SARMs Overview: Usage, Benefits, Risks & Legality

Bodybuilder surrounded by orange light after taking SARMs

What Are SARMs?

SARMs, or Selective Androgen Receptor Modulators, are anabolic compounds that bind to androgen receptors. These compounds have been researched to possibly treat a number of conditions, including cancer, osteoporosis, multiple sclerosis, muscle wasting, sexual dysfunction, and Alzheimer’s disease.(1)

SARMs are fast becoming popular performance-enhancing supplements due to their ability to promote lean muscle mass, fat loss, stamina, and fast recovery. Those who typically use SARMs do so for physical enhancement purposes, such as bodybuilders and athletes.

Additionally, online searches for SARMs have increased steadily over the past few years. Although it’s impossible to determine how many people are purchasing them, testing of the London sewage system revealed that SARMs were present in higher quantities than cocaine or MDMA.(2)

Though sold as a cutting-edge performance-enhancer, these pills are unregulated and have little research to accurately assess their effects. Read on to learn more about the health benefits and risks of SARM use for performance enhancement.

Are SARMs Steroids?

Although SARMs share similarities with steroids they are not the same thing. Both of these substances work by binding to androgen receptors and initiating changes to your DNA that increase muscle growth.

However, steroids impact the body in a more generalized way, affecting other parts of your body, and can result in negative side effects like prostate problems, acne and hair loss.

On the other hand, SARMs are “tissue selective”, meaning they don’t set off the same chain reactions. They can also be taken orally as pills, instead of  injections.

So then, what’s the downside to using SARMs? In short, these substances have not been thoroughly tested or approved for use in humans.(3)

How Were SARMs Developed?

SARMs came about completely by accident. In the 1990’s, Professor James T Dalton, a scientist who was researching new treatments for prostate cancer, discovered the molecule andarine. Thus, the first SARM was created.

Even though it was not effective in treating prostate cancer, it had significant effects on muscle growth. Although it was not what they had initially planned to research at the time, Professor Dalton and his team focused almost all of their attention on this new discovery.

Dalton eventually created a refined version of the drug, known as ostarine. A 3-month study of the drug was shown to increase lean muscle mass, reduce fat, and improve stair-climbing power by more than 15% in elderly men.

The drug’s development was halted, however, after a second trial with cancer patients did not produce the desired results. Ever since, Dalton has attempted to stop the black market companies that have been profiting from his discoveries.

But despite sending out cease-and-desist notices and seeking help from the FDA to try to shut them down, the selling of SARMs is rampant, and there’s seemingly nothing that can be done to stop it.(4)

How to Take SARMs

It is often recommended that SARMs be “stacked” for enhanced benefits, with a combination of two or more SARMs sometimes taken in cycles by recreational users. SERMs (Selective Estrogen Receptor Modulators), are often taken as part of post-cycle therapy (PCT) between cycles in order to block the effects of estrogen in the breast tissue.

Types of SARMs

There are several types of SARMs that are available, all having potential benefits and side effects. Among the most popular that are currently being marketed are Ostarine, Ligandrol, Testolone, Andarine and YK-11.

In spite of  the popularity of these drugs, there has been very little research to determine their long-term effects. Here is a brief overview of these drugs.

Andarine (S-4)

Andarine is very effective at fat loss and increasing strength, as well as in the treatment of prostate issues. This product can also be used to increase lean muscle mass.

Andarine promotes weight loss and muscle growth and repair. However, because it is comparatively less potent, it is frequently stacked with other SARMs.

Taking Andarine alone at 25 mg per day improves mood and overall fitness, while increasing the dose to 50 mg per day will moderately boost strength, lean muscle mass, and fat loss.

For bulking, it is recommended to stack Andarine with Testolone daily for 8-12 weeks. For strength, it is suggested to stack Andarine with Ligandrol daily for 2-3 weeks.

For cutting, it is advised to stack daily with Cardarine (a non-SARM performance enhancer) 12 weeks. For body definition (decreasing fat while gaining muscle), it is recommended to stack Andarine with both Cardarine and Ostarine daily for 9-12 weeks.

The main side effects associated with Andarine use are a yellow or green tinge to eyesight and decreased testosterone production.

