In the never-ending quest for ways to get bigger, stronger and more powerful, the scientific sports community is constantly seeking compounds that will accelerate gains while minimizing side effects. One of the most interesting is SARMs. Yet, most people are in the dark about what they are and how they work.
In this article we will shed full light on SARMs. In the process we’ll discover what they are, how they, work, the benefits and side effects and how to use them. In short, we’ll provide you everything you need to know to become SARMs savvy.
When we discuss subjects like this, there is going to be quite a bit of technical discussion – that’s unavoidable. We’ll do our best to keep it as understandable as we can.
What are SARMs?
- 1 What are SARMs?
- 2 SARMs Benefits
- 3 A Brief History of SARMs
- 4 How Do SARMs Work?
- 5 How Do SARMs Differ from Anabolic Steroids?
- 6 SARMs and HRT
- 7 Research on Muscle Size and Strength
- 8 Research on Cancer & Virility
- 9 Are SARMs Legal?
- 10 The Different Types of SARMS
- 11 Who Uses SARMS and Why?
- 12 How Will SARMS Make You a Better Bodybuilder?
- 13 SARMs for Bulking
- 14 SARMs for Cutting
- 15 SARMs for Stacking with Anabolics
- 16 SARMs Side Effects
- 17 A Concerning Study
- 18 SARMS and PCT
- 19 The Rules of PCT
SARM stands for Selective Androgen Receptor Modulators. They are compounds that have properties that mimic the anabolic effects of anabolic steroids but without the majority of the side effects. They act by either blocking or stimulating key receptors in the body. In this way they either increase positive effects or decrease negative effects.
In order for anabolic steroids and prohormones to work, they first need to bind to receptors in the muscle cell. SARMS stimulate those same receptors. This stimulation has been shown to increase muscle mass, and speed up fat loss. This is achieved without increasing estrogen levels or decreasing growth hormone and testosterone production by shutting down the HPTA (Hypothalamus-Pituitary-Testicular Axis).
The beauty of SARMs is that they are selective in the receptors that they bind to. This allows them to avoid a lot of the bad side effects that you get with conventional anabolic steroids. In other words, you get all of the testosterone boosting benefits of steroids without the vast majority of the deficits of going the ‘roid route.
A Brief History of SARMs
SARMs came to light in the 1940s when they were discovered as a result of changes to the chemical structure of the testosterone molecule. The early SARMs were derivatives of testosterone. As a result, they were considered as anabolic steroids. Modern day SARMs, however, are completely non-steroidal.
The first company to produce non-steroidal SARMs was Ligand Pharmaceuticals.
So, what makes a compound non-steroidal?
A non-steroidal compound does not have a 4-ring base structure or a steroid nucleus.
How Do SARMs Work?
To understand just how SARMs work we need to take a step back and remind ourselves what testosterone is and what it does.
Testosterone is a type of hormone known as an androgen. It is the primary male growth hormone in the body. Testosterone is designed to encourage the development of such male characteristics as muscle mass, facial hair, body fat loss, and the development of a deeper voice.
How does androgen achieve these amazing changes. It does so by binding, or clinging to, androgen receptors and converting them to oestrogen which then binds to different types of receptors on cells that are called oestrogen receptors.
SARMs are designed to mimic the effects of testosterone. They bind with the same receptor cells as testosterone does. This opens up the cells so that they are saturated with androgens, including testosterone. As a result, the muscles grow bigger and stronger faster.
So, SARMs are not an artificial form of testosterone. Rather they mimic the effects of testosterone on receptors to produce similar muscle enhancing effects.
How Do SARMs Differ from Anabolic Steroids?
There are 3 key differences between SARMs and steroids.
Firstly, SARMs have nowhere near the number or severity of side effects as steroids do. That is not to say that there are no side effects (we’ll get into them soon), but they are light compared to a full cycle of anabolics. They will not strain your organs and won’t cause the well known ‘roid rage which can come with steroid use.
The trade-off to less severe side effects is that SARMs are not as good at building lean muscle tissue as anabolic steroids are. They will provide you with between 20-30 percent of the benefits that you would get from steroids.
Anabolic steroids are also easier to detect in your system than SARMs are.
The beauty of SARMs is that they are selective in the receptors that they stimulate. They only target the androgenic receptors that are located in your muscle and bone cells. Unlike steroids, they will not interfere with the cells in your endocrine system.
