What are SARMs – Legal Status, Bodybuilding Benefits and Side Effects?
January 29, 2021
What are SARMs?
SARMs (otherwise known as selective androgen receptor modulators) are a synthetic performance-enhancing drug that are chemically similar to anabolic steroids. They work by mimicking many of the effects of testosterone in your muscles and bone tissues by binding to specific cellular androgen receptors – whilst aiming to have minimal impact on your other organs.
By only binding to certain receptors, this can eliminate many of the negative side effects commonly associated with steroids, and instead enable you to enjoy all of its perks.
Now, it is important to note here that SARMs are not approved by the FDA. Admittedly, some are undergoing clinical trials with the hopes that they can be used instead of harsher drugs/hormones currently on the market. However, until that happens they are not easily accessible.
Are SARMs legal?
This is a hard question to answer because on the one hand – no, they aren’t legal. In fact, most SARMs have been banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency under the S1 Anabolic Agent category of the Prohibited list in 2008.
However, they can technically be legally sold as ‘research chemicals’. This means the only people who ‘should’ be able to buy them are scientists who are hoping to learn more about how they work, etc.
Yet, most of the SARMs for sale that you see online have NEVER seen the inside of a lab. NEVER! Instead, they manage to find their way into bodybuilding, athletic and fitness-focused products – undeclared on the ingredient list – when they shouldn’t even be sold in the first place.
That is why, if you pop online and search ‘sarms for sale’ or ‘buy sarms’; you’ll see a whole host of websites claiming to sell them. By being sneaky, they have managed to make them purchasable.
What are the types of SARMs?
There are numerous types of SARMs on the market, with some having stronger and more risky SARMs side effects than others.
The most common ones you’ll see for sale are:
- Ostarine MK-2866 (or GTx-024) – this one is popular for cycles and can be used in PCT or to bridge dosages. 25mgs a day (or less) taken over 4 weeks won’t cause testosterone suppression, but can encourage lean muscle mass; fat loss; increased strength, and protection of soft tissue health/joints. It is currently being tested for bone health and muscle wasting. Dosages can range from 20-50mgs a day.
- Anabolicum- Ligandrol (LGD-4033) – this SARM is currently in clinical testing for its prevention of muscle wasting. It is believed to be great for soft tissues, joints and bone health, but can also encourage lean muscle mass gains, strength increases and fat loss when taken as a dosage of 5-20mgs a day.
- Andarine (GSX-007 or S-4) – this SARM is best known for its ability to increase strength. It can also improve lean muscle mass and fat loss. Dosages range from 25-75mgs a day.
- Testolone (RAD140) – originally designed with the hope it would replace anabolic hormones for replacement therapy; Testolone has got excellent pharmacokinetics and is considered the most powerful SARM on the market. 10mg-20mgs a day can encourage lean muscle mass growth, libido boosts, improved bone health and increased strength.
What is funny about some of these is the fact that whilst they are referred to and sold as SARMs – they aren’t! Take the following:
- Cardarine is a PPAR receptor (a peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor) agonist that can significantly promote skeletal muscle fatty acid oxidation in skeletal muscles (not the liver). It is regularly stacked with other SARMs (as it isn’t hormonal) and can safely be taken in dosages of 10-20mg a day to boost fat burn and endurance.
- Stenabolic is a Rev-ErbA agonist that regularly gets stacked with SARMs. It should be taken 1-2 hours pre-exercise (5-30mgs per day) to improve fat burn, and can safely be used at any time as it isn’t hormonal.
- Nutrobal/Ibutamoren (MK677) again isn’t a SARM but is sold as one. It is actually a growth hormone secretagogue that adds to your growth hormone and IGF-1 (insulin growth factor-1) by adding to existing hormones. It reportedly can boost your performance and sleep quality; increase your appetite and fat loss, and over time, can encourage faster muscle recovery. Dosages should be 12.5mg taken one to two times a day.
If you haven’t already marvelled at the strange names, here is the rationale behind them – they haven’t been approved for medical use, so have yet to be named by pharmaceutical marketers.
The only reason they are meant to be sold – legally – is as research chemicals to scientists.
How do SARMs work?
Testosterone is an androgen (a type of hormone) that encourages the development of masculine characteristics e.g. deeper voices, facial hair, muscle growth, body fat losses, etc.
It achieves this by binding to your cells’ androgen receptors; converting into DHT (dihydrotestosterone – a hormone) which binds to androgen receptors, and converting into oestrogen (estradiol) which then binds to different types of receptors on cells (oestrogen receptors).
