SARMs (Selective Androgen Receptor Modulators) are pills that you can take to promote muscle growth in the body; with the added benefit of helping users improve their metabolism and their libido.
SARMs are different from steroids in that they are tissue-selective and don’t tend to cause the same negative side effects. Below, you’ll find the top 10 best SARMs on the market today, ruthlessly researched by our expert health panel at Healthtrends.
1. LGD 4033
LGD 4033 is the #1 SARM to take when you are looking to build monstrous amounts of muscle in minimal time. LGD 4033 works by stimulating anabolic activity in the muscles without the need for steroids, so you see safe results quickly.
This SARM can also help you cut fat and lose weight fast, allowing you to undergo an effective body recomposition. With limited side effects, it’s Healthtrends #1 pick.
2. Ostarine MK-2866
As one of the most well-known SARMs on the market, ostarine is another excellent option for bulking up quickly. It is also great at helping you cut body fat while maintaining muscle mass during a calorie deficit.
Like steroids, this SARM targets androgen receptors to help you bulk up quickly, but without permanently damaging HPA axis.
3. Cardarine GW-501516
Cardarine GW-501516 isn’t just designed to help you build strength and muscle; it’s also geared to help you reduce recovery time between workouts, promote healthy liver function, and optimize cholesterol levels.
Cardarine can help you get your body fat percent down by multiple figures while also helping you build and maintain a lean, powerful physique
Unlike SARMs that are primarily designed to bulk up your appearance, YK-11 helps unleash your innate strength-building potential, due to its powerful myostatin inhibitor.
It is essentially an evolved form of creatine.
Ibutamoren is a powerful, potent, and long-lasting SARM that helps you torch fat and build explosive strength.
By imitating the role of the muscle growth-producing hormone HGH, it helps you exploit all the anti-aging and deep sleep benefits as well.
Among SARMs, SR-9009 is unique in that it promotes recovery and healing. SR-9009 is also ideal for weight loss and increasing glucose and lipid metabolism.
If you’re looking for a way to recover from workouts quickly, this is should be your go to SARM.
7. RAD 140
This SARM was developed to help reverse the effects of muscle wasting diseases like cancer. It is one of the many SARMs used for bulking, due to its regenerative effects on muscle clusters.
RAD 140 possesses an extremely high binding affinity and is considered to be a very effective SARM for bodybuilders.
Typically labeled as one of the milder SARMs, Andarine can still produce excellent results when used correctly. Andarine is also a massive hormone booster and significantly increases testosterone.
It works for both cutting fat and bulking and is generally taken multiple times a day because of its 4 hour half-life.
S-23 is one of the lesser-known SARMs, but it is actually incredibly effective for bodybuilding purposes.
Many weightlifters say using S-23 is about as close as you can get to using anabolics, as far as SARMs go.
AC-262,536 is undoubtedly one of the most obscure SARMs out there, but still works incredibly well. This SARM suppresses the luteinizing hormone and binds with androgen receptors, greatly affecting hormones typically regulated by the pituitary gland.
This allows for the body to make more testosterone, providing better energy and muscle growth. But this does come with side effects, so be aware.
How We Ranked
When ranking the best SARMs, we first looked at the muscle-building potential. Our top two choices, LGD 4033 and Ostarine, are equally popular and are the two most popular SARMs. LGD 4033 ranked slightly higher due to the sheer muscle mass that this SARM can help add. Mk-677 ranked well here too since it helped promote recovery and deep sleep: two important factors in muscle building.
SARMS are mainly considered for muscle mass, and those who didn’t effectively do those were ranked lower. GW-501516 is the most effective SARM for promoting weight loss and endurance, but not ideal for muscle gains. GW-501516 has also been linked to cancer in rats, which is why it ranked where it did. YK-11 is another SARM that helps build extreme strength, without the mass. While ideal in some scenarios, for our rankings we preferred SARMs that focused on building pure muscle mass.
Some of the SARMs that weren’t included or ranked lower possessed a lot more side effects. AC-262536, for example, can suppress your natural endocrine function, similar to steroids. This is why it ranked so low. S4 is another SARM that ranked low on our list for causing vision issues in some people. It also has to be taken multiple times per day since it loses its potency in the body within just a few hours.
SARMs have reduced androgenic properties when compared to anabolic steroids (1). SARMs target tissues more selectively and significantly reduce the chance of negative side effects as they are catered to bone and muscle tissues. This significantly reduces the likelihood that the person taking a SARMs supplement suffers from liver damage, mood swings (or extreme emotions), and infertility.
