A COMPREHENSIVE GUIDE TO SARMS – WHAT ARE THEY AND ARE THEY SAFE?
For most men (and women), the main goal of working out is to attain the ultimate super lean body, carved, with perks in the right places. For bodybuilders, especially for those in competitive bodybuilding, the stakes are even higher,
Attaining the desired muscle mass requires hitting the weights hard and heavy as well as maintaining the right diet. Yet sometimes even after doing everything right, the muscles might be slow in coming, or you just don’t bulk up as your favorite role model.
At this point, you might consider looking for extra help in supplements and perhaps even steroids. Eye on the prize, right?
Then a lifting buddy mentions SARMS. You have heard of them but are not quite sure of what they are, how they work, or whether they are safe. Are they similar to anabolic steroids?
If you are looking for more information before joining the bandwagon, you are in luck as this is the most comprehensive SARMS guide out there.
What Exactly Are SARMS, and What Do They Do?
The straightforward answer is that SARMS are drugs that deliver the effects of testosterone to your body (such as increased muscle growth) without the bad side effects normally associated with steroids such as baldness and shrunk balls.
Initially, SARMS were made by pharmaceutical companies to help patients with various muscle wasting diseases. They are now used by bodybuilders and athletes for their unique muscle building qualities.
SARMS is short for Selective Androgen Receptor Modulator.
That’s quite a mouthful, so let’s break it down.
An androgen is any natural or synthetic (man-made) hormone that triggers the development of primary and secondary male characteristics. The best-known example of an androgen is testosterone mainly produced in the testes.
It is worth noting that women also have androgens primarily produced in the ovaries, albeit in lower levels. A receptor modulator, on the other hand, is a drug that binds to and modifies receptors.
SARMS, therefore, are a class of compounds that bind themselves selectively to androgen receptors in various parts of the body such as muscle and bones with an ability to have reduced androgenic properties because SARMS bind selectively, they are similar to anabolic agents such as steroids but with a reduced risk of side effects.
So basically what this science is saying is, SARMS are great because, unlike steroids, they can choose where to go in the body, which reduces the risks involved greatly.
But hang on. Before you jump up and down for joy, having found the ultimate muscle hack, let’s explore this further.
What is the Difference between SARMS and Anabolic Steroids?
In bodybuilding circles, you might have heard of ‘juice’ or ‘roids.’ This would be slang for steroids, actual name anabolic androgenic steroids. For the purpose of this article, let’s go with anabolic steroids, which is basically man-made testosterone.
As a, by the way, we don’t want to get anabolic steroids mixed up with what is usually known only as ‘steroids,’ referring to corticosteroids. Corticosteroids are anti-inflammatory and immune-suppressing medicine, which is not nearly as controversial.
The main difference between SARMS and anabolic steroids is in how they work in the body. As explained above, SARMS bind selectively to androgen receptors, therefore acting on specific parts of the body such as muscles and bones. It sounds a lot like SARMS have some kind of superpower- selecting which muscles to target for growth without touching anything else around it?
Anabolic steroids, on the other hand, don’t have the ability to bind selectively. Once in the body, they interact with different cells stimulating a protein synthesis process that results in cell growth. Unfortunately, this process comes with all sorts of side effects such as baldness, reduced testicles, impotence, acne, large breasts, and excessive hair growth. Long term use of anabolic steroids can have serious health implications in men and women, including delusions, heart problems, and increased risk of liver disease and cancer.
Coupled with the above scary side effects- users of anabolic steroids run the risk of dependency. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, about 32% of people who misuse anabolic steroids become addicted.
Becoming dependent is a vicious cycle. Your body becomes accustomed, so you have to take larger doses to see any results. Larger doses come with more side effects. On the other hand, quitting might result in muscle loss, which induces anxiety for users who are afraid of altering their bodies.
What About Prohormones? What Are They?
Prohormones are popular with bodybuilders who would like to bulk but avoid the side effects associated with anabolic steroids. This is because prohormones also have somewhat fewer side effects.
Prohormones are often confused for steroids. Although the two compounds give similar results, they have a different composition. A prohormone is a drug that is converted into a hormone in the body. They, therefore, act as chemical precursors to the hormones.
One interesting factor with prohormones is that you can choose which hormone you would like to increase in the body. For instance, if you take a prohormone for testosterone, then the body responds by producing testosterone. This is basically what all bodybuilders are interested in.
Technically, prohormones are illegal having been outlawed in 2004. One of the biggest side effects is the lowered production of testosterone in the body.
Back to SARMS, Are They Safe to Use? Wait, Are They Even Legal?
Because of their selective binding capability discussed above, it is easy to think that SARMS are completely safe and it’s the anabolic steroids you should be wary of. This is not entirely true.
