If you've spent some time in bodybuilding circles, or simply done some research online about how to put on size and build strength you have no doubt stumbled upon the word 'SARMS'.
It turns out that SARMS may be the secret sauce behind building the rock-hard, vein-popping physique that has heads turning and mouths open.
So if you are wondering:
Then you have come to the right place.
Everyone has these same questions when they first hear about SARMs.
In fact before I started researching SARMs I was in exactly the same position.
Fortunatley I've done the research and can help provide answers to these common questions about SARMs.
In this guide, we are going to dive into the ins and outs of SARMs. We will look at what science says about them, how they work, how effective and safe they are as well as their legal background. Stay tuned…
Note - I, Alex Fergus, have personally never used SARMs. All my natural bodybuilding and powerlifting success was built on smart training, healthy eating, solid sleep and hard work. Fast forward a few years and as I dive deeper into the world of Biohacking, more and more people are asking me about SARMS.
As I had no experience with them, I decided to turn to the experts. This article is a result of my own research combined with a collaboration with some very educated and experienced individuals in the world of SARMS. I'm sure this guide will help you understand this topic in more detail and allow you to make your own informed decision about SARMS. Finally - please speak to your doctor before using any performance substance or drug. SARMs are still very new with a lot of unknowns. The data presented below should not be used as medical advice.
After doing all this research I personally do not use nor recommend SARM use to my clients. Nothing has changed on that front despite many reports that SARMs may be a low risk and effective way to build muscle.
The word SARM stands for Selective Androgen Receptor Modulator.
They were first intended to serve as an alternative treatment for obesity and muscle wasting diseases (1). Scientists felt that SARMs would be a perfect way of countering age-related muscle wasting that usually starts around middle age and can result in broken bones and frequent falls.
Diseases like cancer, kidney failure, and heart disease lead to muscle wasting and loss of physical mobility. SARMs were developed to curb these symptoms as well.
Have SARMs severed the purpose they were meant to?
Their reason for the popularity they have today is different from what they were first created to do. Today, SARMs are popular among bodybuilders because of their muscle gaining benefits.
Their chemical nature is similar to anabolic steroids, only that they lack androgenic activities. Therefore, people who take SARMs end up with well-built muscles and less fat without experiencing the adverse effects that steroids present.
The discovery of selective androgen receptor modulators dates back to the 1940s (2). The researchers at the time modified the chemical structure of the testosterone molecule. The first compounds were derived from this molecule, thus considered steroidal.
Ligand Pharmaceutical was the first one ever to develop the compounds that would later be known as selective androgen receptor modulators. However, over time, scientists have modified the molecule further to make it non-steroidal.
Within the last decade, researchers have made great strides in enhancing the oral bioavailability and reducing the liver toxicity of the compounds.
Androgen receptors are found in many tissues such as the female genitalia, the prostate, ovary, hair follicles, cardiac muscle, brain, sebaceous glands, ovary, liver, smooth muscle, adrenal cortex, gastrointestinal vesicular cells, and the pineal.
Among the chief drivers of the development of SARMs is the increasing diagnosis of male hypogonadism, which is a condition where the body to produces less testosterone than it should. Males could be born with this condition or develop it later in life due to injuries, infection, or age-related issues.
Before discussing how SARMs work, it is essential to first talk about how human body hormones operate.
Hormones are messengers in the body by communicating with cells. After they finish the communication, specific commands that were instructed are implemented.
Hormones also increase masculinity, which means that bodybuilders rely on them for their looks. The hormones that are responsible for masculinity - such as lower body fat, deeper voices, increased muscle mass and facial hair - are known as androgens, and SARMs and testosterone are androgens too.
To increase masculinity, androgens:
The body doesn’t require much of the androgens, which means that it must regulate its production to avert their imbalance.
When an individual takes anabolic steroids the cells are overloaded with androgens, and all the receptors get saturated. Therefore a message is relayed to the body cells and eventually results in their growth.
It could be an advantage for individuals that are looking to increase their mass, but it is a disadvantage at the same time. There are a lot of side effects as a result of this accelerated growth.
The extent of the side effects varies from an individual to another, depending on how your body interacts with the compound.
Some side effects of testosterone are irreversible while others aren’t. Some of the reversible ones are: low sperm count, increased blood pressure, and heightened aggression.
It could also result in testicular atrophy, cysts, and oily skin. The irreversible ones include liver disease, male pattern baldness, gynecomastia, and heart dysfunction.
You cannot talk about SARMs and fail to mention their selectivity properties.
Imagine having pests in your house, and you want to get rid of them. You can solve the issue using safe, economical, and steady ways by having bait traps in strategic positions around the house.
