SARMs: A Step Closer to “Safe Steroids”?

Steroid tablets spilling from a bottle to the table. Depicts similarities and differences between SARMS and steroids.

The beneficial properties of steroids have been exploited in research, sports medicine, and other arenas (both legally and illegally) for years. The numerous side effects of steroids have, however, presented a complexity that has had scientists racking their brains for a tenable solution. Gynecomastia (breast enlargement in men) is just one of the many unfortunate side effects of steroid treatment, other benefits notwithstanding.

A new class of steroid look-alike compounds, Selective Androgen Receptor Modulators (SARMs) has emerged from a massive research effort. This is a rather misrepresented class of compounds, and many mistake SARMs for steroids.

News on SARMs and the unique benefits they offer is causing excitement as many wonder whether scientists have finally created a class of safer steroids. There are many variables surrounding this sentiment that this myth-busting article addresses comprehensively.

Read on to learn more about what SARMs are and their advantages over typical steroids. 

Are SARMs Steroids?

The short answer is no, SARMs are not steroids. SARMs are ligands that act “selectively” on androgen receptors. The selective action on androgen receptors (ARs) makes the greatest difference between SARMs and steroids.

SARMs produce anabolic effects when they bind to androgen receptors with minimal androgenic effects.

Anabolic activity triggered by SARMs and steroids increases muscle mass and bone density in clinical studies. 

Androgenic effects increase masculinization. SARMs, however, produce minimal androgenic effects because of their selective action on androgen receptors. Steroids, on the other hand, trigger amplified androgenic effects.

How different are SARMs from steroids?

3 Differences between SARMs and Steroids

SARMs and steroids have one striking similarity. They are both ligands of androgen receptors and hence they trigger anabolic effects that can be used in a clinical setting as potentially in sports medicine. The two have a few major differences, though, that paint SARMs in a fairer light. These are discussed below.

1. Interaction with Androgen Receptors

Steroids bind to all androgen receptors, but SARMs don’t. SARMs have been chemically engineered to target androgen receptors that are involved with muscle and bone growt, but they avoid “off-targets.” This enhances their positive effects while reducing some of their negative effects. 

2. Side Effects

SARMs have fewer androgenic and estrogenic effects compared to steroids because of their selective action on androgen receptors and lack of conversion to estrogens. Steroid action on ARs, conversely, can be compared to a machine gun that fires randomly at all ARs, including those in the prostate, scalp, and breast. 

The lack of selective actions causes a myriad of adverse effects, including the following:

In Men

  • Breast enlargement (gynecomastia)
  • Increase in size of prostate glands
  • Reduction in size of testicles 
  • Hair loss

In Women

  • Deepening of voice
  • Enlarged clitoris
  • Growth of body hair
  • Acne

Other Serious Complications

  • Liver failure
  • Blood clots
  • Heart attack

3. Legality

Anabolic steroids are classified as class 3 compounds in the U.S. and can only be used as prescription medications. They are classified as class C compounds in the UK and are also prescription meds. SARMs are approved only as investigational drugs in the U.S. They are banned for all other purposes, including sports. 

The steroids vs. SARMs conversation must continue, as more people become aware of the benefits of SARMs. They are beginning to lose their stigma as they’re increasingly distinguished from their more harmful counterparts.

4 Potential Benefits of SARMs

SARMs are investigational compounds that are of great interest to the global research community. While the benefits of steroids are widely known, SARMs seemingly offer similar benefits without the associated virilizing, feminizing, and other off-target effects. Here are some of the significant benefits of SARMs that are under investigation: 

Increases Lean Muscle Mass and Promote Fat Loss

Preliminary studies have shown that SARMs increase lean muscle mass and muscle strength.  A Molecular and Cellular Endocrinology study on SARMs, for example, found that “SARMs differ from commonly used androgenic steroids by their ability to stimulate muscle and bone growth with lesser prostatic effects and virilizing effects in females.” 

Primary or Secondary Hypogonadism

A recent study investigated SARMs as a potential therapy for male hypogonadism (reduced testosterone production). The researchers found that SARMs may provide a valid alternative to testosterone replacement therapy and limit the negative effects of testosterone treatment. More research is needed to confirm whether this is valid, as androgenic effects seem absent from SARMs that are presently in circulation.

Osteopenia or Osteoporosis

A 2006 study investigated the effects of SARMs on osteoporosis in a rat model. The researchers found that SARMs therapy is effective in reducing osteoporosis fractures and offers greater benefits compared to current therapies that are anti-resorptive.

AIDS or Cancer-Related Cachexia

Cachexia refers to the excessive muscle loss that occurs with cancer. A preliminary study on Ostarine (SARMs) has shown that it may be useful in managing cancer-related muscle loss (cachexia) and causes minimal side effects.  The researchers recommended further studies. 

These are not the only potential benefits of SARMs. Researchers are exploring the use of SARMs in other areas, such as the treatment of breast cancer. The potential of SARMs is immense and very exciting, especially considering its wide safety profile.

3 Pitfalls to Avoid When Buying SARMs

Researchers can purchase SARMs legally for investigational purposes. There’s a need to be cautious since most of the SARMs in the market are not legitimate. A study that was recently published in the Journal of the American Medical Association revealed that only about 50% of products being marketed as SARMs contain any SARM as an active ingredient. Here are three pitfalls to avoid when purchasing SARMs.

1. Do Not Purchase SARMs from the Black Market

The black market is flooded with products marketed as SARMs that are likely to be offered at cheap prices. Most of these products don’t contain any SARM and you should therefore avoid them. 

2. Do Not Purchase SARMs That Have Exaggerated Claims

Some SARMs providers will make false and exaggerated claims about what SARMs can do. Always counter-check claims against scientific research evidence and avoid vendors making false claims. 

3. Do Not Purchase SARMs without Knowing Exactly What You Want

There are different types of SARMs on the market and they each have different properties. It is important to investigate the different types of SARMs, their mechanism of action, positive effects, and side effects before you make that order. 

SARMs offer a rare opportunity to exploit the anabolic effects of steroids without being encumbered by most of the distressing androgenic steroid side effects. To learn more about SARMs, you can always talk to experts from the Sports Technology Labs.

Visit the Sports Technology Labs Blog for News and Information about SARMs

Look no further than Sports Technology Labs for the highest quality RAD 140, Ligandrol, Ostarine, MK 677, and other SARMs. Visit the Sports Technology Labs research blog for information about new products, updates in the industry, side effects, new scientific literature, and product comparisons.  

SARMs: A Step Closer to “Safe Steroids”?

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