SARM’S are a special class of performance enhancing compounds that have highly anabolic–muscle building–properties, like steroids, but have very low androgenic properties or other unwanted side effects (unlike steroids).
SARM’S have become a safe and popular alternative to traditional steroids because they are tissue-selective to muscle and bone. That is, they are selective to the androgen receptors (AR’s) onto which they bind, going to work where we want them to–in muscle and bone tissue–but leaving the rest of the body alone.
This selectivity for muscle and bone is the reason Selective Androgen Receptor Modulators (SARMS) are used by researchers and doctors as curative or preventative drugs for muscle and bone-related diseases, as well as by athletes and bodybuilders as low risk steroid-like performance enhancers.
SARM’S – the Fountain of Youth?
As we age, our muscles atrophy and lose mass, and our bones become porous and weaker. Our endocrine system changes, our metabolism slows down, and other bodily functions slowly begin to betray us.
Women, as well as men, begin to create and store more body fat. Men produce less testosterone to bind to available androgen receptors, making workouts less productive and losing overall muscle mass. In clinical studies, low testosterone (“low-T”) levels are consistently associated with chronic disorders, decline in brain function, and many other symptoms of aging overall.
SARM’S act much like natural steroidal testosterone, binding to androgen receptors in muscle and resulting in greater anabolic and hypertrophic activities, and improving overall bodily function in ways that mimic natural testosterone. Additionally, studies suggest SARM RAD-140 even provides neuroprotection of brain neurons against cell death and “demonstrates initial preclinical efficacy of a SARM in neuroprotective actions relevant to Alzheimer’s disease and related neurodegenerative diseases” (source).
Are SARM’S Legal?
SARM’S are legal to purchase over the counter or online in the U.S., at least for the time being. They have neither been approved nor regulated by the FDA, and they are presently being sold as “experimental chemicals”, rather than as dietary supplements meant for human consumption. Most users are taking advantage of this legal loophole to buy SARM’S as secret weapons for superior muscle gains and/or rapid weight loss.
Can SARM’S Replace Steroids?
The supplementation of testosterone (and newer designer steroids) have universally been shown to increase skeletal muscle mass and strength in males, young and old. This, of course, has made androgenic-anabolic steroids very popular supplementation compounds among bodybuilders and other athletes. Although testosterone was first isolated back in 1935, Medical uses for testosterone, such testosterone replacement therapy (TRT), still abound.
Clearly testosterone is the king of steroids. Its anabolic effects on muscle mass and strength are directly related to its dose and circulating concentration in the body. “However, administration of supraphysiologic doses of androgens is associated with high frequency of dose-limiting adverse effects, such as erythrocytosis, leg edema, and prostate events. Therefore, therapeutic agents such as SARM’S that can achieve anabolic effects on the skeletal muscle and bone without the dose-limiting adverse effects associated with testosterone would be attractive as function promoting anabolic therapies” (source).
SARM’S have actually been around since the 1940’s, when their chemical design more closely resembled steroidal structures. However, breakthroughs during the 1990’s replaced steroidal SARMS with protein-based non-steroidal SARMS that were selective in action, favorably targeting muscle and/or bone tissue, and not the prostate or other organs. It was further discovered this new breed of SARM’S exhibited little to no virilizing, or androgenic (male), effects–especially good news for women–and did not cause aromatization into estrogen, removing the risk of gynecomastia (“gyno”) and other excess-estrogen-related side effects in men.
The recognition of SARMS’ abilities to bind to AR by several factors greater than testosterone, exhibit extraordinary anabolic properties, provide neuroprotection to brain cells, and fight other age-related disorders, all while presenting a very modest side-effect profile, “has driven the pharmaceutical efforts to develop SARMs” (source). This active development of SARM’S results in numerous scientific breakthroughs each year and suggests SARM’S will likely be the future of anabolics and eventually replace steroidal therapy.
