Muscle Building with SARMs
If you have ever considered using SARMs but wondered if they are the right supplement for you, your muscle type, and your bodybuilding and body shaping needs, then this guide is for you. Here, we explain what SARMs are and what they are used for. We cover many of the terms frequently used by the SARMs industry, shed light on the many different types of SARMs, and discuss some alternatives. We also hope to resolve some of the common difficulties people have in deciding whether to use SARMs, how they are best used, and which SARMs to use.
In this article:
- What are SARMs and why do they interest bodybuilders?
- Who uses SARMs, and why?
- Acronyms and terms used by the SARMs sector
- History and development of SARMs
- The main types of SARMs
- Examples of SARMs dosage
- Examples of non-SARMs dosage
- Health warnings
What are SARMs and why do they interest bodybuilders?
SARMs are Selective Androgen Receptor Modulators. Because that’s far too much of a mouthful to use regularly, the industry goes with its acronym, SARMs.
Androgens are hormones that can “virilize.” Testosterone is probably the best known androgen. It deepens the voice, produces facial hair, develops muscle, and helps the body burn fat and stay lean. Some lesser known androgens you also may have come across are dehydroepiandrosterone, androstenedione, androstenediol, and dihydrotestosterone, which all play a role in the body’s function and development, in particular for men, but also to a lesser degree for women.
SARMs have been used for the treatment of many diseases and conditions, sometimes successfully but sometimes not. These include common cancers (especially non-small cell lung cancer), heart disease and cardiovascular illnesses, muscle wasting, osteoporosis and other bone disorders, obesity, chronic fatigue and many others (see History and Development of SARMS, below.) However, it is the hormonal capability of SARMs and the desire to get rid of unwanted body fat, shape and build lean mass and muscle, and add strength to the body’s bone structure that draws the bodybuilder to SARMs.
Since modern SARMs are still in the developmental stages of clinical testing, care should be taken when using them.
Who uses SARMs, and why?
Of course people taking part in their clinical trials use SARMs. But so do bodybuilders, weightlifters, athletes trying to ratchet up their performance, and many people who just want to lose weight.
Bodybuilders and weightlifters have many, diverse reasons for considering SARMs. If just starting out, you may want to sample SARMs to test your body on a supplement that can help its anabolic activity. Or, you may want to use SARMs as a stepping stone into greater reliance on anabolic steroids as your bodybuilding supplement of choice. If you have been a bodybuilder for some time and have chosen to use steroids, you may want to start using something associated with less health risk, while continuing to effectively manage the cycles of your bodybuilding objectives, in which case SARMs might just fit the bill.
If you are an athlete looking for an edge against your competition, then SARMs may work for you for the same reasons. SARMs are less detectable in the blood than anabolic steroids and, as long as you are buying them for research purposes, are legal.
If you are trying to lose weight, then SARMs also may be worth considering. The direct targeting that SARMs perform could help you burn any excess body fat more easily while also producing lean muscle tone.
Acronyms and terms used by the SARMs sector
Before we go deeper into an explanation about SARMs, here is a brief description of many of the terms commonly used when referring to SARMs and their development:
5alpha reductase – an enzyme which, when deficient, affects male sexual development before and after birth.
AICAR – 5-aminoimidazole-4-carboxamide ribonucleotide which was first used to preserve blood flow to the heart during surgery and more recently used to treat diabetes by changing the composition of muscle.
ALT – alanine aminotransferase, an enzyme that manifests in the blood stream and indicates liver injury when high levels are present.
AMPK – 5′-AMP-activated protein kinase is important in studies of obesity, diabetes, and the metabolic syndrome.
Aromatization – the process that converts testosterone into estrogen.
AST – aspartate aminotransferase, an enzyme that manifests in the blood stream when the liver or muscles are damaged.
BMD – bone mineral density, a measurement of the amount of minerals in the bones.
DHT – dihydrotestosterone, an androgen sex steroid and hormone used to treat under-functioning reproductive organs.
EB – estradiol benzoate, a natural and bioidentical form of estrogen.
ED50 – the median effective dose, a standard dose that 50% of the population responds to.
