SARMs 101 – Cycles, Benefits and Most Effective Supplements

Yes, SARMs are in the middle of a shitstorm nowadays. Yes, SARMs are poorly researched. Yes, SARMs are believed to be some kind of «the new thing», with all the consequences. However, there’s just one statement that you should fully understand about them, regardless of all the criticism: SARMs work. How, why, and whether you should give them a try - you can learn in this guide.


Selective Androgenic Receptor Modulators are relatively new synthetic performance boosters. They’ve entered the market just in the late 1990’s – the early 2000s, advertised as «cutting-edge» performance enhancement drugs. Now SARMs as a class – even though they mostly have a poor research base – have become the rival to traditional Anabolic Steroids.

SARMs and Anabolic Steroids

Why are SARMs even able to compete with Anabolic Steroids? Well, in short, because they are:

  • fSafe and effective for women;
  • Oral, with no 17-alpha-alkylation toxicity;
  • Absolutely legal (if you don’t compete);
  • Don’t mess up your hormonal system;
  • Affect the one aspect of your physique that you need directly;
  • Can improve not just muscle mass, but joints and bones as well;
  • Have way fewer side effects than traditional AAS;
  • Don’t convert to Estrogen or DHT.

So far, it seems like we truly have «Steroid Killers», right? «The evolution of bodybuilding», and so on. Actually, nope, it’s not that. Steroids and SARMs perfectly coexist now for two simple reasons:

SARMs in general are NOT as powerful as most Anabolic Steroids

If you want to absolutely blow up no matter what, SARMS will give you no expected result. Anabolic Steroids are, to date, still unbeaten in terms of power. However, they’re just as powerful as dangerous for your health. So, what if you’re not a total maniac and want to be both fit and healthy? What if you just want some performance boost with the lowest risks and side effects possible? Just two options here for you: a low dosage of mild Anabolic Steroids or SARMs.

Most SARMs are comparable in terms of efficiency to mild AAS cycles, like low Testosterone base and Anavar (Oxandrolone) or Nandrolone. Some SARMs even overcome them in all aspects – just with fewer side effects.

SARMS are more precise than Anabolic Steroids

Anabolic Steroids can cause significant overall improvements, but what if you need something more accurate? Say, you want power gains, not visual blow up? Or you want visual changes in lean muscle mass, and don’t want to get bloated along the way? Adjusting your AAS dosage gives you some tuning capabilities, and you can kind of control the outcome. Still, it is limited by multiple other factors: Whether you’re a heavy aromatizer, or not, how prone are you to gynecomastia and hypogonadism, and so on.

SARMs give you an ability to control the outcome of your cycle with precision and give you room for experiments with lower risks.

In a futuristic metaphor, Anabolic Steroids would be the nuclear rockets of the gear world, and SARMs would be a laser cannon. Developed by mad scientists in the middle of the Cold War, AAS cause considerable damage and disintegrate every obstacle on your way to being massive and fit. However, the explosion can backfire and strike you. SARMs are not THAT powerful, but you can shoot your targets one by one precisely, tune the beam to your needs, with a flexible level of damage and low risk of being hurt by shrapnel.

How SARMs Work

What on earth «Selective Modulation of Androgenic Receptors» is the first thing you need to know. In an oversimplified version, this is how it works:

Your body, including muscles, consists of cells, and each cell has a nucleus. That’s where Androgenic Receptors are located. Depending on what kind of receptors, how many of them and for how long they are «activated», your body will produce different kinds of substances and hormones that will affect your performance, endurance, muscle-building capabilities, and so on. Anabolic Steroids – being the nuclear rocket, as I’ve mentioned above – enter cells and attach to all receptors they can find, all over the body. The power of that binding and the number of receptors involved make Steroids less- or more androgenic. Each substance from the SARM class can affect only limited types of receptors in a specific body area, skeletal muscles. Selectively. SARMs trigger only the receptors they were created to trigger so that you can predict the result.

SARMs Benefits

There are SARMS for literally everything, and new substances are released every year. The only effect that almost all SARMs have is the anabolic effect. You just can’t escape some notable muscle mass gains. The secondary trait of each substance can help you adjust the cycle to your needs. Just like with peptides, choose the benefit you need most by the moment and take the SARM that boosts it. The list of possible options includes:

  • Muscle leaning and hardness;
  • Fat loss;
  • Catabolism prevention;
  • Libido boost;
  • Better endurance;
  • Strength gains;
  • Recovery from traumas;
  • Joints and tendons armoring;
  • Fatigue control.

