A new and exciting group of performance-enhancing drugs known as selective androgen receptor modulators (SARMs) have been increasing in popularity over recent years. They are similar to anabolic-androgenic steroids (AAS) in that they are highly anabolic and can greatly enhance your ability to gain strength and muscle. They differ from traditional steroids by their mechanism of action, generally having fewer adverse side effects than most anabolics. Unfortunately, we don’t know the potential long-term side effects as these compounds are relatively new, and there have only been a few clinical studies on some of the more popular SARMs on the market. I believe
SARMs have a place on their own in the medical, bodybuilding and performance enhancing world and foresee their surge in popularity in the coming years as more studies are carried out. People get to see the true potential these compounds have.
The History Behind SARMs
SARMs have been around for over two decades now, and most were developed, like steroids, to treat muscle and bone wasting conditions and diseases. Developed as a safer alternative to using testosterone and other anabolic compounds, they all have one common advantage over traditional steroids. SARMS are selective to the androgen receptors in skeletal muscle and bone tissue. When consumed, the compounds are digested, metabolized and primarily attach themselves to androgen receptors in muscle tissue and bone, allowing accelerated growth (hypertrophy) of muscle and increased bone density due to their anabolic nature. Most SARMs have a higher binding affinity to the androgen receptors than testosterone or DHT, which is another advantage they have over traditional steroids.
Conversely, steroids are not selective to just the androgen receptors in muscle and bone. They bind to receptors in other body tissues, unfortunately leading to unwanted growth of organs like the heart and prostate. Over time this can lead to several harmful conditions such as ventricular hypertrophy, where the left ventricle of the heart grows too large, becoming inefficient and generally leads to severe cardiac issues and possible death.
Different Forms of SARMs
The majority of SARMs come in oral form, either as pills or liquid. While some injectable SARMs are coming onto the market, they are rare and hard to come by. When consumed, oral SARMs have a short half-life, so you can easily control your dosage and keep levels stable, and when you decide to decrease the dosage or cease usage, you don’t have to wait weeks or months for the compounds to clear your system. Not having to administer them via injection regularly is a big plus for those wary of needles. Unfortunately, all oral pills of this nature, whether SARMs, steroids or even OTC medications, are designed to pass through the liver, making them liver toxic (hepatotoxic); the level of toxicity depends on the compound and dosage.
There are many oral steroids as well, but most are 17-alpha alkylated to improve the oral bioavailability, making them more hepatotoxic than SARMs. They are substrates for 5 alpha-reductase or CYP19 aromatase, which means they convert into dihydrotestosterone (DHT) or estrogen, respectively. DHT derivative compounds can cause hair loss for men (and male-like facial hair growth for females), acne, prostate growth, cancer, and depression. Elevated estradiol and estrogen in the body can cause erectile dysfunction, gynecomastia, water retention (leading to high blood pressure), and depression. DHT and estrogen have many positive functions in the body, but when levels become too high or low from exogenous hormone use, there can be numerous negative and detrimental side effects. Most SARMs do not have these side effects. Some of the more potent SARMs reportedly can have some side effects, generally at high dosage. Moderately responsible dosage protocols seem to have little to no negative side effects for most
SARMS vs. Steroids
When comparing SARMs to steroids, they both share the anabolic qualities that promote muscle growth, performance enhancement, enhanced fat loss, etc. Most SARMs have a greater binding affinity to the androgen receptor over steroids, making SARM use advantageous. Most SARMs do not share the androgenic (or generally harmful) side effects steroids have, such as increased aggression, acne, sexual dysfunction and virilization (developing masculine features in females). The decreased amount of androgenic activity is reportedly dosage-dependent. At lower dosages, the androgenic properties are minimal. These advantages make SARMs a legitimate steroid alternative, especially for women who don’t want to develop facial hair, deepen the voice, enlarge the clitoris, etc. These adverse side effects are inevitable and irreversible for female steroid users, even at low doses of even mild steroids like Anavar. Most female SARM users report no negative short or long-term side effects.
