Best Pre Workout Supplement Ingredients That Increase Pumps and Vascularity
Athletes and gym rats alike love smashing weight and repetition personal records. But, leaving with fully pumped muscles engorged with blood is one of the best non sexual feelings in the world.
Those cutting fat before a competition or swimsuit season get excited every time a new vein appears in either a pumped or relaxed state. With so many pre-workouts out there claiming increased pumps and vascularity, it’s easy to get bogged down in finding pre-workouts and intra-workouts that contain clinically proven ingredients which increase blood flow to the muscles.
Muscle pumps not only have an aesthetic appeal but also physiological benefits. Contracted muscles engorged with blood signifies the delivery of critical nutrients to the muscles. These nutrients facilitate increases in muscular size, strength and endurance as well as recovery.
Increased vascularity occurs as a result of vasodilation, the expansion of blood vessels, and increased blood flow to muscles as a result of contracting the target muscles. You can further enhance vascularity by decreasing your body fat to reveal veins as well as muscles you’ve spent so much effort and time building.
This article examines a number of popular clinically-proven and emerging novel compounds designed to increase pumps and vascularity. You’ll get a brief write up of the ingredient, the clinically or generally recommended effective dose, as well as the names of pre-workouts containing the compound.
Does the pump build muscle? MTS Nutrition Marc Lobliner tells you everything you need to know.
Pre-Workout Ingredients for Pumps and Vascularity
#1 – Agmatine Sulfate
Agmatine sulfate is one of the most popular ingredients used in pre-workout and some intra-workout formulas because it’s downright effective in increasing pumps and vascularity. This heavy hitting compound is derived from the amino acid L-arginine, a once popular ingredient in pre-workouts.
This compound regulates nitric oxide synthase to increase blood flow to the muscles and enhances both cognition and focus.  In addition to providing mind-blowing muscle pumps agmatine sulfate also appears to have nutrient partitioning, pain relief, and neuroprotective benefits. 
There is currently no clinically recommended dose of agmatine sulfate but most pre- and intra-workout products contain between 500mg and 1,500mg of agmatine sulfate per one scoop. Those that contain 500mg per one scoop are iForce Hemavol and MTS Machine Fuel. MTS Clash, Betancourt Pump’d, and Controlled Labs White Pump contain 750mg of this pump-inducing compound per one scoop. On the higher end of the spectrum, both Core Nutritionals Core Pump and Giants Sports Giant Pump have 1,000mg whereas Physiques of Greatness PreOG is packed with 1,500mg of agmatine sulfate per one scoop.
You should not consume agmatine sulfate alongside dietary protein sources as it competes with (and loses to) Arginine since they both use the same transporters.2 When consumed on an empty stomach, with branched chain amino acids (BCAAs), or alongside only fat and carbohydrates, agmatine sulfate provides increased muscle definition intra- and post-workout.
#2 – Citrulline (L-Citrulline & Citrulline Malate)
L-Citrulline and citrulline malate are the two most commonly used forms of citrulline in pre- and intra-workout products. L-citrulline is an amino acid clinically proven to significantly decrease fatigue and muscle soreness while increasing nitric oxide, flow, and arginine in the blood.  Citrulline not only improves pumps and vascularity but also staves off intra-workout fatigue and facilitates post-workout recovery, making it a must-have in your supplement stack.
Unlike L-citrulline which is a free form standalone amino acid, citrulline malate is bound to the molecule malic acid, typically in a 2:1 ratio. In other words, you should consume twice as much citrulline malate to obtain the equivalent amount of l-citrulline. Those looking to improve general blood flow should consume 1,000mg of citrulline malate three per day while those looking to perform at their peak on the field or in the gym should consume 6,000 to 8,000mg of citrulline malate approximately 60 minutes prior to exercise. 
If you want free form L-Citrulline then Kaged Muscle Pre-Kaged has a whopping 6,500mg, Core Nutritionals Core Pump contains 3,000mg and Pump Chasers Intra-pump offers 500mg per one scoop serving. If you prefer citrulline malate then Pump Chasers Pump and Grind has 6,000mg, iForce Hemavol contains 2,500mg, and Monster Pump NOS offers 3,000mg per one scoop.
