If you’ve spent any time in the fitness environment lately, you’ve no doubt heard about Selective Androgen Receptor Modulators, or SARMs for short. SARMs are similar anabolic compounds that were created to replace Steroids in the medical field, as they typically have less adverse side effects than traditional steroids.
Steroids are regularly used in the medical field for a number of reasons, primarily for patients suffering from muscle wasting diseases such as HIV/AIDs, or for hormone deficiencies. As all drugs tend to have some negative side effects, steroids are known to have varying adverse Androgenic side effects such as Prostate Growth in men, and Virilization in women.
SARMs were developed to have the similar anabolic (muscle building) properties, with fewer adverse side effects. Of course it wasn’t long before athletes and other Performance Enhancement Drug (PED) users realized these products could be used to boost performance in the gym and in sport like traditional steroids. Usage of certain SARMs has been found to yield muscle growth, fat loss, strength gain, endurance gain, and longevity effects as well.
How do SARMs work?
SARMs act similarly to Steroids within the body, their mechanisms of action being mainly the same. Both bind to Androgen Receptors throughout the body, SARMs bind particularly with bone and contractile muscle tissue, where steroids are non-selective and will affect other bodily tissues. The bound Androgen Receptor will then cause a change in the DNA, and result in Gene Transcription.
This Gene Transcription can be an increase in muscle growth (hypertrophy), increased bone density, increased carbohydrate metabolism, etc. depending on what the SARM in question was developed to execute. SARMs will have specific effects depending on how the chemical structure is engineered. They also possess a selectiveness in their Androgen receptivity, hence the name. Testosterone and Anabolic Steroids bind to all the Androgen Receptors (ARs) within the body, and will cause biological changes to all ARs. SARMs however only bind to the Androgen receptors in contractile tissue and bone tissue. This makes them considerably safer than their Steroid counterparts.
Multiple clinical studies have shown positive results when SARMs were administered to animals, and even some human subjects as well. This is a key component, as these products fall under the “Research Chemicals” category of compounds in the eyes of the law, and are not yet regulated by governments. This allows them to currently be legally bought and sold for research purposes only, not recommended for human consumption. Still their popularity and demand continues to grow with athletes and underground PED users.
Different kinds of SARMs
As with most medical substances, SARMs too come in a few different forms. You can primarily find SARMs in Oral form (pills or liquid), and more recently they are being manufactured for Injectable administration. Each of these has its own drawbacks and benefits.
Oral forms of SARMs have the benefit of being easily administered and accurately dosed. But similarly to Oral Steroids, or any oral medication, these drugs have to go through first pass metabolism, to survive being metabolized and broken down by the liver to be utilized and absorbed in the body which makes them liver toxic (hepatotoxic).
The extensiveness of this Hepatotoxicity is very much compound and dose dependent, and can typically be mitigated by supplementing with appropriate ancillary supplements to detoxify the liver and kidneys. An additional benefit of oral consumption is the shorter half-life. The half-life of a drug refers to the length of time a drug is metabolically active in your body at its maximal potency before the potency/strength begins to decrease by half, and half, etc. until the drug has been completely metabolized and is unable to be detected within the body, which can be advantageous for those looking to avoid taking drugs that stay active within the body for days or weeks, and those looking to avoid detection of PEDs from drug testing.
Injectable SARMs are fairly new and quite hard to source. Being injectable vs oral, they offer higher levels of bioavailability (the amount of the drug that is utilized while being metabolized). The level of bioavailability of an individual drug greatly varies between compounds, and will be affected by a number of factors. Injectable SARMs, like all other injectable compounds do have one minor drawback, the risk of infection. Piercing the skin with a syringe is generally considered very safe and common practice, but can always lead to post injection site pain and/or possible infection (rarely). For responsible, hygienic PED users, injecting your compounds generally brings low risk when proper hygienic practices are being followed.
The Side Effects of SARMs
SARMs are known to have different side effects based on their chemical structure and mechanism of action. As these compounds bind to Androgen Receptors, one would expect SARMs to induce Androgenic side effects, yet that’s not quite true. Most of the milder SARMs do not show any real Androgenic side effects, but the stronger compounds have been shown to elicit some Androgenic side effects and also possess the ability to reduce/cease Endogenous Testosterone production. This is why it’s ideal to run a testosterone base while running a SARM cycle at dosages that can hinder testosterone production. Other adverse side effects such as an increase in Cholesterol and increased Blood Pressure can arise. Regardless, SARM users must be sure to properly manage their health, get regular bloodwork and run a proper Post Cycle Therapy (PCT) upon cessation of use.