Now, most of the time, our bodies are able to manage these levels, but as you age your testosterone levels will begin to drop.
This is where SARMs come in handy as they work to mimic testosterone and bind with these same androgen receptors. In doing so, your cells become flooded with androgens, ensuring all of your available receptors become fully saturated, before sending a message to your muscle cells to grow, recover and develop quickly.
Why do people use SARMs?
Believe it or not, SARMs were first created to help elderly people and cancer patients deal with muscle wastage and disease e.g. osteoporosis, anaemia, and chronic fatigue.
They hoped that they could act as a healthier alternative to testosterone replacement therapy. However, it was only during clinical trials into its benefits (on these two groups), that SARMs were recognised for their ability to help fight obesity and disease; improve bone and joint health; replace hormones; reduce muscle wasting and increase appetite.
As a result, they are now widely used by athletes and bodybuilders to help enhance lean muscle mass, cut fat and boost physical endurance and strength.
Here is why they are so popular:
- Women – for women SARMs are safer to use for stacking than steroids which can cause virilization. Cardarine and Anabolicum are the best SARMs as they can encourage fat loss, lean muscle mass growth, improved strength, and better soft tissues.
- Bodybuilders – SARMs allow you to ‘get your feet wet’ with anabolic drug use before trying a steroid cycle. They can also increase the effectiveness of steroid cycles (without adding to the health risks/side effects), and can improve cutting results as they allow you to retain lean mass without causing water retention.
What are The SARMs bodybuilding benefits?
We touched on this topic a little earlier in the article, but basically, by mimicking testosterone in the body and binding with androgen receptors, SARMS are able to:
- Increase protein synthesis
- Reduce muscle loss (by preventing proteins from being broken down for energy)
- Increase muscle mass and growth (by ensuring more protein is accessible in the body)
- Encourage greater fat loss (by forcing your body to use its existing fat stores for energy)
- Speed up muscle recovery (enabling you to get back into the gym faster)
Essentially, they can help you to achieve the same positive results as steroids – albeit to a lesser degree – but with fewer side effects.
What’s the difference between SARMs and steroids?
By now you’re probably thinking steroids and SARMs are the same thing. And you couldn’t be blamed for thinking this way as there are a lot of parallels between the two.
To make your life simpler, here are the biggest differences that you need to know:
One: SARMs are less powerful at muscle building than traditional anabolic steroids.
Two: SARMs are harder to detect in drug testing than steroids. NOTE: SARMs can still be detected in urine.
Three: Anabolic steroids can cause some nasty side effects including: virilization, estrogen problems, androgenic side effects, heart strain, insomnia, prostate issues, hair loss, acne, hormone imbalances, damage to joint and ligament health, and reproductive dysfunction (often this is permanent).
SARMs cause none of these issues aside from the occasional headache and back pain.
In fact, SARMs won’t strain your organs; won’t permanently or severely shut down your Hypothalamus-Pituitary-Testes-Axis (they will only suppress it – and your testosterone – slightly); won’t cause long term reproductive damage or prostate problems; won’t trigger hair loss; are GOOD for your joints, bones and ligaments, and won’t cause anger or aggression.
The reason SARMs don’t cause anywhere near as much damage or harm to your body as steroids is because they are selective. They only stimulate the androgen receptors in your muscles and bone cells – telling them to grow. They have absolutely no (or minimal) effect on any of your other cells or your endocrine system.
Plus, SARMs don’t break down into unwanted molecules like DHT (by converting into enzyme 5-a reductase which turns testosterone into DHT) and estrogen (SARMs are resistant to aromatase which converts testosterone into estrogen). By preventing all of this, this frees your body from horrible side effects.
Four: SARMs are easier to recover from than steroids. As they aren’t as anabolic as pure testosterone, they won’t impact on your system as negatively or suppress your natural testosterone (as much).
NOTE: if you take enough SARMs to experience big muscle gains, this can increase your risk of negative effects e.g. hair loss, acne, etc.
How are SARMs used in bodybuilding – What are the dosages and cycles?
One of the biggest reasons – aside from its lack of side effects – why SARMs are so popular within the bodybuilding community is that you can use them in any part of your bodybuilding cycle.
From bulking to cutting to PCT to stacking… SARMs have wormed their way into all elements of bodybuilding.
So what are the best ways to use SARMs for bodybuilding?
Stacking – if you plan to stack them with an anabolic steroid, then Trenbolone can help to offset any endurance problems you may experience. Ligandrol is most commonly used with steroids to raise muscle gains (whilst minimizing side effects). Whilst Ostarine can help to keep your soft tissues healthy.