Regardless of which form you prefer, don’t forget to include this pump and vein-inducing compounding in your supplement stack.
#3 – Nitrosigine®
Nitrosigine®, also known as arginine inositol silicate, is a breakthrough supplement produced by Glanbia Nutritionals that is scientifically proven to increase nitric oxide and silicon blood levels pre-, intra-, and post-workout. A daily oral dose of 750mg to 1,500mg of Nitrosigine® pre-workout increases vasodilation, arginine blood levels, maximum blood flow, as well as strengthen the walls of the arteries. 
If you want a heart-healthy pump-inducing supplement that increases in effectiveness the longer you use it then take this bonded form of arginine. Both MTS Vasky and Core Nutritionals Core Pump offer 1,500mg of Nitrosigine® per one scoop serving. Muscletech Anarchy contains 750mg while both Axis Labs Rainmaker and NutraKey Hydro Pump offer 500mg of Nitrosigine® per one scoop serving.
#4 – HydroMax™ Glycerol
HydroMax™ Glycerol is another cutting-edge pump and vascularity-inducing supplement now being used to replace glycerol monostearate (GMS). Comprised of 65% glycerol and 35% silica by weight, this compound offers the most concentrated and pure powder glycerol on the market and mixes easier than GMS. Consuming a minimum of one gram per kilogram of bodyweight prior to your workout will prevent dehydration via decreased urine volume, improve exercise performance by prolonging endurance, and significantly increase muscular pumps. 
While most of us won’t be consuming such a large quantity of this compound, just 700mg to 2,000mg can increase plasma and intramuscular volume, leaving you with enhanced pumps and vascularity intra- and post-workout.  MTS Vasky and Core Nutritionals Core Pump both contain a hefty 2,000mg of HydroMax™ glycerol per one scoop serving. Other products with this compound include Controlled Labs GlycerGrow 2 which has 1,500mg and Betancourt Pump’d which contains 1,000mg per one scoop serving.
#5 – Betaine (Nitrate & Anhydrous)
Betaine, also known as trimethylglycine, is a compound naturally made by the body but commonly found nitrate or anhydrous forms in pre- and intra-workout supplements. Betaine plays crucial roles in liver function, carnitine production, cellular reproduction, and preventing the buildup of amino acid homocysteine in the body.  High homocysteine levels increases the likelihood of developing hardened arteries, which decreases blood flow to muscles and critical organs. 
Oral daily doses of 500mg to 3,000mg can increase anaerobic running capacity, improve muscular endurance, and improve blood flow.8 Regular betaine use can improve muscular pumps and vascularity in a safe and natural way. MTS Ruckus has 750mg of betaine nitrate as NO3-T and Pump Chasers Pump and Grind has 1,500mg per one scoop. If you prefer betaine anhydrous then go with Controlled Labs White Pump or Monster Pump NOS, which have 3,000mg or 1,000mg per one scoop serving, respectively.
#6 – Beet Root (Beta Vulgaris)
Beets are a plant with leafy green leaves and either white, gold or deep purple stems and roots. The bulbous root is the most commonly consumed portion of the beet and is often an acquired taste. Beet root is rich in nitrates which promote whole-body blood flow and many slow or reverse the stiffening of arteries.  In addition to being high in nitrates beet root contain high levels of folic acid, fiber, manganese, and potassium. 
While many of these nutrients are stripped during the processing of beet root for supplements the ingredient can still enhance exercise performance and endurance.  If you love chasing the pump with sets of high repetition isolation exercises then beet root may be exactly what you need in your supplement arsenal. Betancourt Pump’d contains 250mg and MusclePharm Assault lists beet root as the 4th of 5 ingredients in a 3,500mg proprietary blend per one scoop serving.
Other Pump-Inducing Compounds
In addition to the compounds discussed above, there are a handful of other ingredients demonstrating increased muscle pumps, blood flow, and/or vascularity.
