If I workout at the gym and pump my muscles will they stay swole or return to original size? This is a common question, here is the answer.
The muscle pump you get from lifting weights looks, and feels, great in the gym, but what if we told you it isn’t a temporary effect.
Research has shown that some of that muscle size increase stays with us after we have finished that gym session.
Not only that but there are certain natural ingredients in food and supplements that can increase the vasodilation (muscle pump) effect even more than the mechanical action of resistance training with weights.
Read this article, and the next time you catch your reflection in the mirror at the gym, you’ll start to appreciate that swole look all the more.
Click here to find out which supplements are the best for getting pumped
Vasodilation and Nitric Oxide
Most regular weight lifters will know that nitric oxide (NO) is a key compound in the process of vasodilation, and ultimately, the muscle pump.
The word vasodilation just refers to the dilation, or widening, of the blood vessels.
This effect increases the volume of blood that can flow through the arteries and blood vessels. Blood contains oxygen and other nutrients, and so more of that gets to the target organs or muscles.
In the case of resistance training, the mechanical contraction of the muscles triggers increases NO activity in and around the muscles being worked. NO triggers the relaxation of the smooth muscle that lines the blood vessels, which can dilate more as a result.
Nitric Oxide is the key to a good muscle pump.
Muscle Pump and Lifting Weights
When you lift weights, excess blood travels to the muscle under load and is trapped there temporarily.
Any additional nutrients – supplements included – and of course much needed oxygen is used by the muscle, thus allowing it to push harder and last longer.
Previously, it was thought that this process was entirely temporary, and that the muscle growth that followed came solely from neural adaptation, overcompensation and protein synthesis – basically, the muscle repairing itself but adding some mass and strength in the process so that the next time it has to pick up that weight, it is easier.
Research shows that a portion of the size increase from the muscle pump itself is permanent.
Mechanical Trigger of Anabolic Muscle Growth
The first signal for the muscles to begin the process of anabolic growth comes from the very force of muscle contraction at the cellular level.
The pressure each cell in the muscle undergoes during the vasodilation process is the first trigger of anabolism.
This is also known as exercise-induced hypertrophy. The cell swelling is the temporary reaction but the permanent gains are less understood. One theory is that it triggers a kind of survival reaction.
In basic terms, the cell swelling makes the cell walls stretch nearer to the point of being compromised. Somehow, this is relayed as a signal for the cell membrane and thus the fibres that make up the muscle to be thicker and stronger.
Preworkout Supplements and Dietary Ingredients that Boost NO
Given that it all comes back to Nitric Oxide stimulating that vasodilation response, anything that can increase its production is a good thing, provided it is safe of course.
Nitric Oxide is increased by the amino acid L-Arginine. However, straight l-arginine as a supplement is not as effective as others in actually raising levels of serum arginine.
Weird as that may sound, it is nonetheless true, and has much to do with the speed at which arginine is broken down.
A more effective method is to take L-Citrulline and Nitrates in food such as beets and spinach.
One of the most effective combinations is in fact Beets and L-Citrulline. And it just so happens we have found the product out there that contains that very combination, plus a blend of other excellent pre-workout ingredients.
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- Pérez-Guisado J, Jakeman PM. Citrulline malate enhances athletic anaerobic performance and relieves muscle soreness. J Strength Cond Res. (2010)