PCT – some bodybuilders use purely SARMs for PCT as they can help to prevent muscle loss. The best are GW501516, SR9009 and Nutrobal. All of these are non-suppressive, making them ideal for PCT. Ostarine (at the right dosage) can also help prevent muscle wasting.
Bulking – Nutrobal is the best at bulking as it helps to increase hunger; however, Ligandrol is good for boosting lean muscle mass development/growth.
Cutting – both GW501516 and SR9009 are good for cutting, as they help generate good fat loss. To do it as a stack, GW and S4 (Andarine) are helpful when sticking to a calorie deficient diet as they will enable you to shred whilst stacking.
Alternatively, you can try combining Creatine with any SARM. This will ensure a natural boost to your muscle recovery and gains.
Another technique is to triple stack. Here you can combine GW, S4 and Ostarine together to create the ultimate stacking package. Combined they can help you to witness incredible lean muscle gains, fat loss and bolstered endurance.
NOTE: we haven’t mentioned dosages here as we covered this earlier on in the article.
What are the dangers and SARM side effects?
Here is where things get interesting because not all SARMs are what they appear to be.
For instance, there are a handful of products that are labeled as SARMs when they aren’t.
- GW501517, SR9009 and MK-677 are not SARMs as they are non-suppressive. This means, when you keep to their proper dosages, the side effects should be minimal. MK-677, for example, can cause some bloating as a consequence of its hunger issues.
- Ligandrol – can cause testosterone suppression (and is the most suppressive of the SARMs sold). As a result, you will need to PCT after using.
- Ostarine – can cause testosterone suppression if you take more than 25mgs a day for more than 4 weeks. Again, you will need to PCT to limit its impact on your natural testosterone production.
- Andarine – binds the receptors around your eyes leading to vision problems (especially at night). This is heightened if you take high dosages. It is also suppressive, so you will need to PCT.
- Testolone – is very strong and suppressive (almost as bad as anabolic steroids). As such, you should always PCT after using it.
Now whilst we’ve used the word ‘suppressive’ a lot; you need to remember that SARMs are nowhere in the same league as anabolic steroids when it comes suppressing natural testosterone production. Most of the time, it is slight and can be rectified with PCT.
However, they are not completely innocent either…
Taken in high dosages, they can cause all of the following:
1 – SARMs will suppress your natural testosterone production – it is unavoidable. During one study conducted on behalf of GTx Inc., when participants were given 3mg of Ostarine for 86 days, 23% experienced a drop in free testosterone and 43% a drop in total testosterone levels. Similarly, a study done by Boston University on Ligandrol saw a 55% fall in total testosterone levels on its 76 participants (when they took 1mg of Ligandrol a day for 3 weeks). It took 5 whole weeks for their natural testosterone production to recover.
2 – Hair loss
4 – Increase your risk of cancer – several studies into Cardarine (where they were given 10mg a day) had to be canceled due to cancerous growths appearing in the intestines of mice.
Yes, we know our biology is vastly different to that of mice, but the fact that it does this to them should give you pause for thought. For instance, if you were to compare this to the metabolism and build of a 200lb man; then taking 75mg a day could potentially cause the same cancerous growths.
We suggest taking this point with a pinch of salt, as there is other conflicting evidence which suggests SARMs can inhibit certain kinds of cancer.
Then, of course, there is the fact that all of the SARM products you can see online are actually black market products. This means there is no quality control or assurances that what you are getting is actually SARMs. From mislabelling to contamination to blatant lying about its ingredients… you could be receiving anything.
Where to buy SARMs (and why you’d better not)
Like we mentioned before, SARMs can technically be legally bought for research purposes online. However, this hasn’t stopped manufacturers from breaking the rules and sneaking it into their products.
This is changing though. And in the US especially, there has been a crackdown on sales which has made SARMs more difficult to buy.
But it isn’t impossible, as seen by the variety of SARM products you can buy online.
Yet here is the thing – none of them are real. NONE.
What you will find online will most probably have been produced in an underground lab using powders sourced from the Chinese black market or will be entirely fake. In either case, what you’ll receive will be a poor imitation created using dubious ingredients.
What are other safer options for muscle building?
The bottom line is: genuine SARMS are illegal (unless bought for research purposes only) and are becoming scarcer as the government cracks down.
So YES, whilst they are safer for your body than steroids, and can produce positive muscle mass gains, fat loss, and recovery (although in a milder form than steroids) – anything you find online won’t be the real deal.
Far from it!
If anything, fake SARMs have the potential to be more dangerous than steroids, as who knows what they have put in it!
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