The Most Popular SARMs
Ligandrol was originally developed by Ligand Pharmaceuticals, and was found that its highly anabolic properties were ideal for treating individuals suffering from muscle wasting diseases. Unlike Steroids, which are also used to treat such diseases, LGD-4033 is selective by nature and does not convert into Estrogen (but can cause some water retention), nor does it negatively affect the liver or the kidneys compared to similar compounds.
Ligandrol has been shown to be quite anabolic, selectively increasing lean muscle mass without affecting other organs like the prostate. It is definitely the best SARM for building muscle tissue, and is highly bioavailable so users can get a lot out of a lower dosage. When it comes to fat loss there is no evidence to suggest the compound itself will yield fat loss results.
- Men: 10-40 mg/day.
- Women: 2.5-10 mg/day.
Myostine (YK11) is a steroidal SARM, meaning it has properties that are Steroid like in nature so can be classified as both a SARM and a steroid. Primarily, YK11 is a myostatin inhibitor. Myostatin is a protein found in the body that limits how much muscle tissue and organs can grow. Myostatin is made within the body to make sure organs do not continue growing without limit, but this will limit how much muscle tissue can grow as well.
Myostine functions by inducing follistatin expression, which in turn lowers Myostatin levels in contractile tissue, allowing for muscular hypertrophy far beyond what could be achieved with normal Myostatin/Follistatin levels. Researchers have also found that YK11 increases levels of Protein Kinase B, which increases bone density. Steroidally it acts similarly to dihydrotestosterone (DHT) derivative steroids like Primobolan, Anavar and Masteron. These unique attributes make this SARM a potential game changer in the bodybuilding scene, however more long term studies are needed to prove its efficacy.
- Men: 10-30 mg/day, split total daily dosage into multiple separate doses due to the unknown half-life.
- Not recommended for women.
Ostarine is the most clinically studied SARM, and considered one of the safest compounds for both men and women. It was created to treat muscle wasting diseases, Osteoporosis,and was also even studied to be a potential alternative for Testosterone Replacement Therapy (TRT). Like other SARMs, it binds to the Androgen Receptors (ARs) primarily in contractile muscle and bone tissue, without binding to undesirable ARs in other parts of the body, which avoids steroid-like adverse side effects from manifesting.
Ostarine possesses both muscle building and fat burning properties. It is commonly used by individuals during a fat loss cycle specifically for the purpose of increasing muscle retention while in a caloric deficit. Studies have shown that Ostarine use can increase lean muscle tissue and decrease stored body fat, while also reducing total Cholesterol levels (without affecting the HDL/LDL ratio). Additionally, studies have also shown that Ostarine can be beneficial for strength gains, increasing bone density and its mild nature make it well tolerated by most everyone.
- Men: 20-40 mg/day.
- Women: 10-25 mg/day.
While commonly referenced as a SARM, Cardarine is technically not a SARM, rather a PPAR (Peroxisome Proliferator-Activated Receptor) agonist. Cardarine interacts with the PGC-1a enzyme, which in turn will alter gene expression to result in the body using higher levels of energy. Simply put, it upregulates metabolism, enhances endurance and positively affects a number of other important biomarkers. It’s commonly referred to as “cardio in a bottle”. This makes Cardarine one of the most popular “SARMs” available, especially for fat loss/cutting purposes.
The benefits of Cardarine are plentiful, starting of course with the fact that it can help in fat loss via gene expression. Next thing, there is evidence that it can lower Cholesterol (HDL and LDL), via the metabolism of Free Fatty Acids. Cardarine is also non catabolic, unlike some other fat loss compounds. Anecdotally, users have found that 20 mg of Cardarine pre-workout can enhance cardiovascular endurance by 10-20%. This SARM is ideal to run as an ancillary drug for almost all Steroid and SARM cycles.
- Men/Women: 10-20 mg/day.
The popularity of Exogenous Human Growth Hormone use has been rising dramatically over the last few decades. Prolonged usage can lead to having your endogenous growth hormone production severely downregulated. MK-677 is known as a Growth Hormone Secretagogue (though more appropriately a Ghrelin mimetic), not a SARM, yet is commonly referred to as a SARM. A Growth Hormone Secretagogue will increase the strength of the pancreas’ natural growth hormone pulses, in turn producing more natural growth hormone.
In the hypothalamus, MK-677 will bind to Ghrelin receptors (Growth hormone secretagogue receptors), and stimulate the release of GHRH (Growth Hormone Releasing Hormone). Next, it will increase the signaling of GHRH in the Pituitary gland. It will also inhibit the amount of Somatostatin (Growth Hormone-Inhibiting Hormone or GHIH). All in all, using MK-677 will result in an increase of Endogenous Growth Hormone production by about 1.8 times that of natural levels.