Estradiol – a form of estrogen in steroid form and a female sex hormone. It is important in the regulation of the menstrual and female reproductive cycles
FSH – the follicle-stimulating hormone which regulates the development, and growth, of the physical reproductive processes of the body.
HDL – high-density lipoprotein, known as “good cholesterol”.
HPG Axis – a reference to the hypothalamic pituitary and gonadal glands as a joined entity.
LH – the luteinizing (or lutropin) hormone, released by the gonadotropic cells in the anterior pituitary gland. It controls the reproductive system. Too much in women will stimulate sudden ovulation, while in men it can stimulate and increase testosterone.
LPL – lipoprotein lipase which eventually produces energy that can be stored as fat in the body for later use.
Orchidectomized – when either one or both testes have been removed.
Ovariectomized – when either one or both ovaries have been removed.
PCT – post cycle therapy, a process to help you return to normal after a cycle of prohormones/steroids.
PPARD – peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor delta, which plays a critical role in fat storing and burning.
PSA – prostate-specific antigen, a protein the presence of which can indicate abnormal cells in the prostate gland.
SHBG – sex hormone-binding globulin, which binds to the two sex hormones, androgen and estrogen, enabling measurement of male and female production of their sex hormones.
TP – testosterone propionate is a testosterone compound, often injected intra-muscularly and used to treat men who do not produce enough testosterone naturally.
VLDL – very-low-density lipoprotein, known as “bad cholesterol.”
History and development of SARMs
SARMs were identified and investigated as early as the 1940s, and were used to treat a number of diseases. In those days and the decades after, SARMs were also used to treat diminished function of ovaries in females or testes in men, as well as muscle and bone wasting or osteoporosis in men and women.
Unfortunately, these early generations of SARMs carried many health risks. This is because they were anabolic androgenic steroid types that delivered androgens to the body, providing useful hormonal support to the body’s functions, but unfortunately also saturating the body’s cells indiscriminately. This produced changes in the body that were too rapid and which sometimes caused irreversible problems such as high blood pressure, heart problems, liver disease and breast development, to name a few. They could also be physically and psychologically addictive.
Current generations of SARMs, on the other hand, are considered to be a potentially safer alternative to these earlier steroid types. The evidence available today shows that SARMs appear to be more selective in their action within the body. Early clinical trials indicate that they do not saturate the body’s cells in the way of steroidal types of SARMs or, indeed, anabolic steroids, and therefore do not cause the damage to the liver or other organs as described above.
These more recent versions of SARMs started development in the 1990s. They have caught the eyes of bodybuilders, weight and powerlifters, and many other sports and activity-based professionals and enthusiasts with an interest in building muscle bulk, shedding fat, and maintaining an otherwise lean physique.
These non-steroidal SARMs are under continual testing and research. So far, this research suggests that this new generation can target parts of our DNA effectively and, for instance, help prevent muscle waste and bone deterioration, and promote growth in these areas, while not impacting other parts of our genetic code at all. This selectivity is really where the strength of the new SARMs lies. So far, there is no evidence showing harmful side effects, but as we’ve said, SARMs are still in the trial phase.
It is important to note that while this testing has been thorough, it has largely been conducted on rats in laboratories, with some exceptions (See Main Types of SARMs, below). Because there have as yet been no Phase IV clinical trials, doctors have yet to start prescribing them. If completed successfully, these trials could green light SARMs as a treatment for many disorders. Several of the large pharmaceutical companies—Johnson & Johnson, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Kaken Pharmaceuticals, Inc, and Merck, to name just a few—are researching SARMs and how they can be utilized by the medical industry, but are cautious to show approval until trials are concluded.
In spite of this, the fitness industry has continued to use SARMs, although in 2008 the IOC (the International Olympic Committee) included SARMs on its list of prohibited substances (See Health Warnings, below). Despite this, non-steroidal SARMs have been used by male and female athletes for a couple of decades. It is these individuals who bring their experience to bear and provide the evidence of what modern SARMs do and how to use them.
The main types of SARMs
To complicate matters, SARMs are not yet named. Until they are medically approved it is unlikely that the pharmaceutical industry will bother to call them anything other than by the following list of rather weird and wonderful alphanumeric labels. Remember to refer to the section Acronyms and terms used by the SARMs sector above for definitions and meanings. For dosage guidelines, please refer to the Dosage Section below.