Put the traps under the sink, seal any cracks on the exterior walls, and put food away.
If you don’t take specific measures, your efforts are likely not to yield any significant results.
Let’s say you decide to make a rushed decision of setting pesticide bombs at every corner of your home and leaving the house for a day. Be sure to expect health problems when you return.
If you have any potted plants, you are likely to find them dead. Your cat that was locked inside may be violently ill and you develop a headache after returning to the house.
Anabolic steroid use is like the pesticide bomb. Sure you will get a faster and explosive effect, but you will also have a lot of side effects and damage, some of which are permanent as listed previously.
SARMs will not do these things:
That is why scientists developed SARMs with the hope that they will counter the effects of supplemental testosterone, which they have managed to achieve.
While SARMs are androgen receptors like the testosterone, they are different in that they stimulate only the muscle and bone cells. They are selective.
Therefore, all other cells in the human body don’t get targeted. SARMs can do this because they have a better affinity towards specific cells like the muscle and bone cells and not for the prostate, liver, brain, and other cells.
They are also good at converting unwanted molecules such as the DHT and the estrogen that often have unpleasant side effects. Unlike the conventional steroids, SARMs don’t restrain the production of natural testosterone (3), thus making it relatively easy to recover after taking the hormone.
As explained earlier, the significant advantage of using SARMs is that you get to enjoy all the benefits that steroids offer without sacrificing your health. Here is why you may want to consider them for helping you with your physical goals.
When estrogen is converted into DHT, it has adverse effects on your body tissues. It might result in loss of productivity and unsightly 'man boobs'. Unlike other performance promoters, SARMs don’t have these effects.
You probably aren’t looking to destroy some of your body tissues merely because you want muscles to increase in size. That is why many people who want to build bulk prefer using SARMs since they lack the adverse side effects.
If you don’t have sufficient stamina, you won’t have the energy to last you through tough training sessions. It’s easy to get worn out quickly, which is not what bodybuilders and athletes yearn for. SARMs can help with endurance and prolonged efforts in the gym.
A lowered bone density is accompanied by several issues such as fractures and broken bones. SARMs are beneficial in that they increase bone mineral density by enhancing periosteal bone formation. They also work by lessening the trabecular bone turnover, thus building dense bones.
Many strength enhancers have the effect of lowering libido, which is an unpleasant side effect that isn’t interesting to experience. On the contrary, SARMs boost sex drive.
If you are aiming at losing body fat, SARMs are worthy of consideration alongside a quality diet and regular heavy lifting. They prompt the body to burn fat cells with the objective of producing energy. Therefore, the body works as if it is under starvation mode and through this; one may experience an a rapid loss in body fat.
Everyone who wants to build bulk wishes to have large, strong muscles. SARMs work by binding selectively to androgen receptors, which results in an increased amount of nitrogen and glucose they can take in. Eventually; there is an overall increase in anabolic effects on the muscles and bones.
This is a controversial topic, and as someone who has been a drug tested athlete for many years, who was nervous about taking a multi-mineral for fear of breaking a rule, I feel uneasy listing this as a benefit on my blog.
But, for some this is a benefit. As sad as that is, it is the reality of modern sport. And my goal with this guide was to provide all the facts and data so people - wether you're a young athlete, a coach or someone looking for peak health - can make an informed decision.
By skipping this point (which I nearly did) I am not giving the world the full picture on SARMs. For this reason - I have included this 'benefit' (though 'feature' is a better term!)
It is established that some SARMs go undetected in blood tests and therefore allow athletes to have an advantage over their competitors. Whether that is fair sportsmanship is not the topic of this article. The fact of the matter is SARMs can be used for performance benefits and sports organisations may not know who is using them.
Joint pain is a common problem among strength athletes because of the heavy loads and massive forces put through their joints. Sustaining injuries is common for anyone that participates in vigorous physical activity. The fact is that you are unlikely to find a permanent solution, but SARMs will assist you to resume your regular activity sooner.
If the injections and pain that comes from the frequent shots make you worked up, you’ll be happy to know that SARMs can offer the relief you have been yearning for. Since they are available in oral doses, you don’t have to go through the painful shots.
You will experience improved muscle strength that will get you a step closer to your dream body.
Since SARMs are non-toxic, you will enjoy all these positive benefits while at peace of mind knowing that your liver is free from harm.
SARMs don’t result in any hair damage. Therefore, baldness and hair loss will only be a problem that you only hear of and never experience.
SARMs have the potential of reducing your recovery time by half to allow you to continue with your training sessions faster and more comfortably.