SARMs for Strength
SARMs are generally considered weaker than steroids when it comes to strength, but that depends on the compounds being compared and the dosage. Some users will take 50-100 mg of an oral steroid like Anadrol or Winstrol, while most SARM dosage protocols range from 5-30 mg. If they were to compare mg per mg, different types of SARMS such as S-23, RAD-140 and LGD-4033 are considerably more potent than most steroids. The problem with higher doses for men is that natural testosterone production will be suppressed, which has several adverse side effects on building muscle, which is why most SARM users would be taking them in the first place. This can easily be negated by running a testosterone base, which then crosses the user into the realm of having to inject testosterone, which isn’t ideal for everyone regularly. Lower doses of specific SARMs can be taken without experiencing full testosterone suppression, but to experience optimal results, you would most want to run testosterone concurrently.
Most SARMs, like steroids, will require you to run a proper post cycle therapy (PCT) to get your natural testosterone production turned back on when your SARM cycle comes to an end. For women, this is redundant, as there is no concern with natural testosterone suppression. Women do not require exogenous testosterone to grow stronger, larger muscles; they produce a much smaller quantity of testosterone in the ovaries and adrenal glands.
Why Sarms Are Not as Well-Known as Their Steroid Counterparts?
Seemingly there are numerous benefits to SARM use, so why are they not as popular as their steroid counterparts? Most traditional steroid users are uneducated and misinformed about these relatively newer compounds. There also have not been many clinical studies done proving their efficacy, and most of the existing research has been done on monkeys and lab rats rather than humans. SARMs are not classified like steroids are, which would make them illegal without a doctor’s prescription. They are currently considered research chemicals, making them legal to sell and purchase for your lab rat, as they are not yet approved for human consumption. They also cost significantly more to produce than most steroids, so nefarious underground labs (UGLs) manufacture a lower-dosed product and replace them with a cheaper steroid alternative like Dianabol. This means consumers will have a hard time sourcing legitimate SARMs. The downside of unregulated underground labs is that there is no quality control, so it’s impossible to know if what you’re taking is what you think it is. Generally, there’s no way for the average consumer to test the quality of their SARMs. As SARM research continues in the medical industry, we are getting very close to being able to source pharmaceutical-grade SARMs. Until then, the risks can outweigh the possible rewards of these performance-enhancing research chemicals for consumers looking to build their bodies and improve their quality of life.
SARMs’ Most Popular Compounds
Here’s a rundown of the most popular SARMs currently available. New SARMs are currently being developed, as well as lesser-known SARMs that aren’t widely used due to lack of efficacy or unfavourable side effects.
MK is the most clinically studied SARM to date, and the research has proven its efficacy. It is going through the final phases of testing for medical use. While it is a weaker SARM, it is the least suppressive with the least amount of adverse side effects. It is often combined with other SARMs. It can be used for both bulking and cutting cycles. It is preferable for female use due to its lack of androgenic qualities.
● Men: 20-40 mg/day for 12-16 weeks.
● Women:10-25 mg/day for 12-16 weeks.
RAD has very high anabolic potential. Its effects are very similar to testosterone and are being clinically studied as a potential testosterone therapy replacement. It also provides the most significant increase in strength, and muscular endurance of all SARMs other than S-23. It has been shown also to have neuroprotective qualities also been shown, thus promoting brain health and healing. Also, it has breast cancer-fighting potential, with human clinical studies currently underway. Usage decreases prostate size, which is beneficial as steroids cause prostate enlargement and related issues. It is used for both bulking and cutting cycles, but is ideal for cutting due to how it makes muscles appear hard and dry. Unfortunately, it is also one of the most suppressive SARMs but has relatively low liver toxicity.
● Men: 20-40 mg/day (split into two dosages due to its unknown half-life) for 12-16 weeks.
