In the article “Why Steroids Will Slowly Kill You & 3 Safe Alternatives for Muscle Building, Speedy Recovery, Enhanced Drive and Beyond.” I taught you all about SARMs—or Selective Androgen Receptor Modulatorstherapeutic compounds that, according to the US Anti-Doping Association (USADA), mimic anabolic agents. USADA points out that the difference between the steroids and SARMs is that SARMs have fewer androgenic properties, which permits SARMs to target tissues much more directly and reduce the host of known negative side effects experienced with steroids.
So quite simply, SARMS provide the benefit of steroids without the dangerous and annoying mental and physical reactions to steroids.
If your goal is to shed holiday weight fast, to look in the mirror and see well-defined, big muscles or lean, striated muscles, or to repair a workout injury faster, or to increase endurance and simultaneously experience a burst of power and strength – your first thought may be to turn to steroids, since they can work with extreme efficacy for many of these goals. And sure, steroids have been proven to do all of those things, but as I’ve said before—steroids can kill you. And even if you’re one of the lucky ones and you don’t have any underlying cardiovascular abnormalities that could lead to cardiovascular problems and sudden death from steroid use, you’ll be faced with a long list of negative side effects, including (but definitely not limited to):
- Increased risk for liver damage and tumors
- Elevated blood pressure
- Decreased sperm count
- Decreased testicular size
- Increased risk of tendon tears
- Acne (kind of hard to feel good about your physique or body fat levels if you’ve got a face or back full of zits)
I’m just not convinced the goal of looking big and feeling strong is worth the sure occurrence of the side effects above, or the possibility of sudden death caused by anabolic-androgen steroid use. It’s really not going to matter if you’re buried six feet under, is it?
So that's why I'm a fan of SARMs as a safe alternative to steroids that deliver many of the same positive benefits as steroids, including muscle building, prevention of muscle waste, faster recovery from injury, increased endurance, etc. but do not produce the same dangerous side effects as steroids.
In this article, I'm going to explore in greater detail a couple of SARMs I've written about before: LGD-4033 (also known as ligandrol) and GW 501516 (also known as cardarine). If you need a thorough review of SARMs, read that original article. But although I’ve been talking about SARMs for a while now, I still get comments and emails from many of you asking me what they are and asking me for clarification on how to use them. So in this article, you'll discover how SARMs work, what they can do to your body and performance, and how to use them safely.
Disclaimer: SARMs are absolutely, 100% banned by USADA, WADA, and most other global sporting organizations for both in-competition and out-of-competition. You should NOT use these if you are competing in any such sanctioned sport as it definitely falls under the banned category of a prohibited class of anabolic agents.
Ligandrol, or LGD-4033, is a nonsteroidal SARM that is taken orally (this should make all of you needle-shy folks happy). It was originally developed by Ligand Pharmaceuticals to prevent muscle wasting, increase lean muscle growth, fight cancer, and help people maintain strength and muscle tissue as they age.
Because lean muscle burns more calories than fat during workouts, LGD-4033 can also help people reach their weight loss goals while simultaneously building larger or more defined muscles.
The beauty of this non-steroid is that it binds to androgen receptors with very high selectivity. After it binds, it creates anabolic effects in the muscle and bone, effects which lead to growing more muscle (and strength) and experiencing fewer injuries in the process. And, since this isn’t a steroid, it means you don’t experience typical androgenic side effects like balding, acne, testicle shrinkage, or prostate issues.
In terms of research and safety, LGD-4033 is currently superior to all of the other SARMs, with a potency very close to that of steroids. I especially like that Ligandrol has gone through Phase I clinical trials, so people aren’t just blindly taking a research-void SARM and hoping for the best. Instead, healthy human volunteers have taken LGD-4033 in multiple, ascending doses to test the safety and identify any side effects. The National Institute of Health’s U.S. National Library of Medicine reported on study results that show humans can safely tolerate up to 22mg per day of LGD-4033 for 14 consecutive days. And these participants experienced a decrease in body fat while increasing their lean body mass, strength, and overall sense of well-being.
Another benefit of using LGD-4033 is that there is no water retention or bloating, so you can feel light on your feet, get more accurate scale measurements (if weighing yourself is your “thing”) and also look in the mirror and see the real gains without water retention hiding the visibility of the muscle.
LGD-4033 has a half-life of 24-36 hours, which means you can take it once per day and you don’t need to worry about any complex intra-week cycling protocol like you do with other SARMs (such as Andarine, another popular SARM). You can also take it on either an empty or full stomach and get the same results. The amount of LGD-4033 you should take will vary depending on your goals.
