by Mike Arnold
“A Closer Look at 5 of Today’s Most Popular Steroid Alternatives”
For those of you who didn’t read the first part of this article, allow me to bring you up to speed. Over the last few years we have seen several S.A.R.M’s enter the marketplace, some of which are now fairly well known and others which we are just starting to learn about. While some of these drugs were originally researched nearly 20 years ago, real-world use has been relatively minimal in comparison to AAS, leaving us with plenty of unanswered questions, especially as they apply to the bodybuilding lifestyle.
So, for those of you who aren’t quite up to date, I am touching on 5 of today’s most popular S.A.R.M’s; highlighting their unique attributes and providing you with the information needed to make a determination regarding their potential usefulness. In the prior piece we covered MK-677 (my favorite new S.A.R.M.) and LGD-4033. We will now be moving onto the remaining three: Ostarine (MK-2866), Cardarine (GW-501516), and Andarine (S4).
As most of you know, the idea behind S.A.R.M’s was to create a class of drugs capable of providing the same anabolic benefits of AAS, but without all the unwanted side effects (i.e. androgenic side effects, conversion to active metabolites, etc). Andarine has been around the longest, being the first genuine attempt at S.A.R.M technology. Although it didn’t quite live up to the high expectations initially envisioned for the class (thereby pushing it out of contention for prescription status), bodybuilders were less concerned about its shortcomings (which centered around its androgenic potency, as well as minor, transient vision issues), and more concerned with its potential benefits.
As an anabolic, Andarine performs rather poorly, delivering little muscle gain even when used at higher dosages. While beginners or those new to PED’s will likely add at least a few pounds (probably in the 2-5 range) over the course of a normal cycle, more seasoned users will find little use for this drug as a muscle builder. This however, this does not mean Andarine is worthless. To the contrary, it could be just what someone is looking for, depending on their goals and personal preference.
Just as AAS as a whole provide diverse effects, with some being great mass builders (ex. testosterone), others known for imparting tremendous strength gains (ex. Anadrol), and still others used primarily for improving condition (ex. Winstrol), so too does Andarine have its place in the bodybuilding pharmacopeia. While its androgenic potency (roughly 1/3rd as potent as testosterone) was viewed as a liability among researchers, drugs with strong androgenic characteristics tend to be especially valuable for conditioning purposes.
While many AAS can claim to have a much higher androgenic rating than Andarine, Andarine is unique in that it the only S.A.R.M currently available with meaningful androgenic activity. Those who use Andarine at appropriate dosages can expect to see a significant increase in muscle hardness over a 6-8 week period. Many have also noted improved dryness and strength—all typical effects of non-aromatizing androgens.
In addition to its cosmetic benefits, its androgenic nature should produce a mild anti-estrogenic effect in the body. This would cause it to pair well with more purely anabolic S.A.R.M’s, such as Ostarine, which lacks the androgenic component necessary to stave off gyno in a low testosterone environment. For example, when Ostarine is used in higher dosage (25 mg and above), it has a suppressive effect on testosterone production. This, in turn, lowers the DHT conversion rate, which is the primary “gyno fighter” in the body. Androgens such as DHT have powerful anti-estrogenic effects, so when DHT levels are reduced via the suppression of natural testosterone production, the possibility of developing gyno from even small amounts of estrogen increases substantially. By adding Andarine into the equation, the ratio of androgens to anabolics is improved, minimizing the possibility of gyno formation.
There have been quite a few reports of Andarine causing decreases in bodyfat—a finding consistent with androgen use in general. It also seems to be easy on the cardiovascular system, with little to no alterations in lipid values and blood pressure. All in all, Andarine is a good match for those seeking a harder, drier physique with moderate strength gains, while also making a great stacker with other S.A.R.M’s.
Next on the list is Ostarine, the first S.A.R.M to “hit it big” in the bodybuilding community, due to its potent anabolic effects and mild side effect profile. Ostarine came the closest of all the SARM’s to delivering on the promise of an almost purely anabolic drug, possessing next to non-existent androgenic activity. Still, its androgenic component hasn’t been completely eliminated and thus, the potential for androgenic side effects remains. However, real-world evidence has shown it to produce no noticeable androgenic side effects in male users.