SARMs List

Don’t let the names confuse you. Those are not fancy bar cocktails from the year 2120. Most abbreviations are based on the company that has developed the substance, like Ligand Pharmaceuticals and LGD-4033, or Radius Health and RAD-140. Pay more attention to the numbers; sometimes, they are the only difference between the generations. Now, finally, to the list:

MK-2866 (aka Ostarine/Enobosarm)

Specialty: Muscle growth, fat loss, bone strength improvement
Half-life: 24 hours
Side Effects: Lipids, acne
PCT: Needed

Perhaps Ostarine is the oldest known SARM that we have, developed back in 1997 for people with disease-driven muscle loss. Also – the best-researched SARM of all. Multiple clinical trials, like this one, have proven that it’s useful in promoting lean muscle growth, even on an extremely low dosage of 3mg. However, Ostarine is more like an all-in-one option – it can help you lose some weight as well.

LGD-4033 (aka Lingadrol, more recently – VK5211)

Specialty: Muscle growth, strength gains
Half-life: 36 hours
Side Effects: Testosterone suppression, libido decrease, acne
PCT: Needed

Ligandrol is of the most potent bulking SARMS there are, it overcomes Nandrolone, Anavar, and EQ in terms of muscle growth per cycle. A rival to Ostarine in terms of studies available. It had been successfully tested on rats, monkeys, and humans before it has become the classic example of powerful SARMs.

RAD-140 (aka Testolone)

Specialty: Muscle hardening, strength gains
Half-life: 60 hours
Side Effects: Risk of ventricular inflammation, hair loss, lipids, and elevated estrogen levels.
PCT: Needed

RAD-140 hasn’t been officially tested on humans yet, but multiple anecdotal reports justify the name of it – it acts like Testosterone, with no Testosterone side effects and no hormonal issues. I’d say that it’s quality over quantity SARM – it gives you fewer gains than other options, but these gains are more dense and lean.

Andarine (aka S-4)

Specialty: muscle growth, cutting, body recomposition
Half-life: just 4 hours officially, while some athletes claim 24 hours
Side effects: night vision impairment, yellow-tinted vision (you can’t see shit in the dark, and it’s yellowish in the daytime)
PCT: Needed, even though it’s one of the least suppressive SARMs

Andarine has fallen the victim of pharmaceutical marketing strategies. It was developed by the same company as Ostarine. Unfortunately, it has shown more side effects than the Ostarine and was abandoned before it could reach the human trials. It’s still on the market, as powerful in terms of anabolic activity as Winstrol. It’s mostly popular for cutting cycles boost, although it has some unusual side effects.


Specialty: Bulking, bulking and bulking
Half-life: 8-12 hours
Side Effects: Acne, risk of hair loss, joints pain
PCT: Needed YK 11 is not just a SARM; it also acts as a myostatin inhibitor. Myostatin is a natural substance that limits the amount of muscle tissue you can grow. Inhibition means blocking the thing. So basically, YK11 promotes extreme muscle growth and, at the same time – makes the process unlimited. In some anecdotal reports, athletes noted a 20-25 pounds increase in dry muscle mass. Your joints can struggle to keep the weight of all your rapidly-gained muscle mass at some point.

Nutrabol Mk-677 (aka Ibutamoren)

Specialty: body recomposition, cutting, muscle growth
Half-life: 24 hours
Side Effects: Water retention, increased appetite, muscle pain
PCT: Not needed, just a 2-4 weeks pause

Technically MK-677, it’s a growth hormone release-inducing substance, not a SARM. It directly affects Insulin-like Growth Factor 1 (IGF-1) and the Growth Hormone, without even touching the androgenic receptors. It’s still extraordinarily anabolic and can give you some significant muscle gains. Also, don’t forget about other benefits of boosted Growth Hormone production, like anti-aging and healing. Somehow it’s commonly believed to be a SARM, and even though you should know that it’s wrong, I’ll just go with the flow and let it be here.

Cardarine GW-501516

Specialty: Cutting
Half-life: 12-24 hours
Side Effects: Risk of digestive issues (like stomach cramps), acne
PCT: Needed

Cardarine is one of the best SARM options for cutting. It can be used both in a stack for body recomposition, or solo – for literal fat-melting, lean muscle growth and endurance boost. It’s been proven (well, at least on mice) that with Cardarine, you can run, workout, and do any kind of physical activity way longer and with better intensity than you could naturally.

Obviously, that’s not the whole list – these are just the most popular SARMs by date. With further research of the SARMs part of the website, you can find even more substances for your performance boost.

How To Take SARMs

Orally. Yes, that’s one of the best things about them – all SARMs are oral. You still can go for the injectables, this kind also exists for some substances of the class, but the majority of athletes prefer the oral form. You have 3 options:

  • Capsules;
  • Liquid;
  • Powder.

