What Are Sarms? (Complete Guide)

If you’re interested in adding lean muscle mass to your body, you’ve probably heard of the term SARMS.

You may know that they are something like anabolic steroids but are unaware of how they differ from steroids, their level of effectiveness, and whether or not they’re legal.

In this article, we will provide you with a comprehensive introduction to SARMS that will answer all of your most pressing questions about them.

What are SARMS?

SARMS are man-made compounds designed to provide people with steroid-like benefits but without the potential side effects. The term SARMS stands for Selective Androgen Receptor Modulators. [1]

Selective androgen receptor modulators are agonist compounds that bind to a receptor and activate it to produce a specific biological response. Their ability to bind to receptors makes them far more specific in their action than steroids.

This specificity applies to the androgen receptor and the tissue that is acted upon. [2]

As a result of this, SARMS do not affect the body’s androgenic, or male sex hormone-related, activity, allowing you to benefit exclusively from their anabolic qualities.

Selective androgen receptor modulators were developed originally to combat muscle wasting diseases, like sarcopenia, in addition to osteoporosis and some forms of cancer. Their androgen receptor and tissue specificity qualities combined with their ability to differentiate between androgenic (bad) and anabolic (good) activity in the body have resulted in a number of studies that show that SARMS have fewer side effects than anabolic steroids.

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Types of SARMs

Best Overall

Ostarine MK 2866

Ostarine MK 2866 is manufactured by GTX, Inc. and is mostly used by bodybuilders during bulking and reconditioning phases. Some people who have used Ostarine have reported up to 7 lbs gains in lean mass within 8 weeks of use and reported moderate strength gains and reduction in body fat.

A study on 120 healthy elderly men and postmenopausal women showed that Ostarine MK 2866 significantly increased muscle mass, while also improving physical function and insulin sensitivity.

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Pros

  • 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.

Cons

  • 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.
Best for Bulking

Testolone RAD 140

Testolone RAD 140 is an oral SARM produced by Radius Health Inc. It was developed for the treatment of breast cancer and to offset the effects of muscle wasting diseases.

The first human trials on Testolone were conducted in 2017 and further studies have continued to display promising outcomes.

Testolone RAD 140 has exhibited the following major benefits:
Promotes muscle growth
Improves strength
Reduces body fat
Enhances recovery
Improves libido

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Pros

  • Reduces fat and increases muscle mass
  • Improves muscle recovery
  • Increases vascularity

Cons

  • Suppresses testosterone
  • May cause hair loss
  • Liver toxicity
Best for Strength

Myostine YK-11

YK-11 is a derivative of testosterone and is also known as Myostine. It was first studied in 2011 and may, in fact, be a synthetic steroid that has been mislabeled as a SARM. [7]

Studies have shown that it definitely improves muscle mass, though researchers are unsure exactly how. It is believed to be a myostatine inhibitor, Myostatine is a protein that limits muscle growth.

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Pros

  • Because of the mechanism in which YK-11 works, it can be beneficial in a cut and a bulk.
  • Can significantly increase strength and muscle growth.
  • Could also increase bone density.

Cons

  • Anecdotal evidence shows hair loss, and acne while using YK-11.
  • Increased aggression.
  • Decreased sex drive.
Best for Fat Loss

Andarine S4

Andarine S4 is produced by GTx, Inc., and its ability to selectively target anabolic rather than androgenic tissue means that it can increase muscle and bone density without affecting the prostate.
It is considered to be the most effective SARM for fat loss.

Bodybuilders mainly use Andarine S4 during their cutting phase since it decreases Lipoprotein Lipase levels and decreases water retention, while also promoting muscle mass.

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Pros

  • Increase in muscle building capabilities.
  • Can increase fat loss capabilities by decreasing lipoprotein lipase (LPL).
  • Anecdotal evidence indicates that Andarine can potentially increase recovery time significantly.

Cons

  • Not for Women
  • Yellow vision has been known to plague users of Andarine at doses of 50mg or higher.
  • Sensitivity to light, and difficulty adjusting to the dark.
Best for Women

Ligandrol

Ligandrol LGD-4033 is manufactured by Ligand Pharmaceuticals and is one of the few SARMS that have completed phase one clinical trials. [5]

The researchers concluded in these trials that humans could safely tolerate up to 22 mg per day of this compound for 14 consecutive days. Some of the major benefits displayed from using this compound included significant increases in muscle mass and strength, a moderate reduction in body fat,  and decreased bone turnover.’