SARMs are also superior to steroids in that they will not convert into enzyme 5-a reductase which converts testosterone into DHT. They are also resistant to estrogen, which converts testosterone into estrogen. These resistant properties of SARMs are largely responsible for preventing the side effects that come with anabolics.
Researchers are currently working to try to reduce and, potentially, eliminate the negative effects of SARMS on the liver. They are also attempting to improve their bioavailability.
SARMs act on specific receptors on the body. The main receptors that are affected by SARMs are located in the following parts of the body:
- Seminal vesicles
- External genital
- Cardiac muscle
- Skeletal muscle
- Smooth muscle
- Spinal motor neurons
SARMs and HRT
A major reason for scientific interest in SARMs is the decreasing production of testosterone in men as they age. Men over the age of 25 will lose about one percent of their testosterone production every year. This results in loss of muscle mass, gains in body fat, depression, loss of sex drive, and reduced strength and stamina.
One way that men can address this problem is Hormone Replacement Therapy or HRT. This is provided by either injectable or skin delivery methods. However, these provide unhealthy fluctuations in testosterone levels in the blood. Skin patches may also be used, but they often cause skin irritation. Oral hormone replacement therapy can lead to liver toxicity problems.
SARMs have potential as an alternative to HRT. They mimic the effects of testosterone without many of the side effects that come with hormone replacement therapies. With SARMS there is no DHT conversion, liver toxicity, adverse effects on blood pressure, water retention or gynecomastia.
However, SARMs will lower natural testosterone production. That is why it is necessary to undergo post cycle therapy (PCT) when you go off a SARM.
When women take testosterone as hormone replacement therapy, they have more problems than men. SARMS are a far safer option. A 1999 study that was published in the Journal of Medicinal Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism shows that SARMS will allow a woman to increase fat free muscle mass without such side effects as virilization and adverse effects on lipids.
Research on Muscle Size and Strength
A study from 2011, published in the Journal of Medicinal Chemistry showed that SARMs have a strong antagonistic activity in the prostate and strong agonist activity in muscle and bone. In other words, the study confirmed that SARMs will have positive effects on muscle and bone without causing problems for the prostate.
A 2017 study, which was published in the Asian Journal of Andrology, put study participants on a course of SARMs. Results showed a strength increase that was an incredible 20 times more than those in a placebo group. The subjects continued to gain both strength ands size for five months.
The research and deductive evidence shows that a course of SARMs can provide a significant increase in muscle hypertrophy. The average amount of muscle gain over 12 weeks is between 3 and 15 pounds. There is such a wide gap due to the influence of other factors, such as what you’re eating and how intensely you are working out.
Research on Cancer & Virility
SARMs have been the subject of some very interesting research on their effect on breast cancer. A 2014 study showed a 90 percent decrease in weight of tumor cells and suggested that SARMs may actually inhibit breast cancer development. However, this research is still in its infancy.
There has been quite a lot of recent research into the ability of SARMs to boost virility in both men and women. In men, hypogonadism (diminished testes functioning) has been traditionally treated by hormone therapy. The 2017 Asian Journal of Andrology study, mentioned previously, stated . . .
SARM’s beneficial pharmacology and desirable pharmacokinetics offer considerable promise in the treatment of late onset hypogonadism. The convenience of once daily oral therapy combined with defined safety margins surrounding a proven efficacious dosage form may one day challenge testosterone replacement therapy as the gold standard in treating late onset hypogonadism.
A very interesting study was conducted in India in 2009. It concluded that there are two approaches that developers use when creating SARMs. The first can be considered to be a top down approach where they begin by selecting the tissue that they want to see improvements in. They then develop a SARM which will create those effects.
The second method by which SARMs are developed can be considered as a bottoms up approach. The researchers first determine the action of androgens on skeletal muscles and the prostate. They then discover the pathways that are involved that do not affect the prostate. From there, they design SARMs that act on those specific pathways.
The same Indian study compared the effects of SARMs compared to those of testosterone. These were human trials. Over a 4-6-week period, the subjects who took SARMs showed an average increase in lean muscle mass of 1.5 kg (about 3.3 pounds). This compared to 5-7 kg (10-14.5 pounds) for the anabolic steroid group. However, the SARMs group did not have the side effects that the steroid group encountered.
