Anabolic steroids and selective androgen receptor modulators (SARMs) are popular performance-enhancing drugs used by athletes and bodybuilders.
But what exactly are SARMs and steroids, and what are the key differences between them? This comprehensive guide examines everything you need to know about SARMs vs steroids.
What are SARMs?
SARMs (selective androgen receptor modulators) are a novel class of androgen receptor ligands. They are intended to have the same kind of effects as anabolic steroids but be much more selective in their action.
The goal with SARMs is to stimulate the androgen receptor in muscle and bone selectively to get the benefits of anabolic steroids without the unwanted side effects on other tissues like the prostate.
Some examples of popular SARMs include Ostarine (MK-2866), Ligandrol (LGD-4033), Testolone (RAD-140), and Andarine (S-4).
Unlike traditional steroids, SARMs are orally active and target specific tissues like muscle and bone. They are not meant to stimulate the androgen receptor throughout the whole body. The selective effects of SARMs in certain tissues but not others are thought to reduce systemic side effects compared to traditional steroids.
SARMs work by binding to the androgen receptor and demonstrating osteo (bone) and myo (muscular) anabolic activity. They have the potential to increase muscle mass and improve physical function without negatively impacting the prostate and sebaceous glands.
What are Anabolic Steroids?
Anabolic steroids, also just referred to as steroids, are synthetic derivatives of the male sex hormone testosterone. They include both natural forms like testosterone as well as synthetic versions.
Some of the most popular anabolic steroids include testosterone, Dianabol (methandrostenolone), Winstrol (stanozolol), and Deca-Durabolin (nandrolone decanoate).
These drugs have both anabolic (muscle-building) and androgenic (masculinizing) effects. They bind to the androgen receptor to exert their effects.
Anabolic steroids are used medically to treat conditions like hypogonadism and diseases that cause muscle wasting. But they are also used illegally by some athletes and bodybuilders to enhance performance and physique.
Using steroids increases protein synthesis in cells, which results in building muscle faster. They also allow for faster recovery between workouts and increased endurance. However, they come with a range of side effects when abused.
Key Differences Between SARMs and Steroids
While SARMs and steroids both stimulate the androgen receptor, there are some key differences between the two classes of drugs:
- SARMs are much more selective than traditional steroids in terms of the tissues they target. For example, most SARMs selectively stimulate muscle and bone cells.
- Steroids activate the androgen receptor throughout the body which can cause unwanted side effects.
2. Oral Activity
- SARMs are orally active while most traditional steroids need to be injected. Oral dosing is more convenient for most users.
3. Safety Profile
- SARMs are believed to have fewer side effects than traditional anabolic steroids, although more research is still needed on their long-term safety.
- Steroids can negatively impact the prostate, skin, hair, liver, cholesterol levels, and more when abused.
4. Muscle Building Effects
- Both SARMs and steroids can build significant amounts of muscle. However, steroids tend to be more potent for this purpose.
- SARMs may build less muscle compared to a similar dose of steroids. But they provide a much better safety profile.
- SARMs are legal to buy and possess in most countries, although this is changing. Steroids are classified as controlled substances in most regions.
- SARMs are sold openly as “research chemicals” while steroids are generally only available from underground labs.
So in summary, SARMs are more tissue-selective, safer, orally active, and currently legal compared to traditional anabolic steroids. However, steroids tend to be more powerful for packing muscle mass.
Are SARMs Safe?
While SARMs are believed to be much safer overall than steroids, that does not mean they are completely without side effects. Since they are still stimulating the androgen receptor, there are some potential SARMs side effects to be aware of:
- Testosterone suppression – Just like steroids, SARMs can suppress natural testosterone production. This leads to low energy, libido, and other hormonal issues.
- Liver toxicity – SARMs can potentially damage the liver, particularly at high doses or extended cycles. Liver function blood work should be monitored.
- Increased aggression – Some SARMs may lead to increased aggression or irritability in a minority of users.
- Hair loss – Those genetically prone to male pattern baldness may see accelerated hair loss from SARMs.
There are also no long-term studies on SARMs since they are relatively new drugs. The risks of running SARM cycles or blasting and cruising for many years are still unknown.
For these reasons, SARMs should be treated cautiously – especially by teens or young adults with still developing endocrine systems.
Using a testosterone base or PCT after a SARM cycle is recommended to help recover natural hormone levels. Staying within recommended dosing guidelines and avoiding excessively long cycles further reduces potential side effects.
Popular SARMs Profiles
There is a wide range of SARMs available, each with slightly different effects. Here are some of the most common ones:
- The mildest and most popular SARM. Good for beginners.
- Shows significant muscle-building properties. Gains of 6-15 pounds in an 8-week cycle are possible.
- When considering to buy Ostarine (MK-2866), it’s important to note that it displays the best ratio of anabolic to androgenic effects, with minimal reported side effects.
- Used by athletes to improve strength, endurance, injury healing, and avoid muscle wasting.
- A stronger SARM that is great for bulking up.
- Builds very significant amounts of muscle – up to 15-20 pounds of lean mass in a bulking cycle.
- Strength also increases substantially.
- Suppresses testosterone slightly more than other SARMs. Using a PCT supplement is recommended.
- Dosing of 5-10mg per day is common. Cycles usually last around 8 weeks.
