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What Are SARMs: Are SARMs Safe and Should They Be Used in 2020?

Robert Bergen
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Have you been working out for a while and following up with the correct diet, but still can’t see results? Maybe you’ve been gulping down protein shakes and supplementing with additional BCAAs and creatine, but you’re still hitting a plateau.

Could SARMs be the answer for you? Are they good for bodybuilding? We’ll fill you in on all you need to know about these supplements, so you can make your own judgment based on science.

Table of Contents

What Are SARMs?

 

Selective Androgen Receptor Modulators (SARMs) are a relatively new class of drugs that attach to your body’s androgen or male hormone receptors. They have anabolic, or muscle-building, properties, but unlike steroids they target specific types of tissues [1].

SARMs help build muscle and bone, and they’re proven to combat muscle wastage from age, osteoporosis, and disease. Lately, dietary supplement brands have started selling them to athletes due to their ability to improve strength with fewer side effects than steroids [2].

Because they’re anabolic agents that enhance performance, SARMs are on the World Anti-Doping Agency’s list of prohibited substances [3].

How Were SARMs Created?

Non-steroidal androgens were originally discovered at the end of the last century as a potential solution for stimulating hormone generation and combating infertility [4]

Scientists later developed different SARMs to minimize muscle loss from diseases, such as cancer, osteoporosis and Alzheimer’s disease [2].

Are SARMs Safe and FDA Approved?

 

Many SARMs are generally safe, but they’re not FDA-approved for consumption. More research must be done in order to be fully approved by regulatory bodies for uses outside of medical research [5].

There is no guarantee for the safety of nutritional supplements containing SARMs. Since they’re not approved by the FDA for recreational purposes, the ingredients list can be misleading.

Are SARMs Legal?

In the United States, SARMs are legal to buy, but there’s a caveat: they’re still considered experimental chemicals and not nutritional supplements. 

However, buying them isn’t a drug offense. They differ from anabolic steroids, which are illegal to sell and possess [6].

Can a Doctor Prescribe Me SARMs?

A doctor can prescribe SARMs for medical use in conditions such as breast and prostate cancer or Alzheimer’s as part of a clinical trial or for research. [2] 

SARMs sale is not approved by the FDA for any other uses yet.

How Do SARMs Work?

SARMs are research chemicals that activate the androgen receptors in your cells, making them grow [2].

Testosterone is a key hormone where it concerns muscle generation. It’s an androgen or male hormone, but it exists in both men’s and women’s bodies [7]. While an anabolic steroid increases the testosterone in your entire body, SARMs bind only to the androgen receptors on specific types of tissue, your muscles and bones.

Non-steroidal Selective Androgen Receptor Modulators message your cells to build more muscle and bone, which translates to more gains for you at the gym. You will, of course, need to lift weights and follow a correct diet to see results, but SARMs can improve your muscles’ response to these stimuli.

What Are the SARMs Ingredients?

The products used for athletic purposes usually consist of Cardarine, Ostarine, Ligandrol, Testolone RAD-140 or YK-11. Supplements containing SARMs can also include vitamins and minerals for your health. Since the FDA does not regulate them, they may consist of higher or lower concentrations of the ingredients listed on the label [8].

Your best bet is to opt for the top brands to make sure their ingredients are as stated on the package. 

Are SARMs Better Than Steroids?

SARMs are better than steroids for multiple reasons, but the most important is the minimal side effects. They merely activate the androgen receptors in specific types of tissues instead of raising your overall testosterone levels. That reduces the probability of issues in the long term.

Anabolic steroids stimulate muscle hypertrophy, or growth, by activating the body’s androgen receptors. Unlike SARMs, they do so across the body. They are not only illegal in recreational use, but can cause permanent and serious side effects such as: 

  •   Heart disease.
  •   Liver toxicity.
  •   Mood disorders, aggressive behavior, and suicidal tendencies.
  •   Acne.
  •   Erectile dysfunction and shrinking of testicles.
  •   Deepened voice and masculinization in women [9].

SARMs aren’t as strong as anabolic steroids and don’t have their masculinity-enhancing effects, which is why they’re a much better option for women [10].

Why Should I Use SARMs?

These are some of the results you could achieve with SARMs:

  •   Burning fat for fuel.
  •   Improving running performance [11].
  •   Decreased recovery time.
  •   Building lean body mass [12].
  •   Increasing bone density.

SARMs in Bodybuilding

Bodybuilders use SARMs because of their muscle-building properties and ease of use compared to anabolic steroids. You can use them for maintenance, bulking or cutting, but you’ll need to find the right SARM for each purpose. 

When you use SARMs for bodybuilding, follow the instructions, strictly. Start with a low dose and increase gradually. 

These products can affect your body’s natural testosterone production, so it’s good to use them for short periods, 8 to 12 weeks at a time. After that, you’ll need to give your body a break of 4 to 12 weeks, so it doesn’t get too used to the SARM [12].

The daily dosage varies depending on the drug, but you should typically take your SARMs about an hour before your workout for the best effect. You can also stack them together to maximize your gains, for example, by combining Ligandrol with Andarine.

Women should use about half the SARMs bodybuilding dose a man would use.

Do SARMs Have Side Effects?

In general, SARMs’ side effects are fewer and less serious than those of anabolic steroids. Still, using SARMs supplement products does have a small risk of complications.

In an animal study, Cardarine showed some possible carcinogenic effects on mice, but human trials haven’t found any significant adverse effects [13].