Growth Hormone itself does not cause hypertrophy. It does however signal to contractile tissue (and other tissue as well) to be prepared for growth. In the presence of Growth Hormone, the Pancreas will produce Glucagon and Lipase to regulate fat and sugar metabolism. Lipase functions by releasing Fatty Acids from Adipocytes. Glucagon will circulate and reach the liver. The liver will then contribute glucose from stored glycogen into the bloodstream, or from amino acids (via gluconeogenesis), also it can break down stored fat (triglycerides) into fatty acids to be used for fuel if needed. This process causes your blood sugar to rise, which causes the Pancreas to release insulin. Insulin acts as a nutrient partitioner, shuttling circulating nutrients into muscle tissue (ideally) and out of the bloodstream to resume homeostasis.
An added bonus is that growth hormone causes the liver to secrete IGF-1 (a very anabolic growth factor) which will bind to those prepared/damaged cells and cause new muscle tissue synthesis (hyperplasia). The use of MK-677 has been shown to share similar qualities to running low amounts of exogenous human growth hormone, promoting recovery, fat loss, muscle gain and longevity.
- Men/Women: 15-30 mg/day, ideally before bed.
Stenabolic is another “SARM” that isn’t technically a SARM but rather a REV-ERB agonist, meaning it possesses circadian rhythm, sleep and metabolism modulation abilities. Studies in mice have found that Stenabolic can increase resting metabolism by up to 50%, and even higher when engaged in activity. This makes Stenabolic ideal for a fat loss phase, and some studies suggest it has muscle retention properties while in a caloric deficit. Stenabolic can increase carbohydrate metabolism, increase basal metabolic rate (BMR), as well as enhance endurance capacity. It increases endurance via increasing the functionality of the Mitochondria in a cell, thus increasing metabolism, and fat loss.
- Men: 10-40 mg/day.
- Women: 5-20 mg/day.
- Splitting total daily dosage into multiple separate doses due to the very short half-life.
Testolone is the SARM named for its similarity to Testosterone, being created as an alternative to testosterone for treatment of muscle wasting conditions and hormonal deficiencies, with less adverse side effects. Clinical studies show that RAD140 has significant anabolic and strength potential. It is one of the strongest SARMs available hence its growing popularity. Importantly Testolone has also been found to decrease prostate size, this is quite beneficial for the traditional anabolic steroid user, as most AAS compound use will inevitably lead to an increased prostate, and possible cancer. Some studies even suggest that Testolone has neuroprotective qualities.
Testolone is one of the strongest SARMs available, but does not Aromatize and convert into Estrogen like Testosterone will. This makes Testolone ideal for both bulking and fat loss cycles.
- Men: 20-40 mg/day.
- Women: 5-15 mg/day.
Are SARMs for You?
There’s a lot to consider when it comes to using SARMs as they are technically classified as “Research Chemicals” not yet approved for human consumption. Depending on what country you live in SARMs are still legal, in Canada SARMs are still legal to purchase and sell, not for the intended use by humans, but to be used for “Research Purposes’ ‘ by lab rats. Still they are manufactured, sold, consumed and are now part of PED culture as an alternative or ancillary drug to use while experimenting with traditional anabolic-androgenic steroids.
There is no cookie cutter SARM protocol, there are dozens of PEDs available, and what works for someone, may cause havoc for the next person. When it comes to SARM use, you must be responsible, by doing your own research, setting appropriate attainable goals, and putting in the work to train, eat, recover, and supplement adequately, as there are multiple factors that are all equally essential for optimal results. Even a slight deficiency in any facet will hinder growth and limit your potential.
All SARMs basically do is allow you to recover significantly quicker than naturally possible. So you must train effectively to cause muscle tissue damage, consume the necessary micro and macronutrients to supply the fuel and building blocks for growth, sleep and recover adequately to allow your body to repair and rebuild itself, and lastly supplement with the appropriate drugs/steroids and supplements to enhance the natural processes of hypertrophy and homeostasis.
Experimenting with different compounds responsibly over time will show you which PEDs work best for you and what dosages can be safely managed. Ideally you always want to use the least possible amount of a compound, allowing you to gain the desirable effects, with minimal adverse effects to maintain optimal health. Ensuring you have pharmaceutical grade SARMs from a reputable underground lab (UGL) such as Oxygen Pharm is essential as most UGLs in North America produce low quality compounds that are typically underdosed by 20-80% of the advertised potency, and/or are completely counterfeit compounds that can render nothing other than adverse side effects. Responsible PED use should allow one to achieve their goals and maintain their health and quality of life.