- The strongest SARM for building pure muscle mass.
- Displays the most steroid-like effects in terms of strength and size gains. Roughly 20-30 pounds of muscle possible in a cycle.
- Bodybuilders preparing for competitions often choose to buy Rad-140. It’s worth noting that this SARM may lead to higher levels of aggression and irritability in some users.
- Dose is normally 10-20mg per day for 8 weeks followed by a mini PCT.
- A SARM with moderate anabolic effects and excellent fat-burning properties.
- Builds 4-6 pounds of lean muscle typically in an 8 week cycle at 50mg per day. Excellent for cutting.
- Vision side effects are possible with this SARM, especially in sensitive users. Using 25mg or less per day avoids most ocular problems.
- Best stacked with a more anabolic SARM to make up for weaker muscle-building effects on its own.
SARMs Cycle and Dosage Guidelines
If someone chooses to take SARMs despite the risks, following proper dosing and cycling guidelines will help minimize side effects:
- Start Low, Go Slow – Begin any new SARM at the lowest effective dose and slowly increase over subsequent cycles based on your response and goals. Never start at the maximum dosage.
- 8 Weeks Max – Limit SARMs usage to 8 week cycles max, followed by equal time off. Longer cycles increase side effects without much-added benefit.
- Testosterone Base – Consider adding a mild testosterone base like testosterone enanthate or HCG during the cycle. This helps combat testosterone suppression.
- Get Bloodwork – Get bloodwork done before and after any SARM cycle to monitor hormone levels, lipids, liver enzymes, etc.
- PCT 4 Weeks – Do a 4-week mini post-cycle therapy (PCT) after every SARMs cycle. Popular options are over-the-counter supplements like Rebirth PCT.
- Cycle Support – Use liver, heart, and general health support supplements on the cycle. Protecting your overall health is key.
Following dosing, cycling, and safety guidelines greatly reduces the side effects of SARMs. Always research extensively before trying any compound.
SARMs vs Steroids – Which is Better For Building Muscle?
When it comes to maximizing muscle growth, steroids are generally more effective than SARMs for the majority of users. However, SARMs provide a much healthier and safer alternative overall:
Reasons Steroids May Be Better For Muscle Growth:
- More potent activation of the androgen receptor
- Have been used for decades and are well-researched
- Can build upwards of 30-50 pounds of muscle tissue per cycle
Reasons SARMs May Be Preferred Despite Weaker Anabolic Effects:
- Far fewer side effects and healthier long-term
- Much less likely to negatively impact endocrine system function
- No need for painful injections – oral dosing is convenient
- Legal in most countries currently
So while steroids can potentially pack on a bit more muscle, SARMs provide a healthier and safer route to moderate muscle gains for most users worried about their long-term health.
The illegal status and widespread availability of fake or tainted steroids also make SARMs an appealing option to avoid legal issues or health problems.
For moderate muscle gains of say 10-20 pounds, an 8 week cycle of a SARM like LGD-4033 or RAD-140 will serve most users very well with minimal side effects.
Should You Use SARMs or Steroids?
Deciding whether to use SARMs or steroids requires assessing your health, the legal status of steroids where you live, your experience level, and your goals. Here are some general guidelines:
- Beginners or Moderate Gains – SARMs are likely the smarter choice to start with. Safer, legal, and effective muscle gains.
- Advanced Bodybuilders – More experienced users wanting maximum muscle may prefer traditional steroids despite the harsher side effects.
- Cutting Cycles – SARMs provide excellent recomposition effects for getting lean without losing muscle. Great for cutting.
- Healing from Injury – Some SARMs can speed up injury recovery and prevent muscle wasting during time off from the gym.
- Legal Status – Where steroids are completely illegal, SARMs may be the only option available if you want to enhance performance.
- Long Term Health – For maintaining functional fitness into your senior years, SARMs are likely the healthier choice over blasting steroids indefinitely.
Remember that no ped is completely safe or side effect-free. Even SARMs carry risks like testosterone suppression at higher doses.
Thoroughly researching any compound, getting bloodwork done, and using proper dosing protocols help reduce those risks substantially. But the only way to stay completely safe is to avoid enhancement drugs altogether.
SARMs provide a powerful alternative to traditional anabolic steroids for building muscle, improving athletic performance, recovery, and more.
While not as potent as megadoses of steroids, SARMs offer a much healthier long-term option thanks to their selectivity and oral bioavailability. Mild testosterone suppression can be managed with proper PCT.
For moderate, sustainable muscle gains of say 10-15 pounds in a cycle, SARMs are an excellent choice. More advanced bodybuilders may opt for steroids to pack on 30, 40, or even 50+ pounds of mass.
Given the health concerns associated with long-term steroid abuse, for most users, to purchase peptides is a more prudent choice. Prolonged and consecutive cycles of anabolic steroids over several years are likely to result in various endocrine problems, making SARMs a wiser option.
Whichever path you choose, always procure SARMs or steroids from reputable sources, follow safe dosing protocols, get bloodwork done, and take time off in between cycles. Doing your homework helps avoid severe side effects.
With a responsible, informed approach, SARMs provide an intriguing middle ground between natural bodybuilding and the hardcore steroid world. They allow reasonably effective muscle building with far fewer risks overall compared to traditional steroids when used properly.
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