The most popular SARMs
The SARMs listed here are currently the most popular and are of the new generation of SARMs that are taken orally and are non-steroidal.
One of the current generation of SARMS, users also know Andarine as S-4 or GTx-007. It was developed by GTx, Inc., to treat breast cancers and muscle wasting diseases and for potential use in urology. In fitness, Andarine appears to affect only the anabolic and not the androgenic organs, without any appreciable inhibition of either LH or FSH. This anabolic/androgenic distinction means Andarine does not raise estradiol but does induce either the same or greater level of anabolic activity than TP. In layman’s terms, it will basically increase your muscle and bone mass but leave your prostate unharmed. In the fitness sector, the main use of Andarine is for fat loss phases in body shaping and building regimes, during which fat loss is maximized, water retention decreased, and bones strengthened against easy fracture.
Andarine can cause night-time blindness or a yellow tint to the vision, and can inhibit the HPG axis if you regularly absorb doses which exceed 50mg per day. So far, users reporting these side effects have also reported that these symptoms have disappeared once use has stopped.
Ostarine (alter names are MK-2866, GTx-024)
In the case of Ostarine, human testing has extended to the level of Phase II clinical trials, so there are more relevant findings to rely on. Also known as MK-2866 or GTx-024, Ostarine was developed by GTx, Inc. The results of their clinical trials, which took place with 120 humans including healthy men over 60 and some women at various post-menopause stages, showed overall positive impacts on the body. The tests revealed that Ostarine would increase lean body mass and muscle growth, generally improve physical mobility, and improve insulin management. And when insulin is managed effectively by the body, fat loss occurs much more easily!
Ostarine is favored by fitness professionals for both the bulking and the recomposition phases of bodybuilding with some users reporting great results in body shape and fat loss in as little as 8 weeks. Despite this, the strength and muscle gain and the fat loss means it is popular with athletes who are looking seeking to improve their performance.
Again, you should consider two side effects that have been reported before you buy Ostarine. Users have reported HPG axis inhibition and increased estradiol levels. Both these symptoms are remedied with 3 weeks of post cycle therapy.
Ligandrol (or LGD-4033)
Ligandrol has been tested in Phase 1 clinical trials. Ligand Pharmaceuticals, the company which developed the drug otherwise known as LGD-4033, aimed to test safety, reveal harmful side effects, and establish safe doses. The trial was concluded after testing multiple ascending doses in healthy volunteers, which established 22mg per day for 14 days as a safe dose. Volunteers reported increased lean muscle mass, strength, and well-being, as well as fat loss.
Thorough PCT is recommended after Ligandrol cycles, as there is the likelihood of lowered free testosterone and SHBG, and the body should return those levels to normal as soon as possible. LH and FSL levels appear to remain stable, if not gain in strength with Ligandrol, as does PSA and estradiol levels, and users of Ligandrol have reported its favorable impact on the bulking, cutting and recomposition phases of bodybuilding regimes.
Initially used in treating the elderly for functional decline symptoms, BMS-564,929 was developed by Bristol-Myers Squibb. Clinical trials have started with the expectation that the drug will efficiently target androgen receptors. As yet it has appeared not to particularly impact SHBG, nor the aromatase and prostate, although it appears to have more potency in muscle growth than testosterone.
A SARM which does not appreciably enlarge the prostate or the seminal vesicle (the organ which carries the fluid that mixes with sperm to form semen) makes AC-262,356 valuable to bodybuilders. It has been considered to be almost as powerful as testosterone (66%) and about a third as potent as any androgen. It is under development by Arcadia Pharmaceuticals. In studies involving rats, findings revealed that the drug increases the body’s muscle mass and decreases LH levels. This means you could use AC-262,356 as a bodybuilding supplement and for hormonal regulation.
A SARM which stimulates the growth of muscle and decreases the weight of the prostate gland, JNJ-28330835 has only been tested in laboratories on rats. The drug appears to be able to prevent, or slow down, wastage of lean muscle mass. This has the potential to be useful during the aging process or if you suffer an injury or undergo a surgical operation.
An interesting outcome of tests on female rats that have undergone ovariectimization is the evidence of a heightened sex drive, along with the less interesting but perhaps more relevant evidence that JNJ-28330835 can reduce the process of bone break-down and reformation.