LGD-4033 is popularly used for getting ripped, recomposition, bulking, and strength enhancement. [6]

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Pros

  • Increase in muscle building capabilities.
  • Can increase fat loss capabilities by decreasing lipoprotein lipase (LPL).
  • Anecdotal evidence indicates that Andarine can potentially increase recovery time significantly.

Cons

  • Not for Women
  • Yellow vision has been known to plague users of Andarine at doses of 50mg or higher.
  • Sensitivity to light, and difficulty adjusting to the dark.

How do SARMs Work?

SARMS are usually taken through a tablet or liquid form. They promote an increase in protein synthesis and strength within the selected muscle tissue they act upon.

Selective androgen receptor modulators will target specific tissues throughout the body instead of the liver, brain, or prostate which helps reduce the risk of side effects in those areas.

SARMs vs Steroids

SARMs specifically target muscle tissue whereas steroids are not able to do so. They also have the ability to differentiate between anabolic and androgenic activity.

Thus, the well known sexual characteristic side effects that come with steroids are not going to happen when you take SARMS. [3] They may not give you the same muscle growth and strength enhancing results as steroids but they are much safer in general.

Unlike steroids, selective androgen receptor modulators do not convert to DHT (Dihydrotestosterone) which results in many of the unwanted side effects of using anabolics. [4] However, SARMS will lead to a reduction in natural testosterone production.

Finally, you do not have to inject yourself with SARMs as you do with most steroids.

Are SARMs Legal?

Currently, SARMS are legal under federal law in the US. They are not a controlled substance and are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration.

SARMS are legally classified as research chemicals and cannot be sold for human consumption. Websites or other outlets that sell SARMS must clearly state that they are for research purposes only.

SARMs Cycles

SARMS should be cycled for between 6 and 12 weeks. Beginners should go with a 10-week cycle and should use only one SARM.

We suggest starting with Ostarine in general, but if you plan on bulking you should start with LGD-4033.

You should follow your SARM cycle with a 3-week PCT cycle.

SARMs Stacks

There are certain SARMS that can be safely stacked in order to achieve optimal results. One of the most popular stacks to speed up fat loss includes the use of the following SARMs for 8-12 weeks: [8]

  • Anadarine S4 – 25mg morning – 25mg evening
  • Ostarine MK 2866 – 25mg per day
  • Cardarine GW501516 – 20mg 30 minutes before your workout

A popular stack for building mass includes stacking the following SARMs for 8-12 weeks:

  • Ligandrol LGD-4033 – 10mg every morning
  • Myostine YK 11 – 20 mg in the morning
  • MK-667 – 25 mg before bed

Those who are looking to focus on recomposition should combine the following SARMs for 8-12 weeks:

  • LGD-4033 – 10mg every morning
  • Andarine S4 – 25mg twice per day

Best SARMs for Bulking

  • Ostarine MK286
  • Ligandrol LGD-4033
  • Andarine S-4
  • Mysotine YK-11
  • Ibutamoren MK-677

Best SARMs for Cutting

  • Cardarine GW501516
  • Stenabolic SR9009
  • Ostarine MK286

Best SARMs Stack

The best SARMs stack for an overall combination of fat loss and muscle gain while also being completely safe includes the following compounds used over a period of 12 weeks:

  • Ostarine MK-286 – 25 mg per day
  • Ligandrol LGD-4033 – 20mg per day
  • Cardarine – 10mg per day

SARMs for Women

Even though they’re much safer than steroids, some SARMS can cause women to start developing male characteristics (virilization).

The safest SARMS for women to use are:

  • Ostarine MK286
  • Ligandrol LGD-4033
  • Cardarine GW501516
  • Stenabolic SR9009

The highest risk SARMS for women are:

  • Myostine YK-11
  • Testolone RAD-140
  • Andarine S4
  • S-23

When comes to stacking SARMS for women, we recommend combining MK-2866 and GW501516. This is the safest stack that will provide you with both cutting and bulking benefits.

Even when using these relatively safe SARMS, women are still at risk for developing acne, deepening their voice, and experiencing facial hair growth.

Women do not have to follow a PCT cycle after a SARMS cycle.

How to Take SARMs

SARMS are provided in either liquid or oral form. Studies have not indicated whether it is better to take SARMS with or without food so this does not appear to be a factor.

Best SARM Companies to Buy SARMs

There are a few suppliers who have gained a reputation for the quality of their products.

5 of the best suppliers for SARMs.

PCT for SARMs

All SARMs will lead to some degree of suppression of your body’s natural testosterone production. That does not mean, however, that you need to follow a cycle with PCT in every case.