One case study connected Ligandrol to liver injury, but a more extensive study found it to be well-tolerated [14][12]

Are There SARMs in Dietary Supplements?

Yes, SARMs are sold as part of many dietary supplement options. These may also include other nutritional additives for better performance, from vitamins to branched-chain amino acids, or BCAAs [15].

Are SARMs Prohibited on the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) List?

Yes, most Selective Androgen Receptor Modulators (SARMs) are prohibited by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), so they’re not recommended for competitive athletes undergoing drug testing. They qualify as category S1 anabolic agents [16]

Are There Any Case Studies About the Usage of SARMs?

There are very few studies on SARMs overall, and case studies are even fewer. We’ll have to wait for more information to become available over time as scientists have the chance to examine the full potential of SARMs.

SARMs and Women

Women have much less testosterone than men, making it much harder for them to build muscle [17].

SARMs supplements are safer for women than steroids because they’re tissue-specific. This means that they don’t amp up testosterone production to unhealthy levels all over the body.

Some SARMs are especially good for women because they target bone together with muscles. Women are four times more likely to suffer from osteoporosis, so a bone-building SARMs dietary supplement is key, especially if you’re getting older [18].

Cardarine is great for women, thanks to its ability to help you train harder and burn stubborn fat without the negative effects of steroids [11].

Since SARM usage can decrease your body’s natural production of testosterone, women should make sure they take a lower dose to keep the levels stable. Also, remember to have enough time between cycles so your body can recover its natural rhythms.

What Are the Best SARMs?

The best SARMs overall are Ostarine, Testolone and Ligandrol. Check out our complete guide to the best SARMs.

The Bottom Line

Selective Androgen Receptor Modulators (SARMs) are a relatively new discovery in science. They are similar to steroids in that they stimulate androgen receptors in cells to make your muscles grow, but they target only bone and muscle tissue. You get similar results with fewer adverse effects.

Remember that SARMs are not FDA-approved for recreational use yet, so the nutritional supplements included in them are not regulated. Also, bear in mind that they’re prohibited by the World Anti-Doping Agency, so competing athletes need to steer clear of SARMs.

References

  1. “Selective Androgen Receptor Modulators: Current Knowledge and Clinical Applications.” Sexual Medicine Reviews, U.S. National Library of Medicine, Jan. 2019, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6326857/. 
  2. “Selective Androgen Receptor Modulators: the Future of Androgen Therapy?” Translational Andrology and Urology, AME Publishing Company, Mar. 2020, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7108998/. 
  3. “What Is Prohibited.” World Anti-Doping Agency, www.wada-ama.org/en/content/what-is-prohibited/prohibited-at-all-times/anabolic-agents. 
  4. “Discovery of Nonsteroidal Androgens.” Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 6 Mar. 1998, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/9514878/. 
  5. “FDA In Brief: FDA Warns against Using SARMs in Body-Building Products.” U.S. Food and Drug Administration, FDA, 31 Oct. 2017, www.fda.gov/news-events/fda-brief/fda-brief-fda-warns-against-using-sarms-body-building-products. 
  6. “Steroid Abuse by Law Enforcement Personnel”. Drug Enforcement Administration, U.S. Department of Justice, www.deadiversion.usdoj.gov/pubs/brochures/steroids/lawenforcement/.
  7. “Effect of Testosterone on Muscle Mass and Muscle Protein Synthesis.” Journal of Applied Physiology (Bethesda, Md. : 1985), U.S. National Library of Medicine, Jan. 1989, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/2917954/. 
  8. “Chemical Composition and Labeling of Substances Marketed as Selective Androgen Receptor Modulators and Sold via the Internet.” JAMA, American Medical Association, 28 Nov. 2017, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5820696/. 
  9. “Anabolic Steroid Toxicity.” StatPearls [Internet]., U.S. National Library of Medicine, 24 June 2020, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK544259/. 
  10. “Expanding the Therapeutic Use of Androgens via Selective Androgen Receptor Modulators (SARMs).” Drug Discovery Today, U.S. National Library of Medicine, Mar. 2007, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2072879/. 
  11. “A Metabolomic Study of the PPARδ Agonist GW501516 for Enhancing Running Endurance in Kunming Mice.” Scientific Reports, Nature Publishing Group, 6 May 2015, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4421799/. 
  12. “The Safety, Pharmacokinetics, and Effects of LGD-4033, a Novel Nonsteroidal Oral, Selective Androgen Receptor Modulator, in Healthy Young Men.” The Journals of Gerontology. Series A, Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 28 Mar. 2012, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22459616/. 
  13. “1.2. Cardarine.” Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), Australian Government Department of Health, 5 Feb. 2018, www.tga.gov.au/book-page/12-cardarine. 
  14. “Ligandrol (LGD-4033)-Induced Liver Injury.” ACG Case Reports Journal, Wolters Kluwer, 11 June 2020, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7304490/. 
  15. “Branched-Chain Amino Acids and Muscle Protein Synthesis in Humans: Myth or Reality?” Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, BioMed Central, 22 Aug. 2017, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5568273/. 
  16. “What Is Prohibited.” World Anti-Doping Agency, www.wada-ama.org/en/content/what-is-prohibited/prohibited-at-all-times/anabolic-agents. 
  17. “Revisiting the Role of Testosterone: Are We Missing Something?” Reviews in Urology, MedReviews, LLC, 2017, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5434832/. 
  18. “Gender Disparities in Osteoporosis.” Journal of Clinical Medicine Research, Elmer Press, May 2017, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5380170/.

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