Studies have also shown that SARMs are able to decrease muscle atrophy for body parts that are immobilized in casts. This is excellent news for athletes who suffer an injury. It means that a course of SARMs can help them to avoid muscle loss during their recovery period and help them to get back to peak, muscle mass, strength and power much more quickly.
SARMs have also been shown to increase bone growth and density. This is great news for people who suffer from such conditions as osteoporosis.
Are SARMs Legal?
SARMs are legal in some parts of the world. In the United States, the situation is a little bit complicated. They are banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency under the S1 Anabolic Agent category of the prohibited substances list that they put out in 2008.
However, SARMs can be sold legally in the United States as ‘research chemicals.’ This provision was made to allow scientists to purchase SARMs in order to conduct legitimate research. However, the vast majority of people who buy SARMs are not scientists. Online sellers make use of this loophole to sell SARMs online to bodybuilders, powerlifters and other strength athletes.
So, you are able to buy SARMs online. But you will find yourself kicked out of any drug tested completions that you enter of they are found in your system.
SARMs are not an approved substance according to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
The Different Types of SARMS
There are a wide variety of SARMs on the market. Different SARMs will give you different side effects.
Here are the most popular SARMs that are out there (be warned – the names are extremely scientific due to the fact that they are not intended for public consumption YET.):
Recommended dosage: 20-25 mg per day.
We recommend starting conservatively with a 4-week course. Then go off four weeks (during which time you should take a natural testosterone booster as a PCT). Next time around you can step it up to six weeks.
Ostarine MK-2866 will not lead to testosterone suppression if used at the recommended dosage for a 4-week cycle.
Ostarine is one of the most researched SARMS. Research to date has confirmed its muscle building potential with minimal side effects. However, anecdotal evidence shows that an 8-12 week course of Ostarine will lead to slight testosterone suppression. Going on a PCT supplement will address this problem.
Anabolicum – Ligandrol
Recommended dosage: 5 mg per day
Take a course of Ligandrol for 4 weeks and then go off for 4 weeks. You can repeat this cycle on and on or increase your on cycle to 6 weeks.
Along with Ostarine, this is one of the more heavily studied SARMs. The results of this research are impressive. In one study, healthy men took Ligandrol for 21 days and experienced a significant increase in lean body mass. As little as one milligram per day gave positive results.
Another study had participants taking 22 mg per day for even greater muscle gains. In addition to increasing mass, they also experienced increases in bone density and sex drive. The only negative side effects in both studies was a slight suppression of testosterone release when they went off the SARM. However, none of them dropped below the healthy testosterone level and in every case levels returned to normal within three weeks.
You may find Andarine listed as GSX-007 or S-4. If you are after pure strength gains, then this is the SARM for you. Secondary benefits are muscle gain and fat loss. That makes Andarine the SARM of choice for powerlifters and other strength athletes (just not around competition time!).
Recommended dosage: 25-75 mg per day
Also known as S4, Andarine was the first SARM. Prior to it being banned, it was popular among Olympic athletes. It appears to work synergistically with other SARMs. Anecdotal evidence shows that it pairs effectively with Ostarine and Ligandrol.
Of all the SARMs, Andarine has the most pronounced side effects. These include temporary eyesight impairment. Users typically report having a harder time seeing in the darkness. The reason is that Andarine binds to receptors in the eyes.
The recommended dosage of Andarine is 50 mg per day, split into two 25 mg does. As with the other SARMS, cycle on and off for 4 weeks.
Also known as RAD140, Testolone was first developed as a safer, easier alternative to hormone replacement therapy (HRT). This one is thought to be the most powerful SARMs that you can get today!
That makes it the best SARM of choice if your goal is to increase your lean muscle mass. As secondary benefits, it will also enhance your virility, boost your strength and strengthen your bones.
Also known as GW501516, this is a PPAQR receptor. This stands for peroxisome proliferator activated receptor. Without getting caught up in the weeds, this has the ability to make marked improvement in skeletal muscle fatty acid oxidation. That may not sound very exciting, built, when stacked with a SARM, it cans boost muscle mass.
There are not many published studies on Cardarine. However rodent studies have shown some amazing results. In one study, four weeks of Cardarine improved running time by 68 percent and running distance by 70 percent. In another study, this SARM increased mitochondrial growth by 50 percent. This allows muscles to generate more power.
We see from these studies that Cardarine is great for muscular endurance and fat loss rather than muscle growth.
