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.