Ever wake up feeling slightly groggy but mostly fine, only to notice you have one, two, maybe three bruises you don’t recall ever getting? While we often brush them off as some girls’ night out souvenir, there could be a bit more to it than that. But the question is: are these black and blues anything to worry about?

Yes…and no.

While bruises in themselves are typically nothing to worry about, waking up with random, unexplainable black and blues could mean something more for your health. But the good news is, preventing bruising is easy. While we recommend consulting a doctor before taking any action, here’s the lowdown on where these “phantom bruises” come from and what exactly we should do about it:


Where do they come from?

Vitamin Deficiency

A lack of vitamins and nutrients in the diet is a very common reason for excessive bruising. Vitamin K (which causes blood to clot), Vitamin C (which forms collagen) and iron (which produces red blood cells) are three of the most popular deficiencies that cause phantom bruises. If you feel your diet could be the reason you have so many bruises, ask your doctor about taking additional vitamins or supplements.


It can be pretty easy to bruise yourself when you’re constantly moving, jumping and twisting parts of your body in class, but excessive bruising can often come from inside your body when you’re working out. Strenuous exercise, especially when doing exercises such as weight lifting, can cause tears in the blood vessels, leading to bruising. Mix up your workout types and go easy on your body if you begin to notice bruising post-workout.

Excessive sun exposure

Getting too much sun lately? It could be the reason you’re seeing bruises popping up in any exposed areas. That’s because UV rays cause blood vessel walls to thin, causing you to bruise more easily. Grab some shade and throw some extra SPF to prevent any additional black and blues.


Yup, taking certain medications could be the reason you’re getting some extra bruises lately. That’s because many meds prevent blood clotting, which means more blood is being released and causing your bruises. If you’re concerned your medication could be causing excessive bruising, talk to your doctor to see what you can do about it.


Growing up is fun, isn’t it? As you age, your skin naturally begins to thin due to a lack of collagen and fragile skin tissue, causing your body to bruise more easily. There’s nothing you can really do about getting older (unfortunately), but you can treat extra bruises with an ice pack and some extra rest.

Are they dangerous?

Typically, no. Random bruising can often be remedied by a diet adjustment or using an ice pack. Some bruising, however, can be linked to serious health problems. So when do you start becoming concerned? If you notice a sudden increase in random bruising, experience bruises that take more than two weeks to fade or start experiencing severe pain, it’s suggested you visit your doctor to get a full check-up.

What can you do about them?

No matter their cause, bruises are always a pain (literally). If you want to wear a dress tonight and don’t feel like seeing your legs covered in bruises, you can take some extra steps to make them fade faster. Topical treatments, even some infused with bruise-preventing vitamins such as Vitamin K, can speed up the recovery process. Icing the affected area with an ice pack within 24 hours of noticing a bruise can reduce pain and potential swelling. Some other natural remedies, such as applying apple cider vinegar, arnica oil and aloe vera to the bruise, can also help speedy along the healing process. Worst comes to worst, grab some cover-up and your skin should be looking good as new in no time.

leg in water image by Tomasz Wojnarowicz from Fotolia.com

Capillaries are the smallest blood vessels in the body, delivering nutrients and oxygen to body organs and whisking away chemical waste products. Capillaries are very thin and fragile, moving blood along a single blood cell at a time. Broken capillaries under the surface of the skin can appear as bruises or spider veins. There are many potential causes of unsightly, and sometimes unhealthful, broken capillaries in the legs, including injury and circulatory disorders.


Bruises are the dark patches appearing on skin when the impact of a blow or injury breaks the capillaries just below the skin surface. Bumping into furniture or other impacts can cause broken capillaries and bruising on the legs. Both the arms and legs are common locations for bruises, according to the MayoClinic.com. As you age, the capillaries in the skin grow weaker, the Mayo Clinic advises, so burst capillaries and their resulting bruises become more common. Skin also becomes thinner with age, and the discoloration of broken capillaries can be more apparent, especially in areas such as the shins which lack a protective fatty layer. This makes bruising from broken capillaries more visible.

Heredity and Hormones

Heredity and hormonal changes including adolescence, pregnancy, menopause, or hormonal treatment, are all primary causes of broken capillaries, according to Continuum Health Partners, Inc., a nonprofit hospital system in New York City. Using birth control pills or other estrogen treatment can also weaken blood vessel walls and lead to spider veins, which are broken capillaries in the legs, as well as varicose veins, which are larger veins in the legs which have become nonfunctional and distended with blood.

Chronic Venous Insufficiency

Obesity, inactivity, or aging can result in chronic venous insufficiency, a potentially dangerous health condition in which blood pools in the lower portion of the legs because the pumping action of the veins is not strong enough to return the blood to the heart and keep it in circulation. Capillaries under the skin of the legs burst from the excessive pressure of the pooled blood, creating discolored patches on the legs. Without appropriate treatment, these areas of broken capillaries can develop into ulcerated sores, advises the Penn State University Milton S. Hershey Medical Center College of Medicine. Maintaining a healthy weight and engaging in regular exercise are the keys to keeping the “second heart” of muscles and circulatory vessels in the legs strong and functional, according to Continuum Health Partners, avoiding and minimizing development of new broken capillaries and other signs of circulatory disorders in the legs.

Your arteries carry oxygen-rich blood from your heart to every part of your body. Veins carry the blood back to your heart. Many conditions can affect these blood vessels and cause problems.

Vascular surgeons treat vein and artery conditions. They diagnose them and help patients manage them. Treatments include diet, exercise, medicine, and procedures or surgery.