In a study conducted in 2009, there were a substantial number of SARMs that passed preclinical studies and into Phase I and II clinical trials. Those preclinical studies revealed the evidence of tissue selectivity, meaning they are capable of targeting only muscles (2).
Unfortunately, a lot of the data generated by pharmaceutical companies remains unpublished. As a result, comparisons of relative potency and tissue selectivity among different SARMs is difficult to prove.
SARMs can help build lean muscle and lose fat. As they bind to cells’ androgen receptors, all available receptors become saturated with the hormones. Muscle cells begin growing rapidly as a response. This same process influences cells to start shredding fat. This is a major benefit for both men and women who have a slow metabolism and burn fewer calories than others and those who have a heavy appetite. In addition, it becomes more difficult for men and women to lose weight as they edge closer to middle age.
A study published in 2010 found that ostarine, had undergone the most extensive clinical trials at that point. In a Phase 2A study, ostarine was shown to increase lean body mass and decrease fat mass. In the same study, SARM MK-773 underwent Phase 2 studies in both men and women. The results were mixed. While there was a significant increase in lean body mass, there was no increase in leg strength or other measures of physical function.
That same study also revealed that LGD-4033 has been shown to increase bone mineral density, bone formation, and bone strength in preclinical models for healthy young men. This particular SARM also resulted in gains in lean body mass and leg press strength (3).
SARMs can improve sexual performance by improving sexual motivation, potency and efficacy for both men and women. Improvements in sexual performance can subsequently improve the user’s mood and romantic relationships. In women, a low sex drive can be the result of a decrease in androgen and estrogen levels. In men, it’s often a result of low testosterone levels. About 4 out of 10 men over the age of 45 suffer from low testosterone (4). As such, middle-aged men could benefit tremendously from using SARMs supplements to improve their libido.
A study published in 2010 revealed the effects of testosterone treatment for women and how they improve their libido (5). It was found that clinical trials in premenopausal women revealed increased sexual desire and arousal when they were administered a daily spray of a 90-μg metered-dose transdermal testosterone preparation for 16 weeks. This also occured when postmenopausal women received a bi-weekly 300 μg/day testosterone patch for 24 weeks, as the frequency of sexual desire, arousal, orgasm, pleasure, and responsiveness increased.
Clinical trials of a 300 μg/day testosterone patch also improved sexual function, desire, and fantasies in women who had their ovaries removed and received estrogen therapy after 12-16 weeks of treatment.
SARMs can be used therapeutically for people who suffer from muscle wasting disorders. Disorders like muscle atrophy and cancer cachexia have debilitating effects and are characterized by muscle loss (muscle wasting). Symptoms of muscle wasting include reduced muscle strength, a decrease in muscle size, and the impairment of the ability to perform physical activities. As androgens help build and maintain bone density, bone mass, and muscle mass, SARMs can be particularly beneficial for individuals who suffer from wasting disorders.
SARMs may be used to treat osteoporosis. Osteoporosis is a bone disease in which the density and the quality of bone are significantly impacted. In a study issued in 2007, it was hypothesized that the dual effects of SARMs in increasing muscle mass and facilitating bone development could be particularly beneficial for the treatment of osteoporosis (6).
It’s been surmised that an increase in muscle mass and strength while rebuilding bone mass can reduce the risk of fracture, due to a reduced chance of falls. That could end up making SARMs the preferred choice for those individuals suffering from osteoporosis. A scholarly article published in 2008 revealed that men are relatively less susceptible to developing osteoporosis than women due to their having a higher peak bone mass (7).
In addition, women’s bone mass decreases at an accelerated rate immediately after menopause, which typically happens for women once they reach their 40s or 50s. Meanwhile, men first start to lose bone mass during early adulthood and experience an increase in the rate of bone loss with age. Yet, because of their overall peak bone mass, they still do not lose density as significantly as women.
As a result, women of a given age have a higher prevalence of osteoporosis in comparison to men. Nonetheless, the prevalence of osteoporosis increases with age for both sexes, and SARMs can be equally beneficial in the recovery of both men and women who suffer from osteoporosis.
SARMs may be related to improving memory and cognition in the elderly. The loss of androgen is already known to be associated with an increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. In a comprehensive study that followed elderly men aged 50-91 over the course of 10 years, researchers found a significant connection between the levels of free testosterone in the body and higher scores on memory tests (8).