Again, the LGD-2226 SARM, over 4 months of treatment on orchidectomized male rats, revealed its potential to prevent bone loss, increase bone formation and decrease bone turnover rates. It has also displayed increases in muscle mass, bone strengthening and enhanced sexual function in male rats with, as yet, no enlarging of the prostate. Research on LGD-2226 is sparse but the information gained from studies with rats indicates a two-fold use of the drug for both bodybuilding and improved sexual functioning.
Muscle mass and BMD were seen to be impacted positively by LGD-3303, although this SARM has only been tested on rats.
It is also promising to note that despite increasing dosage levels, the prostate remained unaffected. This could indicate that LGD-3303 does not have a negative impact on the androgenic organs.
Both these occurrences combined are an ideal aim when considering your choice of SARMs.
Known to increase bone mass and muscle mass while not increasing prostate weight, similar to DHT, S-40503 has only been tested on rats.
This SARM could be ideal for those concerned with strengthening bones in particular, since results have seen improvement in bone density in males and females. Despite this, there is a need for more research into the drug’s impact on muscle growth.
Tests show that this SARM binds to the androgen receptors extremely well, which means it lends itself to muscle building and body-fat reduction. However, the lowering of LH levels and potential increase in the size of the prostate are possible danger signals for S-23.
There are hopes that this SARM may be useful in contraception since experiments on male rats, dosed with S-23 over a period of time, showed that sperm disappeared from their testes. Fortunately, this appears to be reversible as by the 100-day point after treatment, the rats returned to full fertility and were able to impregnate females. These are important findings in the SARM industry although further testing is clearly required.
RAD140 has been introduced recently into the SARMs portfolio, and is causing much excitement. It is currently being developed by Radius Health, Inc., and is hoped to be used primarily in the treatment of cancers and muscle wasting conditions such as multiple sclerosis. Rad140, it is hoped, will make changes in bones and muscles that can reverse the problems associated with those conditions.
Already quite popular with bodybuilders and fitness enthusiasts, RAD140 appears to increase bone and muscle growth as effectively as testosterone but without harming the prostate. It has also been reported to have good results by those trying to lose weight, although this is as yet not supported in research.
Often discussed along with SARMs, Cardarine is actually not one. It is a selective activator which binds to PPARD receptors and not androgen receptors as a SARM does. However, it performs similar functions as a SARM and, by activating AMPK, it impacts muscle and body fat. This could be of interest if you are considering muscle building, reducing body fat, and developing lean body mass.
However, one very alarming downside of Cardarine is the possible development of cancer. It has so far only been seen in a few studies involving rats given large doses over long periods of time. Other studies appear to show Cardarine as harmless. Nonetheless, you should consider these issues very carefully when making your decision about using SARMs.
In the fitness sector, Cardarine is notably used to increase endurance capacity during exercise and to help lose body fat. Although it’s worth noting that both the World Doping Agency and the International Olympic Committee have prohibited the drug for its stimulation on AMPK in the body.
RPM and 6 Mass
There are two other types of products which have similar actions to SARMs and which you might consider for muscle building and fat loss: RPM, developed by Applied Nutriceuticals, and 6 Mass, developed by Legal Gear Sciences. Both compounds are phytochemical, plant-based products considered more as health and dietary supplements than bodybuilding supplements.
You should remember when considering products such as RPM and 6 Mass that they do not have to be tested at all, and probably have not even been inspected by the FDA. This is distinctly different from SARMs, which are making further progress through laboratory testing and clinical trials every day.
It is worth including prohormones in the list of non-SARMs since they are often used in the fitness industry for the same purpose as anabolic androgen steroids and SARMs.
Prohormones are supplements with a good reputation for muscle building without bone or lean mass wastage, but with a very poor reputation for causing liver damage. They are chemicals, taken orally, which are transformed into hormones that take anabolic androgenic steroid action in the body. They are closer to the early anabolic steroids than SARMs and have been banned in many fitness programs for their toxicity, in particular to the liver. Since they are supplements rather than drugs, they have not been subject to the rigorous testing that SARMs and other drugs have been.
Take at your own risk.