But some procedures are overused. As part of the Choosing Wisely series, the Society for Vascular Surgery has listed four procedures and when to avoid them. If your doctor orders one of them, you should ask why.

Blood clot filters—when you don’t have blood clots in a leg

A blood clot filter is a small metal device that the doctor puts in the large vein going to the lungs. The filter traps leg clots before they reach the lungs.

The problem with filters:

Blood clot filters can stop a clot from getting to the lungs, but they don’t prevent clots from forming.

Who needs filters?

You may need a filter if you have deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and you can’t take blood thinners.

  • DVT is a blood clot in a deep vein, usually in the leg. It can be dangerous because it can travel to the lungs and block blood flow. This is called a pulmonary embolism (PE), and it can be fatal.
  • Blood thinners are medicines that stop clots from getting bigger and stop new clots from forming.

Who does not need a filter?

Some doctors put filters in people who don’t have leg clots but are at high risk for getting them. Usually these are hospital patients who are having surgery, have major injuries, or are very sick. But filters won’t prevent clots—only blood thinners do that.

Filters have risks:

  • Filters can cause the vein to clot. This can block the vein and cause massive swelling of the legs.
  • The filter can move. You may need a procedure to fix or replace it.
  • The filter or a piece of it can break loose and go to the heart or lungs. This can cause injury or death.
  • Filters also increase the risk of developing DVT.

When to consider a filter.

Consider a filter if an imaging test shows that you have DVT or PE, and:

  • You can’t take blood-thinning drugs because you’re bleeding heavily or you have a high risk of bleeding.
  • You tried blood thinners but you had complications from them.
  • You tried blood thinners but they didn’t help.

Some filters are left in place permanently. Other types can be removed. If you have a removable filter, your doctor should take it out as soon as you can start blood thinners or as soon as the risk of PE has passed.

Procedures for leg artery disease (PAD)

Procedures to treat PAD have risks, and most people don’t need them. Your doctor will consider many factors before selecting a treatment plan that is right for you.

What is PAD (peripheral artery disease)? PAD is when you have clogged arteries in the legs and feet. It usually doesn’t cause symptoms, except some leg pain or cramping while walking. The symptoms usually go away when you stop walking, though a few people will have more severe symptoms.

Most people with PAD don’t need procedures. They can be helped by a lifestyle changes, exercise, medicine, and regular doctor visits. This approach reduces symptoms, improves walking, and prevents PAD from getting worse.

Procedures have risks: Angioplasty uses a tiny balloon or a stent to open an artery. Atherectomy removes plaque from an artery. Both treatments can improve blood flow but can also stop working in a year or two.

Surgery to bypass the blockage lasts longer, but is a major procedure and eventually it too can stop working. And it can lead to infection, bleeding, and complications from anesthesia in some people.

If they fail, these procedures can make symptoms worse. They may even cause you to need an emergency procedure.

Prevent DVT if you are hospitalized.

Ask your doctor about:

  • Taking blood thinners before and after surgery, or if you have to stay in bed.
  • Using a sleeve-like device on your legs during surgery or illness. It compresses your legs to keep blood flowing through your veins.
  • Wearing elastic compression stockings, to prevent blood from pooling in your veins.
  • Walking or doing other leg exercises as soon as possible after surgery, illness, or injury.

Consider a procedure to treat PAD if:

  • Your symptoms are so severe that they limit your daily activities.
  • Exercise and medicine haven’t helped.
  • You have continuous pain or wounds on the leg or foot that are not healing.

See your doctor right away if you have:

  • Foot pain at rest, especially at night.
  • Sores on toes or feet that don’t heal.
  • A toe that looks blue or black and may be painful.
  • Sudden pain in a leg, with a change in skin color (pale or whitish) or temperature (cold to the touch).

Tips to manage PAD:

Most people should try the steps below for six months before considering a procedure.

  • Stop smoking.
  • Do an exercise program that mixes walking and resting. Ask your doctor or health plan for advice.
  • Eat lots of fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy and whole grains. Avoid trans fats and limit saturated fats.
  • Ask your doctor if you need to take medicines for:
    • Preventing blood clots.
    • High blood pressure, high cholesterol, or diabetes.
    • Easing leg pain and helping you walk farther.
  • Check your legs and feet for skin changes or sores, and avoid injury. Be extra careful if you have diabetes.
  • Use comfortable footwear.

Ultrasound tests for spider veins

Ultrasound tests do not help. The test checks a large leg vein called the saphenous vein. But this vein has nothing to do with spider veins.

What are spider veins?

They look like a cluster of red or blue lines just under the skin. They’re usually on the legs, but can be on the face or other places.

They don’t cause symptoms, so treatment is cosmetic. Spider veins are different from varicose veins, which sometimes need medical treatment.

The risks of ultrasound tests: You may end up having an unnecessary procedure to destroy the vein. That won’t improve your spider veins or prevent new ones. And this vein can be used in surgery to bypass blocked heart or leg arteries. You should keep it unless it’s causing serious symptoms.

When to consider ultrasound: You may need an ultrasound if you have varicose veins with pain, bleeding, thickened red or brown skin, scaly skin, or open sores.

Tips to manage spider veins:

  • The main cosmetic treatment is sclerotherapy. The doctor injects a solution into the veins, which collapse and disappear over time.
  • If veins are too small to inject, laser treatment works well.
  • Try cover-up makeup or waterproof leg foundation.
  • Wear sunscreen.

Tests for dialysis access

Some doctors routinely use ultrasound scans or an invasive imaging test called a fistulogram to look for access problems. That’s not helpful if you don’t have warning signs.

What is an access?