Even in women, the likelihood of developing androgenic side effects is minimal, with only a very small percentage of female users displaying even minor (and usually transient) visual changes. As far as the more extreme androgenic side effects are concerned, such as changes in facial structure, voice changes, and facial hair growth, I have yet to see these occur in female users, even when utilizing higher dosages. This is one of Ostarine’s most unique characteristics—its ability to be used by the female sex without causing masculinization.
Most women would never even consider running AAS, as the idea of sporting a 5 o’ clock shadow, experiencing male pattern baldness, or hearing their voice drop a couple octaves is a most unpleasant thought. For this reason, even drugs like Anavar or Turinabol are often avoided, which contrary to popular belief, most certainly can cause side effect such as hair loss, etc, in those that are prone.
The possibility of any meaningful sides occurring in women, outside of the temporary cessation of the menstrual cycle, is extremely low, and even if a woman did begin to experience something she didn’t like, such as a hair or two popping up in a unwanted place, simply discontinuing the drug would be all it would take to stoop and likely reverse the growth. This makes Ostarine the premiere muscle building compound for the side effect conscious woman, regardless of whether she is a competitor or just a housewife looking to recomp her body for summertime.
While Ostarine is capable of causing HPTA suppression, it is generally mild in this area, resulting in only a small degree of suppression in comparison to AAS. While recovering from a steroid cycle can be tough, with many people failing to restore testosterone production to full capacity even with an extended PCT, recovery after using Ostarine is a breeze. A short PCT is usually all that is required to bring one’s T level back up to previous readings. At lower dosages (under 10 mg/day) PCT may not be required at all.
As a much builder, Ostarine is on par with AAS such as Anavar, Turinabol, or boldenone. Although the large number of unknown variable present within the general population prevents me from being able to provide an “average” lean muscle gain (in pounds) during a normal 4-6 week cycle, a gain of 5-8 lbs, in a novice user, is not unreasonable. Keep in mind, the weight gain seen with Ostarine use is not accompanied by water retention, making a 5-8 lb weight gain quite impressive. Muscle gains are generally easier to maintain in comparison to AAS, as well.
Ostarine is equally proficient when used during periods of fat loss, as it anti-catabolic effects help preserve muscle tissue during a caloric deficit. Likewise, it promotes a hard, dry appearance—attributes normally sought after during a cutting cycle. Unlike most steroid-based orals, which are frequently associated with appetite suppression, lethargy, and general malaise, Ostarine lacks these negative effects, making it a pleasurable drug to use.
Rounding out the Top 5 is GW-501516. Before discussing its positive characteristics, let’s first look at the argument normally provided by those who oppose the use of GW-501516 in humans. As most of you know by now, GW-501516 was at one time being considered as a potential candidate for prescription status, but the drug failed to move onto human clinical trials after test animals developed cancer. More specifically, GW-501516 caused an alarmingly high percentage of test animals to develop numerous, large tumors by the end of treatment.
However, it must be noted that 1) these results were obtained in rats, not humans, and therefore, cannot be automatically extrapolated to humans 2) the dose and duration of treatment was excessive. At a dose of 10mg/kg of bodyweight, an equivalent human dose would be about 1,000 mg/day in a 220 lb bodybuilder. Just as importantly, the animals were subjected to GW treatment for the majority of their lives.
Obviously, using foreign species testing as a means of assessing human response is completely unreliable, especially when considering the outrageous dosing and duration guidelines employed. Neither can we ignore contradictory clinical studies, in which PPAR’s such as GW were not shown to cause or accelerate cancer progression to any degree. Lastly, although GW has only been in use among bodybuilders for a few years, we have yet to encounter a single cancer scare directly associated with its use. While it would probably be unwise the completely dismiss the above study results, I think we can conclude with a fair degree of certainty that GW-501516 is exceedingly unlikely to cause cancer in humans when administered according to normal cycle guidelines.