Here are the dosing guidelines for LGD-4033 based on examples of popular fitness goals:
Bulking (Muscle Gain): Take 5 to 10mg per day for 8 weeks. And lift heavy stuff.
Cutting (Fat Loss) Goal: Take 3 to 5mg per day for 8 weeks. If you want to stack LGD-4033 with other SARMs to reach your cutting goal, then Andarine, Cardarine, and/or Ostarine are your best options. In fact, LGD-4033 should really be taken with Cardarine (details on that SARM below) if you are looking to lose weight. LGD-4033 with Cardarine is probably the best power-duo in the SARM world for fast results. Of course, you must also incorporate exercise and diet protocols like this simultaneous to your SARMs use.
Recomposition (Muscle Gain & Fat Loss): Take 5-8mg per day for 8 weeks. If you want to stack with another SARM to improve your results, Cardarine is once again your best option. Adding muscle and losing fat at the same time is significantly accelerated with the combination of Cardarine and LGD-4033. But you’re also going to want to maintain a proper diet and make sure you are doing both weight training and cardio to get these results.
The recommended length of time for using LGD-4033 is between 8 and 12 weeks. Don’t think you can just continue to use it beyond 12 weeks to increase your results. The positive benefits diminish after you’ve used it for about 12 weeks, so you will need to give your body a break and use it again at a later date to continue experiencing positive effects. In most cases, you'll take anywhere from 4 to 12 weeks off after you've used it.
So what’s this Cardarine I keep mentioning? Let's move on and find out.
While it's not technically a SARM, Cardarine (GW-501516) is often labeled as a SARM.
But it’s technically a selective activator that binds to PPARδ receptors instead of androgen receptors like a SARM normally would.
Despite this difference, Cardarine offers results that are just as impressive as those you'd experience from SARMs because it activates AMPK, which is responsible for stimulating muscle glucose uptake, skeletal muscle tissue, and oxidizing fatty acids (and I don't want to get lost in the semantic weeds by nitpicking on classification, so I'm going, for the purpose of this article, to continue to refer to Cardarine as a SARM). In addition to burning fat through the stimulation of fatty acid oxidation, GW-501516 can increase HDL cholesterol by an average of 79% while simultaneously decreasing LDL cholesterol.
Cardarine was developed in the 1990s as a way to prevent and cure tumors in the breasts, prostate, or colon. By the early 2000s, it was discovered that it can also help stop metabolic disorders including diabetes and obesity. When the fitness community caught wind of GW-501516 benefits, they quickly discovered it is also a potent endurance increasing supplement and has been used by the athlete community for over 20 years with no reported harmful side effects.
Cardarine has also been used in research studies in obese, pre-diabetic men with metabolic syndrome, where it has been shown to be able to reverse metabolic abnormalities and help control obesity.
In laboratory studies on rats and monkeys, GW-501516 has been shown to burn fat and built muscle, while also eliminating type II diabetes, increasing HDL and lowering VLDL (primary study was “The effect of PPARδ agonists (HS00098) on serum lipid profiles in diet-induced obese rhesus monkeys“).
While some early 1990 studies also show that Cardarine can cause cancer and tumor development with long term, high dose use, other studies completed more recently have shown not only is the chemical harmless under normal use, but it also offers many positive health benefits.
In the early studies, GW-501516 was shown to improve angiogenesis in the body, which is the ability to increase vascular blood supply to feed the body’s cells. However, improved angiogenesis is found in athletes and children as they move through adolescence, as well. With respect to cancer, some scientists and researchers feel that if there are already tumor cells within the body then the tumors could grow at a faster rate due to angiogenesis. But despite many experiments conducted since 2004 to try and prove that this type of increased angiogenesis can lead to cancer, none have been successful.
As a matter of fact, a study published in 2004 by the American Association of Cancer Research stated that PPAR agonists have “…shown to have no effect on the proliferation of colorectal cancer cells” and “…under normal culture conditions, PPAR activation has no effect on cell growth”.
Furthermore, in 2008, GW-501516 was studied for use on human breast cancer and colon cancer. These studies concluded that GW-501516 can inhibit the growth of cancer cells.
You may also see people reporting that GW-501516 causes liver damage, but this is also a common misconception. The chemical has actually been shown to promote both faster healing properties and healthy liver function.
Cardarine has also been shown in research to cause:
Increased endurance: for endurance, a 2015 study by Wei Chen, PhD discovered that increases in the PPAR gene (the one Cardarine activates) can cause muscle fibers to increase their use of oxygen. When muscle fibers use more oxygen, you have more endurance, so that's the likely mechanism of action for most users reporting increased endurance when using Cardarine.