Dialysis machines cleanse the blood in people

with failing kidneys. A surgeon makes an entrance or access in the arm to remove and return blood during dialysis.

The access can stop working, usually because it gets narrow. Fortunately, there are early warning signs, such as arm swelling, prolonged bleeding after dialysis, absence of a vibration (“thrill”) felt over the access, and certain measurements on the

machine. Every time you have dialysis, a staff

person should examine the access and check for these signs.

The risks of tests.

An access may be narrow but still work well. It’s better left untreated, but many doctors will do an angioplasty anyway. Complications can cause further damage, such as infection, bleeding, injury, and clotting.

When to consider tests.

You may need an ultrasound if the access isn’t working properly, based on the staff person’s exam and problems during dialysis. If the test shows narrowing or blockage, a fistulogram can be done. An angioplasty can be done at the same time.

Protect your access: Ask your dialysis care team to teach you how. The following tips can help:

  • Keep the site clean, and wash your hands with soap and warm water before and after touching it.
  • Call your care team if you have a fever or your access is warm, sore, swollen, red, or has pus.
  • Check the vibration in your access every day. If it changes or you don’t feel it, call your care team.

Protect the access arm:

  • Don’t carry heavy items with it.
  • Don’t sleep on it.
  • Don’t wear tight clothing or jewelry.
  • Don’t let anyone draw blood, measure blood pressure, or start an IV from it.

If you have any questions about your artery or vein problem, talk to your doctor. You can also visit www.vsweb.org/VascularFacts for more information.

This report is for you to use when talking with your healthcare provider. It is not a substitute for medical advice and treatment. Use of this report is at your own risk.

©2016 Consumer Reports. Developed in cooperation with the Society for Vascular Surgery.

Train For Veins: 6 Ways To Boost Vascularity

Why is it some of your fellow gym rats seem to have naturally prominent veins, while you’re left flat despite working tirelessly for the same look? Genetics undoubtedly play a role, but it’s too late now to go back and do a better job of picking your mom and dad.

Fortunately, there are ways you can enhance your short-term vascularity. Try these nutrition, training, and supplementation tricks all true vascular beasts know!

1. Get lean

Beyond genetics, the most important factor in skin-popping veins is how lean you are. Since body fat is commonly stored right under the skin, it’s literally what’s between you and your veiny self. For men, this usually requires single-digit body fat; for women, probably sub-20 percent body fat, although both genders may be able to spot a tell-tale biceps vein at slightly higher percentages.

To show off skin-popping veins, start by stripping away excess body fat.

If body fat is a problem, start by figuring out the necessary number of calories you need to maintain your weight, then subtract 300-500 calories a day to create a significant deficit. Over the course of the next 10-12 weeks, aim to lose 0.5-1.5 pounds per week by incrementally—but not dramatically—reducing calories and increasing exercise.

Keep the pace steady, because if vascularity is the goal, you want to lose as little muscle mass as possible.

2. Build Muscle

Bigger muscles demand more blood—it’s that simple. By training and eating with an emphasis on building muscle, your body will adapt by expanding its blood-vessel network to the newly built muscle mass.

In my experience, you’re probably best off alternating between dedicated mass-building and fat-loss phases in your quest to become both leaner and more muscular.

Here’s an example of a training split that works well for building muscle:

Push Day 1 4 sets, 10, 8, 6, 6 reps+ 5 more exercises

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  • Step-by-Step Instructions
  • Quickly read through our step-by-step directions to ensure you’re doing each workout correctly the first time, every time.

Pull Day 1 3 sets, to failure + 6 more exercises

  • Instructional Videos
  • Don’t risk doing a workout improperly! Avoid injury and keep your form in check with in-depth instructional videos.

  • How-to Images
  • View our enormous library of workout photos and see exactly how each exercise should be done before you give it a shot.

  • Step-by-Step Instructions
  • Quickly read through our step-by-step directions to ensure you’re doing each workout correctly the first time, every time.

3. Chase The Pump where You Want To See Veins

What you know as the “pump” is really just the term coined to describe cell swelling and metabolite accumulation, both of which are known to produce muscular growth. By consistently chasing the pump via a combination of high-intensity lifting techniques and short rest breaks, you drive a significant amount of blood into your muscles. This bodes well for looking swole.

Blood-flow restriction (BFR) can help you target vascularity in a specific body part.

To specifically hone in on the pump, consider trying blood-flow restriction (BFR) in your training. BFR involves partially restricting the veins of a working muscle, which ultimately results in a pooling of blood, because the veins are unable to carry it back to the heart. This massive increase in blood usually leads to the greatest pump of your life.

If you want to see veins in a particular muscle group—say, biceps, triceps, or quads—it’s a no-brainer to finish off your training day for that group with a solid pump. Choose biceps curls, triceps push-downs, or leg extensions for 4 sets of 30, 15, 15, and 15 reps using BFR, resting 30 seconds between sets. Or try Layne Norton’s “Legs And Arms Blast.”

4. Do Your Cardio

There are plenty of reasons to skip cardio, but one reason not to is that it may help promote more prominent veins. For starters, cardio helps to create a greater caloric deficit (assuming you’re not eating more to compensate), which works to reduce body fat. The leaner you are, the more vascular you appear.

Additionally, consistent aerobic exercise increases capillary density, or the number of capillaries (tiny blood vessels) that reach your muscles. It may even promote the formation of new capillaries.

By making cardio a staple in your exercise routine, you effectively promote more blood flow to your muscles. Over time, more veins will scratch the surface and show themselves when they’re adequately filled with blood.