Most Popular SARMS
Several prominent bio-tech and pharmaceutical companies are in various stages of researching, designing, and producing SARM’S as medical cures and/or Performance Enhancing Drugs (PED’s). These SARM’S include Ostarine and other tried-and-true “first generation” SARM’S that have been around for many years, as well as cutting-edge second-generation compounds that have even greater potential.
Also known as Ligandrol, LGD-4033 is a powerful anabolic SARM known to rapidly increas muscle size and strength. LGD-4033 is not the best SARM for cutting or weight loss, but in its efforts to grow muscle mass it will burn through fat if other body fuels are unavailable. LGD-4033 is not recommended for women, and suppression of natural testosterone production is observed in men administering high doses in longer cycles.
- Typical dose: 10-20 mg/day
- Max dose: 30 mg/day
- Stacking dose: 5-10 mg/day (depending on stack)
- Half-life: 24-36 hours
Also known as Ostarine, MK-2866 is a very popular, well-tested SARM, with no side effects observed in most users. It enhances muscle mass and helps burn fat, but Ostarine is most recognized for its unique propensity to increase bone density and aid in injury prevention & recovery. Most users are male, as with other SARM’s, however women choosing to adminsister SARM’S will usually prefer Ostarine for its milder overall profile. While long-term use of Ostarine can suppress testosterone production in men, the compound exhibits very low risk of this or other side effects when taken in typical dosages.
- Typical dose: 15-30 mg/day
- Max: 30 mg/day
- Stacking dose: 10-15 mg/day (depending on stack)
- Half-life: 24 hours
Also known as Ibutamoren, MK-677 is often stacked with other SARM’S because it behaves differently: it stimulates the pituitary gland to release growth hormone.
For this reason, MK677 is a preferred performance enhancer and is used for bulking as well as cutting, with users consistently reporting gains in lean muscle mass. Ibutamoren is not known to be suppressive to testosterone production and, due to its affinity to oxidize fat at an accelerated rate, women looking to lose weight may prefer this SARM as well. High-dosing users have reported side effects that include numb hands, lethargy, and increased appetite.
- Typical dose: 15-30 mg/day
- Max: 50 mg/day
- Stacking dose: 10-15 mg/day (depending on stack)
- Half-life: 24 hours
Originally developed to help osteoporosis and muscle-wasting diseases, S4, or Andarine, is a first-gen SARM that’s been highly-tested over the years. S4 preserves and improves lean body mass. That is, it decreases body fat while increasing muscle mass. Andarine is anabolically above-average, due to strong AR (androgen receptor) affinity, with superior muscle-building and fat-reducing effects. It is also known to boost sex drive (but also reduces sperm development). Concern over vision-related side effects in one study have reportedly caused some S4 users to switch to Ostarine, which is chemically very similar.
- Typical dose: 25-50 mg/day
- Max: 100 mg/day
- Stacking dose: 15-25 mg/day (depending on stack)
- Half-life: 4-6 hours
Developed by Radius Health, RAD-140 is the newest second-gen SARM. Known also as Testalone or Testolone, it has very impressive and powerful muscle-building effects, even greater than those of LGD-4033. Despite it’s highly-anabolic profile, there are almost no reports of significant testosterone suppression or other side effects (this may be due, however, to its recency on the market). Clinical testing shows RAD-140 counteracts prostate enlargement, and also may exhibit neuro-protective and neuro-regenerative properties.
- Typical dose: 15-30 mg/day
- Max: 30 mg/day
- Stacking dose: 5-15 mg/day (depending on stack)
- Half-life: 12-18 hours
GW501516, or Cardarine, is said to provide incredible energy levels during workouts or training. Due to its synergistic effects of accelerating fat loss while increasing endurance abilities, this SARM is best known as a fat burner. Ubiquitous reports of Cardarine’s ability to raise metabolism and increase athletic stamina have also made it a favorite PED (performance enhancing drug) for endurance athletes. As with all SARMS, its anabolic properties and high specific AR affinity also stimulate increased muscle gain.
