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?

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 m