5. Take Supplements For The Pump

One of the major reasons blood flow is amplified during exercise is related to the production and action of nitric oxide (NO). NO is a potent vasodilator, meaning it relaxes blood vessels to increase blood-flow efficiency.

Given that NO has such a profound impact on blood flow, many supplements have been formulated to enhance its production, and ultimately your pump, during exercise. Look at your pre-workout’s label or peruse online discussions, and you’ll find plenty of pump supplements getting pumped up, from agmatine to glycerol to ornithine.

But for starters, you can’t go wrong with these:


A few years ago, L-arginine was considered the premiere pump sup of the first order, because it’s a known NO precursor. However, it’s fallen out of favor because citrulline supplements have been shown to increase arginine levels more than arginine (and without the digestive distress some experience from arginine).

Dose: 6-8 grams of citrulline malate 30-60 minutes prior to your workout. For maximal results, take in one serving rather than spreading it out in multiple doses across the day.


The two most common dietary nitrate supplements are beetroot and pomegranate juice or extract. Both have been shown to positively impact blood flow when taken pre-workout because of their ability to act as vasodilators.

Dose: Supplement with 1000 milligrams of pomegranate extract 30 minutes before exercise. For beetroot, what you take will vary depending on whether you drink a juice or extract, or take a powdered supplement. In either case, load with a daily dose for a week, and then take a dose before you exercise.


Creatine acts as an osmolyte, meaning as it accumulates inside the muscle cell, fluid is drawn in as well. Supplementing with creatine can enhance cell swelling, lending a helping hand to your shirt-ripping pump and veiny exterior.

Dose: 5 grams of creatine monohydrate per day


A thermogenic increases heat production in the body. As a result, more blood flow is pushed to the surface of the skin, which aids in cooling the body. Examples of thermogenic substances include caffeine, green tea, capsaicin (the component in peppers responsible for their heat), and ginger.

6. Take Your Selfie Right After Training

This may seem like a no-brainer, but all things being equal, you’re probably going to look your most vascular when you’re still riding a great pump from the end of your workout.

Snap those selfies immediately after your workout to capture the pump.

There’s no scientific study that I know of measuring the length of the average pump, but 15-20 minutes is a good window to aim for. If you’re trying to bust into We Mirin’ or take the selfie that’ll break your social network, don’t wait until you’re at home digesting your dinner. Click it in the gym: Nobody will bat an eye!

Because there’s simply a dearth of research on the subject, I’d love hear what has worked for you in the quest for ever greater vascularity. Post your secret in the comments section below!

Top 5 Vascularity Supplements For Skin Stretching Pumps

In a hurry? Check out our top choice:

Best of The BestHemanavol HEMANOVOL will give you an awesome pump. Your muscles will feel full and tight and your veins will star to pop. Summary

  • Fully dosed ingredients
  • Non-stimulant (no caffeine)
  • Balanced formulation

Vascularity, the condition where the veins are clearly visible under the surface of the skin. It is the mark of being ripped.

It proclaims to the world that you’re carrying a low percentage of body fat and that you are pumped and ready for action. This why so many guys are looking for vasodilator supplements to achieve super vascularity.

  • Fully dosed ingredients
  • Non-stimulant (no caffeine)
  • Balanced formulation
Check on Amazon
MTS Vasky
  • Excellent value
  • Provides great pumps
  • Non-stimulant
Check on Amazon
Pump HD
  • Boosts energy
  • Provides a pump effect
  • Stimulant free
Check on Amazon
Glycer Grow 2
  • High in Glycerol and Taurine
  • Provides maximum hydration
Check on Amazon

What are Vascularity Supplements?

Vascularity supplements are natural herbal compounds designed to enhance the vascularity of the user. They are used by bodybuilders and other gym goers to bring about a vascular effect by enlarging the veins to allow for greater blood flow.

This allows more blood to rush toward the muscle cell, bringing on the pump effect. In this condition, the muscles are gorged with blood, which makes them look and feel bigger and tighter.

Vascularity Supplements Pro & Cons


  • Increased blood flow to supply more nutrients to the muscle cell
  • Brings out a vascular, ripped appearance
  • Promotes a muscular pump


  • No proven athletic benefit
  • May induce diarrhea, vomiting or low back pain

Who Should Take Vascularity Supplements?

Vascularity supplements are designed to be used by people who exercise regularly with weights, and have a body fat level below 15%. If you are over that level, you will not see an increase in vascularity due to the layer of subcutaneous fat between your skin and your veins.

When Should Vascularity Supplements Be Taken?

Take your vascularity supplement just before heading to the gym. This will allow the veins to expand so that more blood is rushing to your working muscles while you’re training.

What Are The Best Vascularity Supplements?

In order to bring on vascularity, supplements are designed to boost nitric oxide levels. Nitric oxide will relax muscle tissue, improve the flow of blood through the veins and prevent stiffness in the arteries.

The three best nitric oxide boosters are:

L-Citrulline – Citrulline is a great nitric oxide booster, providing the mechanism to enlarge the veins.

L-Arginine – This amino acid acts as a vasodilator, opening out the veins for an increased blood flow.

Creatine Monohydrate – Creatine helps the body to uptake fluid. This will put more fluid in your veins, leading to greater vascularity and a better pump.

Top 5 Vascularity Supplements of 2018



H-Vol has a bulked up ingredient list that includes 575 milligrams of agmatine, an arginine derivative, will boost nitric oxide levels to engorge the veins. 1.253 grams of citrulline will reduce fatigue and further fill out the veins. A proprietary formula called Hydromax will increase muscle fluid levels.