The results of this study suggest that higher levels of free testosterone may delay the onset of memory decline in elderly people.
SARMs can damage organs. There are a number of harmful side effects associated with the overuse of SARMs. Even if an individual does take the recommended dosage, there is the potential for serious side effects for those who use SARMs.
SARMs have not been approved by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) due to their concerns about their potential to increase the likelihood of heart attacks, strokes, and liver damage (9). While liver toxicity and heart attacks are life-threatening, another issue is that there’s no knowledge of how long-term use might negatively impact users.
SARMs may cause side effects similar to that of anabolic steroids. Although they have reduced androgenic properties, SARMs could still cause familiar steroid side effects, like infertility, depression, aggression, and suicidal thoughts. As they aren’t FDA-approved, the studies on them have been limited.
Anabolic steroids affect fertility by interfering with the hormone signals that are needed to produce sperm. Because anabolic steroids affect the limbic system, which is responsible for emotions and memory, there’s also the possibility for these drugs to induce mood swings and destabilize emotions.
Due to the increase in testosterone, there’s also the likelihood that those who use these drugs can become more aggressive (which is where the term “roid rage” originates from).
SARMs may produce unexpected hormone disruption. Due to the chance of unapproved drugs that aren’t listed in the label, it is often hard to tell how SARMs may end up affecting the natural hormone cycles of the body (10).
Like anabolic steroids, SARMs naturally suppress some hormones that are beneficial to a number of functions when normally regulated by the body. Suppression of hormones in the body due to SARMs can result in prostate hypertrophy and testicular atrophy. Hormone disruption can also result in toxicity build-up in some areas of the body, such as the liver and the prostate.
SARMs can negatively impact cholesterol profiles and cardiovascular risk. A three-week trial showed that the SARM LGD-4033 was tolerable in healthy young men, but did have a few side effects when it came to their cholesterol (11).
Sizable drops in HDL cholesterol levels were also noted in the men associated with the study. HDL cholesterol is the protective type of cholesterol generated in the body which the heart needs to remain healthy. This means that even the more popular and tolerable SARMs like LGD-4033 could potentially lead to cardiovascular risk. This is especially troubling because many who use SARMs are involved in intense physical activities in which cardiovascular health is imperative.
SARMs could result in infertility in men. Men who use SARMs may not be completely aware of how SARMs can affect their ability to reproduce. The hormone disruption caused by SARMs negatively impacts spermatogenesis, which means that a man using SARMs could have a potentially much lower sperm count (12). These effects can unintentionally lower the chances of pregnancies occurring with couples.
SARMs are also potentially harmful to the male testicles, resulting in atrophy and shrinking – which also negatively impacts spermatogenesis and lowers sperm count in men. In some animal trials, rats demonstrated a complete absence of sperm, and zero pregnancies were observed during mating trials after dosing with SARM S-23 (13).
Because these supplements have yet to be approved by the FDA, they are not recommended for use by humans. The most important aspect of taking SARMs is to purchase the supplement from a trusted supplier. This ensures they are not tainted with steroids or pro-hormones that can damage your liver.
A medical professional can help advise you on which supplement is best for them, even if they don’t approve its usage.
What are androgens and how are they related to SARMs? The terms anabolic and androgen may seem familiar, but to provide a brief overview, anabolic steroids use synthetic variations of testosterone (the male sex hormone). Androgens are a group of sex hormones (including testosterone) that are essential for sexual and reproductive function, but also for secondary functions like facial hair growth, voice changes, metabolism, and muscle development.
SARMs are a group of drugs or supplements that increase the efficacy and concentration of the sex hormones that have proven to be particularly useful in improving metabolism, muscle development, and sex drive. Although testosterone is the primary hormone for the development of men, women also produce small amounts of testosterone in their ovaries and adrenal glands. This is why SARMs are effective for both men and women.
How do SARMs work? SARMs work by stimulating the androgen receptors that are found in muscle cells and bone cells. The stimulation process occurs when SARMs bind themselves to the androgen receptors. Androgen receptors have an integral role in the physiology of tissue.
Ligand binding creates specific conformational changes in the ligand-binding domain, causing tissue-specific gene regulation. A study published in 2010 found that preclinical studies have demonstrated the ability of SARMs to increase muscle and bone mass in rodent models (14). Phase I trials of SARMs in humans identified modest increments in fat-free mass.
SARMs can also increase testosterone, which can enhance muscle building and libido in both men and women.