- Typical dose: 45-90 mg/day
- Max: 90 mg/day
- Stacking dose: 25-45 mg/day (depending on stack)
- Half-life: 20-24 hours
YK-11 promotes the growth of new muscle cells, prolongs muscle retention and “memory” (i.e. gains are not lost). Though YK-11 is generalized as a SARM, its chemical makeup is closer to a synthetic steroid. It’s also different functionally: like a SARM, it’s effects are on muscle tissue, but rather than act on androgen receptors, it is a myostatin inhibitor. Myostatin is the chemical that regulates (and limits) muscle growth, so inhibiting myostatin is effectively stopping the limiting of muscle growth. YK-11 is considered a second-generation SARM and lacks significant clinical research. It’s often added as a second or third component to a SARM stack, and users who try YK-11 typically return to it.
- Typical dose: 5-15 mg/day
- Max dose: 15 mg/day
- Stacking dose: 3-10 mg/day (depending on stack)
- Half-life: 6-10 hours
Half-life and Dosage
A drug’s half-life refers to how long it lasts in the body; specifically, the amount of time it takes for its concentration to decrease by half. Clearly this is important to know when ensuring the proper dosage of SARMS. Some SARM’S have a relatively long half-life, such as 24 hours or more, so the full daily dose can be taken at once—in the morning, for example. Other SARM’S have a shorter half-life, such as 6 hours, so dosing needs to be spread out during the day to keep concentration levels steady. Andarine stands out among the listed SARM’S as having a conspicuously short half-life.
SARM’S can be injected but are more often administered orally, taken as tablets, capsules, or liquid drops. There are various types of SARM’S in production, and LGD-4033, MK-2866, MK-677, S4, RAD-140, GW-501516, and YK-11 are the most common, all of which are available in these various forms.
Most online sellers of SARM’S offer a liquid-based version in dropper bottles, since this form is the least expensive to manufacture and result in products with high retail margins. However, the convenience of capsules, which can be easily transported and swallowed, makes them a generally preferred medium.
Liquids and capsules are particularly useful when stacking SARMS, when lower doses may be called for. In such a case, one can simply administer fewer drops or take fewer capsules (even break open a capsule) to consume the desired amount with water or food.
SARM’S for Women
Harsh androgenic side effects almost completely preclude women’s use of AAS Steroids as performance enhancers. SARM’S, however, because of very low virilizing/masculinizing effects, are considered an excellent choice as PED’s for women bodybuilders, athletes, and others looking for a cutting edge in their training and body-shaping goals.
Dosing for women varies, but is generally one-third or lower than equivalent men’s dosing. Post cycle therapy to treat natural testosterone suppression is not needed, since testosterone plays a much different role in female physiology.
Like steroids, SARMS are meant to be cycled, rather than administered indefinitely (unless otherwise instructed by a doctor). This means they are taken for a specific period of time, when one is considered to be on cycle, then stopped or paused–off cycle–for an amount of time that is usually the same or longer than the time on cycle. The term “cycle” may be used generally, referring to 1) the length of time administered, 2) the SARM’S that are being taken, 3) the SARMS doses, or a variation of these attributes within a given cycle.
SARM’S are usually taken in 12-16 week cycles. Sometimes shorter 6-8 week cycles, or longer 16-20 week cycles are observed, but they are not ideal for most purposes. The length of a SARM cycle, ingredients, and dosages during a cycle will vary depending on the goal. Whether a bulking cycle (muscle building), a cutting cycle (weight loss and/or muscle definition), a recomposition, or recomp, cycle (fine-tuning or focusing on a specific weight goal, BMI, or targeted body area), or some hybrid of these, SARM’S have proved tremendously versatile and capable of achieving unique physiological goals.
When first trying a new SARM it is advisable, especially for beginners, to take a single compound by itself for a short period of time, in order to assess its effectiveness and the body’s tolerance and overall reaction. Generally however, SARM’S are administered in stacks, like steroids, whereby different SARM’S (usually 2 or 3) are either alternated or, even more likely, taken at the same time during the cycle. There are even those who will run SARM’S alongside AAS in hybrid stacks.