  • Fully dosed ingredients
  • Non-stimulant (no caffeine)
  • Balanced formulation


  • Quite expensive at only 25 servings per container


HEMANOVOL will give you an awesome pump. Your muscles will feel full and tight and your veins will star to pop.


The best deal we found for 30 servings, brings it to around $1.20 per serving.

Get HEMANOVOL on Amazon.com

MTS Vasky

MTS Vasky, by Tiger Fitness, contains two patented blends to promote vascularity. The first is Nitrosigine, a nitric oxide booster that contains bonded arginine silicate. The second blend is Hydromax, designed to boot cell hydration through the actions of silica and glycerol. Taurine is also used to pull water into the muscles, enhancing the pump effect.

  • Excellent value
  • Provides great pumps
  • Non-stimulant
  • Unflavored

This supplement delivers a full, pumped muscle effect that feels great. It also boosts energy levels and noticeably increases vascularity.

You get 30 servings of MTS Vasky, putting the per serving cost around $0.67. That is impressive value.

Get MTS Vasky on Amazon.com

Pump HD

The reformulated Pump HD has undergone a transformation to now be completely stimulant free. Their Pump HD Matrix adds blueberry, pine bark, and red wine to glycerol to produce an enhanced vasodilation effect. Manganese and carnitine are added to boost the pump effect.

  • Boosts energy
  • Provides a pump effect
  • Stimulant free
  • Doesn’t boost strength
  • Pump not as powerful as with other products

Pump HD does a good job of vasodilating and pumping up the bloodstream. While it does have a muscular pump effect, it is not of the powerful weight lifting type but akin to what runners might require. Pump HD did not improve strength levels.

For 25 servings, this is an affordable supplement. The per serve cost breaks down to $0.80.

Get Pump HD on Amazon.com

Glycer Grow 2

Glycer Grow 2 is a reformulated product from Controlled Labs built around glycerol as the key ingredient. Each scoop provides 1,500 mg of both glycerol and taurine. Glycerol is an effective muscle cell hydrator, while taurine improves blood flow to provide enhanced nutrient transportation. Sodium and potassium are included to boost the effects of the main ingredients.

  • High in Glycerol and Taurine
  • Provides maximum hydration
  • Bland tasting
  • Not a strong pump effect

You will feel full as a result of the hydration but the pump effect won’t be as pronounced as products that contain more proven vasodilators.

At $38 for 60 capsules, this may seem a bargain – until you realize that you need to take 2 capsules per day. That breaks down to $1.27 per day.

Get Glycer Grow 2 on Amazon.com

Discontinued – Komodo Vaskular

Komodo Vaskular is a pre-workout that has a potent pump effect. It includes a massive 3 grams of L-Citrulline, 1 gram of Agmatine Sulfate and 2.5 grams of glycerol to provide a massive amount of hydration and nutrient uptake to engorge the muscle cell. An extra strength boost is provided by arachidonic acid, which has been shown in studies to improve strength by up to 5.5 times.

  • Heavy duty dosages
  • Boosts energy
  • Increases strength
  • Powerful pump effect
  • Expensive

You will get noticeable results after the first workout when you use Komodo Vaskular. It will boost your strength and your energy and bring out your pump effect.

The cost of a 25 serve supply of Komodo Vaskular is $35.99, making the per serving cost $1.44.


Are you pumped up yet? If you are not, what are you waiting for? Vasodilator supplements are a great addition to your arsenal. At the end of the day, who doesn’t love a great pump?

Now you should have a good idea what to look for when picking your weapon of choice. If it was me, I would go with H-VOL though.

A simple definition of vascularity:

Superficial veins which can be seen spiraling through a person’s muscles.

Superficial veins are located at the surface of the skin, with their physiological function being to cool the body.

When a person’s body temperature rises too high, blood is transferred from deep veins to the superficial veins. This prevents the internal organs from overheating.

High levels of vascularity is coveted by bodybuilders, due to visible veins making a physique look ‘more ripped’ and ‘freakish’. This can give the illusion of increased muscularity and decreased body fat.

This vascular look is particularly of interest to bodybuilders during the summer months, when they’ve been cutting and want to reveal as much muscle definition and vascularity as possible. Vascularity is considered the ‘icing on the cake’ for a bodybuilder.

What Affects Vascularity?

Genetics play a significant role in how vascular a person is. Specifically, how much collagen the body produces will affect the thickness of the skin.

Collagen is a protein that is responsible for increasing skin elasticity, located in the dermis, making it less prone to wrinkling. It also plays a role in rejuvenating dead skin cells.

If a person produces high levels of collagen, they will naturally have thick skin. As a result they’ll have more layers of skin (epidermis) covering/hiding superficial veins.

Equally, if a person has decreased collagen synthesis, this will result in thinner skin.

Thin skin is often considered an undesirable characteristic in men and women, due to it being the consequence of ageing. However, one benefit to less elastic skin is increased vascularity.

This is why steroid-users often display exceptional levels of vascularity, due to high doses of anabolic steroids decreasing collagen synthesis (1). Older bodybuilders are also more likely to be vascular, due to collagen production gradually decreasing as the body ages. Deca durabolin (nandrolone) is the exception to this rule, with this steroid actually stimulating collagen synthesis (2).

2. Body fat %

The less subcutaneous fat a bodybuilder has, the more vascular they will be. Usually in order to see noticeable levels of vascularity, a bodybuilder will need to be less than 10% body fat. However, 7% or less is optimal.

Thus bodybuilders in the off season are typically less vascular, as they are following high calorie diets, known as a bulking phase.