Just like any supplement, there are many different types for the consumer to choose from. Each with it's own benefit. I have listed some of the most popular and well researched forms of SARMs below:
Ostarine is a popular SARM with widely published human trials under its name.
It shows insignificant side effects and is highly effective at building muscles. Ostarine is orally active and non-steroidal.
The compound offers an array of benefits, including fat loss, strength increase, and muscle gain. If you are into fitness, you should take Ostarine during bulking and re-composition stages.
During bulking, many users report a 7lb increase in lean body mass after eight weeks.
LGD 4033 is 12 times more potent than Ostarine at only a third of the dose.
It is also highly suppressive to the Hypothalamus-pituitary-testes-axis system. This system is responsible for the growth and regulation of a person’s immune system.
LGD 4033 is best used as a bulking compound. Its half-life ranges between 24 and 36 hours, which means that one dose in a day is sufficient.
In a study carried out at Boston University, the men who were given LGD 4033 daily gained 3 pounds in 3 weeks (4).
Nutrobal is a non-peptidic SARM that mimics the functioning of ghrelin, which is the hormone responsible for regulating energy distribution and appetite.
Therefore, it increases the amount of the growth hormone IGF-1 but doesn’t interfere with cortisol levels.
Clinical studies have shown that the compound increases bone mineral density and muscle mass (5).
When dosed at 25mg daily, it has been proven to increase IGF-1 by 60 percent in 6 weeks.
Being non-hormonal, it requires no post cycle therapy (PCT) after completing a cycle. It is best used in a 3-month cycle with increasing dosage after every month. The best time to take Ibutamoren is before going to bed.
Testolone is relatively new, so, there isn’t much clinical research data yet. However, the RAD 140 SARM looks promising and has a remarkable androgenic to the anabolic ratio of 1:90. This means the users will experience fantastic muscle building results without having adverse androgenic side effects.
It is powerful enough to restrict the impact of testosterone on the prostate gland and other unwanted tissues.
It is also more anabolic than testosterone. Dosing is usually within the 4mg to the 12mg range with an optimum cycle of between 4 and six weeks. Since it has a short half-life of 16 hours, it should be dosed twice a day.
Andarine is a non-steroidal SARM that is tissue-selective. It also stimulates anabolic organs more than the androgenic ones and does not have significant effects on the luteinizing hormone (LH) or follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH).
The primary use of Andarine with bodybuilders is usually in the fat loss phase. It accomplishes its work by reducing LPL.
Some studies also show that it decreases water retention and increases muscle mass (6). Users are advised against taking more than 50 milligrams in a day because that might result in xanthopsia (yellow vision).
Cardarine or GW 501516 has high affinity against the peroxisome proliferator-activated receptors, which is a group of thyroid and steroid sensing proteins that restrict gene expression.
Therefore, it regulates metabolism and cellular development. The modulation enables the body to use more glucose and build more muscle mass.
GW 501516 also regulates various protein molecules in the body to generate energy. For the user, this implies that an increase in endurance and strength, and could also mean more muscle mass.
GW could also have a positive impact on the blood pressure as well as the lipid profile. Dosing is usually within the 7mg and 21 mg range. GW 501516 is not suitable for stacking if you want to increase endurance and boost your fat loss efforts.
Another popular SARM in the market is SR9009 also known as Stenabolic.
Studies on mice show that it leads to the stimulation of mitochondrial growth in muscles, increased endurance, reduced inflammation, and improves fat shedding efforts (7).
When taken orally, it might not have as significant effects because it has a poor 2 percent bioavailability and can be cleared out of the system the moment you consume it. Injection is the best way to deliver this SARM.
There are two ways common ways to use SARMS. Firstly is in a focused 'cutting' phase or secondly in a more general 'stacking' protocol.
Bodybuilders can embrace the cutting process in many ways. They can either do it quickly in a 'hard and fast' approach or over time in a 'slow and steady' manner.
In both methods, the chief goal is to preserve as much muscle as they can while lowering boy fat.
MK-2866 is an ideal SARM to use for this because it works best under calorie deficit conditions.
GW 501516 and SR9009 are also useful since they prompt fat loss.
A combination of GW and SR is a typical stack that’s used when cutting. You will be surprised at the amount of fat you can lose when using this blend.
One of the best natural supplements that one can use with any SARM to enhance muscle gains and reduce recovery time is creatine. N2generate is also an effective one for improving the production of testosterone and can be used alongside LGD and S4.
This refers to when a bodybuilder combines three types of SARMs to achieve their intended result. It’s advisable that you blend the most popular supplements among all the stacks.
You can combine S4, GW, and Ostarine so that you experience improved endurance, fat loss, and muscle gains.