With that said, let’s move onto the more exciting stuff. GW-501516 is used for a variety of reasons, the most common being fat loss and endurance enhancement, both of which it is quite proficient at. Most of the commonly used fat loss drugs/supps on the market today initiate fat loss through two main mechanisms: increased lipolysis and oxidation. Compounds which work by increasing lipolysis often have a muscle-sparring, or in some cases, even a muscle building effect. Growth hormone would be a good example. Drugs like this do not burn fat directly, but simply increase the rate at which fatty acids are liberated from the fat cell, at which point they are released into the bloodstream where they can more easily be used for fuel.
On the other hand, compounds which work by increasing the rate of oxidation (i.e. the act of using fat for energy—fat burning) often have a detrimental effect on muscle retention, causing potential muscle loss if one is not careful. Methamphetamine would be a good example. GW is rather unique in that it is one of only a few non-stimulatory, commonly used fat loss aides which increases skeletal muscle fatty acid catabolism without jeopardizing muscle mass.
For this reason, GW it is an excellent choice for those who wish to avoid the negative effects that traditional stimulant-based fat burners have on the nervous system, while maintaining muscle mass in full. Even better results would be obtained by stacking it with growth hormone, thereby driving fat loss through two separate mechanisms (lipolysis and oxidation), while continuing to avoid the negative side effects mentioned above. This is in stark contrast to the typical stimulant-lade stacks used by most, such as ephedrine & caffeine, or clenbuterol & yohimbine, etc. If fat loss is the overriding priority, then combining both categories of drugs (non-stimulant-based and stimulant-based) is the most powerful combination, but I digress.
In addition to GW-501516’s fat loss properties, it is also capable of increasing endurance, which is of obvious benefit to athletes, but can also be of use to bodybuilders, particularly fast-paced volume trainers. By causing the body to preferentially rely on fatty acid metabolism for energy production, glucose consumption and lactate formation are reduced, leading to an increase in endurance. Due to GW’s mechanism of action, bodybuilders who train with lower volume and rest longer inbetween set are unlikely to benefit in this regard, although the fat loss aspect will still be present.
Other, less recognized benefits of GW-501516 include improved insulin sensitivity (partially responsible for GW’s fat loss effect), increased HDL levels, and reduced inflammation. With such significant metabolic and cardiovascular health benefits, one might consider GW just as much of a health supplement as a performance enhancer.
While some have accused S.A.R.M’s of being nothing more than “inferior” versions of AAS and GH, these individual are missing the bigger picture. Although the issue of legality may seem inconsequential to a long-term steroid user, it can be a big deal to others—enough to dissaude them from purchasing steroids and growth hormone altogether. With SARM’s, the user never has to worry about getting a seizure letter or spending time in the county jail. For the time being, they are 100% legal to buy and sell. Purity & potency issues are also largely eliminated (when buying from a trustworthy source).
Although many of us have become accustomed to the injection process, the vast majority of weight trainers have not and would prefer to avoid this method of administration when possible, making S.A.R.M’s oral bioavailability a big plus for many prospective users. These drugs also tend to appeal to the more health conscious type, as their mild side effect profile makes them much less likely to cause damage to various bodily systems. For women, Ostarine is a boon, allowing them to build muscle tissue with increased efficiency, but without having to worry about potential masculinization. Lastly, these drugs, despite being only distantly related to AAS in terms of chemical structure, deliver damn good results, especially considering their mild side effect profile. A couple of them even provide muscle building results on par with traditional AAS, such as Anavar, Winstrol, Turinabol, boldenone, and Primobolan. When used in combination (Ostarine and LGD-4033) and at higher doses, their myotropic potency is impressive, rivaling/approaching many moderate-strength steroid stacks. Add in some MK-677 (see Part 1) and GW-501516, and you have a potent, well-rounded muscle building, fat-burning stack. Considering that this class of drugs has only been around a few years, you can’t ask for much more than that.
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