SARMS that require PCT include:

  • Testolone RAD-140
  • Myostine YK-11
  • Lignadrol LGD
  • S-23

We recommend taking either Clomid or Nolvadex for 3 weeks for post cycle therapy.

SARMs Before and After

There are a large number of debatable before and after pics. However, we’ve been able to track the source and verify the following two before and after photos.

The first example was featured on Masculine Development.

What are SARMs?

This photo features John Anthony. He experienced these results after following this 60-day stack:

  • Ostarine – 25mg per day
  • Ligandrol – 10mg per day
  • Cardarine – 10mg per day

John continued this cycle for a total of 90 days and stated that he gained a total of 18 pounds of lean mass while losing 7 pounds of fat.

What are SARMs?

This before and after picture is from More Plates More Dates.

This anonymous individual followed a 3-month stack that consisted of:

  • LGD-4033 – 10mg daily
  • YK 11 – 20 mg daily
  • MK-667 – 25 mg daily

Do SARMs Work?

Yes, SARMs do work in respect to aiding fat loss, enhancing muscle and strength gains, and improving overall body composition. Although they are not as effective as steroids, they still provide noticeable gains in all areas when taken consistently.

Are SARMs Safe?

SARMs have not been around long enough for us to state categorically they do not carry any long term side effects.

However, we know that they’re a lot safer than steroids for the following major reasons:

  • They target anabolic tissue sites
  • They do not promote androgenic responses
  • They do not convert to DHT

Since the sale of SARMS is technically unregulated you are taking a gamble when you buy any form of SARMs. Of all the SARMS that are currently being sold, Ostarine appears to be the safest.

Should You Take SARMs?

Whether or not to take SARMs is a question that only you can answer. It is up to you to weigh up both the pros and the cons and then make the best decision for you.

When doing so, though, we urge you to think of your long term health benefits as well as your immediate body image concerns!

[1] Selective Androgen Receptor Modulators (SARMs): USADA. (2020, July 27). Retrieved from https://www.usada.org/spirit-of-sport/education/selective-androgen-receptor-modulators-sarms-prohibited-class-anabolic-agents/

[2] Substance Profile: What athletes need to know about ostarine: USADA. (2017, Feb 6). Retrieved from https://www.usada.org/spirit-of-sport/education/substance-profile-ostarine/

[3] Hoffmann, D. B., Komrakova, M., Pflug, S., von Oertzen, M., Saul, D., Weiser, L., Walde, T. A., Wassmann, M., Schilling, A. F., Lehmann, W., & Sehmisch, S. (2019). Evaluation of ostarine as a selective androgen receptor modulator in a rat model of postmenopausal osteoporosis. Journal of bone and mineral metabolism, 37(2), 243–255. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00774-018-0929-9

[4] What to Know About Virilization: Healthline. (2019, Dec 3). Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/health/virilization

[5] Mohler, M. L., Bohl, C. E., Jones, A., Coss, C. C., Narayanan, R., He, Y., ... & Miller, D. D. (2009). Nonsteroidal selective androgen receptor modulators (SARMs): dissociating the anabolic and androgenic activities of the androgen receptor for therapeutic benefit. Journal of medicinal chemistry, 52(12), 3597-3617.

[6] Basaria, S., Collins, L., Sheffield-Moore, M., Orwoll, K., Storer, T., & Zientek, H. (2011). Safety and tolerability of LGD-4033, a novel non-steroidal oral selective androgen receptor modulator (SARM) in healthy men. J Cachexia Sarcopenia Muscle, 2, 209-61.

[7] Kanno, Y., Ota, R., Someya, K., Kusakabe, T., Kato, K., & Inouye, Y. (2013). Selective androgen receptor modulator, YK11, regulates myogenic differentiation of C2C12 myoblasts by follistatin expression. Biological and Pharmaceutical Bulletin, 36(9), 1460-1465.

[8] Magliano, D. C., Penna-de-Carvalho, A., Vazquez-Carrera, M., Mandarim-de-Lacerda, C. A., & Aguila, M. B. (2015). Short-term administration of GW501516 improves inflammatory state in white adipose tissue and liver damage in high-fructose-fed mice through modulation of the renin-angiotensin system. Endocrine, 50(2), 355–367. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12020-015-0590-1

Steve Theunissen

For the past five years, I have been a full-time fitness writer.  I also love to write about history and have written more than thirty books on the great battles throughout history. I live in sunny Tauranga, New Zealand with my wife of 33 years, Shelley.

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