A word of caution: If you are gynecomastia sensitive, consider using an aromatase inhibitor with your triple stack. The side effects are often rare when using Aromasin or Arimidex.
Note - Please consult a doctor before using SARMS and the below advice is simply a protocol many experienced SARMs users follow.
Stacking refers to taking many types of SARMs at the same time to increase the rate of bulking, healing, and cutting.
PCT is the period when one should take certain medications to regulate your hormonal levels to normalcy after using a round of SARMs.
Working with a doctor specialised in hormone therapy is essential here.
Gaining lean muscle mass within a short period is a very difficult thing to achieve. Even with the best size & strength training plans and the perfect diet, putting on mass quickly is never easy.
Fortunatley, SARMs such as RAD-140 and LGD-4033 - alongside proper diet & training - can help you with your muscle building goals.
Again - please consult with your doctor or hormone specialise before using the following protocols.
Heavier stacking (Best for experienced users)
It is best for individuals who want to have a generally lean body mass by decreasing body fat, and they don’t want to increase or decrease muscle mass
Steroids like trenbolone and testosterone are used to increase muscle mass rapidly, but they have adverse effects, as discussed earlier.
On the other hand, SARMs target specific cells and therefore lack the adverse effects that steroids show.
However, SARMs are not as fast acting as the conventional steroids in producing increased muscle mass.
On the plus side, selective androgen receptor modulators don’t mimic natural testosterone entirely and do not have the wider range of side effects that steroids have.
Prohormones are chemical precursors that act on the target hormone, but they might have some side effects.
They may affect the production of natural hormones and other biological systems. Sometimes they could be toxic to the liver.
Common examples of prohormones include Halodrol and Epistane. Prohormones used to be well known many years ago for their incredible bodybuilding effects.
However prohormone use is linked to gynecomastia due to the high amount of estrogen that the hormones convert to.
SARMS's do not have this downstream estrogen conversion problem and though they may not be as potent as prohormones, the lessened side effects is favourable among people seeking aesthetic improvements.
The first thing you should know is that research on SARMs is still ongoing, and more research is required to make conclusive statements.
At the moment, most of the compounds are in their pre-clinical and clinical stages. Some are awaiting approval to be used on human subjects.
SARMs do appear to be safer than supplements like steroids. But as mentioned there is still a lot of uncertainty around their use.
One big positive around SARMS over traditional muscle builders like anabolic steroids is that they don’t have a big testosterone suppression effect.
When using SARMs - based on the little scientific evidenced published, and various anedoctal reports - you are less likely to suffer the effects that result from excessive production of testosterone such as shrinking of the testes.
The severity depends on the dosage of SARMs you take. The higher the dose you consume, the higher the chance of experiencing side effect such as natural testosterone production suppression.
Another factor that makes selective androgen receptor modulators seem safer than other medication is that your body 'normalises' faster once you stop using them - especially compared to steroid use.
With regards to SARM safety, it is essential to understand that some SARMs are not what the manufacturers claim they are. This is a big concern in the industry.
Many inferior SARMs are blended with toxic chemicals due to lousy production processes or poor quality control.
Unscrupulous manufacturers might also include weaker compounds in the products to increase their profits by increasing the quantities. Mislabeling is also another common problem in the SARMs industry that bodybuilders usually fall for.
As for side effects, SARMs are just like any other drugs; they have side effects too.
However - based on what we currently know - their side effects are relatively mild and rarely will they affect your regular activities.
Common side effects include a slight appetite increase for MK-677. You may also experience slight natural testosterone inhibition when using LGD- 4033.
Other side effects you may experience are increased sex drive, acne, increased thirst, and headaches.
Ensuring that you take the recommended dose within the right time frame under the supervision of an experienced SARMs practitioner is paramount to reduce your chances of suffering from side effects.
The legality of selective androgen receptor modulators has been clouded with double-edged lawmakers and unethical manufacturers.
There have been cases when the entire SARM community had to deal with the wrath of the law because some manufacturers adulterated SARMs with harmful chemicals with the hopes of making quick profit.
A 2017 study showed that only 52 percent of the 44 products that are sold as SARMs have the selective androgen receptor modulator compounds listed on the label (7).
This indicates that although some manufacturers are trustworthy, others are fraudulent and only looking to make money however possible.
SARMs are legal in some countries and banned in others. The individual issues and custom laws vary widely from one European Union member state to another. Check with your local lawmakers if you reside in a European Union country and wish to purchase SARMs.
The sale of SARMs is legal in the UK. They aren’t marked as Scheduled Drugs, which implies that they can be sold, purchased, and distributed for legitimate purposes.