For starters, the sale and use of SARMS are illegal in the USA, and the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) has not approved them for use. According to the FDA, SARMS “are associated with serious safety concerns, including the potential to increase the risk of heart attack or stroke and life-threatening reactions like liver damage.”
Another possible side effect of SARMS is lower testosterone levels. Now, if you keep supplementing testosterone, your body will get accustomed to it and lower its own production. A study done by the University of Boston found that men who took 1m of a SARM called ligandrol every day experienced a 55% drop in testosterone levels over three weeks.
In 2017 the FDA sent warning letters to companies that were distributing products containing SARMS labeled as dietary supplements. In the opinion of the FDA, the long term effects of using SARMS are not yet known, and you are therefore advised not to take them.
For obvious reasons SARMS also stand banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) since 1998. This is not to say that pro-athletes won’t try to beat the system. In the last four years, the athletic body has sanctioned over twenty athletes who have tested positive for Ostarine, a common SARM.
Medical experts are also on the fence on this one. According to Dr. Thomas O’Connor of Metabolic Doc who specializes in men’s health services, “SARMS are not safe and should be studied further.” Dr. Shalender Bhasin, the director of research programs in men’s health at Brigham Women’s Hospital, is also skeptical. According to him, it is not yet known whether “these compounds are safe,” and it is known that “some of them have side effects.”
Granted, SARMS have shown relatively fewer or less severe side effects than traditional anabolic steroids. The danger lurks in the quantities. The more you will be required to take to see results, the higher the side effects.
What Is Post Cycle Therapy, and How Is It Related?
If you have been a part of the bodybuilding world, you have probably heard of post cycle therapy, especially in relation to the use of SARMS. Usually, you will use SARMS (or anabolic steroids) in cycles, such as three months. When you come off the cycle, i.e., when you stop taking the drug and depending on what you were on and the dosage, then you might have to take another drug to normalize your hormone levels, bring your testosterone levels back up and rejuvenate your liver.
If you are taking SARMS, you may or may not require post cycle therapy. As mentioned above, it all depends on what you have been using and the duration of use.
Another important factor is the strength of the particular SARMA as different SARMS also have different strengths. Ostarine, for example, is considered a mild SARM and should barely suppress your natural testosterone production. Others such as YK 11 and LGD 4033 are quite strong, especially if taken over a long period of time and might require post cycle therapy.
Needless to say, this is a matter of opinion. Everybody reacts differently, and you need to research on what works for you.
Dangers of Buying SARMS Online
You are probably wondering- if SARMS are not legal, why are they on sale? Well, there is no direct answer to this question. Initially, drug companies developed SARMS targeting people suffering from age and muscle wasting diseases. This is ongoing research, which explains why SARMS are not FDA approved. It is not possible to estimate how long this research might take.
The only way that it is possible to sell SARMS online is for drug companies to disguise them either as ‘dietary supplements’ or ‘research chemicals.’ Of course, it is legal to sell and buy these two products. This explains the host of websites selling SARMS online.
There are several concerns that arise with buying SARMS online. One, because there is no regulation like with other FDA approved drugs, it is impossible to know what has been put in that pill. In effect, it is similar to dealing with a black market, where anything goes. To put this in perspective, let us get some figures from a study done by Dr. Shalender Bhasin, who we mentioned earlier.
This study was investigating the chemical composition, and labeling of SARMS sold over the internet. In the study, the doctor and his team investigated 44 different products, and the results were astounding. Out of the 44 products, only 52% contained actual SARMS. 39% contained another unapproved drug, while 59% contained ingredients that differed from what was put in the label.
The obvious danger in buying a product that has hidden ingredients is you can’t know what kind of side effects it might have on you, or whether you are allergic to the ingredients. The hustle for muscle might end up bringing you more health problems than you bargained for.
Last but not least, there is the small issue of money. These things don’t come cheap. A spot check in some of the websites gives an average range of $49-$100 per bottle depending on the brand. Now imagine spending all this money month after month for something that does not contain any SARMS!
If SARMS are not Safe or Legal Why are People Still Using Them?
Good question. The opinion is quite split on this in the bodybuilding world. On the one hand, the opponents find that there are too many unknowns as far as SARMS are concerned. The fact that the drugs are still under research effectively makes them experimental.
On the other hand, proponents think that there is an exaggeration in the dangers associated with SARMS and they should be considered as a safe middle ground from anabolic steroids (which by the way have harmful effects but are still very much popular).
For the most part, bodybuilders use SARMS as an introduction to their bodies before moving on to anabolic steroids, sort of like conditioning their bodies in readiness for something more to come. As you recall SARMS give the effects of anabolic steroids without the unwanted side effects.