Ligandrol (LGD 433)

Ligandrol works in the same manner as Ostarine, however, it is much more powerful. this SARM is often mentioned on online forums and blogs as being a very effective bulking agent.

Benefits include enhanced athletic performance, muscle hardening, greater vascularity, increased size and faster recovery.

It is recommended that athletes and bodybuilders take between 5-10 mg daily for 6-10 weeks. It should be noted that a decrease in testosterone production is likely at higher doses.

Like Ostarine, Ligandrol is often stacked with other SARMs for a greater benefits. Side effects can include nausea, fatigue, headaches, and decreased sex drive, all of which may be due to decreased testosterone production.

Ostarine (MK-2866)

Also known as Enobosarm, Ostarine is probably the mildest and safest form of SARM available. Many studies have shown benefits associated with Ostarine, including the ability to treat wasting muscles.

Ostarine is used by bodybuilders for its ability to help increase muscle, reduce weight, and improve bone mass. Side effects can include headaches, nausea, fatigue, back pain and a decrease in testosterone.

Testolone (RAD-140)

This is the strongest category of SARM. Testolone was designed to replace anabolic hormones in replacement therapy.

For gaining lean muscle mass, strength, and endurance in the gym, it is recommended to take 5-30 mg of Testolone daily for 8-16 weeks. Side effects can include sleeplessness and lethargy, and instances of liver damage have been reported.

YK-11

YK11 is a steroidal SARM and a myostatin inhibitor. It is considered to be the most powerful SARM available and is actually comparable to anabolic steroids in its effectiveness. Benefits include  increased muscle growth, strengthened bones, and increased strength.

Because of this SARM’s potency and steroid-like properties, it comes with more side effects than other SARMs. These can include hair loss, acne, increased aggression, decreased sex drive, and gynecomastia (enlareged male breasts). In higher doses of more than 30 mg, YK-11 can become toxic, potentially damaging the liver or other organs.

A typical dose will range from 5-15 mg per day, taken in 6-8 week cycles.

SARM-Like Substances

There are a few drugs which are commonly believed to be SARMs but are actually not. These products are often stacked with stacked with SARMs and have similar benefits.

Here are three popular substances which produce SARM-like effects.

Cardarine

Also known as GW 50156 and Endurobol, Cardarine is a PPAR Agonist. Although many vendors market this compound as a SARM, it isn’t, and actually has a completely different mechanism.

Primarily taken as a fat burner, the most common Cardarine dosage is between 10 to 20mg per day for weight loss, increased energy and exercise performance, improved cholesterol levels, and enhanced cardiovascular health. Because Caradine does not lead to hormonal suppression, post cycle therapy is not required.

Many users choose to stack it with SARMs such as Ostarine or RAD140 for a duration of 4-12 weeks, depending on what goals they have..

MK-677 (Nutrobal)

MK-677, also known as Ibutamoren or Nutrobal, is frequently referred to as a SARM, but it’s actually a growth hormone secretagogue, which means it triggers the pituitary gland to produce more HGH. MK-677 has been shown to increase lean muscle mass; improve sleep quality, enhance the healing of muscle, bone, and ligaments, decrease cholesterol levels, and  support an overall sense of well-being.

The amount of GH released by MK-677 depends upon the size of the daily dose, although research has shown that as little as 5mg per day will produce benefits.

MK-677 does not cause a suppression of the body’s production of GH, and doesn’t affect testosterone, so there is no potential for harm to the liver, kidney, or prostate. Some possible side effects can include an increase in appetite, lethargy, and a numbness in the hands.

Stenabolic (SR9009)

Another product commonly misidentified as a SARM is Stenabolic, also known as SR9009. Similar in effects to Cardarine, it’s well-known for its ability to reduce body fat and increase endurance, but also improves cholesterol and cardiovascular health, decreases inflammation in the body, and reduces anxiety.

Side effects may include sleeplessness, reduced strength, headaches, and/or water retention. Stenabolic does not cause hormonal suppression and does not require PCT.

It is commonly stacked with SARMs like Ostarine or Ligandrol, which help to preserve muscle mass when cutting.