We need to note that some studies have shown that Cardarine may cause cancer in rats. However, the daily dosage given to those rats was the equivalent of 2400 mg per day for two years – which is an absolutely ridiculous amount! It is 240 times the recommended dosage.
The bottom line is that there is no evidence that taking a normal dosage of Cardarine will cause cancer.
The best way to take Cardarine is to split it into two doses. Take 5 mg in the morning and another 5 mg in the afternoon. Cycle 4 weeks on and 4 weeks off.
This is a Rev-ErbA agonist. It has been shown to be an effective aid to fat burning when stacked with a SARM. The recommended dosage is between 5 and 30 mg a one to two hours before your workout.
Studies with mice show that Stenabolic will improve muscular endurance and burn fat and stimulate the growth of new mitochondria in muscle cells. In fact, overweight rats who took Stenabolic lost 60 percent more fat the rats who were given a placebo. And this was achieved with no changes to diet or exercise.
We should point out that in the above study the rats were injected. That’s the kicker with Stenabolic. If you take it orally you won’t get much benefit. Still, you can buy it as an oral capsule, but it will be virtually useless with a measly 2 percent bioavailability – you’ve been warned!
Also known as Obutamoren or MK677, Nutrabol is known as a growth hormone secretagogue. It will boost your growth hormone and IGF-1 production. As well as helping to boost your strength and muscle mass, it will increase the quality of your sleep as well as boosting fat loss. Nutrabol will also help to increase your appetite so that you can put more muscle building nutrients into your body. It has also shown potential in terms of its ability to enhance post workout muscle recovery.
The recommended dosage od Nutrabol is 12.5 mg taken once or twice per day.
Who Uses SARMS and Why?
SARMs are extremely beneficial for the elderly population. The elderly have very low levels of testosterone production. Cancer patients also have low testosterone levels. This leads to muscle atrophy. SARMs can also help to mitigate they side effects of osteoporosis, chronic fatigue and age-related conditions.
Clinical trials have also identified that SARMs have the ability to help fight obesity and increase muscle mass. This has made them popular among athletes, including powerlifters and bodybuilders. Many recreational gym goers, looking to bulk up and shed body fat, have also discovered SARMs as a safer alternative to anabolic steroids.
Women are also turning to SARMs as a safe alternative to steroids. SARMs do not cause virilization. This is the process by which women begin to develop male characteristics. The most popular SARMs or SARMs like compounds for women are Cardarin and Anabolicum.
How Will SARMS Make You a Better Bodybuilder?
Bodybuilders are increasingly turning to SARMs. They allow them to get a small taste of what an anabolic steroid cycle would be like without having to worry about the side effects. When taken in conjunction with a steroid cycle, they have been shown to enhance the overall muscle building and strength effect.
SARMs will boost your efforts to attain a lean muscular physique by increasing protein synthesis within the muscle cell. They will also reduce protein breakdown for use as energy, thus minimizing muscle atrophy.
SARMs can also help you to get leaner, enhance workout recovery and speed up muscle growth. As shown in the 2009 Indian study we mentioned earlier, SARMs can provide you with about 30 percent of the gains that you could expect from anabolic steroids, but without the side effects.
SARMs can be used in any phase of a bodybuilder’s training schedule, including . . .
SARMs for Bulking
Your SARM of choice for bulking is Nutrobal. As well as helping to pack on muscle mass, it will increase your appetite allowing you to take in more muscle building nutrients. Another good bulking SARM is Ligandrol.
SARMs for Cutting
Experience in the trenches has shown that the two best SARMs for getting ripped are GW501516 and SR9009. You will want to maintain a caloric deficit while on these compounds for best effect.
SARMs for Stacking with Anabolics
As mentioned previously, many people stack SARMs with steroids for a greater effect. Use Ligandrol as your stacking SARM of choice to enhance muscle gains and strip off body fat.
Stacking any SARM with creatine will enhance recovery and allow you to go heavier in the gym.
SARMs Side Effects
Ligandrol is the most testosterone suppressive of all the SARMS. That is why you need to do a PCT cycle after doing a cycle with Ligandrol.
This one can lead to testosterone suppression if you take more than the recommended limit of 25 mg per day. You should cycle on for 4 weeks and then take a break to further minimize the testosterone suppressing effect. You should also do a course of PCT when you come off Ostarine.
This is another SARM that may suppress testosterone. You should also go on a cycle of PCT when coming off a 4-week cycle in order to lessen the effect.