Note: men at higher body fat percentages can still be vascular, however it is less likely. This is due to excess body fat increasing the distance from where the veins are situated, to the surface of the skin; due to additional fat stores.

For women, they will need to be less than 20% body fat for enhanced vascularity, and ideally 17% or lower.

When dieting, losing just a few percentages of body fat, can have a considerable impact on vascularity. For example, a bodybuilder may cut from 20% to 10% and not notice any improvements. However, a further reduction from 10% to 7% may result in a bodybuilder’s cephalic vein being visible (for example).

1. Basilic and median veins 2. Cephalic vein

If someone is very lean, it doesn’t guarantee that they will have exceptional vascularity. Collagen synthesis is arguably a more important factor when determining this sensation. This is why you can have people with very low levels of body fat, yet their skin still appears to be thick.

3. Blood Flow

Enhanced blood flow can cause an increase in vascularity, hence the popularity of vasodilator supplements in bodybuilding.

A good example of this principle in action is when a man has an erection. Whilst erect, the superifical dorsal vein can often be seen. However, when flaccid, this vein moves away from the surface of the skin and is no longer visible.

This extra blood flow can explain why bodybuilders are more vascular during a workout. Whilst lifting weights, blood often fills the working muscles, resulting in a pump/increased vascularity.

Furthermore, a bodybuilder may become increasingly vascular during the summer months, due to a person’s body’s temperature rising. Consequently blood rushes to the surface of the skin. This is the body’s own defence mechanism in action, ensuring the internal organs don’t overheat.

Equally when it’s cold, blood rushes inwards, in an attempt to keep the vital organs as warm as possible.

This is why it is very difficult for a bodybuilder to be vascular when they’re cold, or shivering.

One bodybuilder who understood this principle came up with a method to increase his body temperature before stepping out on stage. He would blow hot air onto his muscles from a hair dryer, instead of ‘pumping up’. His methodology was effective, with his veins rising to the surface of his skin within seconds.

You can watch the the video here:

Another bodybuilder put this concept to the test, where it was effective again (see below).

This hair dryer method certainly gives evidence that increased blood flow (to the surface of the skin) can significantly increase vascularity, albeit for a limited period of time.

Higher levels of nitric oxide (N.O) are thus desirable for vascularity. N.O is a molecule that causes blood vessels to dilate, and thus increases blood flow to the muscles.

Research has shown certain foods to be effective at increasing N.O production, thus adopting a diet rich in the following foods may enhance vascularity:

  • Beetroot
  • Dark chocolate
  • Garlic
  • Leafy greens
  • Citrus fruits
  • Pomegranates
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Red wine

Studies have shown beetroot juice to increase N.O production by 21% in just 45 minutes (3).

30 grams of dark chocolate daily has shown to cause significant increases in N.O. (4).

Aged garlic extract can increase N.O levels by as much as 40%, 1 hour after administration (5).

In one study, those who consumed spinach had salivary nitrate rise by 8x (6).

The vitamin C content in citrus fruits is found to have a positive effect on N.O levels (7)

Pomegranates also can increase N.O, due to their strong antioxidant profile (8).

L-arginine has proven to increase N.O production. Nuts and seeds are rich in this amino acid (9).

Red wine increases nitric oxide synthase, the enzyme which is crucial for higher N.O levels (10). However, regular consumption of alcohol isn’t recommended for bodybuilders. due to cortisol increasing. However, red wine may be effective pre-contest due to its vasodilation and diuretic properties.


Another way to increase the body’s core temperature is by stimulating thermogenesis.

This is the process which increases the body’s core temperature, thus shifting blood away from your internal organs and to the surface of your skin. The following foods may be able to stimulate this effect:

  • Cayenne pepper (11)
  • Green tea (12)
  • Ginger (13)
  • Peanuts (14).

Thus a bodybuilder could add low-sugar peanut butter sandwiches (on wholemeal bread) to their diet plan, eat a gingerbread man post-workout, sprinkle cayenne pepper on his next steak, or drink green tea before workouts. All of these when done regularly will increase thermogensis, boosting your metabolism and perhaps having a mild effect on vascularity.

If none of these diet tweaks appeal to you, you can always take cayenne pepper, green tea or ginger root in supplement form which may also prove effective.

4. Muscle Mass

For your muscles to function, they need nutrients.

Muscles obtain nutrients via your blood stream. Thus if your muscles grow, they will require further nutrients.

A higher demand for nutrients requires more blood flow, so it is theorized that: a more muscular bodybuilder will be more vascular.

There aren’t any studies or data to back this up, and so it is merely a theory.

However, this could be another reason why steroid-users have more prominent veins than natural bodybuilders (on average), because they will have more muscle mass on average.

5. Water Retention/Glycogen

If there is a significant amount of water that collects in between your muscle and skin (extracellular retention), then this can obscure your veins. This type of water retention can also reduce muscle definition.

Alternatively, if there is water retention inside the muscle cell (intracellular) your muscles will inflate. This is the type of water retention that is desirable for vascularity.

When bodybuilders prepare for a contest, they typically carb deplete to eliminate glycogen (energy stores) inside the muscle cell.

By carb depleting, bodybuilders will flush out extracellular and intracellular fluid.

After fully depleting they may see an increase in vascularity, due to a reduction in fluid outside the muscle cell. Equally, their muscles will shrink temporarily due to a loss of intracellular fluid.

However, when the bodybuilders carbs up again, because their muscles are craving glycogen, an influx in carbohydrates will result in more water being retained inside the muscle cell.

Thus a bodybuilders muscles will be inflating with glycogen, combined with very little water collecting outside of their muscles.