What forms are SARMs available in? SARMs are typically available in capsules and liquids. Both options may work well thanks to SARMs’ bioavailability, but more studies are needed to confirm the effectiveness of each type.
Some SARMS also contain testosterone-boosting compounds. Although these blended supplements may be helpful, they may not have the desired effects. Users should read the labels, manufacturer’s claims, and third-party testing results closely to make sure they are getting either a pure SARMs product or a blend that contains appropriate and safe substances.
What dosage of SARMs should I take per day? Most SARMs pills and powders contain about 10 mg per dose. However, some of the strongest SARMs contain about 5 mg per dose. The appropriate dosing amount per day can vary but is rarely higher than 10 mg total.
Some SARMs have longer half-lives, meaning they stay in the body longer and cannot be taken as frequently. The longest half-lives are between 24 and 36 hours, but some are as short as 4 hours. Some manufacturers may recommend taking smaller doses twice per day.
Because of the high risk of serious side effects from large doses, users should not take more than the manufacturer’s recommended dosage, even if they are taller or heavier than the average person. Users should consult with a doctor if they are not getting the desired effects from a reputable and high-quality SARMs product.
Can you stack SARMs? Stacking is a term that the bodybuilder community uses to denote the process of combining different drugs or supplements at one time. However, it’s not recommended to stack SARMs.
On the one hand, SARMs still aren’t FDA-approved, and while there have been studies conducted on their side effects and uses, the information available is limited. Because of the relative unknown, it is simply unsafe to stack SARMs. Another reason not to stack SARMs is that most are so similar in their effects, there is no real benefit for the user; it would be better for them to take a higher dosage of a particular SARM.
Stacking SARMs could also suppress the body’s natural production of testosterone, causing a whole host of other issues down the line.
Can you stack SARMs with anabolic steroids? A fair amount of members in the bodybuilding community are interested in whether it’s safe to combine SARMs with anabolic steroids. This isn’t advisable, in part because of the lack of information available about SARMs, which have yet to be FDA-approved.
In addition, the primary benefit of SARMs is that they have reduced androgenic properties, and that helps differentiate them from anabolic steroids because they’re safer to ingest. There is no real benefit to stacking SARMs and anabolic steroids (unless you are the pro level), and there have yet to be any clinical studies on what would occur if they were combined.
Which exercises should I do while taking SARMs? The best exercise options for you mostly depend on which SARM you take. Some products are designed for muscle growth and should be used with weightlifting and resistance training.
Others are optimized for weight loss, and you can achieve the desired results when paired with cardio, like cycling, stair climbers, and high-intensity interval training (HIIT). Users who are overweight or obese should start with low-intensity exercises and use equipment that minimizes strain on the knees, hips, and other joints.
How much do I need to exercise per week while taking SARMs? There have not been any studies specific to exercise needs while taking SARMs, but general guidelines for weight loss and muscle building still apply. Regardless of specific weight loss or maintenance goals, the World Health Organization recommends that healthy individuals get at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity each week (15).
For individuals who are already at their desired strength levels and simply want to maintain muscle mass, working out just once a week for 45 minutes may be sufficient (16). Individuals looking to build mass may need more frequent workouts up to 3 times per week, but the optimal length and quantity will depend on age, current weight, and other factors.
Will SARMs affect my mood? SARMs can potentially affect mood due to side effects like depression and aggression. However, these side effects are not common if taken as directed. They also are believed not to affect mood as much as anaerobic steroids.
Minor mood-related side effects may be mitigated by the mood-boosting benefits of exercise. Overall, the potential mood side effects of SARMs are mild enough that they should not stop users from trying them.
Do I need to diet while taking SARMs? Some diet modifications are helpful for getting the most out of your SARMs. Protein is essential for building muscle, so a high-protein diet can help SARMs do their job. Proteins containing leucine, which are common in animal and protein powder, are especially helpful (17).
For weight loss, remember that even when taking supplements, calorie burn must exceed calorie consumption. Since testosterone can improve metabolism, extreme dieting is typically not necessary with SARMs (18).
How should I monitor my weight loss or muscle gain on SARMs? SARMs results can vary depending on user weight, diet, and activity levels, so users should carefully track their results using apps or a written journal. You can record your activity and weight, but tracking your diet can also help you and your healthcare professional determine if more protein or calories can help get better results. Taking body part measurements will also be beneficial in determine muscle gain and fat loss, if the scale doesn’t change.
Can SARMs interfere with other medications? There are not enough studies establishing SARMs’ interference with other medications. However, anabolic steroids are known to interfere with antidiabetic drugs and oral anticoagulants (19).