Running multiple SARM’S in a stack results in a synergy that produces maximum results. For example, LGD-4033 (Ligandrol) and RAD-140 (Testolone) are known for their higher-anabolic muscle-building effects. For example, one may take two capsules per day of either Ligandrol or Testolone by themselves, but a Ligandrol/Testolone stack would look like one capsule of each instead, and is said to have an even greater effect. Note how each SARMS’ individual dose is reduced by half in this stack protocol.
Usually SARM’S have a specific area in which they truly excel. Since people usually have more than one goal, logic dictates taking more than one SARM. Some men, for example, will stack Ligandrol for muscle-growth with Ostarine to burn fat, plus Ibutamoren to boost growth hormone—this is called the “Christmas Stack” on some sites where they are presented in red, blue, and green capsules. Note, once again, that each SARM’S individual dose should be reduced when stacking, compared to running them as single-course SARMS.
Bulking, cutting, and recomp are terms associated with stacks, as well as cycles. While Ligandrol and Testalone are known for their bulking abilities, experts often recommend a single-course of (or a stack containing) Andarine or Cardarine for cutting. The versatility of Ostarine makes it best suitable for a recomp cycle. Sometimes these stack terms are used loosely implying a general focus, whereas other times a user’s cycle components, specific food diet, and workout modifications will exhibit an extreme focus.
Before determining which stack to administer, proper research is critical. In most countries SARM’S are not officially sanctioned. In the US, for example, they are considered experimental drugs and can only be sold as “research chemicals”, since the FDA has not approved them as dietary supplements. This has limited the amount of official, well-written research and instruction available on SARM usage, and has sometimes led to a “Fight Club” approach to personal sharing from individuals about their experiences with SARMS. That said, the information is out there and making informed decisions is critical when choosing the right SARM’S to stack during a cycle.
Below are a few common SARM’S stacks that are discussed often in user forums and said to be very effective:
GW-501516 (Cardarine) and LGD-4033 (Ligandrol) have shown a great synergy working together to build athletic endurance while packing on muscle.
S4 (Andarine) and another SARM are common because Andarine seems to work much better when combined with other SARMS for optimal efficiency. E.g. S4 is often seen paired with LGD-4033 and MK-2866.
LGD-4033 (Ligandrol) and MK-2866 (Ostarine) are a common one-two punch to burn fat while increasing muscle mass at the same time.
MK-2866 (Ostarine) and GW-501516 (Cardarine) is a pair suitable for cutting. They work well together to lose weight and improve muscle definition.
S4 (Andarine), GW-501516 (Cardarine), and MK-2866 (Ostarine) this trio works to burn fat and increase endurance during workouts, while increasing bone hardness and strength to prevent injuries.
RAD-140 (Testolone), MK-677 (Ibutamoren), and YK-11 are a real muscle-growth-unlocker, combining the most anabolic of all SARMS, RAD-140, with growth hormone secretagogue MK-677 and myostatin inhibitor YK-11.
MK-2866 (Ostarine), LGD-4033 (Ligandrol), and MK-677 (“Christmas stack”) combines the bone support and injury prevention of Ostarine with the anabolic power of Ligandrol, and the human growth hormone effects of Ibutamoren.
SARM’S Side effects
Kidney and Liver Toxicity
In 2017 the FDA issued a public advisory regarding SARM’S and their “potential to increase the risk of heart attack or stroke and life threatening reactions like liver damage” (source). There are, however, no studies that support this claim and vast evidence suggesting otherwise. Albeit anecdotal, thousands of forum posts by experienced bodybuilders who have reported on their lab test results before, during, and after SARM use, also strongly suggest SARM’S are non-hepatoxic.
“One substantial advantage of even the first-generation SARM’S developed to date is that they are all orally active without causing liver damage” (source). The chemical reduction mechanisms at play when oral steroids pass through and toxify the liver (specifically, a C-17 alpha alkylated chemical structure) are simply not present in SARM’S at the molecular level. Recurring and overwhelming evidence suggests SARM’S do not damage the liver on the way in, nor the kidneys on the way out.