● Women: 5-15 mg/day (split into two dosages due to its unknown half-life) for 8-12 weeks.
LGD is one of the most potent and most popular SARMs used to build lean muscle tissue. It offers the highest potential for muscular hypertrophy of all SARMs. Along with Ostarine, it is the most studied SARM due to its efficacy, having a high level of bioavailability and tissue selectiveness. It is close to being approved for medical use, relating to healing fractured/broken hips. Water retention is a reported side effect, making it ideal for bulking cycles.
● Men: 10-40 mg/day for 12-16 weeks.
● Women: 5-10 mg/day for 8-12 weeks.
While not a SARM by its mechanism of action, it’s commonly grouped into the SARM family of compounds. It is a PPAR receptor agonist and was initially marketed as “cardio in a bottle.” It activates AMPK, which is responsible for oxidizing fatty acids and stimulating muscle glucose uptake. It significantly increases endurance and accelerates metabolism. It positively impacts the cardiovascular system, liver, kidneys, cholesterol (increasing HDL while decreasing LDL), blood pressure and protects the brain against oxygen deficiency. It has had human clinical studies carried out proving its efficacy. It is an excellent addition to all SARM and steroid cycles.
● Men/women: 10-20 mg/day for the duration of the cycle.
MK is a growth hormone secretagogue and ghrelin receptor agonist, not a SARM, but is often mistaken for one. It increases the strength of the pituitary glands’ growth hormone pulsations and the total daily production of growth hormone. It doesn’t cause pituitary desensitization as other GHRPs do. It is used in combination with other compounds during a bulking cycle or to help regenerate injured muscle, bone or joint tissue. It is a legitimate substitute for those unable to experiment with exogenous HGH and is equivalent to administering a lower dose of HGH daily at a fraction of the cost. It can significantly increase appetite, which is a side effect to be aware of.
● Men/women: 15-30 mg/day. It can reportedly be run long term, with recommended
SR is again not a SARM. It is a synthetic Rev-ErbA ligand. This compound has very similar effects to GW-501516 but has poor bioavailability and a very short half-life. It increases both endurance and speeds up the loss of stored fat tissue.
● Men/women: 10-40 mg/day (split into 3-4 dosages due to its very short half-life) for 8-16
S4 is another strong SARM used to build lean muscle tissue. It has similar effects to RAD-140 and LGD-4033. It allows you to build up a relatively large amount of muscle mass in a short period. However, it reportedly negatively affects vision, causing a yellowish tinge to users’ eyesight, which reportedly reverses after use.
● Men: 25-100 mg/day (split into 3-4 dosages due to its very short half-life) for 8-12 weeks.
● It is not recommended for women.
YK is considered a SUPER-SARM. It is chemically closer to a DHT-based steroid than a SARM, although it is still referred to as a SARM due to its selectivity to muscle and bone tissues androgen receptors. While being considered both a SARM and a designer steroid, it is unique as it is the only known compound to increase follistatin levels. Follistatin suppresses myostatin, which prevents muscles from growing too large. As a myostatin inhibitor, YK-11 has huge potential for bodybuilding.
● Men: 10-30 mg/day (split into two dosages due to its unknown half-life) for 8-12 weeks.
● Women: 0.5-2 mg/day (split into two dosages due to its unknown half-life) for 6-8 weeks.
S-23 is considered the strongest SARM currently on the market, similar in function to RAD-140. It supports both the growth of lean muscle tissue, increased bone density and fat loss. It is reportedly very bioavailable. It can enhance female libido and has been researched as a possible male hormone contraceptive. It is the least selective SARM in nature, leading to prostate enlargement at a higher dosage. It is also considered the most suppressive SARM.
● Men: 10-30 mg/day (split into two doses due to its short half-life) for 8-12 weeks.
● Women: 5-10 mg/day (split into two doses due to its short half-life) for 6-8 weeks.