Even though I feel amazing after working out, usually I don't see any instant change in how I look. Except for one spot: my arms. I'm not talking about bulging biceps (I wish). After exercising—even after something like running, not necessarily upper body day—the veins on my arms stick out for hours. And to be honest, I don't hate it! But the other day, I was gazing in admiration at my vascularity, when suddenly I wondered, Is this, um... normal? Like, have I actually been slowly dying of dehydration every time I've been feeling like a ripped badass? (See: 5 Signs of Dehydration—Besides the Color of Your Pee)
No, says Michele Olson, Ph.D., a professor of exercise science at Auburn University Montgomery in Montgomery, Alabama. (Phew.) "This is normal, and a good sign," she said. (Okay, now I'm just humble-bragging in the form of an article...It's an art.) "When you exercise, your blood pressure goes up. The veins dilate so that more blood can get to the working muscles. It's not a sign of dehydration; it must occur during exercise."
Here's what's actually happening, Olson says: Say I'm running or lifting weights. My muscles are contracting and pushing down on my veins. But at the same time, the muscles are demanding more blood. "If your veins don't dilate, blood won't get to your muscles," Olson explains.
Great! So are bulging muscles ever something to be worried about? "Only if there are other symptoms like heart palpitations, nausea, or excess diaphoresis," (I Googled it, it means sweating) she says. "But alone," Olson adds, "dilated veins are normal during and after exercise—or just when it's hot out even if you aren't exercising," (Heat can slow you down, but these 7 Running Tricks Help You Speed Up in Hot Weather.) Good news if you're like me and you're into the veiny arm thing.