However, those that are sold for non-legitimate purposes are therefore illegal. The legality depends on the intent of the buyer, seller, and manufacturer.
For example, a researcher who makes SARMs for legal uses has all the right to utilize them without any obstructions. On the other hand, someone who is peddling SARMs to a minor or other restricted parties can be charged.
The 2018 SARM Control Act allow's the United States Drug Enforcement Authority (DEA) greater influence over removing SARMs from the market.
This act would ban all SARMs in the American market making them a controlled substance.
The act is not yet law - so those in USA still can legally purchase SARMS.
SARMs are illegal in Austria, and anybody found selling the product risks facing a lifetime in prison. Despite the strict rules, SARMs worth thousands of dollars are traded every day in the country.
The rules were first implemented in 2016 when six Australian athletes tested positive for SARMs in a sports competition. At the moment, most selective androgen receptor modulators are scheduled as level 10, implying that they cannot be sold for any use.
The worst part of the SARM market is that it is divided. Some manufacturers, distributors, and sellers of SARMs are solely focused on profits no matter the cost.
They sell under or overdosed products using harmful and unapproved ingredients even when they are aware of potential side effects. It’s no wonder that the industry has received its share of scandals because of such fraudsters.
Some SARM manufacturers claim that they are authentic, yet they don’t even have an address on their website, which speaks volumes regarding their authenticity. You find other manufacturers who state, “The SARMs sold by us are not for human consumption but research purposes only.” They do not take the time to find out if the buyer is a researcher or a consumer. They also don’t have a reasonable refund policy, and they don’t even give refunds for unused products that are in the original packaging.
It is vital that you only buy SARMs from a legal store that trades in licensed products.
Such stores are ethical and responsible since they have support members that assist you in making informed decisions and aren’t discrete on the legality of their products.
It is also crucial for buyers to have a decent understanding of SARMs so that they can purchase them from reputable sellers that assure them of the quality of ingredients and the products too.
You should also remember that SARMs are potent substances that can be abused easily. If abused, they could result in adverse health complications.
That is why you should consider having some blood work done before initiating the purchase of any SARM to see your baseline levels and to work under the supervision of an medical profession with experience in this field.
In 2015, Joakim Noah, who is part of the New York Knicks, was suspended for 20 games.
The reason he was expelled was that he had tested positive for a SARM.
Allonzo Trier, a college basketball star of the Arizona Wildcats was also banned because he tested positively for SARMs. In 2018, Ricky Garard, a leading CrossFit games competitor, was stripped of his third place title after he tested positive for ostarine and trestolone, which are SARMs.
It's for these reasons why I personally do not use SARMs as I have not ruled out returning to competitive sports.
Many sellers are trading in selective androgen receptor modulators both online and offline.
The quality of the product is what determines whether it is good or bad. A good SARM shouldn’t have any androgenic effects like prostate gland issues.
Some sellers trade in under-dosed products that may not even contain the right amount of SARM.
Some manufacturers also include prohormones that may cause virilization and clitoris enlargement in women. As for men, they may suffer gynecomastia and other estrogen-related effects like liver issues.
Since SARMs work by suppressing the functioning of the endocrine system, you should get one that won’t leave you with any health implications.
Do your own research and speak to a medical professional before purchasing and form of SARMS.
Choose the best supplier to ensure you receive excellent results. Having a good supplier ensures that you have a product that isn't polluted with other unidentified compounds. Make sure you speak to the supplier before making a purchase and if you have any doubts about their integrity or knowledge about the product then I would recommend you look elsewhere.
I haven't used them, but I have heard good feedback from acquaintances who do use SARMS about ProvenPeptides.com
Again though, do your own research before spending your hard earned money on a product that could have a profound impact on your health.
SARMs are compounds that have similar benefits to anabolic steroids but much less side effects.
They may not work as fast as steroids, but their muscle boosting effects are better than any natural supplement in the market.
SARMs mechanism is considered safer than other compounds used to build bulk because they are specific. Therefore, they have fewer side effects and deliver amazing results.
It is important to note that research on the use of SARMs is ongoing, and you shouldn’t use them without working under the supervision of an experienced medical professional.
This blog post was written by Alex Fergus. Alex is an ISSN Sports Nutrition Specialist, Fitness Professional and certified Superhuman Coach who continues to expand his knowledge base and help people across the world with their health and wellness. Alex is recognized as the National Record Holder in Powerlifting and Indoor Rowing and has earned the title of the Australian National Natural Bodybuilding Champion. Having worked as a health coach and personal trainer for over a decade, Alex now researches all things health and wellness and shares his findings on this blog. Learn more about Alex's Credentials HERE.
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