L-Norvaline. L-Norvaline is an unbranched form of the essential branched chain amino acid (BCAA) L-valine. Norvaline increases the body’s natural upper limit of nitric oxide production by up to 55%, which as a result increases nutrient transport to the blood, muscular pumps, and vascularity. 
Compared to the L-Valine content of many pre- and intra-workout supplements the L-Norvaline content is much lower. A large quantity is not required for the body to harness nitric oxide synthase-inducing effects. You can find 50mg, 125mg, and 150mg of Norvaline in one scoop of Betancourt Pump’d, iForce Hemavol, and Giants Sports Giant Pump, respectively.
Lycerol monostearate (GMS). Lycerol monostearate (GMS) is an odorless white powder derived from stearic acid previously used to increased muscle pumps but has since been replaced by HydroMax™ glycerol. The active ingredient in both compounds is glycerol, a sugar alcohol derived from animal fats and oils used to add body to food products. 
Glycerol hydrates and increases muscle pumps by drawing water and fluid in to the blood cells.  You can find 1,000mg of GMS in one scoop of the pre-workout iForce Hemavol. Alternatively, you get 6,000mg of GMS in 3 scoops of the original Controlled Labs GlycerGrow formula.
Rutacaerpine. Rutacaerpine is an alkaloid isolated from the Evodia Rutaecarpa plant and is commonly used in Chinese herbal medicine.  100mg of Rutacaerpine one to two times daily appears to relax and dilate the blood vessels as well as expedite the elimination of caffeine from the body without significant side effects. 
This anti-inflammatory alkaloid is only found in a handful of supplements as part of proprietary blends. iForce Hemavol lists this alkaloid as the 3rd of 4 ingredients in a 150mg blend. ProSupps N03 Drive lists it as the 4th of 4 ingredients in a 700mg blend. Con-cret Pump Extreme includes rutacaerpine as the 7th of 8 ingredients in a 2,758mg proprietary blend.
Glutamine nitrate. Glutamine nitrate offers increased vasodilation benefits from nitrates as well as immunoprotective and recovery-enhancing benefits from the amino acid L-glutamine. Nitrates relax blood vessels and lower blood pressure. Be careful not to overconsume nitrates as your body pressure may drop too low and you risk becoming lightheaded or fainting. Giants Sports Giant Pump contains 1,500mg of glutamine nitrate in one scoop.
Epimedium. Epimedium, also known as Horny Goat Weed, is an herb used in traditional Chinese medicine that not only promotes nitric oxide synthase (NOS) but also increases testosterone and sex drive.  Increased nitric oxide synthase equates to exceptional muscle pumps and ample nutrient delivery to the muscles.
You can purchase horny goat weed as a standalone product or as a part of iForce Hemavol, which lists epimedium as the 4th of 4 ingredients in a 150mg proprietary blend. Many standalone products include 500mg to 750mg of Epimedium standardized to 10% Icariin, the active flavonoid in this plant.
Pomegranate extract. If you love pomegranate seeds or juice, then consider a product with pomegranate extract. Pomegranates have potent antiviral, antibacterial, and antioxidant properties. A handful of human studies suggest that pomegranates increase whole-body blood flow and prevent the thickening and stiffening of arteries.  However, pomegranates may interact with certain medications much like grapefruits so check with your health care professional before using a pomegranate extract regularly.
MTS Machine Greens + Multi contains pomegranate in a 160mg proprietary blend, the pre-workout Betancourt Pump’d contains 250mg of pomegranate extract in one scoop, and ImSoAlpha Superfood includes both the extract and raw powder form as a part of 1,000mg and 5,820mg proprietary blends respectively.
Pycnogenol. Pycnogenol, also known as pine bark extract, contains high amounts of procyanidins which increases nitric oxide synthase, dilates blood vessels, and offers potent antioxidant properties when dosed daily in an amount between 40mg and 200mg. 
Pycnogenol is also being used in human studies as a compound to treat erectile dysfunction in males. You can find pycnogenol as a standalone supplement in quantities ranging from 30mg to 100mg. Universal Nutrition Shock Therapy lists this compound as the 7th of 8 ingredients in a 5,000mg proprietary blend.
