review. Frontiers in physiology, 9, 553. https://doi.org/10.3389/fphys.2018.00553