SARMs are similar enough to traditional anabolic steroids that patients on medications for diabetes or heart, liver, and kidney conditions should avoid SARMs unless specifically directed by a doctor.
Are SARMs approved for athletes to use? Professional athletes cannot use SARMs, due to rules by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency. In fact, in 2019, an NFL player was suspended for part of the season for taking a SARMs supplement. Amateur athletes and bodybuilders generally can use SARMs products legally.
Nonetheless, SARMs have not been federally approved, as the U.S. Food & Drug Administration considers them to be potentially dangerous for human consumption.
When should I take SARMs? SARMs are typically designed for daily consumption. The best time to take SARMs may vary based on the type and dosage. SARMs are typically taken before or after workouts, but may also be taken between, before, or after meals if so directed.
Some SARM manufacturers advise taking their product for 8 to 12 weeks at a time, then taking a break for 4-6 weeks. This can help keep the body from becoming too acclimated to the product. However, more research is needed to determine the efficacy of this cycling.
Can minors use SARMs? Although there is no reason to believe that SARMs are harmful to minors, children under 18 are still growing and going through hormone changes and may not benefit from SARMs in the same way as adults. Users should consult with a doctor before providing any weight loss or muscle growth supplements to minors.
Should older adults use SARMs? SARMs were actually designed to help older adults and patients with chronic illnesses regain muscle strength so that older adults can use them.
However, any exercises and supplements designed for regaining muscle strength should be used under the supervision of a doctor. The risk of heart attacks, kidney, and liver problems while taking SARMs has not been thoroughly researched and SARMs’ tendency to reduce HDL cholesterol may also be problematic for older adults.
Are SARMs safe for women? Although more research is needed to determine the full effects of SARMs, the side effects for women tend to be similar to those of men. Minor hormonal fluctuations caused by SARMs may increase acne and body hair growth in both men and women, but this is not well-documented in research yet.
Pregnant and nursing women should not take SARMs unless directed by a doctor. They could have negative effects on pregnancy or breast milk production.
How can I tell if SARMs are high quality? Users should look for SARMs that are third-party tested to make sure the manufacturer’s claims are accurate. Third-party quality control is important to make sure the product contains what the manufacturer says it does, and that the resulting product is potent enough to get results.
There’s also the likelihood that a simple online search, either through product reviews or forums, can alert potential buyers to which SARMs are best for either weight-training cycles or dietary supplements.
Where can I buy SARMs? The best selection of SARMs is available online. Since they are not yet FDA approved, many brick and mortar retailers won’t stock them. Online shopping allows consumers to compare products and read reviews, ensuring they get the highest quality product possible.
How should SARMs be stored? SARMs should be stored away from direct sunlight and kept in a cool, dry place. They don’t need to be refrigerated, as it’s best that they’re kept away from temperature extremes.
Some manufacturers recommend disposing of unused products if it has been opened for a certain period. As a general rule, unused supplements that have been opened for more than a year should be disposed of. If a product shows changes to color, texture, or smell, it is safest to dispose of it.
Are SARMs capsules or liquids better? While both have their advantages, SARMs capsules are the preferred option. This is because they are a lot more accurate in dosing than their liquid counterpart. Liquid SARMs can also separate in the carrier liquid, leading one dose being very high, and the other being very low.
SARMs in other forms are not recommended due to the lack of research.
Are pro-hormones the same as SARMs? Pro-hormones are not the same as SARMs. Prohormones are precursors to steroids and are activated in the liver. While they can have better results in terms of muscle gain, prohormones can cause serious side effects like liver damage and failure. SARMs, on the other hand, selectively influence muscle tissue, reducing the likelihood of side effects.
Which are stronger, steroids or SARMs? In general, steroids tend to elicit a more anabolic response than SARMs. That being said, some of the newer SARMs like RAD-140 are comparable to even testosterone – providing a similar muscle-building potential, without the side effects.
Can you stack SARMs with steroids or prohormones? While it is not advised, you can certainly stack SARMs and steroids together to maximize muscle growth, protein synthesis, and recovery.
Although they’ve yet to be approved by the FDA, Selective Androgen Receptor Modulators (SARMs) are primarily used as supplements to enhance muscle mass and increase metabolism.
Because they have reduced androgenic properties, the side effects are less intense than the ones found in anabolic steroids and prohormones.
For Healthtrends #1 recommended SARM, click here.