Examples of SARMs Cycles

SARMs bulking cycle chart
SARMs Bulking Cycle Example Image: SwissChems
SARMs cutting cycle chart
SARMs Cutting Cycle Example Image: SwissChems
SARMs recomposition cycle chart
Example Recomposition Cycle Image: SwissChems

Side Effects

Use of SARMs can cause adverse side effects, so users must be aware of these potential risks. Among other side effects, SARMs have been shown to negatively impact testosterone levels and liver function.

Most of the current evidence for the side effects of SARMs is anecdotal, with the majority of information available online provided by vendors and YouTube videos, so information tends to focus more on the positive benefits rather than the negatives.

In addition, SARMs are often taken in dosages and for durations greater than what has been clinically tested. It is not known how SARMs interact with other substances, such as alcohol or other drugs, especially at high doses.

While users are reporting gains in size and strength on online forums, they are also seeking out advice for issues like high blood pressure, skin reactions, and erectile dysfunction. Other adverse reactions include headaches, nausea and insomnia.

Eye issues are another common occurrence; for example, Andarine is said to cause a greenish or yellowish tint to the user’s vision.

Are SARM Supplements Effective?

Recent research looking at the chemical composition of nutritional supplements and products marketed online as SARMs found that little more than half of over 40 products tested actually contained any SARMs. Another 39% contained a drug that had not been approved.(5)

Other products tested contained active ingredients not listed on the label, inaccurate amounts of active ingredients listed, and in some cases, no active compounds were found at all. These results highlight a concerning lack of regulation and oversight, and raise serious safety concerns about these products.

Are SARMs Legal to Buy?

Yes, at least for now, and to meet the growing demand, more and more businesses selling SARMs are springing up. However, it is not legal to buy or sell these products if they are in pill or capsule form, or if they are labeled as a dietary or nutritional supplement.

Most companies, probably fearful of the potential repercussions of selling unlicensed drugs, use legal disclaimers to describe their products as “research chemicals,” and warn prospective customers that “these products are not intended for human consumption”. This alone should give you pause.

Although still legal in most countries, SARMs have been banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) since 2008.(6) Additionally, the US Senate has twice pushed for a SARMs Control Act, which would add SARMs to the Drug Enforcement Agency’s list of Schedule III drugs.(7)

The bill would also prohibit the illegal import, export, manufacture, and distribution of SARMs. Given the current political climate, it is almost inevitable that SARMs will be banned in the US sometime in the not-too-distant future.

Safe SARMs Alternatives

Because of the potential side-effects and legality surrounding these products, many people prefer safer, more natural alternatives. A full line of supplements that mimic the benefits of the different SARMs, but with zero side effects are available through Brutal Force.

These supplements are legal and all-natural, and do not contain harmful chemicals or banned substances. Additionally, they do not suppress hormones, and therefore require no PCT.

If you are looking for products that can deliver similar benefits to SARMs but are concerned about the risks, then these SARMs alternatives will definitely be something you’ll want to check out.

Legal SARMs alternative website screenshot

Conclusion

SARMs appear to provide a number of benefits to fitness and performance-enhancement. They are also associated with negative side-effects, some of which may be severe.

Currently, more clinical studies are necessary to determine the extent of both risks and benefits. And while these substances are currently legal in the US, this status will almost certainly change in the near future.

Because of the limited research available, due caution should be taken prior to experimenting with any of these drugs. The long-term effects are unknown, and could potentially lead to serious health issues.


References

  1. https://www.uspharmacist.com/article/recreational-use-of-selective-androgen-receptor-modulators
  2. https://www.channel4.com/press/news/world-first-fatberg-autopsy-channel-4-reveals-uk-sewer-secrets
  3. https://www.usada.org/spirit-of-sport/education/selective-androgen-receptor-modulators-sarms-prohibited-class-anabolic-agents/
  4. https://www.menshealth.com/uk/building-muscle/a30197732/are-sarms-safe-complete-guide/
  5. https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/article-abstract/2664459?resultClick=1
  6. https://www.wada-ama.org/en/content/what-is-prohibited/prohibited-at-all-times/anabolic-agents
  7. https://www.congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/senate-bill/2895/text

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