Resveratrol. Resveratrol, a heart-healthy polyphenol found in the red grape skins and wine, naturally relaxes the blood vessels, improves circulation, and increases vascularity when used at oral doses of 5 to 25mg of trans-resveratrol.  While I do not recommend throwing back a few glasses of wine before a weightlifting session, some professional bodybuilders and physique competitors claim that consuming a glass of red wine before stepping on-stage increases vascularity and the appearance of dry, grainy muscles.
Resveratrol can be taken daily for its beneficial effects on inflammation, blood pressure, insulin sensitivity, and blood flow, specifically to the brain.  You can purchase resveratrol as a standalone supplement or as a part products like ImSoAlpha Superfood (40mg Knotweed Extract standardized to 20% resveratrol) or Purus Labs Recycle. (250mg of Knotweed Extract standardized to 50% resveratrol).
Do you love to chase the pump in the gym? Do you wake up every morning excited to see which veins are popping during your fat-loss phase? Comment below with your experiences on the compounds discussed above as well as any other ingredient you use to improve muscle pumps and vascularity.
1) Shaw, Steve. “Ultimate Guide to Agmatine: Benefits, Side Effects & Dosages.” Tiger Fitness. N.p., 2016. Web. May 2016.
2) Frank, Kurtis, et al. “Agmatine – Scientific Review on Usage, Dosage, Side Effects.” Examine.com. N.p., 2016. Web. May 2016.
3) Frank, Kurtis, et al. “Citrulline – Scientific Review on Usage, Dosage, Side Effects.” Examine.com. N.p., 2016. Web. May 2016.
4) Ludlow, Nicholas. “Nitrosigine: The Ultimate Pre-Workout Muscle Pump Ingredient?” Tiger Fitness. N.p., 2016. Web. May 2016.
5) Ludlow, Nicholas. “Glycerol Supplements for Workout Energy and Performance.” Tiger Fitness. N.p., 2016. Web. May 2016.
6) Bartos, Jeremy. “HydroMax Glycerol Powder 65%.” Glanbia Nutritionals. N.p., Aug. 2014.
7) Ehrlich, Steven D. “Betaine.” University of Maryland Medical Center. N.p., 6 July 2014. Web. May 2016.
8) Frank, Kurtis. “Trimethylglycine – Scientific Review on Usage, Dosage, Side Effects.” Examine.com. N.p., 2016. Web. May 2016.
9) “Can beetroot juice give you wings?” National Health Service (NHS) Choices. Gov.UK, 26 Aug. 2015. Web. May 2016.
10) Fisher, Roxanne. “The Health Benefits Of… Beetroot.” BBC Good Food. BBC Worldwide Ltd., n.d. Web. May 2016.
11) Vallejo, Rick. “L-Norvaline.” Evolutionary.org. N.p., 2016. Web. May 2016.
12) “Glycerol.” Dictionary.com. N.p., 2016. Web. May 2016.
13) Wingo, Jonathan E. et al. “Influence of a Pre-Exercise Glycerol Hydration Beverage on Performance and Physiologic Function During Mountain-Bike Races in the Heat.” Journal of Athletic Training 39.2 (2004): 169–175. Print.
14) Dharmananda, Subhuti. “Evodia: Traditional and Modern Uses.” Institute for Traditional Medicine. N.p., July 2010. Web. May 2016.
15) “Rutaecarpine (from Evodia Rutaecarpa).” Powder City. N.p., 2016. Web. May 2016.
16) Frank, Kurtis, and Sol Orwell. “Horny Goat Weed – Scientific Review on Usage, Dosage, Side Effects.” Examine.com. N.p., 2016. Web. May 2016.
17) Ehrlich, Steven D. “Pomegranate.” University of Maryland Medical Center. N.p., 2 Feb. 2016. Web. May 2016.
18) Frank, Kurtis, et al. “Circulation.” Examine.com. N.p., 2016. Web. May 2016.
19) Higdon, Jane, et al. “Resveratrol.” Micronutrient Information Center. Linus Pauling Institute, 11 June 2015. Web. 12 May 2016.