Capsules are, no doubt, the most popular kind, because of the smooth administration process and excellent bioavailability. Powder and liquid form demand some precision in terms of dosage and reconstituting, while capsules work like all other pills. You calculate the dosage and just throw a handful of them (of course, a handful of JUST RIGHT amount of them) in your mouth, get some water, and go on with whatever you’ve been doing. It’s not rocket science.

When To Take SARMs

That’s a pain in the ass question for many beginners because there is no definitive answer, and the more you try to find it – the more confused you get. In basic terms, you can legitimately choose any existing scheme:

  • ED (every day);
  • 3/3 (3 days on/3 days off);
  • 4/4;
  • 5/2;

The correct protocol ALWAYS depends on the substance, dosage, goals, and individual body response. Most SARMs have a half-life of 24 hours, so the ED scheme is the most popular. You can switch to a different one in case you are not comfortable with the daily intake, and it won’t be a problem.

Can You Stack SARMs?

Yes, you can. And you definitely should! I would not recommend going with the stack for your first cycle, but with a bit of experience, you can mix them, take 2 or 3 at the same time, and enjoy the synergetic effect. Just like with Anabolic Steroids, you have to choose the primary SARM first and look at possible stacks options. I’ll give you the most popular of them in every substance’s profile.

You can find various pre-made stacks, like SARMS-3D. It’s a popular mix of Lingadrol (LGD-4033), Ostarine (MK-2866), and Ibutamoren. This way, the process gets even more convenient.

SARMS Side Effects

Don’t buy all the «SARMs are completely safe» bullshit. This is pure marketing manipulation, beyond the typical bro-science we have to deal with all the time.

SARMs have “mild” side effects, not “zero” of them. There’s a void between these two definitions. Here are the side effects you can expect from the most popular SARMs:


Almost all SARMs decrease your HDL, aka «the good» cholesterol. This one study on Ostarine (Enobosarm) has proven that you can destroy the balance with just one high-dosage cycle. To get the damage you have to overdose way more than you would have to overdose AAS, but the risk is still there.

Testosterone Suppression

SARMs are non-steroidal, but still, lower your natural Testosterone. How come? The answer is three simple abbreviations – LH, FSH, and SHBG, aka Leuthenizing Hormone, Sex Hormone-Binding Globulin, and Follicle-Stimulating Hormone. Yes, these natural guys – closely related to the Testosterone functions in your body – are proven to be lowered by most popular SARMs, like Ligandrol. The effect is, again, not as bad as with Anabolic-Androgenic Steroids, but you still can get shut down with enough dedication to overdosing.

Estrogen-related Side Effects

No, SARMs don’t convert to Estrogen, like Steroids, but they decrease your natural Testosterone and don’t affect the Estrogen level itself. At some point, your testosterone level is below the estrogen one. With no proper support, you will suffer from all the notorious effects of elevated Estrogen. That’s pretty much why PCT is so essential.

Liver Toxicity

«But SARMs are not 17-alpha-alkylated and safe, reeee!» will yell the idiots, and they’re partly right – SARMs are not 17-alpha-alkylated. However, it does NOT mean that SARMs are harmless to your liver. They damage it differently – by messing up the AST/ALT ratio. In short, you get liver damage when ALT rises, and AST goes down. That’s exactly what happens on the high dosage of most SARMs that were tested on humans during trials.

Overall List of SARMs Side Effects

To sum the thing up, this is the list of MOST possible side effects that you can get from SARMs. Note that the list is based on several different compounds, and it’s not like you will get everything at once. Possible side effects include:

  • Acne;
  • Low libido;
  • Rashes;
  • Depression;
  • Crashed lipids;
  • Elevated liver values;
  • Headaches;
  • Mood swings;
  • Irritability;
  • Appetite issues;
  • Vision issues;
  • Heart issues;
  • Gynecomastia.

Even Moobs, your good old friend from the Anabolic Steroids world, has come to the party. Do you notice that deja-vu feeling? Something doesn’t sound so «cutting edge» here, right? Yup, SARMs put the same areas at risk that AAS do. It comes with no surprise that performance boosters with similar benefits affect the same areas.

Are SARMS safer than Anabolic Steroids?

What’s the damn difference then, you will ask me. If I can get moobs anyway, why should I not go for Anabolic Steroids first? Well, you can – but many athletes choose to do the opposite for multiple reasons:

  1. SARMs require way longer overdosing and abuse to cause any severe side effects. With, say, Dianabol, you can get gynecomastia overnight. With Ligandrol or Testolone, you will have to eat your pills with tablespoons on breakfast, lunch, and dinner daily for 2-3 weeks to get the same sad result. Of course, I exaggerate the thing, but you get the concept. SARMs are generally well-tolerated by humans, and it’s just HARDER to get the side effects, which are – as always – dose-dependent.
  2. SARMs MAY BE side-effect-free for you. Maybe not. With Anabolic Steroids, we’re 100% sure that at some point, your body gets hit hard. With SARMs, we are not sure about anything – multiple anecdotal reports note that for some athletes, SARMs are just absolutely harmless. Clinical trials (both on rats, monkeys, and humans) show controversial results – some research subjects suffer from side effects, some don’t feel them at all. The only definitive cause of the most notorious side effects of AAS, the conversion of Testosterone to Estrogen (aka aromatization), is impossible with SARMs.
  3. SARMS have a significantly shorter half-life (in general) than most AAS. It’s easier to jump off the cycle in case something goes wrong with Andarine and its 4-hours-long official activity than, say, Testosterone Enanthate.