Another reason is that they want to continue reaping the results without taking a bigger risk. While SARMS are not as powerful as anabolic steroids, they are probably the next best thing for those who are cautious about adverse side effects.
What Are Some of the SARMS Available for Sale?
There are numerous websites selling SARMS online. I have seen a couple of sites with a clear warning “for research purposes only.” As mentioned above, this is the legally accepted way of selling SARMS. Here is a rundown of some of the most popular SARMS in the market. You will notice that most of them have numerical names. A good guess as to why is that they are meant to be chemicals for research purposes in a lab- and who has time to give pretty names to those?
MK-2866 (Ostarine) – Ostarine is the most popular of SARMS, with much research done on it. It is also one of the oldest in the market. Ostarine works mainly to increase muscle development as it targets muscle tissue. It is, therefore, a good choice for those looking to bulk up. It can also be used together with other SARMS for more enhanced results. Very little side effects have been seen with the exception of slightly suppressed testosterone levels. A typical dose would be 25mg per day, but its best to adjust according to your needs.
LGD-4033 (Ligandrol) – This SARM is popular for its fat reducing ability. Other than reduced fat or as a result of it, there is an increase in lean mass, increased endurance and strength. All these help you to work out even harder, attaining even better results. The recommended dose is 10mg per day, although users have reported taking more than that. Ligandrol can also be combined with other SARMS depending on your goals. Some studies have shown lowered sex levels after use, so it is important to exercise caution.
GW-501516 (Cardarine) – Technically, Cardarine is not a SARM but is however marketed as one. This is because it has similar benefits such as fat loss and also gives large amounts of energy. When combined with other SARMS, Cardarine becomes a force to reckon with in bodybuilding. Initially, it was linked with increased instances of some cancers, but research has not been able to show any proof. As with any experimental drugs, not all risks might be known, and it is better to investigate before taking the plunge.
RAD-140 (Testolone) – Testolone is highly touted to be the most effective SARM out there with an anabolic ratio similar to that of testosterone. Research on Testolone started in 2010, and studies were done on mice have been quite promising with test subjects showing increased muscle mass with minimal side effects. A typical dosage should be about 10mg per day, and you can adjust as you see fit.
S40503 (Andarine) – this SARM is commonly known as S4. It was discovered by a Japanese pharmaceutical company, and tests are ongoing for its full range of uses. Like its other counterparts in promotes the growth of muscle and reduces fat in the body. Some users have reported taking up to 50mg per day.
YK-11– This is a relatively new SARM developed by a group of Japanese scientists. YK-11 seems to have a special composition and works well in promoting muscle growth and slowing down the aging of cells. Because of its relatively new discovery, not much testing has been done on live animals. Some users have given anecdotal accounts of their interaction with it in which no adverse side effects have been reported.
How Can I tell if a Seller is Legitimate?
Because the sale of SARMS is not regulated there are a lot of unscrupulous dealers out there. One of the best ways of confirming if a website or seller is legit is by checking if it has an actual address, an email, or a phone number that you can call. This can help you narrow down to a few options. The payment method offered is also a good tell-tale sign. If the website asks for payment in cryptocurrency such as bitcoin, this should be a red flag and its best to proceed with caution.
Another foolproof way is to join bodybuilding groups in places such as Reddit, where you can follow discussions and ask questions on legitimate sellers, best products, results, and side effects of SARMS.
The world of SARMS is certainly a complicated one dominated by two very distinct sides. On one side, SARMS are considered untested, experimental, and dangerous. On the other hand, the bodybuilding community continues to use them with confidence downplaying the supposedly dangerous side effects.
We have made a comparison with anabolic steroids, and SARMS do seem to be a safer option given that they are selective in what they do in the body. Even if it appears that they have fewer side effects, long time effects are unknown, and this should be an important factor to consider when making a decision.
Another thing to note is that most of the SARMS in the market has only been tested on animals such as mice and monkeys, and not on humans. The FDA has not approved its use, and they remain illegal.
Another disturbing issue surrounding SARMS is that since they are not regulated, anybody can put anything in a bottle and sell it to you as SARMS. This review has presented a study where a big percentage of products bought online contained different ingredients from what was in the label. This is a real concern as it can impact severely on your health, not to mention the money you might lose by buying from unscrupulous dealers.
If you are determined to bulk up and believe that SARMS is the way, a better way of distinguishing what is real from what is fake is by joining different online forums for referrals, testimonials, and user reviews.
This article has given you the different sides of SARM as discussed. Proponents might ask what you are waiting for to buy, and opponents will ask you to tread carefully. This is definitely one of those times where you have to weigh the pros and cons carefully and make a personal decision.