With the rise of instant gratification, arguably due to social media and its continuous penetration into almost every part of our lives, it is no surprise that chemicals like SARMs, which promise quick results with no side effects, have gained so much notoriety within the health & fitness industry.
But how much do we really know about SARMs? What are they? What do they do? Are there risks associated with taking them? Are they even legal?
Let’s take a deep dive into these modern day steroid alternatives.
What Are SARMs?
Discovered in the late 1990s, the acronym S.A.R.M. stands for Selective Androgen Receptor Modulator. SARMs are often proclaimed as providing similar effects to anabolic androgenic steroids (AAS), promoting increases in muscle tissue, strength and power, but without as many side effects, such as water retention and increases in estrogen.
What Do SARMs Do?
Androgen receptors are found in many different parts of our bodies such as our organs, bones, and skeletal muscle tissue. Activating these androgen receptors causes growth in the parts of our bodies that they are located.
SARMs are believed to boost protein synthesis and nitrogen retention by mimicking testosterone, but only in certain parts of our bodies that contain the androgen receptors that SARMs selectively activate.
SARMs, unlike testosterone and other conventional AAS, can target and activate a single type of androgen receptor, for example, in skeletal muscle tissue, and cause it to grow without also causing other parts of our bodies to grow at the same time, for example, our organs.
As a result, when using SARMs the many risks associated with the enlargement of organs caused by conventional AAS is greatly mitigated.
What Are The Risks Of Using SARMs?
While on face value it would seem that the risks associated with the use of SARMs are far less than with the use of AAS, and while the popular current opinion may be that SARMs are practically “side effect free”, the simple truth is that SARMs have only been around for a couple of decades and the amount of human research that has been conducted on them, in particular on the long term health effects, is scarce.
So what do we know?
Contrary to the popular opinion that SARMs don’t affect natural testosterone production, we do know that SARMs in fact do significantly suppress testosterone.
One study found that male subjects experienced a drop in free testosterone of 23% and a drop in total testosterone of 43% after taking just 3mg (a moderate dose) of the SARM Ostarine per day for a total of 86 days. (https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22031847/)
Similar effects were observed in another study where just 1mg of the SARM Ligandrol was taken by 76 men aged 21 to 50 per day for 3 weeks. The result was an average 55% drop in total testosterone. Perhaps even more alarming was that it took over 5 weeks for their natural testosterone production to return to pre SARM levels. (https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22459616/)
We also know that only a couple of years ago almost all pharmaceutical companies ceased research on SARMs… read into that as you may.
The fact of the matter is, we just don’t know enough about exactly how SARMs work, or what the potential long term side effects associated with their use may be, to even begin the discussion on whether the rewards of taking them outweigh the risks.
Are SARMs Even Legal?
Regardless of the unknown side effects, if you make the decision to take SARMs, can you do so legally?
In Australia, SARMs are included in Schedule 4 of the Poisons Standard, which classifies them as a Prescription Only Medicine.
This means you can only access SARMs if you have a doctor’s prescription for them. In fact, mere possession of SARMs without a valid prescription is illegal. The penalty for illegal possession varies depending on which state or territory you live in, with the maximum penalty being 6 months imprisonment in New South Wales.
What About The Blackmarket?
We’re not naive. Just because something is illegal, it doesn’t mean people aren’t going to do it. And just because a drug is illegal, it doesn’t mean people aren’t going to find a way to access it.
Just flick through the Top 10 documentaries on Netflix right now and count the number that are based on illegal drugs. We just counted 7.
So what are the risks associated with accessing SARMs on the blackmarket?
Two words, reliability & contamination.
Because blackmarket SARMs are unregulated, there is no guarantee that what you think you’re accessing is the real deal. You could fork out good money for what you think is Ostarine, and receive, well, coconut oil in a dropper bottle.
More disturbingly, most blackmarket SARMs are produced in underground labs (UGLs). As the name suggests, you can’t assume that these UGLs are meeting any sort of good manufacturing practices or doing any kind of quality control. Which means the SARMs you buy on the blackmarket may be underdosed, overdosed, include toxic chemicals, or contain dangerous cutting agents.
So What’s The Verdict?
SARMs are widely considered to be an alternative drug to anabolic steroids with the promise of promoting the benefits of muscle growth without any side effects. However, initial research clearly shows that this isn’t the case.
So do the rewards associated with taking SARMs outweigh the risks? We’ll leave that to your discretion, but here’s just one last food for thought…
Can you achieve the same fitness goals without using SARMs?
Of course you can.
Will it take you longer to achieve the same fitness goals without using SARMs?
Most likely, yes, it will.
But that’s not such a bad thing. The real value of your fitness journey is found in the process, not the end product.
The lessons you’ll learn along the way about discipline, perseverance and consistency are far more valuable than achieving whatever fitness goal you’re pursuing.
So why not do it naturally, even if it takes a little longer, and avoid any potential side effects altogether.
And if you want to create the ideal hormonal environment to assist muscle growth & fat loss naturally, consider incorporating a natural testosterone booster or natural estrogen blocker into your supplement stack.