Both SARMs and Anabolic Steroids were – surprise-surprise – developed NOT for bodybuilding. Yes, literal zero scientists (in the exception of outstanding individuals – a salute to John Ziegler) care about your biceps size. They all have more important stuff to do. Both compound classes were developed for patients with HIV, cancer, toxic chemotherapy effects, and so on. SARMs were developed as a replacement for Anabolic Steroids, supposed to be milder on the body in these severe cases, and they definitely are. However, you – being, I hope, a healthy athlete, not a patient on chemo – can benefit only partly from this difference. After all, your dosage is way higher than the clinical one. For you, MOST SARMs, in MOST doses, are MOSTLY safer, than Anabolic Steroids. It means that you have to be extra cautious with them.

Aromatase Inhibitors and SARMs

SARMs do NOT aromatize. Aromatase enzymes work only on testosterone-like substances, and SARMs are not even steroidal by nature. However, all substances of the class DO suppress your Testosterone levels, and you get all the exciting side effects of the Estrogen elevation. Technically, it remains the same, but your Testosterone is so low, that Estrogen is dominating. Aromatase Inhibitors can help you avoid some of the side effects. You have two options:

Both are less potent than Letrozole (aka Femara) and Arimidex, but these compounds would be just too much for combating SARMs. Reserve hardcore options for Anabolic Steroid cycles – a low dose of Aromasin is enough here. Even that is justified only with extremely potent SARMs, like:

  • RAD-140;
  • Lingadrol LGD-4033;
  • Ostarine MK-2866.

… and other, comparable in terms of power. Keep in mind that AI’s have side effects as well, and sometimes – like in this case – it’s not a crime to skip on them. How to apply them to your cycle, you can read [HERE].

PCT after SARMs

Now, skipping on THIS would be a crime against your own body. Most SARMs, again, DO suppress your natural Testosterone. You absolutely NEED both the recovery phase and a 4-6 weeks pause between the cycles. You can read all the information about popular PCT options, like Nolvadex or Clomid. You don’t want to get shut down, don’t you?

SARMs Advice

Now, taken to account that SARMs are not that widespread so far and there’s a considerable chance that you will try them for the first time, let me give you 3 little advice:

Personal Opinion on SARMs

I don’t share the typical excitement about SARMs. Maybe because I’m a bore, nagger, and the «fun at parties» guy. Maybe, because calling something that was developed damn 20 years ago «a new thing» is pretty weird. The future is now, old man. SARMs are new for the medical world, because specialists couldn’t use them before substances were officially approved for humans. However, athletes take SARMs for over 2 decades now. A whole generation of bodybuilders made it to the peak of their performance, while SARMs were already around. PCT was proven to be vital about the same time that SARMs entered the market. Should we consider PCT a «new thing»? Nope, we shouldn’t.

The class is poorly researched, that’s true, and we have no data on multiple vital subjects. Has it ever stopped anyone with Anabolic Steroids, say, in the golden age of bodybuilding? Again, nope. All the controversy about SARMs is artificial. This is how it works in 5 easy steps:

  1. Scientists create something new and start the long and tiresome process of trials;
  2. Impatient marketing jerks start to advertise the under-researched thing by catchy phrases and pompous untrue claims;
  3. One kind of guys believes them, gets overly-excited about the thing and starts propagandizing it around, sharing the same wrong claims;
  4. Conservative athletes look at overly-excited idiots and decide that if these idiots advertise something – this «something» must be for idiots only. Athletes in the middle join either overly-excited or overly-skeptical side;
  5. Scientists reach some point with trials and try to push the thing into the market, but the whole public is already busy, arguing with each other about the thing they actually know nothing or too little about.

Don’t join the shitstorm. SARMs are nothing but a new class of performance boosters, and that’s not a TV advertisement – «new» here doesn’t mean that you should rush to the nearest pharmacy and buy the thing ASAP. Stay calm, give SARMs a try if you feel like it, and don’t brag about it until somebody asks you. This way, possibly, in 5 or 10 years, we will be able to enter the SARMs section of bodybuilding forums without a gas mask.