Vasodilation is the name given to the process that relaxes the blood vessels and causes them to dilate slightly. The process occurs whenever nitric oxide levels are increased and it causes the sensation bodybuilders refer to as the “pump.”
Why is Vasodilation Important?
During exercise, the muscles need an increased amount of nutrients and oxygen. Both these things are supplied by the blood. Vasodilation improves the circulation and ensures the muscles get more of what they need, but the benefits do not end there. When muscles are exercised, they produce lactic acid, ammonia, and other chemicals that can build up in the muscle tissue and limit the amount of work the muscles can do. The wider blood vessels caused by vasodilation help carry away more of these workout-limiting chemicals, thereby enabling bodybuilders to work out longer and harder, and attain better results.
What is the Pump?
The pump is the sensation bodybuilders experience when their muscles become flooded with extra blood and swell up, often making the skin that covers the muscle feel stretched and tight. Although the process occurs naturally whenever the muscles are exercised, some bodybuilders take nitric oxide-boosting supplements to help them experience an improved pump and all the benefits it entails.
Maximizing the Benefits of Vasodilation
Although vasodilation happens naturally whenever the muscles are exercised, some bodybuilders try and improve the process by eating foods that are high in nitrates.
Examples of nitrate-rich food include:
- Green beans
Eating nitrogen-rich foods can be an effective way of improving vasodilation, but a lot of bodybuilders use pre-workout supplements that boost nitric oxide as well. Many of these supplements contain the amino acids L-Arginine and L-Citrulline, but the doses need to be quite high and may cause headaches, diarrhea, or other side effects. Although this can be a problem for some people, many bodybuilders who use such supplements experience few or no side effects at all.
Another alternative is to take supplements that boost adenosine triphosphate (ATP) levels. This causes the body to manufacture an increased amount of nitric oxide and does not present as much possibility of side effects. The benefits of vasodilation cannot be denied, but the best way to enhance this natural process can vary from one individual to the next. Like so many things in life, it may boil down to a matter of personal preference.
HOW TO INCREASE VASODILATION
Vasodilation occurs when blood vessels expand, allowing larger amounts of oxygen and nutrient-rich blood to the muscles of the body. What results is that wonderful feeling of skin and muscle swelling which is called the “pump” after an intense workout, or the “runner’s high” after an invigorating run.
There are several ways to increase vasodilation. As mentioned, intense exercise is the best way to open up your blood vessels.
However, for the elderly or infirmed who cannot participate in rigorous exercise, massage is used to better circulate the blood and increase vasodilation. Essential oils are often used for this purpose which combines the beneficial elements of such natural ingredients as lemon, lemongrass, marjoram, cypress and myrtle, all of which have been used since ancient times to dilate capillaries and improve circulation.
Prescription vasodilators can also be obtained through a doctor, but you should have a medical reason for obtaining them. In the following portion of this article, we will discuss natural vasodilators, but these should never be used in place of prescription vasodilators unless it is first discussed with your doctor.
Natural Vasodilators and Their Sources
When it comes to exercise, vasodilation occurs naturally within the body. Nitric oxide is a powerful vasodilator and its effects are increased by eating foods rich in nitrates, flavonoids, L-arginine and other natural vasodilators.
Nitrates are contained in such foods as spinach, leaf lettuce and beets. When eaten, the saliva in the mouth turns natural nitrates into nitrites which then get swallowed and arrive in the stomach where nitrite is converted into nitric oxide by gastric acid. Nitric oxide is then used by the body to relax and dilate the walls of blood vessels.
Flavonoids play another key role in producing nitric oxide and can be found in foods like broccoli, spinach, kale, hawthorn and dark chocolate. Flavonoids magnify the effect of nitric oxide synthase which is the catalytic enzyme used in nitric oxide production. Therefore, flavonoids increase the activity of nitric oxide synthase which, in turn, increases the amount of nitric oxide produced by the body. The more nitric oxide coursing through the body, the more dilated the blood vessels become.
The amino acid L-arginine is another powerful vasodilator which research is finding is used by the body to assist with the synthesis of nitric oxide. Natural food sources which supply L-arginine are red meat, chicken, fish, cheese, milk and eggs. You can also obtain it from almonds, walnuts and cashews.
Increase Vasodilation through Supplementation
In addition to a nutritious diet filled with foods that stimulate nitrate oxide production, high quality supplements are very effective at increasing vasodilation. Such products include balanced sources of L-arginine, nitrate and other known ingredients which boost blood vessel vasodilation thereby flooding your muscles with oxygen and nutrients. These supplements are designed to give those active in weightlifting and bodybuilding massive “pumps” as the result of increased fuel flowing into their veins.