SARMs vs Steroids

Will SARMs finally be as powerful? Will Steroids ever have low sides? Find out on the next episode of SARMs vs Steroids!

This is a big one, boys and girls grab your popcorn and gym bae because it’s about to go down! And no, I’m not talking about your liver values I’m talking about the question as old as time. The ultimate battle, SARMs vs Steroids? Gen Z gym bro’s say it’s SARMs, while Bald Baby Boomers swear by good ol’ Test and Deca!

Well for the next 10 to 20 minutes, depending on how often you check Instagram, we’re finally putting this question to rest. Let’s go!

Warning: The content on and the information included in this article is intended for entertainment and informational purposes only. It is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Prior to buying anything, check that it is compliant where you live with your current government laws. We frequently mention research chemicals that are not made for human consumption. Therefore, before purchasing any product for personal use, consult with your doctor or healthcare provider first.

SARMs VS Steroid Side Effects

Side Effect ⛔SARMs 💊💧Steroids 💉Winner 🏆
Hair LossNot seen, low DHT conversionDHT’s can definitely cause hair lossSARMs
AggressionVery low, only prevalent in someLow, but more than SARMsSARMs
Prostate GrowthOnly with certain SARMsHighSARMs

What are SARMs?

SARMs (Selective Androgen Receptor Modulators) are compounds initially designed by doctors and researchers for people who suffer from muscle deteriorating conditions. These compounds would only bind to certain androgen receptors, like those in the muscles but not those at the prostate, and this receptor would then signal the body to have a change in DNA.

SARMs vs Steroids

SARMs were designed to have similar effects to their steroidal counterparts, but with less drawbacks. The two main drawbacks the developers at Ligand Pharmaceuticals were concerned with, was the conversion of testosterone into DHT (Dihydrogentestosterone) which can have severe effects on your prostate, and the catastrophic effect on blood lipids.

Ligandrol – LGD 4033

Certain SARMs such as Ligandrol LGD-4033 can have great effects on building muscle, while still having very little androgenic side effects. This remains the ace up the sleeve for SARMs in general. There is however one small drawback.

While it’s fairly easy to get your hands on SARMs such as this one from Sports Technology Labs, they need to be sold as research products, and not for human consumption. Basically, they were never approved by the FDA, and thus you cannot buy them as dietary supplements. Plus, human studies are limited. You know what has a tonne of studies? Roids.

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  • Can increase muscle mass
  • Can increase strength
  • Some evidence shows that it can aid in recovery after training
  • Could also help a lot with fat loss


  • Ligandrol has little side effects, though some anecdotal evidence reports nausea, fatigue, headaches, and low libido.

What are Steroids?

The word steroid conjures up images of jacked bald guys, deep voiced women, and just way too many needles. Actually, the term “steroids” is such a diverse term that we could talk about them for literally hours. The words anabolic steroids refer to hormones used in sports or recreation in the pursuit of growing more muscle, or losing fat.


The most common steroid is pure testosterone, the male sexual hormone. This is the base of most steroids (or rather steroidal products) as derivatives of pure Testosterone can yield certain results. For instance, removing the 19 Methyl group changes Testosterone into a 19-Nortestosterone (or Nandrolone) which has more anabolic effects than pure Testosterone.


As you can see, the changes are subtle on a molecular level, but the difference between testosterone and nandrolone on the body are significant. Steroids were usually designed, like SARMs, for health applications. Oxymetholone (Anadrol) was given to AIDS patients who suffer from muscle wastage. Not long before powerlifters figured “Ey this thing makes my nose bleed when I can finally squat 900 lbs! Not a bad trade!” – or so they thought.

Compared to SARMs, steroids have more prevalent side effects. Imagine SARM sides as 2003 The Rock, while steroid side effects are full blown Fast and Furious, baby oil devouring The Rock. We’ll get into the nitty gritty a bit later on, but the thing is these have been documented. Steroids aren’t new like SARMs. These sides have been documented and have been known for years. Advantage, steroids.

How do SARMs work compared to Steroids?

SARMs are relatively precise in their mechanism when compared to steroids. Because of their selective nature, they tend not to bind to receptors in the prostate. Due to the fact that they are not a hormone, they also don’t suppress endogenous Testosterone production which is a large drawback of Testosterone in the first place.

YK 11

As you can see, something like YK-11 is not dramatically different to testosterone in the first place, hence the similarities. So, compared to steroids, SARMs are just a more precise tool for activating androgen receptors. Unfortunately, the fact of the matter is that SARMs just aren’t as strong as steroids.

Which builds more muscle?