As discussed, the anabolic-to-androgenic ratios of SARM’S are greatly superior to those of steroids. Testosterone, used as a baseline, is considered to have a 1:1 ratio. SARM’S have ratios as high (favorable) as 90:1. That is, SARM’S have anabolic properties that are the same or higher, and vastly lower androgenic (masculinizing, virilizing) properties, such as excessive hair growth, acne, balding, deepening of the voice, or specific to women virilization issues of clitoral enlargement and breast shrinkage. How much lower? In some studies, and most anecdotal accounts, SARM’S show no virilizing effects whatsoever. “SARMs … maintain the anabolic actions of endogenous androgens without the virilizing consequences associated with traditional steroids” (source).
Estrogen-related side effects, such as “gyno” (the development of breast tissue in males), are a very worrisome problem for steroid users. The conversion of testosterone into estrogen is called aromatization and requires the use of yet more drugs to inhibit. Selective Estrogen Receptor Modulators (SERM’S) and Aromatase Inhibitors (AI’s) are used to reduce the excess estradiol production created during a steroid cycle. However, SARM’S do not aromatize, causing no such drastic side effects and requiring no such interventions.
Testosterone, particularly in males of course, is absolutely critical. Without sufficient levels, bodily systems begin failing and lots of things go wrong, from depression to weight gain, and much more serious health issues. Therefore, taking any substance that reduces the body’s natural ability to produce testosterone must be done carefully, deliberately, and temporarily.
Like traditional steroids, SARM’S are suppressive to natural, endogenous, male testosterone production–but much less so than steroids. The mechanism of suppression is a biological feedback loop (the body has many, especially with the regulation of hormones, the endocrine system) where androgen-receptors (AR’s) are being utilized by a foreign, exogenous, substance that’s been introduced—e.g. SARMS—so the body detects less and less need to produce its own testosterone to bind to its AR’s, and gradually produces less and less testosterone.
Post-Cycle Therapy (PCT)
Fortunately, our bodies are remarkably resilient. Once a course of SARM’S or steroids (AAS) stops, AR’s are again freed up, and the body detects the need to resume natural (“natty”) testosterone production. The issue is this can take a long time—weeks, or even months, depending on the level of suppression. That’s a real problem, considering how mission-critical testosterone is in day-to-day functioning.
PCT jumpstarts natural male testosterone production again, shortening the time gap between when a SARM (or AAS) cycle ends and when the body is able to fully recover its own endogenous testosterone production capability and levels. This is done mainly by taking estrogen-modulating drugs such as Clomid or Nolvadex, which are available only by prescription or on the black market.
Over-the-counter (OTC) supplements have little effect toward PCT goals. Some recommend taking D-Aspartic acid for a slight boost in testosterone production. Although liver toxicity is not an issue with SARMS, those still worried about it will generally take an OTC liver cleanse supplement also during a SARM cycle and during post-cycle therapy.
The length of PCT will vary, but generally speaking will last 1 week for every 4 weeks of SARM cycling (e.g. a 16-week SARM cycle should be followed by 4 weeks of PCT).
By design, SARM’S are much less testosterone-suppressive than AAS. With milder SARM’S taken for shorter cycles, and especially in low-to-moderate dosing, many users follow a mini-PCT regimen, or simply do no PCT at all. This is one reason why SARM’S are preferred by many over AAS.
Resuming another SARM cycle after the previous cycle should only be done after PCT (if followed) and should not be started until waiting, at minimum, the same number of weeks off cycle as the previous number of weeks on cycle.
SARM’S have great potential and are under constant and active development. Their excitement stems from their powerful steroid-like effects with little to no side effects, owing to their selective targeting of muscle and bone only. SARM’S are technically still legal to purchase, and many new producers have entered the market to meet the demand, lowering prices further. Like steroids, SARM’S were originally created by researchers to help cure disease, but their incredible bilogical abilities to build muscle, enchance endurance, and reduce fat have made them mainstream tools among bodybuilders, athletes, and others looking for cutting-edge performance enhancers.