Decreased body fat: Cardarine is actually really amazing at helping get rid of extra fatty tissue. It works a lot like a growth hormone, controlling the formation of pro-inflammatory markers in tissue and decreasing the activity of the genes involved in lipogenesis (fat cell creation). GW-501516 also tricks your body into reacting as if it is in starvation. When a body is starving, it begins using stored body fat as energy, which is why people using Cardarine lose weight so effectively.
Decreased recovery time: In the study “A metabolomic study of the PPARδ agonist GW501516 for enhancing running endurance in Kunming mice”, it was reported that mice had a faster recovery process of muscle tissue and neurotransmitters. The mice lost weight even when eating a diet high in fat.
It can also protect the brain, benefit the heart, protect the kidneys, protect against liver damage, strengthen the immune system, heal skin disease, and provide many other benefits you can read about here.
Human studies on the effects of GW501516 include the following:
- Phase I trial: multicentre trial conducted between 2004-12.
- Phase II trial: trial approved in Belgium and conducted between 2004-11. Results not published.
- Phase IV trials: conducted in Australia between 2003-08.
- Non-GSK-affiliatied anti-doping research: conducted between 2009-12.
- High-Density Lipoprotein Cholesterol Effects in Healthy Subjects Administered a Peroxisome Proliferator Activated Receptor.
- Research into Peroxisome Proliferator–Activated Receptor effects in obese men.
There were no side-effects reported in human studies.
You can even read more about GW501516 from reputable resources, including a few of my favorites:
- Effects of GW50516 on metabolic syndrome:”Lipid effects of peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor-δ agonist GW501516 in subjects with low high-density lipoprotein cholesterol: characteristics of metabolic syndrome“
- Effects of GW50516 on fatty acid oxidation and oxidative stress:”Activation of Peroxisome Proliferator–Activated Receptor (PPAR)δ Promotes Reversal of Multiple Metabolic Abnormalities, Reduces Oxidative Stress, and Increases Fatty Acid Oxidation in Moderately Obese Men“
- Effects of GW 50516 on lipids: “Triglyceride:High-Density Lipoprotein Cholesterol Effects in Healthy Subjects Administered a Peroxisome Proliferator Activated Receptor δ Agonist.”
In summary, Cardarine is non-toxic. It doesn’t cause the typical side effects you’ll see with SARMs or steroids and doesn’t suppress key hormones. But when stacked with LGD-4033 it can be very, very potent for muscle gain and / or fat loss.
When it comes to Cardarine dosing, 10 mg per day for 8 weeks is effective for increasing anaerobic and aerobic endurance while also assisting with fat loss. The maximum recommended dose is 20 mg per day. If your goal is to increase endurance, you'll likely want to start with 10 mg per day. If you’re looking for greater fat loss, go with 20 mg per day and for best results, take the dose an hour before exercise. As with any peptide or SARM, you will want to start with the minimum recommended dose and adjust according depending on how your body responds to it.
GW-501516 has a 16-24 hour half-life, so you can take a 10 mg dosage once per day, or if taking 20 mg per day then split your dose into two, taking one dose every 10-12 hours.
Interestingly, not only has GW-501516 been tested in healthy subjects with no negative side effects, but it has also been tested in subjects including alcohol drinkers, tobacco users, and stimulant narcotics users, all without side effects. Finally, for best results, it’s recommended that you use Cardarine with a ketogenic diet.
If you want to give either or both of these SARMs a try, you can buy them pretty affordably from reputable United States suppliers online. I personally think it’s a good idea to buy from US websites as the purity level and quality can be higher.
Not convinced you should be trying SARMs over steroids?
Read my article about safe alternatives to steroids for more information and to help you make a more informed decision. And seriously, if you just want to keep everything legal, the main thing to know about SARMs is that, unlike steroids, they’re perfectly legal to consume and to travel with – unless you’re an athlete competing in a USADA or WADA sanctioned sport.
Finally, as much as you may be looking for the pot of gold under the rainbow or that mythical, magical unicorn that will allow you to simply suck down giant Jamba Juices, eat oodles of dark chocolate and sit for long periods of time at your desk or couch, you should know that SARMS can only do so much for you without diet and exercise. You still have to put the time and effort in if you want to really maximize the results these compounds provide for you.
Do you have questions, thoughts or feedback about SARMS? Leave your thoughts below and I will reply!