Examples of SARMs dosage
It is worth noting that while side effects are diminished with the new SARMs, your use of them must be for a much longer period to achieve the scale of muscle and strength gain that was achieved with earlier steroidal versions or anabolic steroids.
These examples of dosage are a broad average of current practice, and as such help you appreciate the likely amounts of SARM you may take. You should be aware that just because they are described here, the doses are not necessarily meant for you. Always consult a health or fitness professional before deciding your own dosage requirements.
Please also be aware that SARMs dosage is usually dose and time specific and should be run as such throughout your cycle. Exceeding or reducing doses or randomly taking doses can be harmful.
Each daily dose of Andarine must be broken into equal sub-doses at equal intervals throughout the day and should be taken for 5 days in any week with 2 days off, which should be the same each week. This reduces eyesight problems that may occur with continued daily dosage.
|Fitness objective||Dose||Duration||Other SARMs to stack with|
|Strength gains||50+mg/day||6-8 weeks||N/A|
|Cutting||50mg/day||6-8 weeks||Ostarine & Cardarine|
In the case of Ostarine, all dosage can be taken in one single dose each day, and unlike Andarine can be taken daily.
|Fitness objective||Dose||Duration||Other SARMs to stack with|
|Recomposition||20-25mg/day||6-8 weeks||S-4 & Cardarine|
|Injury Rehabilitation||12mg/day||6-8 days||N/A|
As with Ostarine, each daily dosage may be taken in one single dose, and they can be taken every day.
|Fitness objective||Dose||Duration||Other SARMs to stack with|
|Cutting||3-5mg/day||8 weeks||Cardarine, Andarine, Ostarine|
Examples of non-SARMs dosage
The doses suggested here should be taken 1 hour before the expected workout activity.
Most bottles will contain 240 capsules.
3 tablets each day which must be divided into equal doses 30 minutes before any meals and with 12 ounces of water, over no more than an 8-week period.
Advanced users have taken up to 6 tablets per day as above and for up to 120 days without any side effects. If you choose this option, it is recommended that a 4-week off period is included within the 120 days.
Most bottles will provide 90 tablets.
The following health warnings are general. You should read them carefully before continuing with your research to decide whether SARMs are the right supplement for your needs. This guide has given some specific warnings about specific SARMs. However, we cannot stress enough how important it is that you take personal responsibility for your own research into SARMs generally and specifically for each SARMs you consider taking.
SARMs are not suitable for anyone under 21 years of age, or for pregnant or nursing women.
Some organizations have banned the use of SARMs for those in competitive sports or other activities. Notably, the World Doping Agency and the International Olympic Committee have included SARMs in their lists of prohibited drugs for sportsmen and women. Please make sure you do the necessary research before engaging in any competitive events.
Always consult with a fully qualified health professional before using SARMs, whatever your purpose is. This is especially sensible should you be using any other supplementary health treatment or any prescription drugs for heart disease, prostate problems or cancer of any type.
SARMs are potentially going to be very helpful in bodybuilding, no matter your personal goal. Whether for its own sake, for weightlifting activities, for athletic achievement or for considerable weight loss and body redefinition, they will provide the extra support you need. Almost certainly you will face less risk from liver damage, bone weakening, prostate troubles and many of the things that the earlier SARMs compounds and anabolic steroids definitely caused. However, testing still continues and it is not possible to know the full extent of health risks since 27 years is a short time in the health industry. There may be other undetected health risks that will be revealed through more thorough testing, and completed human clinical trials are still quite a distance away.
It is not possible to provide certainties around SARMs, and not using them will always be safer than using them. But, if you feel compelled to try a supplement, there is good evidence that SARMs are safer than other options, such as anabolic steroids. If you go ahead, stay informed and be responsible. Good luck!
Further reading on SARMs for building muscles, endurance, and weight loss:
- LGD-4033 (Ligandrol) Review: Before and After Results [with Pictures]
- RAD-140 (Testolone) Review for Building Muscle & More
- SR9009 (Stenabolic) Review for Exercise Endurance: Dosage Guide & Side Effects
- Ostarine (MK-2866) Review for Muscle-Building [Cutting & Bulking]
- S4 (Andarine) Review: Dosage, Side Effects, and Results