In the battle of SARMs vs Steroids? Steroids. Without doubt or hesitation. The evidence for this is as clear as day. Ask any professional bodybuilder, and their stack isn’t comprised of S 23, YK-11 and Ostarine. It’s made up of specific steroids at large doses. Even powerlifters will prefer good ‘ol needles above SARMs. But why?

Simple, really. Steroids are just stronger per unit. If we compare Testosterone vs Ligandrol, we can see that Ligandrol does have a more anabolic ratio (10:1 vs 1:1 for Testosterone) however, when looking at the literature we see that Ligandrol administration doesn’t shut down endogenous Testosterone, whereas exogenous Testosterone does.

Comparing SARMs vs Steroids is a bit difficult because there aren’t any studies comparing the two against one another directly, however let’s compare two studies: 1.0 mg Ligandrol per day vs 600 mg of Testosterone per week.

The fact of the matter is that the individuals in the Testosterone study gained 86% more lean body mass compared to the Ligandrol individuals. Keep in mind there are limitations to this comparison, chief amongst which being the duration difference, the SARM study was 3 weeks, while the Testosterone study was 6 weeks.


Now of course there are a bunch of different SARMs and Steroids. Limiting the decision on only one product from each side is a bit unusual. However, even when comparing something like this Sports Technology Labs S-23, which is one of the more powerful SARMs, nothing, and I do absolutely mean nothing from the SARM camp will compare to something like Trenbolone, one of the most powerful steroids.
Which can build more muscle? Steroids. Hands down.

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  • Muscle and Strength Gain
  • Increased Strength
  • Fat Loss


  • Testosterone Suppression
  • Aggression
  • Hair Loss

Which can aid Fat Loss more?

Fat loss is of course determined by good old caloric deficit. Ew, dieting. How dismal. However, you and I both know that certain “special supps” or “bro-tein” as my ex called it, will aid in fat loss.

Ligandrol – LGD 4033

SARMs are very popular for a cutting phase because aesthetics are very popular in the current bodybuilding and fitness world. Ever since Chris Bumstead became Mr. O classic, aesthetics have been all the rave. Young guys see this as the prime goal, and are afraid of taking steroids and rightfully so! Hence, why we see a massive amount of younger guys using SARMs like this LGD-4033 to amplify their training.

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  • Can increase muscle mass
  • Can increase strength
  • Some evidence shows that it can aid in recovery after training
  • Could also help a lot with fat loss


  • Ligandrol has little side effects, though some anecdotal evidence reports nausea, fatigue, headaches, and low libido.

Cardarine GW501516

Cardarine or GW-501516 is technically not a SARM at all. Since Cardarine is actually Peroxisome Proliferator-Activated Receptor or PPAR it is not known as a Selective Androgen Receptor Modulator or SARM. Created in the early 90’s, it’s main goal was to be a treatment for various cancers and perhaps even lower LDL cholesterol in the body.

Cardarine has been shown to aid in fat loss not only by accelerating the fat loss itself, but also providing energy and a feeling to combat the normal feeling of lethargy when in a deep caloric deficit. By targeting androgen receptors which help to stimulate glucose metabolization in the muscle tissues, Cardarine ensures that glucose does not get stored as fat.

This could be a useful SARM to use as a Crossfitter due to the fact that having less bodyfat and having better cholesterol levels will be beneficial to cardio and bodyweight based movements.

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  • Lowers the levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol
  • Improved athletic performance
  • Greater fat loss
  • Liver toxicity and damage
  • Stomach pain
  • Not approved for human use

But are they effective? Short answer – yes. Products such as this GW 501516 has been known by anecdotal evidence to help with fat loss. They cause an increase of metabolism, due to the fact that the SARM itself can increase lipolysis (fat burning). A second method is by increasing muscle mass, an individual with more muscle mass can burn fat easier compared to someone smaller.

In the steroid corner, we have a tremendous amount of options. The main fat burning, options are Clenbuterol, T3 (or T4) and ECA. Others like Winstrol, Trenbolone, and Masteron might help a lot, but limited compared to the first one mentioned.

T3 (or T4)

One hell of a name, and one hell of a tool! Cardarine is an exceptional tool for weight loss. It’ll preserve muscle loss while you’re in your diet, but also massively accelerate weight loss. As mentioned earlier, Cardarine is technically not a SARM but actually a PPAR Delta Agonist. It’ll bind to PPAR Delta receptors, and cause the body to just burn more energy.

Usually dosed as a liquid shown here by Amino Asylum, you do sometimes find pills or capsules. Cardarine is also known to increase vascularity – combined with the weight loss this could also massively help with cardiovascular capabilities.

