Vascularity is one of the holy grails of fitness.
Bulging veins are a surefire way to judge someone’s fitness because they can’t be faked.
The only way to achieve vascularity is through an extreme reduction of subcutaneous fat, which allows for maximum muscle definition and veins to show.
The definition alone tells us you can automatically rule out any sort of quick trick, extreme crash diet, or supplement that touts a magical “pump” to get your veins to pop.
To have vascularity, you need to be lean.
Step #1: Get Lean
The first step to improving vascularity is to lower your body fat percentage.
If you aren’t lean, your veins will be obscured by the fat in your body no matter how dilated your blood vessels are or how big your muscles are.
While genetics do play a role in vascular potential (some people’s veins pop when they simply let their arms dangle) everyone has the same ability to shed body fat.
If you want to see your veins pop, you’ll need to get down to single-digit body fat.
Step #2: Get a Nice Pump Going
When you exercise, your blood vessels expand as blood is forced into your veins.
That’s where the term “pump” comes from – the burning, tight feeling in your muscles after a strenuous lift that comes from blood being pumped to your muscles, which become engorged.
A nice pump expands your blood vessels and makes you look more vascular.
Over time, strenuous lifts will leave you with wider blood vessels and larger muscles, both of which are necessary for improved vascularity.
Step #3: Drink Lots of Water
Water retention affects your vascularity even after you shed fat and add muscle.
There are two main ways to regulate your water retention:
- Watch your sodium intake: High levels of sodium cause your cells to retain water, which makes you look bloated and decreases vascularity in the long term.
- Drink a gallon of water every day: The more water you drink, the less your body will need to retain on a baseline level (that means more than 8 cups a day).
Bonus Step: Hack Your Short-Term Vascularity
Following the three steps above help you achieve long-term vascularity, but there are ways to manipulate your vascularity to meet short-term needs.
Bodybuilders use what they call “Peak Week” strategies the week before contests and photo shoots to look as shredded as possible when the lights come on.
These strategies revolve around manipulating water retention.
About 30% of ingested fluids end up in a thin layer around your muscles very much like subcutaneous fat. The goal is to reduce that level of fluid surrounding your muscles at the right moment.
Here are the steps you should follow:
- Drink 2 gallons of water per day the first six days: This down-regulates a hormone called aldosterone (the hormone that conserves sodium) which causes your body to eliminate water frequently.
- Cut your water intake down to 1-3 cups the final 24 hours: Your body will continue to flush the water in your system despite the massive drop in fluid consumption.
- Cut your carbs down to trace amounts during Peak Week: Carbs are converted to glycogen, each gram of which contains 3-4 grams of water so you want to keep these low.
Then, in the final hours before the big event, employ these last few hacks:
- Chug a glass of red wine: Alcohol, especially red wine, has special digestive properties that increase vascularity when consumed prior to a competition or photo shoot.
- Get a pump: Go for high rep, low weight hypertrophy training to make those veins pop.
- Eat a high sodium meal: This one sounds counterintuitive, but lingering subcutaneous water that hasn’t been expelled will be sucked up when sodium is ingested.
- Don’t Forget to Smile: Take a moment to appreciate all the hard work you’ve put in!
While these strategies may provide a temporary boost, there are no shortcuts to improved vascularity.
You must be disciplined with your diet and fitness, plus get enough sleep every night so that your body can fully rest and recover after workouts.