For every 1 gram of carbohydrate consumed, the body will retain an additional 3 grams of water (15).

Therefore, if a bodybuilder wanted to look extra vascular for a certain day, following this protocol may prove to be effective. A general guide would be:

Carb deplete for a few days by eating <30g carbs per day.

Then the day before you want an increase in vascularity, carb load with high G.I (glycemic index) foods – eating 2.5g of carbohydrates per lb of bodyweight.

Then on the actual day, carbohydrates should remain high.

If carbohydrates/calories go too high during this period, there is a chance the person can ‘spill over’, meaning some water might be distributed outside of the muscle cell. Not eating more than 2.5g of carbs per lb of body weight (when carbing up) will prevent the chances of this happening.

High GI foods will replenish glycogen stores faster and more effectively than low ones.

Examples of high glycemic foods:

  • White baguette – 95
  • Coco pops – 77
  • English muffin – 70
  • Waffles – 76
  • Rice cakes – 70-91
  • White bread – 73
  • Cornflakes – 93
  • White rice – 89

Alcohol Effect

Some bodybuilders can become vascular when drinking alcohol. This is due to ethanol being a diuretic, thus eliminating extracellular water retention. This is why some bodybuilders drink red wine the night before a competition, to make them appear more ‘dry’.

Here’s a picture of me when I was around 7% body fat during a workout. This was the day after drinking a considerable amount of alcohol.

I rarely ever drink alcohol and it’s even more rare for veins to appear through my arms (even when I’m very lean). Thus these were some freaky veins, and is further evidence that alcohol has a positive effect on vascularity.

Drinking more water will also determine how visible your veins are. This is because the more water you drink, the more water your body will flush out.

This is a defence mechanism by the body to stop it from retaining too much water.


For increased vascularity (in the short term):

  • Carbohydrate cycling
  • Consume alcohol
  • Use a hairdryer

For increased vascularity (long-term):

  • Increase blood flow, via the utilization of N.O producing foods in diet
  • Lower body fat
  • Regular consumption of foods that stimulate thermogenesis (cayenne pepper, green tea, ginger).
  • Build more muscle
  • Drink more water
  • Sun exposure (decreased collagen)

There are several ways for a bodybuilder to increase vascularity, with some methods having a profound effect, and others only mild.

Here are two standard recommendations when trying to increase vascularity significantly:

  1. Decrease body fat %
  2. Drink more water (or take diuretic supplements)

Just by focusing on these two factors, a bodybuilder will almost certainly see an increase in vascularity (no matter what their genetics are).

Excluding genetics, losing body fat is possibly the number 1 factor for increasing vascularity. This is something that almost everyone can control, by adopting a calorie deficit diet.

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What can I do about varicose veins?

If the patient has no symptoms or discomfort and is not bothered by the sight of the varicose veins, treatment might not be necessary. However, if there are symptoms, treatment may be required to reduce pain or discomfort, address complications, such as leg ulcers, skin discoloration, or swelling.

Some patients may also want treatment for cosmetic reasons – they want to get rid of the “ugly” varicose veins.

If varicose veins are large, they may need to be removed surgically. This is usually done under general anesthetic. In most cases, the patient can go home the same day – if surgery is required on both legs, they may need to spend one night in hospital.

Laser treatments are often used to close off smaller veins, and also spider veins. Strong bursts of light are applied to the vein, which gradually fades and disappears.

Two incisions are made, one near the patient’s groin at the top of the target vein, and the other is made further down the leg, either at the ankle or knee. The top of the vein is tied up and sealed. A thin, flexible wire is threaded through the bottom of the vein and then pulled out, taking the vein with it.

This procedure does not usually require a hospital stay. Ligation and stripping can sometimes result in bruising, bleeding, and pain. In extremely rare occasions, there may be deep vein thrombosis.

After surgery, most patients will need 1-3 weeks to recover before going back to work and other normal duties. During recovery time, compression stockings are worn.


A chemical is injected into small and medium-sized varicose veins, which scars and closes them. A few weeks later, they should fade. A vein may need to be injected more than once.

A small incision is made either above or below the knee, and with the help of an ultrasound scan; a narrow tube (catheter) is threaded into the vein.

The doctor inserts a probe into the catheter, which emits radiofrequency energy. The radiofrequency energy heats up the vein, causing its walls to collapse, effectively closing it and sealing it shut. This procedure is preferred for larger varicose veins. Radiofrequency ablation is usually done with a local anesthetic.

A catheter is inserted into the patient’s vein. A small laser is threaded through the catheter and positioned at the top of the target vein; it delivers short energy bursts that heat up the vein, sealing it shut.

With the aid of an ultrasound scan, the doctor threads the laser all the way up the vein, gradually burning and sealing all of it. This procedure is done under local anesthetic. There may be some nerve injury, which is usually brief.

An endoscopic transilluminator (special light) is threaded through an incision under the skin so that the doctor can see which veins need to be taken out. The target veins are cut and removed with a suction device through the incision.

A general or local anesthetic may be used for this procedure. There may be some bleeding and bruising after the operation.

Symptoms of Bulging Veins

Posted October 7th, 2016

Bulging veins are a common symptom of several conditions such as pregnancy, thrombophlebitis, and old age. They often come in the form of varicose veins and spider veins and usually appear in the legs. These veins can be swollen, distorted, dilated, and discolored.


Healthy veins have valves that keep blood from flowing down as it is pumped up through the leg. Bulging veins occur when these valves malfunction and allow blood to flow backward and pool into the vein. They can be caused by a number of conditions that affect the vein directly or not. For example, bulging veins are often caused by swollen veins or thrombophlebitis, but they can also be caused by more general states of being such as pregnancy, old age, obesity, or lack of movement.