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  • Lowers the levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol
  • Improved athletic performance
  • Greater fat loss


  • Liver toxicity and damage
  • Stomach pain
  • Not approved for human use

Unfortunately it’s hard to compare fat loss from both parties as studies are limited. Even something like this T4 from Pure Rawz has limited studies, however the science behind T4 and T3 is sound, as it has been documented that T3 massively increase metabolism – even burning muscle. Something like Clenbuterol can also massively increase fat loss and preserve muscle loss! However, due to the lack of science, we need to rely on anecdotal evidence. Ask any bodybuilder, they ain’t popping SARMs, they’re popping Clen. So. Advantage steroids.

At this point you’re probably thinking “So SARMs are just losing completely?”. Not really…

What about Side Effects?

Time for SARMs to pull back a few wins after the catastrophic L’s. SARMs were specifically designed to have less of the stereotypical steroid side effects, hence the name “selective”. The compound is designed to only bind to the receptors that actively build muscle and aid in losing fat, and will be less impactful on your prostate and liver function. But, let’s start at a point:

1) Testosterone Shutdown

Testosterone Shutdown

Hypogonadism is the term used when males no longer produce the male sex hormone Testosterone. This can be a natural occurrence that happens with age, however we see this more commonly in men who use exogenous hormones. When you use something like Testosterone or Anavar, your endogenous Testosterone production shuts down. This is due to LH and FSH (Luteinizing hormone and Follicle-stimulating hormone respectively) production stopping. The body sits back, pops a cold one, and let’s the new guy do all the work.

This leaves the male in a bit of a predicament due to the fact that they’ll need to make use of a PCT (post cycle treatment) to restart Testosterone production. If not, they will have low Testosterone which can lead to muscle loss, depression, fatigue, and libido loss. No hot girl summer for you.


Now while it is very common for Steroid users to run even more products during their PCT like Tamoxifen (Nolvadex), wouldn’t it be great if you could get the gains but not have to put your balls on a chopping block? Oof. Bad image. Anyways, that’s what (most) SARMs grant you. Because SARMs are not hormones, they typically won’t shut down your endogenous Testosterone production. In fact, only certain SARMs are strong enough to do that, whereas every single Testosterone or Testosterone derivative will. Advantage, SARMs.

2) Estrogen


Now I’m sorry to say this Mr. I drive a Dodge Demon, but you need Estrogen in your body. Without it, you won’t be able to get an erection. Wild. Basically, men need a tiny amount of estrogen to remain healthy, and suppressing too much Estrogen with a product like Aromasin can lead to super high cholesterol, libido problems, and surprisingly limited gains. In a normal and healthy male, the correct amount of estrogen is produced by a process called Aromatase. Testosterone is Aromatized into Estradiol (estrogen), and that is what is used in your body.

Things change when you decide to release your inner Thanos and give yourself one or two cc’s of power stone per week, i.e. steroids. Because more Testosterone is available, more of it will be aromatized and you sit with a lot of Estrogen. Too much in fact. This has side effects like messing with your libido, fat mass increase, depression, and crying in the latest Ryan Gosling movie.



Aromasin is a drug that belongs to a family known as aromatase inhibitors, or AIs for short, such as Arimidex too.

Aromasin is the brand name for a drug known as Exemestane and it too is an anti-estrogen drug.

Primarily, however, the main difference between these drugs is how they are able to control and regulate estrogen levels in the body.

When people look for AIs after running a course of steroids, they often turn to Armidex.

Despite this, there is evidence to suggest that Aromasin is, in fact, a great deal more beneficial and effective.

I will be remised if I didn’t say that too high Estrogen is something lots of steroids users just deal with. Technically, unless you are preparing for a show, you wouldn’t want to limit Estrogen. So while yes you could pop over to Pure Rawz and get yourself some Aromasin, doing so in the off season isn’t that smart. Estrogen helps you grow. In fact, bulls who were injected with Trenbolone vs bulls who got Trenbolone and Estrogen, grew less.

Thus a balance is really good. And, cry about it all you want Mr. Dodge Demon, but most SARMs don’t cause estrogenic side effects. Because SARMs aren’t pure Testosterone, they don’t interact with aromatase and cause an increase in Estrogen. No need for an AI (aromatase inhibitor). Victory, SARMs.

3) Liver Damage

Organs. You need them, they don’t taste that great, and they make great music in big ‘ol churches. So to understand why we’re discussing them, let’s look at how steroids are digested in the body.