A Concerning Study
In the interests of full disclosure, we need to note that a 2017 report which was published in JAMA (the Journal of the American Medical Association) showed that many products that are sold online as SARMs actually contain unapproved substances, which may include hormones and steroids.
Note that the study didn’t find that SARMs in and of themselves were unsafe. The problem was that products which were being sold as SARMs were not poured and they contained harmful compounds. The study also revealed that many labels that were placed on SARMs bottles were misleading.
44 products that were being sold online as SARMs were analyzed by the researchers. The analysis procedure was according to the methods used by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) to detect banned substances. It was found that 39 percent of the SARMs that were tested had unapproved drugs in them. These included banned substances such as growth hormone and anabolic steroids.
A quarter of the SARMs tested had substances in them that were not even stated on the label. And in 59 percent of the tested SARMs the amount of the listed compounds was significantly less than what was actually found in the product.
The study’s co-author Shalender Bhasin, who is a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School commented . . .
The compounds found in our analyses have not been approved by the FDA. Therefore, the pharmaceutical companies which were or are developing these compounds cannot sell these products and a physician cannot prescribe these drugs to patients.
Also, because these compounds are not approved by the FDA, there is very little information about their safety and efficacy. Some of the compounds have never been studied in humans.
In response to this study and other concerns, the FDA released a warning statement in October 2017 that included the following comment . . .
Life threatening reactions, including liver toxicity, have occurred in people taking products containing SARMs. SARMs also have the potential to increase the risk of heart attack and stroke, and the long-term effects on the body are unknown.
The bottom line here is that you have to be very sure that the SARMs that you are buying are the real deal. That means doing your due diligence before you click that ’order now’ button. Check online reviews from trusted sources such as this one.
SARMS and PCT
PCT stands for post cycle therapy. It is designed to follow a course of anabolic steroids or SARMs in order to allow you to bring your testosterone levels back up to a normal level. Both SARMs and anabolic steroids will suppress your testosterone levels, though SARMs will do so to a lesser degree than anabolics.
The reason that SARMs lower your testosterone levels is quite simple. Your body is tricked into believing that you are taking testosterone when you take a SARM. Since it’s getting all the testosterone it needs from an external source, it will reduce its own natural production.
However, SARMs are not a replacement for testosterone at all. They specifically target your muscles and your bones. But they do nothing for all of the other parts of your body that need testosterone.
This creates a problem. You could end up with low testosterone.
Here’s how you know if you’ve got low testosterone:
So, when you go off a cycle of SARMs, you may actually begin to lose muscle mass as a result of the body’s natural suppression of testosterone. On top of that you could well get fatter. You’ll even have a reduced sex drive when you come off SARMs.
Low testosterone after a SARMs cycle will also make you feel irritable and generally miserable.
The last thing you want to do, obviously, is to lose all of that hard earned muscle as soon as you go off a SARMs cycle.
Now, the human body is designed to return to a state of homeostasis. That means that it will return to its normal condition. But it takes time to do so. When it comes to suppressed testosterone from a SARMs cycle, it could take as long as two months for that to happen.
Within that time, you could lose an awful lot of lean muscle mass.
Which is where PCT comes into the picture.
So, how do you do a PCT cycle?
Each protocol will be slightly differently, depending on which SARM you are following up on. But there are some general guidelines that are applicable to all PCT cycles.
The Rules of PCT
Use Enough to Recover but Not Too Much
To determine your specific needs, you need to answer the following questions . . .
What SARM have you been on?
Was is Ostarine, which is a relatively mild SARM that will only minimally suppresses your testosterone levels, or was it Ligandrol which will provide a greater level of suppression.
How long were you on the SARM?
If you were on Ostarine for a week of two, you won’t need any PCT at all. But if you’re on it for a month or longer, you will need to run a PCT cycle.
Some people may feel that you don’t need a PCT cycle after a course of SARMs. That will be true for certain SARMs, but not for others. To get a true indication whether you need to PCT, you should get your bloodwork done before and after a course of SARMs to check your blood testosterone levels.
The reality is that most guys won’t bother to get their bloodwork done. As a general rule, then any SARM stronger than Ostarine should be followed by PCT.
Even the strongest SARMs will only suppress your testosterone levels. None of them will shut it down completely the way that anabolic steroids are likely to do. That means that you can use a milder form of PCT than what you would use for a steroid.