Other causes of bulging veins could include blood clots, abdominal tumors, low body fat, or genetics.


There are an array of symptoms that can let you know you might have bulging veins. Bulging veins in the legs can cause:

  • Skin darkening
  • Itchy rash
  • Swelling
  • Achy or throbbing legs
  • Crampy or heavy legs

Bulging veins don’t always affect only your legs, though. They can also go along with symptoms of other conditions that impact different areas of the body. You may experience symptoms of diabetes, for example, with skin ulcers near the feet, damage to blood vessels, or wounds that heal slowly. Other symptoms of pregnancy, obesity, or thrombophlebitis could also indicate bulging veins.

Sometimes, bulging veins can be a sign of a more serious medical condition. Seek immediate medical attention if you experience sores or ulcers on your ankles, thickening of the skin around your calf and ankle, warmth and redness in the leg, bleeding from an injury to your vein, or a pulling feeling in your leg. These could be symptoms of life-threatening conditions such as blood clots, tumors, or infections.


In early stages, bulging veins may be treated with compression socks and exercise. This may also help future bulging veins from forming. More serious cases of bulging veins should be treated by a doctor. Common treatments include different therapies, medicines, and procedures, and are often minimally invasive.


Once you’ve determined you do have bulging veins, it’s important to treat them properly. Leaving bulging veins untreated increases your risk of potential complications such as skin ulcerations, blood clots, and increased swelling and pain.


Reduce your chances of forming bulging veins by keeping your body healthy. Exercise regularly and monitor your weight. This will ensure proper circulation and help you avoid putting too much pressure on your legs. Avoid crossing your legs or wearing high heels for long periods of time. This will help your blood flow through your veins properly. Maintain a healthy, low-salt diet rich in fiber. Though not all bulging veins can be avoided, following these tips will reduce your chances and keep you healthy.

*Author is not a doctor and does not claim to offer medical advice. Any and all information in the is article should not be treated as such. Please consult your physician for further information.

Varicose Veins

Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is a serious condition with blood clots in the deep veins. This condition does not usually happen with varicose veins. That is because varicose veins affect the veins close to the surface of the skin. However, with severe varicose veins, there is a small chance of developing blood clots in the deep veins. Blood clots need medical care right away. Symptoms of blood clots include pain, swelling, and redness of the leg. Blood clots may also happen in the arms or other parts of the body. If you have symptoms that may mean a blood clot, call your healthcare provider.

A piece of a blood clot may break off and travel to the lungs (pulmonary embolism). A blood clot in the lungs is very serious and may cause death. Symptoms include chest pain, trouble breathing, coughing (may cough up blood), a fast heartbeat, sweating, and fainting. If you have symptoms that may mean a blood clot in the lungs, call 911 or get emergency help.

What are the symptoms of varicose veins?

The following are the most common symptoms of varicose veins. However, each individual may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:

  • Color changes in the skin

  • Sores on the legs

  • Rash

  • Sensations in the legs, such as a heavy feeling, burning, and/or aching

Severe varicose veins may eventually produce long-term mild swelling that can result in more serious skin and tissue problems. These include ulcers and nonhealing sores.

The symptoms of varicose veins may resemble other medical conditions or problems. Always talk with your healthcare provider for a diagnosis.

How are varicose veins diagnosed?

In addition to a complete medical history and physical exam, diagnostic procedures for varicose veins may include:

  • Duplex ultrasound. A type of vascular ultrasound done to check blood flow and the structure of the leg veins. Duplex means two types of ultrasound are used.

What is the treatment for varicose veins?

Specific treatment for varicose veins will be determined by your healthcare provider based on:

  • Your age, overall health, and medical history

  • Extent of the condition

  • Your signs and symptoms

  • Your tolerance of specific medicines, procedures, or therapies

  • Expectations for the course of the condition

  • Your opinion or preference

Medical treatment may not be necessary if there are no symptoms. However, varicose veins may sometimes worsen without treatment.

Medical treatment may include:

  • Elevation of the legs. You may be instructed to elevate your feet above the level of your heart 3 or 4 times a day for about 15 minutes at a time. If you need to sit or stand for a long period of time, flexing (bending) your legs occasionally can help keep blood circulating. If you have mild to moderate varicose veins, elevating your legs can help reduce leg swelling and relieve other symptoms.

  • Compression stockings. These elastic stockings squeeze the veins and prevent blood from pooling. Compression stockings can be effective if they are worn every day.

  • Sclerotherapy. Sclerotherapy is the most common treatment for both spider and varicose veins. A salt (saline) or chemical solution is injected into the varicose veins. They no longer carry blood. And, other veins take over.

  • Thermal ablation. Lasers or radiofrequency energy may be used to treat varicose veins. A tiny fiber is inserted into a varicose vein through a catheter. The laser or radiofrequency energy is used to deliver heat that destroys the wall of the varicose vein.

  • Vein stripping. This is surgery to remove varicose veins.

  • Microphlebectomy. Special tools inserted through small cuts (incisions) are used to remove varicose veins. It may be done alone or with vein stripping.

What are the complications of varicose veins?

Varicose veins are usually not serious. But, complications may happen. They include:

  • Inflammation or swelling of veins (phlebitis)

  • Blood clots

Can varicose veins be prevented?

Steps to prevent varicose veins include:

  • Keeping a healthy weight

  • Exercising regularly

  • Putting your feet up while sitting

  • Not crossing your legs while sitting

  • Not wearing tight clothing

Broken blood vessels on legs after exercise

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