Oral steroids are metabolized by the liver, steroids such as Anavar, Winstrol, and Anadrol. Orals have been linked to some nasty stuff, transient serum enzyme elevations, acute cholestatic syndrome, chronic vascular injury to the liver, and hepatic tumors including adenomas and hepatocellular carcinoma. Say that 4 times fast.

Needless to say, oral steroids tax your liver dramatically, and make your liver values peak – just like you did in high school. But do SARMs do the same?

Ostarine MK 2866

Ostarine works as a normal SARM, by targeting the androgen receptors in the body and binding to them. These bound receptors will communicate to become bigger, and that is exactly what you want. Ostarine can not only increase muscle mass, but can also help in fat loss.

Therefor, it could be a good SARM to use as a Crossfitter, as having a better power to weight ratio is going to help in every event. Ostarine also has the added benefit of acting like steroids in providing muscle growth potential, however it does not have the stereotypical sides such as androgenic sides, or liver toxicity.

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  • Ostarine can increase muscle building potential, without minimal testosterone suppressive sides.
  • Ostarine could have potential fat loss effects, combined with a caloric deficit.
  • Ostarine (at a low dose) seems to be safe for females.
  • Ostarine has been known to have little to no side effects. At higher doses, anecdotal evidence has been found to cause nausea, heartburn, diarrhea and stomach pain.

There was a study published in early 2021 (1) where one individual had quite bad effects after using the SARM Ostarine. Now, Ostarine has been tested in larger studies to show that it doesn’t have an impact on your liver function. Stronger SARMs like S23 might have an effect, however nothing nearly as bad as oral steroids. Advantage, SARMs.

4) Other Side Effects

Look the list for side effects can go for longer than Game of Thrones did, so let’s just neatly summarize the rest in this little table.

Side Effect ⛔SARMs 💊💧Steroids 💉Winner 🏆
Hair LossNot seen, low DHT conversionDHT’s can definitely cause hair lossSARMs
AggressionVery low, only prevalent in someLow, but more than SARMsSARMs
Prostate GrowthOnly with certain SARMsHighSARMs

So as you can see, SARMs has without doubt less side effects. I will be remised if I didn’t mention that more studies are needed on SARMs.

Steroids? No. You have to be diagnosed with hypogonadism in order to get TRT (Testosterone replacement therapy), and then you’ll still just get Test. Nothing spicy like Tren. SARMs on the other hand can legally be sold as experimental products, and not for human consumption.

Are SARMs as good Steroids?

If you’re looking at it from a longevity point, sure. From a muscle building view, no. Steroids have a higher affinity to build muscle.

Do SARMs require a PCT?

Some do yes! While most SARMs don’t cause Testosterone shutdown, a select few (the stronger ones) do cause Testosterone shutdown and will require a post cycle treatment.

How long before SARMs start working?

Most oral products (steroids included) start working within a few hours of taking it. This is why certain steroids are used pre workout as a workout booster.

Do Pro Bodybuilders use SARMs?

No. Pro Bodybuilders use steroids. Because as a Pro you make certain sacrifices, sacrifices that will affect you for life. So don’t do anything stupid.

So, which is better?

First off, neither is. Better isn’t a scientific term, what is the unit of measure for better? Beats per minute? Gallons per mile? The choice is your in the end of the day. I was always told, “If you still have to ask “Should I take steroids?” – you aren’t ready”. And that’s true. You aren’t. In that case, SARMs might be better for yourself.

Still Have Questions?

Drop us a comment down below and one of our expert coaches will respond to it. We’ll also be answering questions on our Instagram!

1) Bedi, Harjot MD, MSc, MHSc1; Hammond, Carl MBChB, MRCP(Lond)2; Sanders, David MD2; Yang, Hui-Min MD3; Yoshida, Eric M. MD, MHSc, FRCP(C)2 Drug-Induced Liver Injury From Enobosarm (Ostarine), a Selective Androgen Receptor Modulator, ACG Case Reports Journal: January 2021 - Volume 8 - Issue 1 - p e00518 doi: 10.14309/crj.0000000000000518

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Daniel Louwrens BSc PT

Daniel Louwrens BSc PT | Writer

Daniel Louwrens is a well-rounded fitness professional with over 10 years of experience in bodybuilding and fitness. He holds a BSc in Chemistry from the University of Western Cape and is a certified International Personal Trainer and Nutritionist. He is also a skilled bodybuilder and head coach for Muscle and Brawn. With his knowledge and expertise, he provides personalized training, nutrition, and recovery guidance to help clients reach their fitness goals.

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1 year ago

Looking for domestic raws for PED’s

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